RomanArmyTalk

Full Version: Obtaining your military kit in Roman times
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Dear fellow RAT members,

I have been asking myself a question lately about the historical and archaeological evidence we have on the way the Roman legionairs en auxiliary units obtained their armor, weapons etc. Some years ago I was told that the Roman legionairs paid for their own kit, but upon enlisting received the basic kit from the army (which they then had to pay off), while auxiliary units had to gather their own stuff. Later on they then could buy other equipment. Plus the evidence there is for re-using old equipment (inscribed helmets from Xanten for example)

For a exhibition project I am working on I have to proof some text about the auxilia and found myself unable to find actual evidence for this theory. Most of my books skip the subject of paying for the kit and only discuss the variation in kit etc.

My question thus is whether you can help me by either confirming or denying my theory, but mostly if you can help me by naming sources (both ancient and modern) that discuss this specific topic. While I am prone to believe convicing arguments, I prefer to back my story (and exhibition) with scientific research.

Thank you very much,
What period are you interested in? It appears that citizens provided their own gear in the early republic, and the state increasingly provided gear as time went on. The vindolanda tablets provide some fragmentary detail on how supplies would have been provided to garrisoned soldiers. It seems that in the principate soldiers had to pay off their gear, but they had incentive to keep it in good order to sell it back. Note that many Roman helmets have more than one name engraved on them, indicating multiple successive owners.
He is asking about auxilia, not romans legionairs.

Afaik, latest in the 2nd century AD we have evidence (papyri, tablets, ...) that the auxilia were treated in the same way like legionairs regarding equipment. They got it from the army and had to pay installments. This makes a lot of sense, because the equipment was pretty much the same. Perhaps it was different for some of the more exotic numeri.

If we look to republican auxilia (e.g. Caesars germanic cavalry) or auxilia from the early principate (e.g. Germanicus' auxilia) it seems, they came with their own equipment, because at this point of time, auxilia fought with their specific local equipment. But that changed already during the 1st century AD. Well, an early germanic infantrist needed not that much stuff, but a shield and a spear.

There is a significant difference in equipment and organisation between Batavians fighting for Germanicus, or for Agricola hundred years later.