Thread Rating:
  • 0 Vote(s) - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Cohort commander?
#16
Where I have mentioned the Hadrian's Wall Cohort forts and the garrisons most of these were of course Auxilia, however there is evidence of Legionaries being at some of these forts from time to time.

Therefore we have to consider just how these soldiers would have been commanded during their stay at these places, for they were more senior soldiers above the Auxiliaries so did they come under the command of their own centurian when there.

They may have been sent there for their expertise in re-building projects that may have been beyond the scope of the Auxilia, so were they simply travelling stone masons and joiners who could well have simply been under the control of their own centurian or did he and they come under the control of the resident unit commander during their stay.
Brian Stobbs
Reply
#17
Quote:................

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.

............

This seems rather confusing to the otherwise generally accepted ideas. There is also the issue of the use of the cohort as even an idea at that early stage. Whilst writing later, Polybius (the best and most detailed of the early writers) has the strength of a legion at 4,000 + 'Officers' + 300 Cavalry. If considered as a Cohort structure (which it wasn't at that time) this would give 10 Cohorts of 5 Centuries of Infantry and a Turma of cavalry (to which the equivalent, or in actuality, of an additional century to each was added in times of extremis).

Either way, at that time a 'cohort' was simply a grouping of men at a lower strength than a Legion. Had that been written later, however, it might make more sense...

For each cohort consisting of 6 Centuries (which is often confused as 600) is also consistent with 2 Cohorts together numbering less than 1,000, for we know they were. The presence, or not, of brigaded light infantry, however, is also possible.

But all that doesn't really answer the original question. For cohorts did have 'commanders', or at least the Auxilia ones ceryainly did. Prefect's for the standard ones and Tribunes for the larger. In the legions, however, the senior centurions of each cohort seem to have had day-to-day charge. However, there are plenty of examples of vexillations of cohort pairs lead by Tribunes to suggest that the 5 junior tribunes of a legion may well have had defacto authority over a pair of cohorts.
Mark Hygate - yes, I really am!
Reply
#18
Quote: In the legions, however, the senior centurions of each cohort seem to have had day-to-day charge. However, there are plenty of examples of vexillations of cohort pairs lead by Tribunes to suggest that the 5 junior tribunes of a legion may well have had defacto authority over a pair of cohorts.

Sure, not all of them were 17 year old trainees. In republican times some Tribuni Laticlavii did more than one campaign, because the minimum age for Quaestor was far away before it was reduced by Augustus. Same for the equestrian Tribuni Angusticlavii who simply needed x campaigns because they were conscriptable as anybody else pre-Marian reforms.

In the empire you have Tribuni which have been promoted from praefectus cohortis. Of course these guys could do that job after 3 years of experience. What scares me more is, that people without any military experience at all did start as praefectus cohortis, if just of equestrian rank.

However, there is no evidence, that there was a fixed organizational structure with 5 tribunes leading 2x5=10 cohors. It seems that the romans have been less eager than we about clear organizational structures.
Ut desint vires, tamen est laudanda voluntas
Reply
#19
Quote:Legionaries... could well have simply been under the control of their own centurian or did he and they come under the control of the resident unit commander during their stay.

There's a letter by Fronto, I think, which suggests that an auxiliary praefectus cohortis and a centurion were equal in pay and rank. He probably means those centurions directly appointed ex eques, who may have been paid more than the risen-from-the-ranks variety.

So the prefect and the centurion sharing the same fort could have been equals, in fact, although the prefect may have tried to pull social rank if the centurion was not an equite!



Quote:In the empire you have Tribuni which have been promoted from praefectus cohortis. Of course these guys could do that job after 3 years of experience. What scares me more is, that people without any military experience at all did start as praefectus cohortis, if just of equestrian rank.

There were also 18-year-old centurions! ;-)

Some men did start the tres militiae auxiliary command early (there's a selection aged 18-23 or so), but many more began in early middle age after a civil career, often as a town councillor. Still not military experience, but it would have provided a grounding in projecting authority.

The youngest known (equestrian) legion tribune was aged, I believe, 28 - but they served on until their fifties in some cases, and several died in battle.

Undoubtably they had some command function on occasions - leading subunits either in battle or on detached expeditions. But, as we've said, this doesn't translate into an 'official' cohort-leadership role.
Reply
#20
Quote:There were also 18-year-old centurions! ;-)
:errr: Surely some mistake?
posted by Duncan B Campbell
Reply
#21
Quote:There were also 18-year-old centurions! ;-)

Sure, ex equite romano with a nice letter of recommendation. :woot:
I hope that such Centurions listened to their Signifer, who most propably stood near to him in the battleline. And this young Praefectus Cohortis listened to his Centurio Princeps, and this Legate who was 10 years out of service and had just 2-3 years military experience at all, had a primipilus iterum as chief of staff.

Sometimes I wonder, how the romans ever could conquer anything beyond Romes city wall.
Ut desint vires, tamen est laudanda voluntas
Reply
#22
Quote::errr: Surely some mistake?

I don't think so... Unless I'm reading this wrong (very possible!):

CIL 03, 01480 / AE 1972, +00467 (Sarmizegetusa):

Sex(tus) Pilonius / Sex(ti) f(ilius) Ste(llatina) Mode/stus Benevento / |(centurio) leg(ionis) IIII F(laviae) F(elicis) III hastatus / post(erior) ann(orum) XXXVII or/dine(m) accepit ex / equite Romano / militavit in leg(ione) / VII C(laudia) P(ia) F(ideli) et VIII Aug(usta) / XI C(laudia) P(ia) F(ideli) I Miner(via) P(ia) F(ideli) / stipendi(i)s centurio/nicis XVIIII / h(ic) s(itus) e(st) s(it) t(ibi) t(erra) l(evis)


Died aged 37, served 19 years, joined the army from the equestrian order... so was an 18-year-old centurion. No?
Reply
#23
Quote:Unless I'm reading this wrong
No, you're quite right. Must've had a good patron. Let's hope he was a quick learner.

Interestingly, he's the only one known to Eric Birley. He also suggests Ti. Claudius Fatalis (AE 1939, 157), who died at 42 after 23 years' service and lists seven centurionates, but he might've had a start in the centurial posts, like Petronius Fortunatus (ILS 2658).
posted by Duncan B Campbell
Reply
#24
Quote:No, you're quite right. Must've had a good patron. Let's hope he was a quick learner.

Ah, that's a relief. I was getting ready to eat my hat Smile

Actually I wonder if Modestus (and he probably wasn't the only teenage centurion in Roman history) and the smattering of younger cohort prefects might have been sons of primipilares or senior centurions. Saturius Picens (prefect at 19) was the son of a primus pilus, and Claudius Claudianus (died aged 24 while 'applying for military service') was the son of a praetorian centurion. Perhaps having a vir militaris family helped boost a young man into the officer's club?



Quote:Sometimes I wonder, how the romans ever could conquer anything beyond Romes city wall.

We might think so, but armies in the past often had very young officers. There were plenty of 18-year-old lieutenants in (for example) the British army in the first world war, who died leading their men. When you consider that these youths had probably known little more than school rifle club and a year or so of university, you can see that a Roman aristocrat of the same age (surrounded by slaves from birth, accustomed to effortless exercise of authority, trained in militaristic sports and drills and possibly (in the case of primipilares sons) even growing up in a military environment) would have been far better suited to command.
Reply
#25
Hi all,

Reverting to the original question, the commanding officer of a cohort in the roman legion, I have to admit that this has been an issue that has intrigued me for a long time. I personally can not share the proposed solution that the centuries in a late republican-imperial legion's cohort had not a single commander and that the six centurions cooperated in managing the cohort in combat.

We must bear in mind that in republican times previous to the the first century B.C half or more than half the strength of a consular army was composed of allied cohorts with each of them having a single commander, idem with the imperial era auxiliary cohorts and alae. If this was deemed necessary for these units to operate efficiently in combat and in campaign, why should it be different for the legionary cohorts? After all the allied cohorts fighted in the same way than the legionary ones in the same battleline and in the same battlefields.

Aside from that there is always the matter of how can be managed a unit of six centuries without a unified source of command. The cooperative-competitive between the centurions theory fails to take into account a very important point: what happens when different centurions in the same cohort think differently about different courses of action in the middle of a battle?, what could happen if several of them had personal rivalries or diverging ambitions that prevented them from helping one one another? This problem could be potentially disastrous for the cohort.

I personally think that we must look at the traditional way of organizing command in republican politics and military to find an answer: romans liked to divide power between equals, but assigning clear responsabilities and duties in an altertanting basis: consules shared command when operating together, tribunes shared command of their respective legions on a daily pattern, so in the same lines maybe simply the centurions rotated between them commanding their cohorts: same responsabilities, same pay and rank.
SI VIS PACEM COLE IVSTITIAM

NVLLA SINE DIGNITATE FELICITAS

LVCIVS SERGIVS ANTONINVS - Toni Sagarra
Reply
#26
Quote:We must bear in mind that in republican times previous to the the first century B.C half or more than half the strength of a consular army was composed of allied cohorts with each of them having a single commander, idem with the imperial era auxiliary cohorts and alae. If this was deemed necessary for these units to operate efficiently in combat and in campaign, why should it be different for the legionary cohorts? After all the allied cohorts fighted in the same way than the legionary ones in the same battleline and in the same battlefields.

This is true. But did every auxilia really need a commander on the battlefield? Or did they need a commander, when in a separate camp in peacetime (defensive role, small independent campaigns)? Like a legion camp with 10 cohors had the Legate and his staff officers for daily business and could always appoint a praepositus cohortis/vexillationis if needed. The auxilia was often hundred miles away from the legate and therfore needed its own commander.

Look at the cavalry. Let's say you have 4 alae in total in your army and therefore 4 praefects/tribunes. Worst case you can do it with just 2 cavalry commanders on the battlefield: left wing and right wing. Not very realistic, but the question is, did the romans cluster cohorts on the battlefield under the command of tribunes, acting from behind the lines with at least a chance to communicate with the army commander?

However, your rotation idea is not so bad. A lot of historians argue, that all centurions of cohors II-X were of the same rank, because there is no evidence, that the pilus prior had any different role or salary than the 5 others. As I mentioned above, in the auxlia the "pilus prior", here named centurio princeps, had a different role and title than the other five.

You are also right, if you advise to look back to the republic. The imperial legion, is in many ways a republican fossil. The progress in terms of command structure was done with the auxilia, while the legion remained rather traditional. Augustus did not like the idea to touch republican traditions. That was Gallienus job finally.
Ut desint vires, tamen est laudanda voluntas
Reply
#27
Quote:I personally can not share the proposed solution that the centuries in a late republican-imperial legion's cohort had not a single commander and that the six centurions cooperated in managing the cohort in combat.
In my view, the cohort had no existence in combat. Combat was by centuries.


Quote:... half or more than half the strength of a consular army was composed of allied cohorts with each of them having a single commander, ...
I'm not sure that that's true under the Republic.


Quote:... maybe simply the centurions rotated between them commanding their cohorts: same responsabilities, same pay and rank.
In my opinion, the official titles of the six centurions proves that this was not the case.
posted by Duncan B Campbell
Reply
#28
Quote:In my opinion, the official titles of the six centurions proves that this was not the case.

Yes, these are titles and most propbaly ranks, but we know nothing about different responsibilities or salary. We even don't know exactly, how promotion from decimus hastatus posterior to primus hastatus posterior worked. Competing theories are still discussed amongst historians.
Ut desint vires, tamen est laudanda voluntas
Reply
#29
LVCIVS SERGIVS ANTONINVS wrote:
In my opinion, the official titles of the six centurions proves that this was not the case.


I think there is a confusion, my opinion is the one that our appreciated D B Campbell was just trying to amend with precisely this commentary.
SI VIS PACEM COLE IVSTITIAM

NVLLA SINE DIGNITATE FELICITAS

LVCIVS SERGIVS ANTONINVS - Toni Sagarra
Reply
#30
I'm not sure that the different official titles of the six centurions were anything else than a reminiscence of the old manipular legion. Romans were people very proud of their traditions, they loved them and in consequence were very unwilling to change titles, something like the Guard Dragoons, who are not dragoons at all, or the Lance Corporal of the british army, who doesn't hold lances in combat anymore.

Regarding to the role of the tribunes I would like to point out some features: in the manipular legion previous to the marian reforms there weren't cohorts understood as permanent units composed of six centuries. As all of us know most scholars agree in that the centuries formed in three separated lines of maniples, namely the hastati, the principes and the triarii. Now we must ask ourselves by what reason the legion had exactly six tribunes at its front instead of, let's say, five or seven or ten. In my opinion this is due to the fact that each line of maniples was commanded by a pair of tribunes who took tactical control over the units, following the old same practice of sharing responsabilities between equals.
SI VIS PACEM COLE IVSTITIAM

NVLLA SINE DIGNITATE FELICITAS

LVCIVS SERGIVS ANTONINVS - Toni Sagarra
Reply


Possibly Related Threads...
Thread Author Replies Views Last Post
  Roman commander observation tower? Anonymous 7 1,881 08-31-2008, 09:31 PM
Last Post: MARCvSVIBIvSMAvRINvS

Forum Jump: