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female soldiers in a roman unit?
#16
Quote:how much of what you guys write is based on fact and how much on modern prejudice against female soldiers?

Our modern era is probably a lot less prejudiced against female soldiers than any previous one. Today we have women serving in many armies worldwide, sometimes in frontline positions. In the 15th century Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for 'dressing as a man'... :whistle:

You mention fact. The only plausible evidence for women fighting in battle in the entire Roman period is a note in Cassius Dio of armoured female corpses found after a battle during the Marcomannic wars (they may have been Sarmatian, or from some allied Germanic people, and this might be relevant to our case here...) Dio seemed to find this surprising and unusual.

Beyond this there is no evidence, and no 'facts'... So unless you're proposing an argumentum ex silentio, we don't have anything else to go on and our prejudice doesn't come into it. Wink


Quote:Weapons in a grave only prove that there is weapons in the grave... it do not in anyway tell us that the person is a warrior... male or female.

Which is more or less what I was saying above, I think!
Nathan Ross
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#17
Using Ancient DNA techniques a number of pagan Anglo-Saxon burials with weapons have been shown to have been of females. It seems possible that weapons indicated status, both of the buried woman and of the, presumably male, persons offering the grave goods.
Martin

Fac me cocleario vomere!
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#18
Quote:Wouldn't they be laeti, strictly speaking? Foederati surely served under a foedus, which would presumably prevent their being integrated into standing Roman formations.
That would the depend on the foedus itself. federates would be settled under their own leaders I think, while laeti were essentially defeated enemies who were forcably settled.
I have to say though that the differences are not always clear-cut, a common problem with Roman terminology.

Quote:Weapons in a grave only prove that there is weapons in the grave.
And if we can say anything, it is about the economic status of the person... it do not in anyway tell us that the person is a warrior... male or female.
Exactly.
Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR
FECTIO Late Romans
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
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#19
Nathan Ross wrote:
Quote:The only plausible evidence for women fighting in battle in the entire Roman period is a note in Cassius Dio of armoured female corpses found after a battle during the Marcomannic wars (they may have been Sarmatian, or from some allied Germanic people, and this might be relevant to our case here...) Dio seemed to find this surprising and unusual.
Interesting, assuming they were Sarmatian for when Marcus Aurelius defeated the Iazyges in 175AD I am sure the Romans would have ensured that the 8000 horsemen they demanded of the Iazyges would have been sons, brothers and nephews of the various clan and tribal chiefs as well as their various armed retainers so as to "pull the teeth of the Iazyges cavalry" and ensure loyalty and good behaviour and make sure that Rome was not troubled by the Iazyges again for the remainder of the war which blew up again in 177AD, so that she could concentrate on the Quadi and Marcomanni and some of their lesser allies. So if the Iazyges tried to pass off women warriors as soldiers I am sure the Romans would have suspiciously smelled a rat and suspected some sort of treachery. But it should be noted that Marcus needed to make a quick peace so he could deal with the revolt of Avidius Cassius in the east so who knows, maybe to get a quick peace he gave in on some conditions and allowed some of the Iazyges to bring their wives and families.
I would say that the Iazyges would have been hard pressed to replace the loss of such manpower as they needed herders and hunters to get them through the harsh winters when not fighting and the burden of defence of their wagon laagers and encampments would have fallen on the women and to a certain extent the older children and the elderly. Iazyges girls as well as boys would have been trained to shoot the bow and ride a horse as well as hunt from childhood like all steppe peoples and it would not surprise if they attended battles as horse archers. Even if this event mentioned by Cassius Dio happened pre 175ad I am sure part of the Roman strategy to fight an enemy constantly on the move, avoiding a battle would have been either catch the enemy when fully laden with booty while returning from a raid or failing that it would have been to isolate various Iazyges groups and attack their winter camps and grazing and hunting grounds in summer and in that situation women would have been involved in the defence of camps and herds as they could still use a bow and ride even if not frontline troops and quite a few would have been killed but not mentioned by the Romans.
While on the Iazyges, Herodotus, Strabo and Hippocrates all wrote about how the early Sauromatians who possibly were part ancestors of the Iazyges seemed to have a matriachal society and links to the Amazon legends and female warriors, at least early on in their history. The Nart sagas of the Caucasus also mention women warriors although these tales are a mixture of old Sarmatian, Alan, Ossetian and Circassian oral stories mixed in with a bit of Greek mythology due to contact with the Black Sea Greek city states, passed from generation to generation so there is a lot of literary evidence of women soldiers from the Sauromatae to the early Sarmatians and discounting grave finds which a lot of scholars have argued that weapons found in female graves served a purely ritual purpose to be used in the afterlife although Jeannine Davis-Kimball mentioned in her paper Warrior Women of the Steppes that in one grave a woman had a bent arrow head in her body cavity suggesting that she was killed in a battle although she could have been killed in a raid by a neighbouring tribe. But alas no Roman period evidence.
Regards
Michael Kerr
Michael Kerr
"You can conquer an empire from the back of a horse but you can't rule it from one"
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#20
My reply was more in response to some of the other posts. And more about the none-roman groups.
(something I should have made more clear)

There are still many who have a problem with female soldiers... if you drop by a forum where that is debated it is easy to find.
(I don't, In the danish army they serve side by side with males... also in the infantry, and some of the best soldiers I have served with where female)

Anyway, Iam in no way saying that there where female soldiers in the legions. Just that we have to be careful that our modern ideas don't influence our interpretations. Something that have been a clear problem with older work on viking age graves.
And I would think it would also have effected work done on roman period stuff during the last century.

I recently read about a group of archaeologists who had gone back and looked at the remains from an old dig.
It had 10 persons and the original conclusion was that 9 was male, based on the fact that they had weapons with them.
But the new work showed that four was females. So the old "weapons = male" is highly problematic.
Off cause in some online "news" that was prof that 3 our of every 10 vikings who went to England was a female warrior. Something that is naturally simply not supported.

So how much do we actually know? and how much is just based on our general understanding of the period?

Magister Militum Flavius Aetius wrote:
Only the Scythians and Sarmatians allowed women in military roles, and they didn't fight in the front lines.

How do we know that? written sources or how?
Thomas Aagaard
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#21
Quote:Even if this event mentioned by Cassius Dio happened pre 175ad...

The particular incident occurred very early in the Marcomannic war - Dio's narrative is a bit confused, but it seems to have been after the defeat of the initial barbarian incursions that broke through into Pannonia and Italy in AD169/70:

Many of the Germans, too, from across the Rhine, advanced as far as Italy and inflicted many injuries upon the Romans... Among the corpses of the barbarians there were found even women's bodies in armour. (Dio, 72.3.2)

There is actually another scrap of evidence, albeit from the dubious Historia Augusta. In the description of Aurelian's triumph in cAD274, we find the following:

There were led along also ten women, who, fighting in male attire, had been captured among the Goths after many others had fallen; these a placard declared to be of the race of the Amazons — for placards were borne before all, displaying the names of their nations. (HA Aurelian 34.1)

'Captured among the Goths' (in the campaign of 271/2, presumably) implies these women were not themselves Goths, so it's intriguing who they might have been in reality (beside 'Amazons'!). But it does seem to be a further suggestion of female military participation among some of the Danubian peoples.
Nathan Ross
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#22
Quote:There are still many who have a problem with female soldiers...

Apparently so. But these contemporary concerns should not affect our reading of the past, of course...


Quote:So how much do we actually know? and how much is just based on our general understanding of the period?

The evidence we do have is patchy at best, and doesn't allow for a clear understanding. Grave finds can, as you've said, be interpreted in different ways. But we do have the evidence of Roman literary culture, which is not only near-uniformally hostile to the idea of women in positions of power, or otherwise taking 'male' roles, but frequently uses suggestions of female emancipation to highlight the barbaric, strange and unRoman qualities of those identified as the enemy (whether actual barbarians or 'bad' emperors)...

This might count as a 'general understanding of the period', but does suggest that women taking warlike roles was unusual enough - and 'foreign' enough - to become a negative trope of sorts.

Meanwhile, to add to the extracts of the HA and Dio above, I should also add this, from Procopius:

...on many occasions when Huns have made raids into the Roman domain and have engaged in battle with those who have encountered them some, of course, have fallen there, and after the departure of the barbarians the Romans, in searching the bodies of the fallen have actually found women among them. No other army of women, however, has made its appearance in any locality of Asia or Europe. (Wars, VIII,3,11)

It is possible that, considering the heterogeneous composition of the Huns, these women may have come from the same ethnic group as the 'Goths'/'Amazons' paraded by Aurelian. Alternatively, it might suggest that fighting women were not so unusual in cultures from a steppe background.
Nathan Ross
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#23
Quote:There were led along also ten women, who, fighting in male attire, had been captured among the Goths after many others had fallen; these a placard declared to be of the race of the Amazons — for placards were borne before all, displaying the names of their nations. (HA Aurelian 34.1)

'Captured among the Goths' (in the campaign of 271/2, presumably) implies these women were not themselves Goths, so it's intriguing who they might have been in reality (beside 'Amazons'!).
I would not necessarily draw that conclusion. The text says only that Aurelian captured them fighting among the Goths, so they could just as well have been Goths themselves. The claim that they were Amazons could imply that to find women fighting alongside men was so unusual that it was believed that they could only have come from that race of warrior women. On the other hand, the author could have been slyly suggesting that such a claim was pure fiction by not stating, in terms, that they were Amazons but only that a placard said that they were.
Michael King Macdona

And do as adversaries do in law, -
Strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.
(The Taming of the Shrew: Act 1, Scene 2)
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#24
Quote:The text says only that Aurelian captured them fighting among the Goths... the author could have been slyly suggesting that such a claim was pure fiction by not stating, in terms, that they were Amazons but only that a placard said that they were.

I was assuming from the slightly odd phrasing that the author wished to suspend some doubts as to their identity. They are not described as 'Gothic women', but were 'among the Goths' (ducta sunt et decem mulieres, quas virili habitu pugnantes inter Gothos ceperat).

I think it's clear that their identification as 'Amazons' was rather poetical, but who they might have been otherwise is not clear. The catalogue of other 'barbarian tribes' in the procession that precedes this note includes Sarmatians, though. Probably the author didn't know who these women were either! (and seems not to have cared much, annoyingly for us...)
Nathan Ross
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#25
Quote:My reply was... more about the none-roman groups.
I recently read about a group of archaeologists who had gone back and looked at the remains from an old dig.
It had 10 persons and the original conclusion was that 9 was male, based on the fact that they had weapons with them.
But the new work showed that four was females. So the old "weapons = male" is highly problematic.
So how much do we actually know? and how much is just based on our general understanding of the period?

Magister Militum Flavius Aetius wrote:
Only the Scythians and Sarmatians allowed women in military roles, and they didn't fight in the front lines.

How do we know that? written sources or how?

Herodotus was fairly clear on the role of steppe women in warfare, "Their marriage-law lays it down that no girl shall wed til she has killed a man in battle. Sometimes it happens that a woman dies unmarried at an advanced age, having never been able in her whole life to fulfill the condition." (Book IV, Ch. 117) And I think Strabo also refers to women warriors. If we turn to archaeology, I'll disagree that weapons in a female grave could be out of context. If weapons only symbolized wealth, power, social status, then we would find more swords in female graves. We do not. We find arrowheads, sometimes actual shafts and even bow parts (bone ears).

This implies two things-- all of these women were "middle class," no symbolic upper-class swords for them. OR these grave goods could imply that the women were actually archers, and I'm inclined to believe ancient historians. This falls in line with Evan's statement. However, Evan said, "Only the Scythians and Sarmatians allowed women in military roles, and they didn't fight in the front lines." More than just the Scythians and Sarmatians fielded women. ALL steppe tribes had women soldiers, including Herodotus' Saraumatae, plus the Wusun, Massagetae, all of the Saka, and especially the Sibirs/Sargatskya. Contrary to Evan, they did fight in front lines if you grasp their style of fighting-- riding enmass at the opposing side, discharging half a quiver of arrows, then "retreating" with Parthian shots.

And last we must remember that some women were large enough, muscular enough, to actually wield sword and contus. Such a woman was found in a catacomb grave near the river Molochna. "Beside her were two iron spearheads and two lance-heads, a quiver with twenty arrows, and a suit of scale armour. She is thought to have been the Sarmatian wife of a Scythian." (Sulimirski, Praeger, Washington DC, 1970, p. 106) Dressed in armor and using a contus (plus and extra) this Sarmatian woman was not cringing in the rear lines.

These observations are not Jennine Davis-Kimball-isms. They represent the real world of the Iranian steppe tribes, from Herodotus up until captive Gothic or Sarmatian women were paraded in downtown Rome as "Amazons."

As for women within the Roman army? Only in a Hollywood movie. ;-)
Alan J. Campbell

member of Legio III Cyrenaica and the Uncouth Barbarians

Author of:
The Demon's Door Bolt (2011)
Forging the Blade (2012)

"It's good to be king. Even when you're dead!"
             Old Yuezhi/Pazyrk proverb
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#26
Quote:I was assuming from the slightly odd phrasing that the author wished to suspend some doubts as to their identity. They are not described as 'Gothic women', but were 'among the Goths' (ducta sunt et decem mulieres, quas virili habitu pugnantes inter Gothos ceperat).
I am sorry; I do not see that as odd. Warfare is predominantly a masculine activity. In this case, some women were found amongst the men. The way in which this is expressed in the Historia Augusta seems entirely natural.
Michael King Macdona

And do as adversaries do in law, -
Strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.
(The Taming of the Shrew: Act 1, Scene 2)
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#27
Quote:
thomas aagaard post=363776 Wrote:My reply was... more about the none-roman groups.
I recently read about a group of archaeologists who had gone back and looked at the remains from an old dig.
It had 10 persons and the original conclusion was that 9 was male, based on the fact that they had weapons with them.
But the new work showed that four was females. So the old "weapons = male" is highly problematic.
So how much do we actually know? and how much is just based on our general understanding of the period?

Magister Militum Flavius Aetius wrote:
Only the Scythians and Sarmatians allowed women in military roles, and they didn't fight in the front lines.

How do we know that? written sources or how?

Herodotus was fairly clear on the role of steppe women in warfare, "Their marriage-law lays it down that no girl shall wed til she has killed a man in battle. Sometimes it happens that a woman dies unmarried at an advanced age, having never been able in her whole life to fulfill the condition." (Book IV, Ch. 117) And I think Strabo also refers to women warriors. If we turn to archaeology, I'll disagree that weapons in a female grave could be out of context. If weapons only symbolized wealth, power, social status, then we would find more swords in female graves. We do not. We find arrowheads, sometimes actual shafts and even bow parts (bone ears).

This implies two things-- all of these women were "middle class," no symbolic upper-class swords for them. OR these grave goods could imply that the women were actually archers, and I'm inclined to believe ancient historians. This falls in line with Evan's statement. However, Evan said, "Only the Scythians and Sarmatians allowed women in military roles, and they didn't fight in the front lines." More than just the Scythians and Sarmatians fielded women. ALL steppe tribes had women soldiers, including Herodotus' Saraumatae, plus the Wusun, Massagetae, all of the Saka, and especially the Sabirs/Sagatskya. Contrary to Evan, they did fight in front lines if you grasp their style of fighting-- riding enmass at the opposing side, discharging half a quiver of arrows, then "retreating" with Parthian shots.

And last we must remember that some women were large enough, muscular enough, to actually wield sword and contus. Such a woman was found in a catacomb grave near the river Molochna. "Beside her were two iron spearheads and two lance-heads, a quiver with twenty arrows, and a suit of scale armour. She is thought to have been the Sarmatian wife of a Scythian." (Sulimirski, Praeger, Washington DC, 1970, p. 106) Dressed in armor and using a contus (plus and extra) this Sarmatian woman was not cringing in the rear lines.

These observations are not Jennine Davis-Kimball-isms. They represent the real world of the Iranian steppe tribes, from Herodotus up until captive Gothic or Sarmatian women were paraded in downtown Rome as "Amazons."

As for women within the Roman army? Only in a Hollywood movie. ;-)

Which Sabirs? Remember the Sabirs were a Hunnic Tribe of the 5th-7th centuries AD.

And why didn't the Huns practice it? We find no female Hunnic burials with weapons as grave goods.
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#28
Alanus wrote:
Quote:And last we must remember that some women were large enough, muscular enough, to actually wield sword and contus. Such a woman was found in a catacomb grave near the river Molochna. "Beside her were two iron spearheads and two lance-heads, a quiver with twenty arrows, and a suit of scale armour. She is thought to have been the Sarmatian wife of a Scythian." (Sulimirski, Praeger, Washington DC, 1970, p. 106) Dressed in armor and using a contus (plus and extra) this Sarmatian woman was not cringing in the rear lines.
The Amazon depicted below seems very muscular and different to most Greek depictions of Amazons and looks like she would be handy with sword, lance or javelin.


[attachment=11484]amazon.jpg[/attachment]

Regards
Michael Kerr


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Michael Kerr
"You can conquer an empire from the back of a horse but you can't rule it from one"
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#29
I apologize to everyone, especially Evan, for misspelling Sargatskya/Sibirs, closely related tribes living east of the river Ob. As noted by Evan, the Huns did not seem to have female warriors, no archaeological evidence of such. My intent was pointing out that specific weapons in female inhumations shows an individual's position within the tribe. We certainly find enough female graves without them. The highest incidence occurs within the Sargatskya culture, a Sarmatized tribe along the eastern woodland-steppe border country.

The instances of female grave weapons occur within Iranian-speaking steppe cultures, and this is what we see on Greek vases, as Michael just pointed out. Whether they were matriarchal or matrilineal is less important than their obvious "unisex" military structure. This created an innate curiosity within Graeco-Roman societies toward women-warriors, hence the parading of "Amazon" captives through Rome's streets. It really doesn't matter whether they were Goths or Sarmatians, not a moot point, but simply an anomaly to a male-oriented western culture. This parading of foreign-strange, war-like, women is a classic reinforcement of exactly why a "patrician"-Roman society would not have women within its military ranks.
Alan J. Campbell

member of Legio III Cyrenaica and the Uncouth Barbarians

Author of:
The Demon's Door Bolt (2011)
Forging the Blade (2012)

"It's good to be king. Even when you're dead!"
             Old Yuezhi/Pazyrk proverb
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#30
Alan, have you read the book ”Are All Warriors Male?: Gender Roles on the Ancient Eurasian Steppe"
I have a link to a PDF containing sections and a couple of chapters from the book but not all of it. If you want the complete book you have to shell out anything from $50 to $80 (new) but ebook available as well which would be cheaper. I think the book covers a few subjects but the chapter on Sargat burials both male and female and the various grave goods found in them is included in the PDF on pages 137-140. The author also writes that the bow was used more for warfare than hunting due to a large concentration of domestic livestock in Sargat culture. Also of interest on page 139 is information that a Hunnic type composite bow from 3rd Century BC was found in one of the Sargat kurgans. Below are a couple of paragraphs.
Quote: In Russian Iron Age archaeology, arrowheads traditionally are accepted as weapons in both the steppe and forest-steppe societies (nomadic and seminomadic). The prevailing view of specialists is that the nomadic bows were for battle rather than hunting due to their constructional characteristics (Khudyakov 1986). Before the 3rd century BCE, Sargat burials contained small bronze arrowheads for bows of the Scythian type and bone armor. In the 3rd century BCE, a big composite (so-called Hunnic) bow first appeared.
This bow usually survives in mortuary contexts only as four or seven bone plaques, which were used for strengthening its central part and two shoulders. Such a bow was about 1.50 meters in length. Iron and long-bone arrowheads, which appeared en masse in the 3rd to the 2nd centuries BCE, were used by this larger bow. As a result of this more powerful weapon, bone arrnor was replaced by iron. It seems likely that this bow appeared in the Sargat area earlier than in Sarmatian territory (Moshkova 1989, 184). "Undoubtedly, at first the forest-steppe inhabitants adopted many military inventions from the southern nomads. However, in the second half of the first millennium BCE, they made their own contribution to the general development of warfare" (Koryakova and Epimakhov 2007). The bow of the Hunnic type was the most effective bow of the late 1st millennium BCE (Khudyakov 1986).

Link to shortened PDF below.

http://www.archaeology-gender-europe.org...rsenev.pdf

Regards
Michael Kerr
Michael Kerr
"You can conquer an empire from the back of a horse but you can't rule it from one"
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