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Diplomacy in potential hostile regions

I wonder can anyone help?

Does anyone know the correct etiquette when a small Roman army detachment meets a potentially hostile force who they wish to trade with and not fight? Trading would've have taken place in this region before, but the political climate has changed and the Romans are wary of the local Kings motives. How would they indicate to the locals that they have come in peace, despite the fact they are armed? The time frame is late 4th century as Rome's hold on Britain fractures and the area becomes less stable and harder to govern, hence the uncertainty. The setting would be the coast of Ireland as we know the Romans traded with Ireland in the period. 
Any tips would be more than welcome, thanks
I have to ask...

Why would an armed/army detachment be constituted to even consider trade?

'A' trader, perhaps even up to several, but more likely just one - with, maybe, a few slaves and a couple of guards - along with a few mules, or a couple of wagons (or, given your scenario, just the trader, his crew, and a single merchant ship) would be set up to offer trade; and, most importantly, not appear even remotely threatening.

If an armed force has been gathered it would be in response to a threat (as opposed to a smaller group who is just scouting/patrolling) and thus, given your scenario, perhaps to oppose an Irish/Viking raid.

I have to query the idea that 'trade' would be even remotely considered?

PS - having re-read the question again I see that you actually mean in Ireland itself!  (I read the 'coast near Ireland')  For, firstly, I know of no real evidence that the Romans ever took a force to Ireland - but, if they ever did with your scenario, it would be for a punative raid I am sure.  Otherwise it would just be the Trader idea...
(04-15-2019, 04:12 PM)Holly70 Wrote: The time frame is late 4th century... The setting would be the coast of Ireland

Relations between Roman Britain and Ireland are pretty vague at the best of times. There was a new coastal fort built at Lancaster, probably in the late 3rd or early 4th century and perhaps garrisoned by the numerus barcariorum whose praepositus (commander) Sabinus dedicated an altar to Mars at nearby Halton. These would have been naval troops ('boatmen'), presumably intended to intercept seaborne raiders from Ireland - Scotti - or Picts from further north.

So there must have been some traffic across the Irish Sea, and it probably wasn't entirely hostile all the time... Most likely traders operating in those waters would have known about the local chiefs or kings on the Irish side, as you suggest, and the Romans may have had treaties with them or paid some of them subsidies (or bribes) to keep the peace or provide slaves or perhaps even military recruits. This would surely have involved some sort of diplomatic visits across the sea, although who was doing it and when is a mystery.

There probably wasn't much of a link between traders and soldiers though - unless the soldiers were doing a bit of speculation on the side!

(04-15-2019, 04:12 PM)Holly70 Wrote: How would they indicate to the locals that they have come in peace, despite the fact they are armed?

One suggestion I've come across a few times is the use of a leafy green branch as a sign of peace - I actually have no idea where this comes from, or whether it has any basis in fact or is entirely apocryphal, but it seems a good enough guess! Of course, anyone coming across the sea would have to bring it with them...
Nathan Ross
The primary occasion where soldiers had anything to do with trade was at inspection and customs stations - such as a gate on Hadrian's wall. Civilians conducted trade expeditions, not soldiers. Even the army used civilian contractors to procure supplies. As Nathan suggested, there would be individual soldiers doing some speculation on the side, trying to set up private deals.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen & Sword Books

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