Full Version: Idle Javelins at Alesia
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A shout being raised by both sides, it was succeeded by a general shout along the ramparts and whole line of fortifications. Our troops, laying aside their javelins, carry on the engagement with their swords

This passage from Julius Caesar's commentaries on the Gallic wars has been sometimes interpreted to mean that the legionaries' pila were being used as thrusting spears rather than javelins for the first part of the battle. Is this the general consensus or was there another reason for the Romans to have not thrown their javelins yet?
I think that we first need somebody who has a thorough understanding of Latin to revisit the translation of the original text. Sometimes a word can mean different things depending on the context, and I'm sure that most translators are not military experts, haha! I recently fell upon a forum discussion about Greek warfare and people discussed how the Ancient Greek words for "pike" and "spear" were sometimes mixed up in translation, which in turn could mislead modern readers (there is indeed a huge difference between the two).

Therefore, maybe the term "laying aside" could in fact be something totally different... Just a guess...
VII, 88
Quote:Eius adventu ex colore vestitus cognito, quo insigni in proeliis uti consuerat, turmisque equitum et cohortibus visis quas se sequi iusserat, ut de locis superioribus haec declivia et devexa cernebantur, hostes proelium committunt. 2 Vtrimque clamore sublato excipit rursus ex vallo atque omnibus munitionibus clamor. Nostri omissis pilis gladiis rem gerunt. 3 Repente post tergum equitatus cernitur; cohortes aliae appropinquant.[...]
Often you have to look at the context of a statement. The passage from where this statement is taken sets a scene where the Gauls are upon the wall, but not fully assaulting it, and so the Roman infantry would be throwing pila at any targets which present themselves among the taunting enemy lines (trying to use-up the Romans' supply of javelins? Smart move).
The sentence before the passage quoted is "thereupon the enemy joined battle", i.e. charged in on the Romans for hand-to-hand combat, at which point it only makes sense for the Legionaries to lay aside any remaining pila they are holding and go for it point blank (no pun intended) with swords. Makes perfect sense to me....
Yes, it does. If somebody is charging you, it's easier to drop the pilum and take your gladius than waste precious seconds throwing it and afterwards ending up having to keep the enemy at bay with your shield while you reach for your gladius.
Quote:Nostri omissis pilis gladiis rem gerunt.

omittere means "to cease to use or have with one, discard". This very phrase from Caesar is cited in the O.L.D. as an example of its use.
It has always read that way to me as well. Not being a Latin expert of course, I have to use the translations. But they all creat the same image in my head, which is what counts to me!

BTW, I have 2 recreations of Alesia light pils heads made by our very own Matt Lukes, which I am very proud to own! :mrgreen:
Of course, one way to "cease to have" a pilum is to throw it.
I thought that by this point the Guals had already managed to break through the walls and the shout was merely announcing Caesar's arrival at the rear of the besieging army.