Thread Rating:
  • 0 Vote(s) - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Later Roman Military Punishments
#1
During the republican era, the Roman army was famous for its severe military discipline, with soldiers being beaten and executed for a wide variety of offences. But had this changed by the later empire, and if so, how?

From around the second century or so, soldiers were counted as honestiores, and therefore immune from torture and flogging. This suggests that the only capital offences in the later Roman army were desertion or mutiny, for which a soldier could first be dismissed and then executed. Julian supposedly reintroduced decimation for cowardice, but seems to have misunderstood the concept.

But how were lesser crimes punished? Phang's Roman Military Service (or the bits of it I'm able to read online) seems to suggest pay stoppages or demotion - but could this cover all offences?

The Strategikon orders 'punishment' for disobeying orders etc, but doesn't specify what the punishment might be in non-capital cases. On the other hand, the Military code of Ruffus (probably an officer of Valentinian) is very harsh, with punishments including flogging and mutilation for various offences of disobedience, negligence and theft. Anyone stealing a mule has his hands cut off; rapists are punished by having their noses cut off.

This seems contradictory: was the later army more lenient than its republican ancestor, or much harsher? Is Ruffus's code a kind of Vegetius-type anachronism, based on earlier sources, or is it a genuine representation of the late 4th century army?

Any suggestions much appreciated!
Reply
#2
It would also be interesting to compare late Roman military punishment with the early stories about military saints. The (lack of) corroboration between the two might shed some light on the historicity of the latter genre.
_________________________________
Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR: Forum rules
FECTIO Late Roman Society
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
[Image: artgroepbutton.jpg]
Reply
#3
Quote:It would also be interesting to compare late Roman military punishment with the early stories about military saints.

That's a good angle, yes. Sergius and Bacchus (suppoedly c300) were initally stripped of their military insignia and ordered to parade in women's costume; Julian did the same to his cowardly troops, and this is presumably an example of the 'shameful and degrading' punishments mentioned by Phang.

Marcellus (c298), of VI Gemina, was executed in North Africa by beheading after throwing away his weapons and centurion's staff - he was charged with 'defiling his oath as a centurion', and so was presumably divested of his military rank and status before execution. The crime may have been seen as desertion (which, if this took place during Maximian's Mauretanian campaign, was a capital offence in wartime) or simple refusal to obey orders.

But there do seem to have plenty of cases of torture and execution of civilian honestiores too during the persecutions; I believe the terms of the imperial rescripts involved removal of the civil rights of offenders. So perhaps these military martyrdoms should not be seen as representative of the army as a whole.

I'm still curious about the lesser punishments of the period though - we often read of the later Roman soldier being 'brutalised' by harsh discipline, and stories of conscripts being held in jails, branding (or 'marking') and so on do suggest a punitive culture. But once a man was a soldier, was he really immune from physical punishment for most offences, or was there an additional 'military law' that cancelled these privileges when under arms?

Considering that flogging was still used in most European armies until the mid-19th century, it seems extraordinary that the Roman soldier might actually have lived under a milder regime!
Reply
#4
I am suspicious of the Military Code of Ruffus. The text that we have apparently derives from Byzantine sources and some of the punishments, e.g., cutting off the nose for rape, strike me as more Byzantine than Roman.

For military law generally, including punishments, it is worth looking at Justinian's Digest, Book 49, Title 16:

http://droitromain.upmf-grenoble.fr/Angl...tt.htm#XVI

This is not the best translation but it gives you the idea. As I understand it, although the Digest is based on the works of classical jurists, the compilers did not just reproduce the earlier writings but sought to include only those opinions that were still considered relevant. Therefore, this may serve as a useful guide to military law in the later Army.
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)
Reply
#5
Quote: it is worth looking at Justinian's Digest...

Thanks - I had seen most of those before, but not presented with such clarity! It's an interesting compendium, although sometimes (perhaps understandably) confusing.

For example, Modestinus (c.AD250) seems pretty clear on the immunities of soldiers:

Concerning Punishments, Book IV. (1) Military punishments are of the following kinds: namely, castigation, fines, the imposition of additional duties, transfer to another branch of the service, degradation from rank, and dishonorable discharge; for soldiers are neither condemned to labor in the mines nor subjected to torture.

And yet, a few sections later, Modestinus has this:

(16) He, however, who leaves the ranks, shall, according to circumstances, be beaten with rods, or compelled to change his branch of the service.

I would consider being beaten with rods to be a form of torture! 'Leaving the ranks' might be another way of describing desertion, and it's telling how many of these laws are specifically directed against deserters. But in this case the soldier remains a soldier but is still tortured...

Most of these laws relate to military offences too. One of the few that doesn't is this:

Paulus, Sentences, Book V.(1) A soldier who is a disturber of the peace is punished with death.

What does that mean? 'Disturbing the peace' seems like a civil offence, and could involve any number of things...

So while there do seem to be a lot of capital crimes in these lists, most of them seem to involve the same stuff (desertion and treason). Otherwise, providing a soldier remained in his unit, followed military orders and did not 'disturb the peace' (whatever that means), are we to assume that he was basically immune from physical punishment?


Quote:some of the punishments, e.g., cutting off the nose for rape, strike me as more Byzantine than Roman.
*

Could be - but when does 'Roman' change to 'Byzantine'? And what would the Roman military punishment for rape be? I'm reminded of the story in the Historia Augusta about Aurelian, when a tribune, punishing a soldier rapist by tying him to two bent trees and having him torn in half... :unsure:

*edit - I've seen some claims that Ruffus was actually writing in the days of Maurikios, and even that he was the real author of the Strategikon!
Reply
#6
Quote:Could be - but when does 'Roman' change to 'Byzantine'? And what would the Roman military punishment for rape be? I'm reminded of the story in the Historia Augusta about Aurelian, when a tribune, punishing a soldier rapist by tying him to two bent trees and having him torn in half... :unsure:

*edit - I've seen some claims that Ruffus was actually writing in the days of Maurikios, and even that he was the real author of the Strategikon!

1548 is when Roman was changed to Byzantine.
Reply
#7
During 6th century flogging was standard punishment for various negligences during service.In extreme cases desertion from battle or neglected patrol duty was punished even with Impaling(Theophilactes)! Concept likely adopted from the Avars although certainly known to Romans even before them.Belisarius hanged two Huns for murdering one of their comrades in their drunkenness(Procopios).For cowardice soldiers might be forced off the camp before they regained their honor back by valiant deeds in action like in the old times(Ammianus mentioned this in case of Julian who,as was already said,seems to briefly reintroduced some old Roman military practicies but I think I encountered with the same also in description of some 6th century campaign).

Degradation in rank was also normaly in use during Julian as well as Justinian.Even high ranking officers were sometimes put to trial.Court martial that was held because of conspiracy and murder of the Lazican King gubazes is described in detail by Agathias.General Rusticus was beheaded for this(since he was a Roman citizen).Other general Bessas was dismissed, his property was confiscated, and he was sended in exile into very unfriendly place among wild tribesmen of Abasgians.After defeat in the field,failed or too long siege inquiry was sometimes ordered with court officials being send to interrogate commanders.
Reply
#8
Quote:Modestinus (c.AD250) seems pretty clear on the immunities of soldiers:

Concerning Punishments, Book IV. (1) Military punishments are of the following kinds: namely, castigation, fines, the imposition of additional duties, transfer to another branch of the service, degradation from rank, and dishonorable discharge; for soldiers are neither condemned to labor in the mines nor subjected to torture.

And yet, a few sections later, Modestinus has this:

(16) He, however, who leaves the ranks, shall, according to circumstances, be beaten with rods, or compelled to change his branch of the service.

I would consider being beaten with rods to be a form of torture! 'Leaving the ranks' might be another way of describing desertion, and it's telling how many of these laws are specifically directed against deserters. But in this case the soldier remains a soldier but is still tortured...
I disagree. 'Tortured' is something quite different (the word in the Latin is torquentur, 'they are tortured (?racked)'). In fact, 'beaten with rods' may be something of an understatement. The Latin is fustibus caeditur, 'he is beaten (down) with cudgels'. This sounds very like fustuarium. Nevertheless, soldiers were subject to corporal punishment. Further down in the same Title, we have '14. Paulus, On Military Punishments (1)' in which a soldier who sells his leg or shoulder armour is flogged (castigari verberibus).


Quote:Paulus, Sentences, Book V.(1) A soldier who is a disturber of the peace is punished with death.

What does that mean? 'Disturbing the peace' seems like a civil offence, and could involve any number of things...
Nowadays, you can be arrested for breach of the peace if you get drunk on a Saturday night but Paulus obviously has something much more serious in mind. I suspect that it would be closer to rioting. The Latin has turbator pacis, 'a disturber of the peace', which may signify the ringleader in a disturbance.
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)
Reply
#9
Quote:'beaten with rods' may be something of an understatement... Nevertheless, soldiers were subject to corporal punishment.

And yet I think this same 'beaten with rods' expression is used in lists of punishments from which honestiores (including soldiers, civil decurions, etc) are immune... So in order for the corporal punishment of soldiers (both minor, as in use of the vitis by centurions, or major - beating with cudgels, whipping etc) not to breach their civil rights as honestiores, those rights must either have been suspended while under military jurisdiction, or only apply in civil cases.


Quote:turbator pacis... may signify the ringleader in a disturbance.

Yes, that sounds about right.



Quote:a soldier who sells his leg or shoulder armour is flogged

Hello Wink
Reply
#10
I think in this case it might mean a Scale Gorget. But that's an interesting possibility that it's connected to the "Pauldrons" so often seen in art.
Reply
#11
Hello indeed. Do not be so eager to deduce anything from english translations.

You can see in the Digesta, that the original word is umerale. This is listed by Lewis & Short as a 'covering for the shoulders, a military cape'.

Also present in Leviticus 8:7, meaning a robe.
Kis György Márk (by western standards, György Márk Kis)

Legio Leonum Valentiniani

http://www.legioleonum.hu
Reply
#12
Quote:I think this same 'beaten with rods' expression is used in lists of punishments from which honestiores (including soldiers, civil decurions, etc) are immune...
Do you have a reference for that?


Quote:Do not be so eager to deduce anything from english translations.

You can see in the Digesta, that the original word is umerale. This is listed by Lewis & Short as a 'covering for the shoulders, a military cape'.
Normally, I would agree with you. In the same passage, the word translated as 'armour for his legs' (tibiale) is defined by Lewis & Short as 'a warm wrappage about the shins, a kind of stockings or leggings'. However, the whole passage relates to the illicit disposal of arms (arma) and goes on to deal with punishment in the case of the sale of 'loricam scutum galeam gladium', so I think it logical to suppose that the jurist was referring throughout to various sorts of armour and weaponry, rather than clothing.
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)
Reply
#13
Quote:Do you have a reference for that?

Callistratus, in Book 48 of the Digest:

28. On Judicial Inquiries, Book VI (2) It is not customary for all people to be beaten with rods, but only free men of inferior station (teniores homines); those of higher rank (honestiores) are not to be beaten with rods.

I'm not sure how closely the latin phrase (honestiores vero fustibus non subiciuntur) matches that used to describe the punishment of soldiers.
Reply
#14
Quote:Callistratus, in Book 48 of the Digest:

28. On Judicial Inquiries, Book VI (2) It is not customary for all people to be beaten with rods, but only free men of inferior station (teniores homines); those of higher rank (honestiores) are not to be beaten with rods.

I'm not sure how closely the latin phrase (honestiores vero fustibus non subiciuntur) matches that used to describe the punishment of soldiers.
The opening words of the passage, 'Non omnes fustibus caedi solent', match the phrase describing the punishment of soldiers very closely.

Getting back to your earlier question, I suppose that much may depend upon whether soldiers were true honestiores or whether they simply enjoyed similar privileges. Do we have a reference for that? That said, it is the case, I think, in all armies that the soldier submits himself on enlistment to a different disciplinary regime to that applying when he was a civilian. The point is made in two instances at least in the Digest: Dig. 49.16.2 in which Menander states that soldiers' crimes or offences are either peculiar to the military or common to other men and the two are prosecuted differently, and Dig. 48.19.14 in which Macer states that some offences, which carry no penalty or a relatively light one in the case of a civilian, are punished more severely in the case of a soldier.
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)
Reply
#15
Quote:much may depend upon whether soldiers were true honestiores or whether they simply enjoyed similar privileges. Do we have a reference for that?

This seems to be at the root of the problem.

I was searching for some clarification, and found this, from Richard Baumann:

Crime and Punishment in Ancient Rome pp101-102

As Baumann puts it, the serving soldier occupied 'a grey area between honestiores and humiliores'; he also mentions a relaxation of military discipline under Severus, and the attempts to reintroduce the disciplina augusti under Alexander, which proved fatal for Ulpian...

The following note about the 'patchy nature of the soldier's privileges' seems to relate to what we've been discussing here too: while soldiers are apparently immune from 'torture' (in a judicial sense), the jurists do not seem to consider that 'castigation' of a soldier counts as such, even if involves the same sort of treatment that would be thought of as torture if it was done to a decurion!
Reply


Possibly Related Threads...
Thread Author Replies Views Last Post
  Punishments Anonymous 4 922 05-17-2001, 02:11 PM
Last Post: Anonymous

Forum Jump: