Full Version: Sabinus\' and Cotta\'s 15 cohorts destroyed by Eburones
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
I've recently re-registered after a long absence.
In Caesar's book the Gallic War (Book V) he mentions in paragraph 24 that his legates Sabinus and Cotta were placed in command of one legion and five cohorts. This legion is considered to be the Legio XIV because this legion had been previously raised and then recruited again after the destruction of Sabinus and Cotta's army. My question is about the five other cohorts. In most English translations these five cohorts are described as 'extra' or 'additional' however the Loeb Classical translation does not. I am wondering if any of the Latin readers out there can read anything in the context of the passage to determine if these five cohorts were detachments of other legions (or part of one other legion). Harry Pratt Judson in his book Caesar' Army considers them to be the core of an unnamed new legion and Lawrence Keppie in the Making of the Roman Army both consider these to be recently enrolled but does not mention them as part of a legion. My reading of Caesar's Gallic Wars tells me that his forces were not always divided by legions, occasionally the number of cohorts in a particular force was not in groups of tens, I also know that he raised a force of 22 cohorts to protect Transalpine Gaul. Is there anything in the context of the passage that hints at possible relation of these five cohorts to legions or as separately raised cohorts?

There was a brief discussion on this subject in the thread Legion recruitment in the Late Republican era.

Suggestions on the origin of these five extra cohorts included: a) veteran cohorts detached from other legions to strengthen a weak newer legion, b) newly-raised cohorts not yet 'allocated' to a legion or c) cohorts raised from non-citizen troops, similar to the imperial-era auxiliaries, or those later brigaded into the Alaudae legion. No agreement was reached (of course!), which suggests that there's no additional evidence available to back up any of the contrary claims.

I would suggest that some inferences can be drawn in opposition to the first two suggestions: in the description of troop disposition for winter camps, Caesar does not mention any legion being at half strength, not does he elsewhere (IIRC) describe legions being supported by detached veteran cohorts. Also, a later note about recruiting new legions in Cisalpine Gaul implies that no new men had been sent across the Alps since the raising of the two new legions (probably XIII and XIV) by Pedius in 57.

- Nathan
Thank you. I remember that the young Crassus was sent with a force of 12 cohorts to subdue some remote Gallic tribes. I believe another 15 cohort force was detached for another reason but these don't seem to create any discussion about where the additional cohorts come from. My own belief is that the five cohorts were parts of two other legions probably because Caesar believed Sabinus and Cotta needed more than ten cohorts and also that the Legio XIV was one of his newer legions. Of course I have nothing to back this up.

I came up with theory, that Caesar might have recruited extra cohorts outside legions and used them as replacements for legions, by disbanding them into legions after troops had some experience/training. Garrison duty would have been good to allow extra training period.
I agree and have thought the same thing. Later in the Gallic Wars it mentions that Labienus specifically used the most recent drafts from Italy in a mission. They would have to be organized tactically if they were to be of any military use, one cannot send a mob of recruits to do anything useful.