RomanArmyTalk

Full Version: A Roman Soldier Speaks
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There are probably no surviving records where Roman soldiers "talk" as most histories are written by elite writers. We are, therefore, left with Hollywood depictions of Roman soldiers speaking in Elizabethean venaculars. Author Richard Miles in his history, Carthage Must Be Destroyed, quotes 2d century BCE playwrite Plautus' play, The Little Carthaginian, and repeats the lines of a Roman soldier who confronts someone he thinks is messing with his woman:

"What's this twosing? What's this twinsing?
Who's the chap with the long tunics like a tavern boy?
Eh? Is my eyesight failing? Is that my girl Atherastilis?
It is! It certainly is! I've felt for a long time that she was making light of me!
Isn't the wench ashamed to be petting a porter in the middle of a street?
By Lord, I'll give him to the hangman this instant for torture from top to toe!
They're nothing but a set of ladykillers, these dangle-tunics.
But I'm certainly going to get after this African amorosa.
Hi, you! I mean you, woman! Have you no shame?
And you! What is your business with that wench?
Answer me!"
I think you could find an even better translation by a canny translator, the way it comes across at the mo, it isn't very 'menacing'. Unfortunately, while I have lots of Aristophanes, I have no Plautus.
I'm not sure I agree with that John.

What about the Vindolanda tablets and other such texts? (The name of the cavalry officer in the east whose letters we have completely escapes me..!) If that's not a Roman soldier speaking than what is?

Plautus' soldier "speaking" is the same as Kipling's Tommy Atkins, is it not?

"I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play."

It's how an "educated" person thinks a soldier (usually considered of a lower class) speaks.
There are a few instances where Roman soldiers "speak", such as the boasts of the Batavian who swam across the Rhine in front of Hadrian (I believe) and a couple of other inscriptions, as well as a few papyri of soldiers writing home, e.g. http://100falcons.wordpress.com/2009/11/...n-soldier/ (BGU II 423).

Beyond that, there are speeches of Roman soldiers in Livy (famously, Spurius Ligustinus) and other sources actually written by elite or at least educated men, as Moi points out.

With Plautus, there is the added problem that the soldier's speech is most likely a parody - the whole point is to make fun of the soldier, not accurately represent his peers, who were the same as the citizen audience anyway - and that it may actually have been copied and/or adapted from the Greek New Comedy Original (Menander?) and thus reflect Hellenistic soldiers rather than Roman ones - considering also the soldier is called Antamonides, and that he is an officer (when he is introduced, he speaks how he got his men to fight flying enemies with bird lime) and thus a standard "braggart soldier" archetype of New Comedy.