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Full Version: The Manipular Legion - Numbers and \'Officers\'
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Because it's now deeply rooted in my understandings and belief in the 'rank structure' (and hence number of cornicen's, for example) - let alone the root base for my organisational theory (soon maybe........), I thought I would try and defend it.

The sources are Polybius and Livy - the detail of the 4,200 legion and related to the understanding that it's also linked to the instances of 4,000.

I do not know why many more recent researchers have possibly miscalculated (cf velites = 1,200) - but perhaps forum members know more....?

But I see:
- 4,200 total for the legion picked by 6 of the 24 total Tribunes appointed for the total army
- Consisting of 4,000 infantry:
- 1,200 hastati
- 1,200 principes
- 600 triarii
- 1,000 velites (by deduction - Polybius doesn't specify)

The remaining 200 are the 'officers' - in pairs per maniple
- 60 centurions
- 60 optios
- 60 signifers

Which leaves 20 unaccounted for and Polybius doesn't specify. From his camp account, however (let alone anything else) he mentions 'trumpets' (translated). I suspect therefore that the 20 are the cornicen's, without inventing another troop type.

That's not in isolation, however, for I also look forward. The 'enhanced' legion numbers 5,000 - so that's 800 extra. The triarii maniples/centuries are brought to full strength by that addition (exactly); which leads directly to the Late Republic numbers of:

10 cohorts each of: 6 x centuries of 80; 6 x centurions; 6 x optios; 6 x signifers; and (therefore) 2 cornicens = 500 each (a (now standard) cohors peditatae quingenaria).

Effectively 300+ years of a 'standardized' legion structure - from whenever the manpiular legion begins to the Imperial/Augustan Reforms (sic).

That's why I believe in so few cornicen's and also no tesserarius additional officer.

One of the Tribunes is in command of the legion (by rotation) and the other 5 would take control of 1/5th of the battle-lines (10 centuries worth), on a two-maniple frontage; hence why I think the cornicen's would be attached to them and potentially the Consul - giving army-level orders and possibly (because it's incredibly useful) acting as runners.

By the Late Republic, if cohorts are operating detached, then 2 cornicen's is the smallest number useful and would be with the pilus prior.

Are there other possible permutations - yes, but I have seen no evidence in the numbers. Both the numbers of velites (although supported by the camping detail and the link to the later legion) and the cornicens have to be deduced, but both seem to be the most logical (to me).

Please critique.
Quote:Late Republic numbers of: 10 cohorts each of: 6 x centuries of 80; 6 x centurions; 6 x optios; 6 x signifers; and (therefore) 2 cornicens = 500 each (a (now standard) cohors peditatae quingenaria)

What a neat figure! However, the idea that the principales of the century were additional to its strength contradicts Pseudo-Hyginus's remark, in de munitionibus castrorum, that "a full century has eighty soldiers" (plena centuria habet milites LXXX). He's discussing camp layout, and the number of tents needed - the centurion gets a tent of his own, but nobody else does. So the optio and signifer are included in the 80 men of the century.

If this was the case in his day (unknown, probably 2nd century?) it was probably so earlier too, and both optio and signifer were appointed from among the men of the century and included in its number.
According to Polybius, selection of centurions happened after the men were put into lines, but before they were allocated to actual centuries. So they would have been among those numbers you provide, the 1200 hastati, 1200 principes, 600 triari. Selection of optios and signifers would have happened after a centurion was put in a maniple, so they would either be directly chosen from among the men inside, or possibly switched from other maniples if the centurion had enough clout to have a tribune authorize transfers.
Nathan,

Of course it's a neat figure - but it tracks completely with the idea of a 5,000 strong legion divided into 10 cohorts.

I certainly have my own issues with p-H (let alone that our names start with the same first 3 letters!), but at least he quotes a century as 80 soldiers (although contradicts himself later it seems, which is one of those 'issues').

And with Bryan, certainly, it is possible to read Polybius in that way, which is a good defence of the 1,200 velite idea; although I re-note that he doesn't specify. Additionally, and with Macedon/George's extra translation that re-suggested that velites were 'apportioned equally' and thus meant 40 per maniple, rather than the 20 per century I suggest.

Firstly, though, it strikes me as very strange to have a whole one-third of your velites with the 'reserves', which doesn't track with the main fighting element of the heavy infantry which only have 20% there - but that is only a ratio. Secondly, and more importantly, the triarii maniples camp in exactly half the space of the hastati/principes, which certainly suggests that they are exactly half the size.

Then, given that the 800 additional men (transforming the 4,200 legion into the enhanced 5,000 one in times of extremis) are just the right number to add the 40 'missing' men to the triarii centuries and thus give us the Late Republic 6-century cohort structure from the 5-century small manipular (where here 'cohort' is just the obvious 1/10th 'slice' of the legion - and also represented when they camp); let alone recognising that the 5-century 'cohort' already contains a 6-century 'command structure'.

Now, the centurion, optio and signifer could be part of the 60-man heavy infantry component - and that would count against any thoughts I have had about where they might position themselves certainly. But in which case: either there are indeed 200 additional velites mucking up the nice structure (let alone wondering where they camp) and therefore where are the 'trumpeters' (whichever instrument they are playing); or there are 200 'extras' and that's a lot to miss out in the detail?

After all that, we do have all that archeological evidence that certainly supports the idea of the 10 x 8-man contubernia buildings (or 3-man cavalry section with their horses) and the centurion's 'house' with several rooms.

Taking all that into consideration - why not (as indeed I have done and suggest as a working theory) consider that the century always was 80 men and 3 'officers':

- it explains the 4,200 and 5,000 manipular legion numbers (with 20 cornicens who are not mentioned, but exist, and 20 are the minimum number to divide into 10 allowing for no point of failure), without introducing any other troop type

- it explains the use of the number of 4,000 infantry for a legion when we see it - for the '200' extra are the 'officers'

- it explains the 60 heavy infantry + 20 velites centuries (doubled for maniples and halved for triarii) and their camping and thus the 80 standard

- it means that the 5,000 legion of Polybius and the 5,000 legion of the Late Republic are essentially the same structure, with simply the new emphasis on standard cohorts - and it does come up with that neat 500 figure.

- and the cohorts will fit into all those barrack blocks and do so for a few more 'centuries'

That is certainly the simplest horizontal linkage between the 'dots' that we have and I'm a big believer in the Occam approach. So I certainly commend it for consideration.


Nathan's tremendously helpful link and image of the 35 cor(nicens) to argue against the 20-cornicen point begs the questions - could 'cor' be anything else; or more likely, could cornicens also be the 'clerks' we might look for and never see? I'm particularly thinking that all those years later the single legion in Africa may have a significantly greater administrative load and require more 'clerks' and even their own optio.

But finally I will ask - I assume that most people believe that the centurion had that bigger tent and even bigger 'house' all to themselves (as p-H certainly does) and didn't share it with the optio and possibly signifer? Because he might have.......

Let alone asking if anyone knows why all the graphics of Polybius' marching camps that I have seen have the tents pointing the wrong way?
Quote:although contradicts himself later it seems

Where is that? I haven't read the whole text, but you might be thinking of a particular confusing statement...



Quote:why not (as indeed I have done and suggest as a working theory) consider that the century always was 80 men and 3 'officers'

Hmm - I'd always prefer to follow all the available evidence, rather than construct neat hypothetical models. No evidence that I know of suggests that the 3 principales of the century were additional to the strength, or drawn from elsewhere... P-Hyg states pretty clearly that they were not. So the balance of probability is against, I'd say.



Quote:and the cohorts will fit into all those barrack blocks and do so for a few more 'centuries'

Barrack blocks usually have at least ten rooms (although some third century ones have less, which might be evidence for a reduced size century). But almost any size centuria can be subdivided by ten, right? I don't think anyone's ever found the bed places marked out or eight names scratched into a barrack room wall... :wink:



Quote:could 'cor' be anything else; or more likely, could cornicens also be the 'clerks' we might look for and never see?

That would be cornicularii, who headed the offices of the tribunes and other officers - 35 in a legion would be a stretch! They do appear on other inscriptions and have been recognised as such, but with the usual Roman love of hierarchy they almost always say who they are cornicularius to - praefect, tribune, legate, etc. Regular clerks would be accensi or librarii. So it looks like cornicines is indeed what we're looking at here.



Quote:Now, the centurion, optio and signifer could be part of the 60-man heavy infantry component - and that would count against any thoughts I have had about where they might position themselves certainly.

I've already mentioned my general disinterest in hypothetical models. However, just for fun - if we consider that the signifer would not be able to fight in the front line (as we've discussed - I'd say this is a fair assumption) but must have been close to the front, could he not have taken a position between the first and second ranks? That would keep him close to the centurion (who could fill the 'vacant' space in the formation) and provide him with several men close on each side as protection for the standard...

If the centurion needed to stand out ahead of his men (to address them, or on parade, for example) the signifer could take a step forward and fill his spot in the front rank. In battle, the signifer takes a step back and the centurion is in the front rank instead.

It would look like this (century of 60 men for argument's sake. Centurion red, signifer blue, cornicen green, optio orange as a rear-right 'tail man'):


[attachment=10273]Century1.jpg[/attachment]

[attachment=10274]Century2.jpg[/attachment]

This way, the centurion in the battle formation has the signifer close on his right and the cornicen (if the century has one) right behind him - easy to give orders to either of them, and they're both well protected.

Well, it's just a suggestion!... (graphic adapted from gary Brueggeman's site, btw - his thoughts on Battlefield Formations are worth another look, maybe)
Quote:
Mark Hygate post=356988 Wrote:although contradicts himself later it seems

Where is that? I haven't read the whole text, but you might be thinking of a particular confusing statement...

The particular bits I am referring to are the resulting numbers from his apparent descriptions of the two sizes of cohors equitatae units (given he is the first of many who is so desperately keen to ensure that quingenaria = 500 and milliaria = 1,000 - thus he also seems to want centuries of 76 (M) and 63.333 (D).



Quote:
Mark Hygate post=356988 Wrote:why not (as indeed I have done and suggest as a working theory) consider that the century always was 80 men and 3 'officers'

Hmm - I'd always prefer to follow all the available evidence, rather than construct neat hypothetical models. No evidence that I know of suggests that the 3 principales of the century were additional to the strength, or drawn from elsewhere... P-Hyg states pretty clearly that they were not. So the balance of probability is against, I'd say.

This is the issue - there is so little actual evidence. That's why I feel it is certainly right to construct a workable theory (not just a hypothesis which is where I started) if it can fit that available evidence - especially if it makes reasonable sense and presents a contiguos theory that could explain at all. But still, only a theory - for there is no absolute proof.

However, on detail, p-H does have the centurion separate from his 80 - so that's 80+1 at least.


Quote:
Mark Hygate post=356988 Wrote:and the cohorts will fit into all those barrack blocks and do so for a few more 'centuries'

Barrack blocks usually have at least ten rooms (although some third century ones have less, which might be evidence for a reduced size century). But almost any size centuria can be subdivided by ten, right? I don't think anyone's ever found the bed places marked out or eight names scratched into a barrack room wall... :wink:

And I got told off for using emoticons! Agreed, but I feel at least reasonably comfortable suggesting that a contubernium was 8 men, from all that I have ever read - but again, still only a practical theory. Which reminds me to ask (as if not yourself, then I'm sure there's someone who seems to be able to find supportive inscriptions from a mind-gallery they store somehow)...

Is there any inscription that was dedicated or lists an actual century (although it probably wouldn't have been full strength anyway....)? I'm aware we do have the praetorian cavalry turma ones.


Quote:
Mark Hygate post=356988 Wrote:could 'cor' be anything else; or more likely, could cornicens also be the 'clerks' we might look for and never see?

That would be cornicularii, who headed the offices of the tribunes and other officers - 35 in a legion would be a stretch! They do appear on other inscriptions and have been recognised as such, but with the usual Roman love of hierarchy they almost always say who they are cornicularius to - praefect, tribune, legate, etc. Regular clerks would be accensi or librarii. So it looks like cornicines is indeed what we're looking at here.

But it could be cornicularii - it cannot be definitive?



Quote:
Mark Hygate post=356988 Wrote:Now, the centurion, optio and signifer could be part of the 60-man heavy infantry component - and that would count against any thoughts I have had about where they might position themselves certainly.

I've already mentioned my general disinterest in hypothetical models. However, just for fun - .................

Indeed and understood - except to re-counter that only a theoretical interpolation can attempt to bridge the massive gaps we have.

The pictures make perfect sense - although the 'tight' cornicen position may not be, but that could be solved. The cornicen's not being in he century, however, I do believe is deducible from the available evidence that does exist (mainly the Vegetius quotes, but others too that were referenced before). For the minimal number of orders that the 'trumpets' are actually attested as giving are all 'army'/legion-level and thus, in order to give them, the cornicen(s) would have to be at cohort-level or above.

The other reason, having considered the possible theory originally, for deducing the numbers and thus the, in fact, probably separate 3 principales is the way the legion selection process in Polybius can be re-read/interpreted. For in order to get the result he does talk about:

- each legion of 4,200 (or indeed the higher) is selected by the panels of tribunes no differently, functionally, to school-boy teams I suspect we all took part in
- many individuals would be known and, certainly, those chosen as centurions would have well established reputations and must have served significantly before
- so when the 4,200 are chosen the centurions would be appointed, the deputy centurions appointed, then the optios appointed and finally the signifers - all who must be known to their appointees or directly recommended with all, most probably, having served before
- the 'trumpeters' must be selected (my assumption for they do exist) for they must at least be able to blow the cornu (let alone, perhaps, be literate or at least with some experience)
- and then the division by age into the: 1,000 (by deduction) velites; 1,200 hastati; 1,200 principes; and 600 triarii
- for all that needs to happen before they are sent off to suitably equip themselves and then re-assemble

So, whilst Polybius doesn't actually write it in that order - it is reasonable, by a logical process, to work out that it probably must have been that way. In which case it is certainly not unreasonable to suggest that the '200' are indeed the 180 principales + the (assumed) 20 'cornicens' and they are additional to the 4,000 'infantry'. It certainly is a reasonable explanation of all the 4,000 men/infantry in a legion quotes.

At the end it will only ever be a theory - and there are one or two bits of 'historical evidence' that seem to contra-indicate it - but if it hangs together and makes sense (and this is only the original base) and seems practicable; then it might gain more acceptance.

For my part having the 3 principales as 'additional' to the 80 (60+20) makes perfect sense. The optio/ouragos if he's to 'file-close' all the files (let alone replace the centurion as needed) really needs to roam along the back (and additional duties can be imagined - none of them to do with actual fighting). Additionally if he's placed 'over' the men then he is unlikely to 'bunk' with them. The signifer in barracks, I believe I'm right in saying (no particular historical reference), is believed to be responsible for the century's money and guards it/lives near the 'vault'. It wouldn't be suitable to be too close to a particular contubernium if he is to remain trusted. The centurion, of course, can be wherever he needs to be. But all that also fits the available detailed numbers.
Lost amongst all the other 'gumpf'...

I would be most surprised to have been the first to suggest a direct structural linkage between the Polybian/Manipular legion and the Later Republic and even Imperial Legions; but does anyone know of anything published/produced like that?

I certainly looked at it with that in mind as the simplest and most logical evolution.