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I have read conflicting sources stating that all Roman Soldier's were tattooed, while others say not all, but most soldiers were tattooed. Interestingly, I discovered facial tattooing was more common than one might think. (Though the site of Roman Soldiers wearing facial tattoos just seems a little "barbaric" to me)

Where and what, exactly did Roman Soldiers have tattooed on to themselves, is it too obvious to assume that they would be branded "SPQR"?
We simply don't know. All speculation on the subject comes from this comment of the late Roman writer Vegetius:
Quote:"The recruit however, should not receive the 'military mark' as soon as enlisted. He must first be tried to if fit for service.....After their examination, the recruits should then receive the 'military mark' and be taught the use of their arms by constant and daily exercise."

What this mark was, where it was placed ( the back of the hand is often suggested, but all is guesswork), and whether it only applied to the soldiers of Vegetius' own day are all unknown......
The mark, whatever it was, appears to have been on the arm. The Codex Theodosianus for December 398 ( Cod. Theod. X 22,4) mentions the branding of workers in the state armaments factories:

"Brands, that is the national mark, shall be placed upon the arms of the armaments-workers, in imitation of the branding of recruits..."

"Stigmata, hoc est nota publica, fabricensium brachiis ad imitationem tironum infligatur..."


I have no idea what the "nota publica" might have been.
Not Vegetius' 'military mark' but perhaps relevant to the original question.

A number of first and second century AD helmet masks feature patterns of dots or circles on the cheeks and these may give clues to facial tattoos or marks worn by the soldiers (or units) who wore them. However, it is likely that the owners of these helmets would not have been citizens but Germanic or Danubian auxiliaries and thus they may reflect tribal tattooing or ritual scarring. In all likelyhood they say nothing at all about citizen soldiers and similarly they are almost certainly not what Vegetius later referred to but they may nevertheless be echoes of tattooing on some soldiers at least.

Crispvs
Why does the "mark" have to be a tattoo? Could it not be a form of militarily recognizable clothing, such as caligae, or the balteus? Perhaps the "mark" was permission in a sense to wear something that denoted them as a soldier, once they were qualified to be soldiers. Similar to how modern pilots earn their wings, or airborne troops theirs.
Quote:Why does the "mark" have to be a tattoo? Could it not be a form of militarily recognizable clothing, such as caligae, or the balteus? Perhaps the "mark" was permission in a sense to wear something that denoted them as a soldier, once they were qualified to be soldiers. Similar to how modern pilots earn their wings, or airborne troops theirs.

Because the word stigma is used to describe it and because the explicitly declared purpose of it was to make deserters easier to detect: "ut hoc modo saltem possint latitantes agnosci" Cod. Theod. X 22,4
If purpose was to make deserters easier to notice, it would make sense that the mark was unit name or something that would single out the unit. Maybe "LEG XII" or something like that..as been suggested before, probably in arm.
I have an interesting article on Roman 'marking' if anyone would like a copy?

Stigma: Tattooing & Branding in Graeco-Roman Antiquity
C. P. Jones
JRS Vol. 77. (1987). pp. 139 - 155
Sounds interesting Peronis....
Thanks for the offer, Peroni !

I should certainly be interested in that article. PM with email details sent....

Sardaukar wrote:-
Quote:Maybe "LEG XII" or something like that..as been suggested before, probably in arm.

The name of an individual Legion seems unlikely for a permanent mark, since the soldier could rise in the ranks to centurion for example, and we know that centurions could be moved to postings with many different legions. ( and perhaps soldiers too )

Also, it should be re-iterated that this practice appears to be a 'Late Roman' one and may be restricted to the period when, for example, people amputated fingers, toes etc to avoid conscription into the military and desertion was probably rife.

There is no evidence that I can think of off-hand for this practice in the hey-day of the Legions.
Frater Perone,

I would also be interested in the article. However, I have a query.

You say it is in JRMS 77 (1987). To me this sounds like the same publishing range as for JRS. Is JRMS a journal I have not come across yet, or is it somehow a conflation of JRS and JRMES?

Crispvs
Yes my error. It is JRS not JRMS!
Quote:The mark, whatever it was, appears to have been on the arm. The Codex Theodosianus for December 398 ( Cod. Theod. X 22,4) mentions the branding of workers in the state armaments factories:

"Brands, that is the national mark, shall be placed upon the arms of the armaments-workers, in imitation of the branding of recruits..."

"Stigmata, hoc est nota publica, fabricensium brachiis ad imitationem tironum infligatur..."


I have no idea what the "nota publica" might have been.


"nota publica" means "known to the public" in latin. Is that what you meant or did you mean that you dont know what it was that would make them known to the public?