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Hi,

I'm new to this site so I apologize for any errors I might make in advance.

I've recently received a DVD about the construction of Hadrian's wall and it got me thinking about the army stationed on the wall. My question is how different were the units of the later army stationed on the wall from the units that built it?

Many thanks,

K.
Quote:I've recently received a DVD about the construction of Hadrian's wall and it got me thinking about the army stationed on the wall. My question is how different were the units of the later army stationed on the wall from the units that built it?
That depends. Either you are asking about the main differences between the army of the Principate and the Late Roman army, or you want to compare certain units?
Quote:That depends. Either you are asking about the main differences between the army of the Principate and the Late Roman army, or you want to compare certain units?

I was thinking more regionally than the broader question of differences between army of the principate and late roman army. If you take the legionaries and auxiliaries from Hadrian's reign and compared them with the soldiers stationed on the Wall in the late 4th century, how different would they be? would the equipment they use bear much resemblance to their earlier counterparts? would they have similar ethnicity or would they have a very different more localised culture? how different would the unit sizes be? that's the type of thing I'm interested in finding out.

Thanks,

K.
The Roman army of the 4th-5th century, at least on the surface, was very different to that of Hadrian's day. Clothing, armour and equipment, structure and religion had all changed. You can get a good idea of this by comparing the appearance of reenactment groups specialising in these periods: Legion VI Victrix, for example, portrays legionaries of Hadrian's army (here they are at the beach...), while Britannia recreates the army of the late empire (here they are in the snow...). Looking at the websites of other reenactment groups (later Roman ones include Fectio and Comitatus, amongst others) will give you a good impression of the changes over time.

It was the legions that built Hadrian's wall, but already by Hadrian's day most legionaries were recruited from the old border areas of the empire, particularly the Rhine and Danube frontiers and Spain, rather than Italy. The troops who actually garrisoned most of the wall forts were auxiliaries, originally non-citizens from even further afield - the Batavi and Tungri from the lower Rhine and modern Belgium, for example, or the Daci from modern Rumania. By the second century, however, these units - and later the legions too - were recruiting men from the local population, often the sons of former soldiers and native women. By the 4th century, even given periodic influxes of troops from abroad, the majority of Roman soldiers in Britain would have been born in the province, often of families living there for generations.

Late Roman northern Britain was a bit of a backwater, and while the field armies of the later empire changed a lot from the 3rd century onwards, the British frontier was still held for the most part by auxiliary cohorts. Structurally these probably resembled those of earlier centuries - about 500 men strong, commanded by a tribune - although much about the numbers and structure of the later army remains in debate.

The Notitia Dignitatum (a late imperial list of offices, including military ones) gives the names of the military units in Britain in the late 4th century, and the names of their forts. It's available online, but for ease of access the Hadrian's Wall section of roman-britain.org has a useful guide to all the forts and (where they're known) their garrison units at various periods.

It's a huge subject, but I hope that helps as an intro!

- Nathan
That is an excellent summary Nathan....

Quote:The Roman army of the 4th-5th century, at least on the surface, was very different to that of Hadrian's day...
- Nathan
Thank you Nathan, you have answered my question perfectly! Just out of interest, can I ask where you have learned so much about the Roman army?

K.
Quote:That is an excellent summary
Thanks. It's necessarily generalised, but hopefully not too misleading :wink:

Quote:can I ask where you have learned so much about the Roman army?
It's been an abiding interest for the last ten years - I just read anything I can, and make a lot of notes! You can go as deeply into the subject as you want - writers like Adrian Goldsworthy (for example) provide a solid basic introduction, but as often as not it's the smaller aspects that make up the bigger picture that are most fascinating; I sometimes find that academic books and papers on rather rarified subjects can yield the most interesting details! But there are plenty of others here much more knowledgeable.
Quote:That is an excellent summary Nathan....
Indeed. Thank Nathan.