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Greetings!

I'm not sure this is the right place on RAT to post this question, so if there is another place I should have posted it, please let me know.

My question has to do with how soldiers were assigned to different units. For instance, when I was in the Air Force, there was one central command that took care of everyone's assignments. Assignments were based on job series, the needs of the Air Force, and where the member wanted to go (if possible).

I imagine that with the lack of computers in ancient Roman times, and with as far-flung as the Roman Empire was, there probably was not a central office for handling assignments. So when a new recruit came into the Roman army, what determined his geographical assignment? Would he just sign up with the nearest legion? Were soldiers moved between legions very much, or were they in one legion for life? Could a soldier ask to be moved to another location if the reason was good enough? I know that legions were sometimes created, used, then disbanded, so I just need a little guidance on this topic.

I have researched this but I haven't been able to come up with any satisfying answers. Thanks for any thoughts anyone might have on this!
I am by no means an expert on this, but I seem to remember something from the sources about units deploying under-strength until some set time when they would have the modern equivalent of a "recruiting drive" to refill the ranks. So unlike the modern US military, an individual legion would tend to recruit troops en masse from a specific area rather than just have volunteers trickle in here and there.
You also need to remember the concept of patronage in Roman society, which also could have big part to where you might be assigned to.

There were several letters from persons to centurions, commanders and governors trying to secure positions for their clients, Pliny Younger letter comes to mind first. So, I bet that assignment depended a lot who was your patron and who he knew. So, instead of being sent to some dry outpost near Parthia, one might well be able to secure comfortable position in commander staff etc. if his patron was influential.
Quote:You also need to remember the concept of patronage in Roman society, which also could have big part to where you might be assigned to.

There were several letters from persons to centurions, commanders and governors trying to secure positions for their clients, Pliny Younger letter comes to mind first. So, I bet that assignment depended a lot who was your patron and who he knew. So, instead of being sent to some dry outpost near Parthia, one might well be able to secure comfortable position in commander staff etc. if his patron was influential.

True though I would imagine this could be quite rare for the rank-in-file, especially after the army began to be dominated by non-Italians...
I had wondered about patrons. Patrons make a lot of sense for the upper classes, at least. For example, I had thought that if a guy from an upper-class family wanted to serve in the military, he might turn to a patron to get a cushy job, maybe a staff job or something in the military. That is, if he didn't want to be down in the trenches.

And recruiting drives...I imagine the promise of "steady" pay (such as it was) and regular rations of grain would be enough to gain quite a few new recruits. I think the Roman army must have provided the chance at some adventure and a little financial stability, much like our military today. It's awesome to think about, the parallels between today's society and the world the ancients knew.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this!
Quote:
Sardaukar:117d516f Wrote:You also need to remember the concept of patronage in Roman society, which also could have big part to where you might be assigned to.

There were several letters from persons to centurions, commanders and governors trying to secure positions for their clients, Pliny Younger letter comes to mind first. So, I bet that assignment depended a lot who was your patron and who he knew. So, instead of being sent to some dry outpost near Parthia, one might well be able to secure comfortable position in commander staff etc. if his patron was influential.

True though I would imagine this could be quite rare for the rank-in-file, especially after the army began to be dominated by non-Italians...

For poor ordinary recruits without connections it'd obviously be more of where need of troops was biggest and of chance. But concept of patronage was not limited to upper classes and for long time, legionary recruitment was open for only Roman citizens (until all subjects were given that..and of course people were given citizenship for enlistment after a while). Those people thought themselves as Roman citizens, be they from Gaul or Hispania or Illyria and followed customs of Rome rather than local customs. Even when Roman Senate started to be full of Gauls and Hispanians, they still thought themselves as Romans. Even Frankish and Gothic kings who occupied the remains of Western Empire still followed Roman customs.

I'd say that anyone who could, would try to get better position via patronage, be the person from Italy, Illyria or Hispania, because that was Roman way and the way how things were done. If you could not, of course you were very down in pecking order and would get the worst assignments. But I think it was not easy for centurion, tribune, legate or governor just to assign people where they wanted, because of patronage. There was always consideration about possibility to offend someone's patron of patron and so on, so I think those with "letters of commendation" etc. probably had lot greater chance to pull out more comfortable assignments. Those without influence did not have that luxury.

There is something about recruitment here:

http://www.roman-empire.net/army/becoming.html

I cannot say how accurate the description is, but it's interesting:

The typical recruit to the Roman army would present himself for his interview, armed with a letter of introduction.
The letter would generally have been written by his family's patron, a local official, or perhaps his father.
The title for this interview was the probatio.


So, that letter of introduction probably influenced a lot how recruit's assignment to unit went (assuming he otherwise fulfilled the requirements).

I think there was very little central recruitment and most likely legions did the recruitment themselves. I don't know how much there was movement between legions for ordinary legionaries or principales (which could be thought as NCOs), but apparently officers (centurions) could move from one legion to other, especially if it was promotion.
I seem to recall their being some receipts found for travel money for recruits to travel to their units. Also auxillia units seem to have been raised from one location and then posted fairly far away.
Roman army seemed to have been reluctant to have unit serve in area it was recruited (at least during Principate etc.), which is understandable, considering troops were often used as "law-enforcement".

But it's unclear to me if units continued to recruit in area where they were first formed or if they started to recruit around where they were based. I think former would make sense, maybe they sent "press-gangs" into their recruitment area and probably also had prospective volunteers arrive straight to unit location by themselves (I bet these were the guys with letter of introduction).

This theory would mean that for example legion situated in Pannonia but formed in Gaul would continue to recruit in Gaul. They'd still probably accept volunteers who would arrive to unit directly...but maybe they had something like permanent recruitment party in area they were "attached to".

Anyways, there has to be some studies and literature about this. 8)
Since legions were almost always understrength, were they always looking for recruits? Or were they usually content to remain understrength in order to conserve resources, and only looked for new manpower when a major campaign was imminent?
That's a great question John. I'd be curious to know the answer...I'm still trying to get used to the concept that the Roman army wasn't like today's military, where we keep a certain troop strength at all times.
Given how much autonomy the legions appear to have had at times, it wouldn't surprise me if it were a mix of both. I would imagine it would be a mix of recruiting drives after a set number of years combined with individual commanders "putting out fliers" wherever they went looking to replenish the ranks.

Of course, I unfortunately don't have my books with me right now, so I can't vouch for the accuracy of any of this. More of a hunch than anything :wink:
I'd think that if new campaign was upcoming, they'd try to fill ranks, no matter if troops would be inexperienced...especially if they had few months to prepare (like Claudius' invasion if Britain or Trajan's Dacian War etc.)

On the other hand..during relative peace, there must have been temptation to keep unit understrength and pocket the extra upkeep money...
Quote:On the other hand..during relative peace, there must have been temptation to keep unit understrength and pocket the extra upkeep money...

I bet you're right. It would make sense that the Romans, like today's modern governments, would want to save money where they could.
Just my imagination but...
Wouldn't there be a set number that the legion could not go under?
Once the number was coming closer that would be a good time to recruit.
Setting up a "job fair" of sorts would help I would think. Especially with the craftsmen and certain units for a more specialized role. I have read that the later "medieval tournament" was originally a Roman practice (More or Less :wink: ) and that could be used for recruiting purposes.
If you want to get a flavour of "ordinary" life for a soldier, it is well worth reading any of the books produced by Anthony Birley which are based on the writing tablets uncovered at Vindolanda, a fort on the Stanegate just south of Hadrian's Wall.

They are an amazing record and give evidence of patronage, assignment of trooops, recruiting, punishment etc. Although limited perhaps by the fact it is Auxilliary troops who are being dealt with and not a Legion, it is a marvellous insight, particularly for civilian activities too.

The current one is 'Garrison Life at Vindolanda' , Tempus Publishing, 2002 (reprint 2007)
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