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Tigris Boatmen - Printable Version

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Tigris Boatmen - Damian Roe - 03-08-2019

Hi all,

First of all as always apologies if this question has been answered elsewhere.

As I understand it the legions were the heavy infantry and they used auxiliaries to fulfill certain requirements. I have heard of a unit of the Tigris boatman been stationed at the South Shields section of Hadrians Wall, I would imagine they would move between the banks of the Tyne. My question is does anyone know anything about these Tigris boatmen?


RE: Tigris Boatmen - Robert Vermaat - 03-10-2019

Not a lot. The name, 'Barcarii Tigrenses' (bargemen of the Tigris), sounds either like a nickname or does indeed point to a unit that was transported from Iraq all the way to Hadrian's Wall.


RE: Tigris Boatmen - Nathan Ross - 03-10-2019

(03-10-2019, 04:45 PM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: 'Barcarii Tigrenses' (bargemen of the Tigris), sounds either like a nickname or does indeed point to a unit that was transported from Iraq

As we know, there's one member of the forum who knows a lot about this unit, so hopefully he'll have something to add!

In the meantime - yes, the late Roman Notitia Dignitatum lists the Praefectus Numeri Barcariorum Tigrisiensium at Arbeia (presumably South Shields) - and there's a good page about the unit and some ideas about the name if you follow that link.

It seem very odd, though, now I come to think about it, that they should be named after the Tigris - only the upper reaches of the river were in Roman territory, and the lower and more navigable section only fell to the Romans a few times. Why would a military unit take its name from there? If was only a nickname, how could it have got all the way to Britain? Some connection with Julian's Persian war, maybe?

I was wondering a while ago about the names for late 'naval' units, and why several of them seem to refer to such small vessels - a barca is a boat or barge. There's also the Milites Muscularii at Marseilles, who seem to be named after a sort of rowing boat (musculus)... altogether not very effective as military vessels, one would think... Or might they have been doing something else?


RE: Tigris Boatmen - Mark Hygate - 03-11-2019

(03-10-2019, 08:38 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: .................There's also the Milites Muscularii at Marseilles, who seem to be named after a sort of rowing boat (musculus)... altogether not very effective as military vessels, one would think... Or might they have been doing something else?

'Ferrymen' at one of the largest Roman ports?

An important need as ships got larger - right up to the 20th Century.


RE: Tigris Boatmen - Nathan Ross - 03-11-2019

(03-11-2019, 08:56 AM)Mark Hygate Wrote: 'Ferrymen' at one of the largest Roman ports?

Possibly - but why would they be soldiers, and commanded by a Praefectus?

An inscription from the Septimer Pass in Raetia (AE 2009, 00971) mentions Contubernia IIIII I legionis XII II Numeri Atti musculariorum tortorum, who appear to be legionaries - some sort of engineers or artillerymen maybe? But the boat option seems more likely, as Marseilles is on the sea!

There's a depiction of the musculus on the mosaic from Althiburus now in the Bardo, although it doesn't show a barca:

[Image: 20151219_cultura_historia_pto_real_01.jpg]


RE: Tigris Boatmen - Mark Hygate - 03-12-2019

Quote:Possibly - but why would they be soldiers, and commanded by a Praefectus?

Perhaps because their prime duty is guarding the anchored ships; collecting taxes; etc - general patrolling around the sea approaches...

All complete guesses - but things that need to be done.


RE: Tigris Boatmen - Timus - 03-12-2019

(03-11-2019, 01:29 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: An inscription from the Septimer Pass in Raetia (AE 2009, 00971) mentions Contubernia IIIII I legionis XII II Numeri Atti musculariorum tortorum, who appear to be legionaries - some sort of engineers or artillerymen maybe? But the boat option seems more likely, as Marseilles is on the sea!

I don't mean to hijack the thread but ... a numbered contubernia. Shouldn't that be big news ?
Though after some googling, it's not all that clear that the number 5 identified the conturbernia. Cohort IIIII seems quite a more likely reading. nevermind I guess.
https://www.academia.edu/14080349/Tortores_und_muscularii._Sch%C3%BCtzen_und_Pioniere_auf_einer_Ritzinschrift_vom_Septimerpass_Germania_88_2010_2013_285-311


RE: Tigris Boatmen - Nathan Ross - 03-12-2019

(03-12-2019, 09:12 PM)Timus Wrote: it's not all that clear that the number 5 identified the conturbernia.

Yes, I'd assumed it was five contuberniae myself, but the stone itself is so incredibly obscure that frankly I'm surprised anybody knows what it says!

[attachment=14912]

However, the 'musculari' bit seems widely accepted at least.

(03-12-2019, 05:30 PM)Mark Hygate Wrote: guarding the anchored ships; collecting taxes; etc - general patrolling around the sea approaches...

Yes, that sounds quite plausible.

Meanwhile, we should probably get back to the subject and hope that somebody has some theories as to how the 'Tigris Boatmen' ended up on Tyneside!


RE: Tigris Boatmen - Longovicium - 03-13-2019

You might find this article interesting but it is speculatores - sorry, speculative, of course . . .

https://www.academia.edu/36622772/THE_BARCARII_Being_a_Study_of_Boundaries_and_Frontiers