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The question of the relative responsibilities of legates and tribuni militum in the late republic has me rather confused. In this I believe I am not alone. An interesting relevant passage appears to be in Caesar's description of the beginning of the battle of the Sabis River in BG 2.20. Caesar has been blind-sided by an ambush and everything was hugger-mugger; "Caesar had to see to everything at once." (2.20.1, tr. Carolyn Hammond, Oxford World Classics). He says that he was saved by two things: (1) the outstanding state of training of the soldiers; and (2) and "quod ab opere singulisque legionibus singulos legatos Caesar discedere nisi munitis castris vetuerat", which might be translated as something like "that Caesar had forbidden each legate to leave off from the work and each legion unless the fortification of the camp had been completed." Singuli I find a bit of a confusing word; I guess it's a distributive adjective used for describing a group of things considered one by one. So C. is describing as a group the phenomenon of each legate and the legion he was supervising as a group Right? As I understand it, at this time the consensus about the status of legates is that they were a flexible body whom the imperator could choose to assign to a legion on a fairly ad hoc basis and un-assign just as casually, and the detail of supervising the fortification of the camp such as in this case might be such an ad hoc commission. Otherwise where would the idea that the legatus might leave the legion in certain circumstances? Would those circumstances be essentially limited to conferring with the imperator? My understanding is that the evolution of command structure during the republic is rather sketchily understood. I somehow have received the impression that the tribuni militum might have been of higher status in the early and mid-republic. Livy's status as an unimpeachable document for early republican history is somewhat controversial now and the consensus of his understanding of military things is not high. Can someone please shed some light on this? Thanks. Tony
Quote:The question of the relative responsibilities of legates and tribuni militum in the late republic has me rather confused. In this I believe I am not alone.

Oh no, you're not alone!

Quote:An interesting relevant passage appears to be in Caesar's description of the beginning of the battle of the Sabis River in BG 2.20. Caesar has been blind-sided by an ambush and everything was hugger-mugger; "Caesar had to see to everything at once." (2.20.1, tr. Carolyn Hammond, Oxford World Classics). He says that he was saved by two things: (1) the outstanding state of training of the soldiers; and (2) and "quod ab opere singulisque legionibus singulos legatos Caesar discedere nisi munitis castris vetuerat", which might be translated as something like "that Caesar had forbidden each legate to leave off from the work and each legion unless the fortification of the camp had been completed." Singuli I find a bit of a confusing word; I guess it's a distributive adjective used for describing a group of things considered one by one. So C. is describing as a group the phenomenon of each legate and the legion he was supervising as a group Right? As I understand it, at this time the consensus about the status of legates is that they were a flexible body whom the imperator could choose to assign to a legion on a fairly ad hoc basis and un-assign just as casually, and the detail of supervising the fortification of the camp such as in this case might be such an ad hoc commission. Otherwise where would the idea that the legatus might leave the legion in certain circumstances? Would those circumstances be essentially limited to conferring with the imperator? My understanding is that the evolution of command structure during the republic is rather sketchily understood. I somehow have received the impression that the tribuni militum might have been of higher status in the early and mid-republic. Livy's status as an unimpeachable document for early republican history is somewhat controversial now and the consensus of his understanding of military things is not high. Can someone please shed some light on this?

A whole host of questions here!

1. Legate and legionary organisation

Legates could be assigned pretty much as the commander saw fit. The same, frankly, is true of all his officers: prefects could be created ad hoc, and even military tribunes could be sent off to command detachments. What those legates would be free to do once a specific duty was completed would, presumably, be a matter for them and their commanders - although I doubt Caesar would be happy if they'd simply bunked off for the day. You're right, this seems to be an ad hoc commission, but almost of the duties of a legate were ad hoc commissions (you do get senatorially appointed legates who seem to have had precise duties, but that's another story).

2. Republican command structure

So far as I can tell (and at least from the Hannibalic war onwards), the command structure was, as you say, extremely fluid. Prefects could be placed in command of Roman infantry, and military tribunes sent to command garrisons of auxiliaries [1]. Put simply, each commander seems to have had almost complete freedom to decide on his own command hierarchy. This is with the exception that I have no examples of men of senatorial status serving under equestrians (although there are some possible joint commands) - remember that at this point the sons of senators - even of consuls - were not of senatorial status.

3. Status of the military tribunate

Tricky, this. Livy tends to mention high-status military tribunes because, well, they were the names which had come down to him. It's obviously true that before legates became common, a commander still needed to delegate his duties to someone, and high status and experienced military tribunes would therefore have been necessary. It's much rarer, although not unknown, for military tribunes to have large-scale independent commands in the first century than before because legates were now being appointed. However, it's worth noting that the younger Cato and Caesar, for example, both served as military tribunes, as did Caesar's father: the sons of senators still held and sought the post even in the late Republic. There's a big drop in the status of the military tribunate in the period from 49-31BC, but that's a whole other kettle of fish!

blue skies

Tom

[1] although military tribunes generally stayed with their legions, partly, I think, because they were supposed to look after the interests of their men as well as command them, but mostly because at this point auxiliary commanders were probably not responsible for the administration of foreign auxilia, whereas military tribunes were responsible for the administration of the legion.