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Full Version: Dear Madam. Your son got pwnt by a scorpion bolt.
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So - if a legionary died during his tour of duty, were his parents or his next of kin notified in any way? If so - in what way? How were they identified? Would an enlisting soldier provide the details of his next of kin to the legio's clerk?

How did it all work?
I am not so sure about next of kin info' being given or any records of it being held, but if we consider how the structure of the army was made up we have to look at the basics.
It may well be that a Contibernium of the 8 guys would very well spend their whole life together,jioning and being mates over the years so if one died or was killed did they not pass on the message even via their Centurian who would maybe write a letter for them to his family.
So basically we don't know anything and we have to guess? There was no law or anything like that?

Isn't there inheritance involved? If a soldier dies before his 25 years elapse, what happens to his pension fund? Is it forfeit for the state, or can his family inherit it, or part of it?
It was the job of the Legion's librarius caducorum (serving in the office of the Cornicularius) to deal with the belongings of dead soldiers but what that entails is guesswork. However, given that (according to Vegetius) soldiers were encouraged to pay into a funeral fund seperate to the regular military savings accounts, you'd imagine that perosnal possesions and any monies saved would be passed on to next of kin, along with notice of death.

I doubt if they got a visit from a Legate, a scroll and a medal though.
If the well known letter to the mother of the dead soldier of Cohors II Thracum listing payments for his equipment is in any way typical, it would suggest that units (in the mid second century AD at any rate) did keep a record of the soldier's parents' address.

Crispvs
Do you have a link to the letter? Translated to English for preference?
I don't have the full text of P.Columbia 325 to hand (and, annoyingly, it's not loaded into APIS yet) but I can give you this from Breeze's "Soldiers' Burial at Camelon" (Britannia Vol.7 1976).

Quote:Another document from Egypt dating to 143 is a mother's receipt
for the money, 235 denarii and 14- obols, left by her deceased son, Ammonius,
a soldier in the cohors II Thracum. The total sum includes a depositum of 100
denarii, 21 denarii 27 1/2 obols for weapons, 20 denarii for a tent, and 93 denarii
15 obols for an illegible fourth item.
Ammonius's account was clearly credited
with the value of his arms, tent and so on at his death and this sum together with his savings was paid to his mother, Semphasies. It is difficult to see what else could have been done with the tent, for this was presumably not a whole tent but part of the tent which he shared with the other members of his contubernium.
The recovery of these items by the unit may therefore have been almost automatic, if not compulsory. In his will written in Alexandria and dated 27 March I42 Antonius Silvanus of the ala I Thracum Mauretana stated that he left both his military and his household possessions to his son. These possessions presumably included his weapons and armour, but the clause may have been no more than a legal device to ensure that the heir received the proper monies due to him rather than the goods themselves: in the receipt signed by Semphasies, the mother of Ammonius, his money is described as 'his property collected from the principia'.
The existing documentary evidence all points to the same conclusion: the
soldier bought his own weapons on enlistment and on his death or retirement
they were bought back by his unit. This would account for the appearance of
more than one name on the same piece of military equipment. Macmullen has
listed several items of equipment, helmets, swords, a greave and a chamfron,
all with more than one owner and some having three, four or even five owners.
To this list can now be added a shield-boss with the names of two owners stamped on the rim found in 1968 at Zwammerdam in Germania Inferior.
The recovery by the unit of a soldier's weapons on his death or retirement may have been compulsory. There is no documentary evidence to prove this one
way or the other, though the occasional appearance of weapons in graves
suggests that it was not. Nevertheless the mere existence of this system will have ensured that when a soldier died his equipment normally returned to the arms store.
Where no strong tradition existed of placing the weapons with the soldier
in his grave, his heir or heirs will have been concerned to cash this valuable asset.
Thank you for this - very interesting.

So some formal system of dealing with death, inheritance, contact with relatives and so on was in place. Do we know anything about the way the next of kin would be notified? I mean the first notification, not any subsequent correspondence. Would it be a letter from an officer, or would someone actually visit in person?
I don't know if there is any surviving evidence for how families would be contacted. I would imagine though, that as each new recruit had to provide a letter from a member of his local ordo, this could have been kept on file, which would provide information on the district he came from. It is possible that a letter could have been sent to the ordo and and that the ordo would have responsibility for tracking down the family.

As soldiers received letters and gifts from their families it is also possible that members of the dead soldier's contaberium may have known the details of his family and may have been asked to supply this information to whoever wrote to the ordo (if this was the system used).

The piece Matt quoted also suggests that families might have had to go to the fort to collect the solder's effects / money. By the time of the letter a lot of recruitment was probably local so this would not have been too hard. However, for soldiers recruited from a long way away, especially in the first century AD when this was probably more common, it might have been very difficult for families to go to the unit's base. In fact, requiring families to visit the fort to collect their rightful dues might well have been a scam on the same level of fobbing soldiers off with swamps or other marginal land on retirement rather than paying out for good land they could use.

Crispvs
As a more basic question related to this topic how did anyone who didn't specifically know the next of kin find them? Saying someone was Titus the baker's son who had a shop three blocks from the forum isn't exactly the same as enlisting today and giving the name phone number and street address of your heirs. I imagine that even reliably finding these people would have been a challenge much less getting them to the fort as Crispvs points out. I just have a hard time imagining the labor intensive process required to track down these people after a campaign or if something happened to a soldier after a border skirmish.
Quote:As a more basic question related to this topic how did anyone who didn't specifically know the next of kin find them?

That could conceivably be a problem in large cities with a fluid population, but most families tended to stay in one place for generations. If one knew where the deceased lived - which village or which part of a city - simply asking would probably be enough.

In Apuleius' Golden Ass, the hero goes to a strange city with letters of introduction. He simply asked passers-by where his host could be found and goes there. This is fiction, but it surely would work in real life, too.
Yes if you lived in a small town or were a farmer that would be the case and would be pretty easy but as Rome had a population of one million people at certain points and even in the mid fifth century when things weren't so good there was a population half that I can see some problems with that job. That's a lot of people to sort through in an urban environment.
Hah ! In 1994 I got PWND by a statue in Archeon, in that case my Centurio (Paulus Sertorius Scaevola) told my mother.... He came by especially for that !! (and because of the insurance of course)

[Image: Gevallenvrouw001.jpg]

And yes.. thats blood.

M.VIB.M.
Quote:Hah ! In 1994 I got PWND by a statue in Archeon
Is that when you were banned from the place for years for ransacking it? Now I know where that tale was based on! Vandals! They bolted everything down after that because of you? Big Grin
I dont think the Gemina was ever banned for years from Archeon, nor was I. You see how old wives tales are made this way dont you ?

I think the bolting action was indeed because of what happened with me because they probably figured out that if a 23 year old child could climb a statue, other kids could do the same, with more devastating consequences, especially since they would not be wearing hamata.......

M.VIB.M.
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