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Cohort commander?
#1
Centurions headed up centuries, Legatus was in charge of a legion, but for some reason, I can't seem to find if there was an officer in charge of a cohort. It would make sense, but perhaps that's just a modern thought. Was it just the Primus Pilus?

Any ideas for an old, fuzzy brain?
M. Demetrius Abicio
(David Wills)

Saepe veritas est dura.
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#2
There wasn't one! Ross Cowan's article 'The Centuria in battle' (Ancient Warfare Special 2010) is very good on this subject - essentially, Cowan argues, the six centurions of the cohort worked together as a team within the larger framework of the legion, and no senior leader was needed.

'Like the manipular legion,' [which had no fixed legate or commander], Cowan says, the century 'did not require a commander because its constituent parts knew how to work together from training and prior experience'

He supports this by pointing out that the cohort had no standard either, unlike the individual centuries and the legion as a whole.

In which case, the situation may have changed in later times, when the cohort gained the draco standard. Perhaps by then cohorts were so often detached from their parent legions that they had become much more viable independent units in their own right?
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#3
I wonder ...

Perhaps the senior centurion (by date of rank or some other measurement) took charge of directing the cohort with the centuries did fight as a team.

I do agree with Ross Cowan's assertion that the century was a tactical unit (many books have said otherwise) however, I do think there must have been some provision for command of the "team" no matter how well trained they may have been.

Of course, this may simply be a modern prejudice growing out of current thinking on military practice.

:wink:

Narukami
David Reinke
Burbank CA
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#4
I wonder too!

In any group, one will tend to exert power over the rest. In a modern army, this potentially divisive and unstable situation is held in check by a strict command hierarchy, but perhaps the Romans found this spirit of competition useful?

In a situation needing decision and authority, the strongest, most aggressive and perhaps most tactically able of the cohort centurions would take charge, unofficially. The wider structure of the legion and the demands of training would prevent this exertion of power getting out of control altogether.

We might remember the story of Pullo and Vorenus from Caesar's Gallic Wars - two centurions in direct competition for promotion, trying to outdo each other. In this case they went too far and got into trouble, but it suggests that this kind of sparring between equals was not unknown, and that no immediate superior was available to stop it...
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#5
I know that the Notitia was put together at later times however it refers to many of the Cohort strengths of the Hadrian's Wall forts being commanded by Tribunes and with cavalry by Prefects, then as far as smaller units we should from fort layouts consider that the Maniple looks more the together unit than a century for barrack blocks at most forts tend to be grouped in this fashion, Chesters fort on Hadrians Wall being a fine example with close facing blocks.
Brian Stobbs
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#6
I do also think that all Roman forts in fact tell us just how the pecking order went by the fort layout where the last in line was the Decumana or last century, however the rank structure still yet remains the same in the military today with of course a bit of competition however the Primus Pilus was only ever a last year job for the top centurian.
If a Prefectus Castorum were to die he may just have had the oportunity for a life time job.
Brian Stobbs
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#7
Quote:I wonder too!

In any group, one will tend to exert power over the rest. In a modern army, this potentially divisive and unstable situation is held in check by a strict command hierarchy, but perhaps the Romans found this spirit of competition useful?

In a situation needing decision and authority, the strongest, most aggressive and perhaps most tactically able of the cohort centurions would take charge, unofficially. The wider structure of the legion and the demands of training would prevent this exertion of power getting out of control altogether.

We might remember the story of Pullo and Vorenus from Caesar's Gallic Wars - two centurions in direct competition for promotion, trying to outdo each other. In this case they went too far and got into trouble, but it suggests that this kind of sparring between equals was not unknown, and that no immediate superior was available to stop it...

But, it raises another question...what sort of promotion they were seeking? It'd seem to me logical that they were competing for position of senior centurion in cohort. But of course, it's all guesswork.
(Mika S.)

"Odi et amo. Quare id faciam, fortasse requiris? Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior." - Catullus -

"Nemo enim fere saltat sobrius, nisi forte insanit."

"Audendo magnus tegitur timor." -Lucanus-
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#8
Actually, we don't know, if the cohors of a legion had a commander or needed one.

The highest ranked centurio of every cohors was the pilus prior. He could lead, if there was something to lead. However, according to Domaszweski/Dobson he had no different office than a normal centurio. Also the 6 tribuni could take command during battle (if not bloody young trainees). Most propably for more than 1 cohors, if needed by tactical reasons (e.g. right wing, left wing, center, reserve ...).

If a cohors or more were sent on a special campaign, they were leaded by a praepositus which could be a centurio or a tribune. It seems, the romans dealed with it very flexible.

In the auxilia the situation was different. Here you have the commanders from the equestrian career from early empire on:
praefectus cohortis = quingenaria
tribunus cohortis = millaria

The auxilia also had different ranks of centurions. 5 normal centurions and 1 centurio princeps. He was most propably the deputy of the praefectus. At least he was the leader of all offices, which in the bigger legion are splitted between praefectus castrorum and princeps paetoriae (a centurio).

In late empire the units like cohors, ala, vexillatio, schola and larger numeri were usually leaded by a tribunus. So the model of the auxiliae became the norm.
Ut desint vires, tamen est laudanda voluntas
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#9
Quote:what sort of promotion they were seeking?

The two men were 'close to entering the primi ordines' (Caesar, Commentaries 5.44)

Primi ordines
would be senior centurions, but whether they were the centurions of the first cohort, or the 'leading' centurions of all the cohorts, or both, is still unclear as far as I know!
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#10
Quote:Primi ordines[/i] would be senior centurions, but whether they were the centurions of the first cohort, or the 'leading' centurions of all the cohorts, or both, is still unclear as far as I know!

Yes it is unclear, because their is no evidence. However the majority of scholars argue, that just the centurions of the 1st cohors were primi ordines. The theory, that just the first 3 (primuspilus, princeps, hastatus) were primi ordines seems to be outdated. But even if the pilus prior was a primi ordines, this would not change that much, but his salary.
Ut desint vires, tamen est laudanda voluntas
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#11
Quote:We might remember the story of Pullo and Vorenus from Caesar's Gallic Wars - two centurions in direct competition for promotion, trying to outdo each other.

Pullo was a miles gregarius. The archetype of an immunis, imho. Give him medals, give him more money, but never let him lead a unit Cool

But I got your point.
Ut desint vires, tamen est laudanda voluntas
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#12
Quote:Pullo was a miles gregarius. The archetype of an immunis, imho.

Only on TV, of course! Confusedmile:
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#13
Quote:Only on TV, of course! Confusedmile:

Of course! :whistle:
Ut desint vires, tamen est laudanda voluntas
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#14
Quote:I know that the Notitia was put together at later times however it refers to many of the Cohort strengths of the Hadrian's Wall forts being commanded by Tribunes and with cavalry by Prefects, then as far as smaller units we should from fort layouts consider that the Maniple looks more the together unit than a century for barrack blocks at most forts tend to be grouped in this fashion, Chesters fort on Hadrians Wall being a fine example with close facing blocks.

When doing research on the Frisii I noticed that the "Cohors Frixagorum" was commanded by a Tribune, which suggests late Roman Cohors Milliaria and Quingenaria were commanded by a Praefectus/Praepositus/Tribunis (depending on unit grade).
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#15
M Demetrius wrote:
Centurions headed up centuries, Legatus was in charge of a legion, but for some reason, I can't seem to find if there was an officer in charge of a cohort.

For the campaign of 462 BC Dionysius (9 69-71) describes four cohorts each of 600 men deployed before Rome. However, for the same year during an engagement against the Volscians and Aequians, Dionysius (9 63) mentions, “two cohorts did not exceed 1000 men.” Although these figures appear to be contradictionary they are not. A 600 man cohort is under the command of a military tribune. However, the 600 men only relates to the fighting components of the tribune cohort (the heavy armed infantry). The two cohorts not exceeding 1000 men is the full number for a tribune cohort, which now includes the light armed infantry. For the campaign of 431 BC, Livy (3 69) reports that two senators commanded a cohort. Here Livy is referring to a tribune cohort. Therefore, a tribune cohort is further under the command of two senators who are both subordinate to the military tribune.

Sallust (The Jugurthine War 46) writes that the Roman consul Metellus distributed the auxiliary cavalry among the tribunes of the legions and prefects of the cohorts. The Jewish historian Josephus (3 6 2 115), (3 124), Frontinus (Stratagems 4 1 26), Paterculus (2 112) and Tacitus (The Annals 13 9), (The Histories 2 59), (4 15 3) also defines those in command of an infantry cohort as a “prefect.”
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