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Late Roman Army Questions
#1
Did the Limitanei ever work directly with the field armies of Comitatenses?

What would be a standard line up of a roman army of the period? Similar to earlier periods with Auxiliary units on the flanks, legions in the center?

Did different legions/units have unique shields?

Where would the Foederati of the late army stand on the battlefield?

Is there an accurate list of all the late army units, types of units, legions etc?

Thank you Smile
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#2
(11-05-2015, 12:48 PM)Legate Wrote: Did the Limitanei ever work directly with the field armies of Comitatenses?

The formal division between Comitatus and frontier units seems to date from the mid 4th century at the earliest - before that, there was interchange between the two. Most of our sources relate to the activities of imperial field armies in times of large-scale campaigning, and so the frontier troops are seldom mentioned, but I would think it inevitable that they cooperated.

Ammianus Marcellinus (28.5) describes an invasion of Saxons into Gaul in c.370 countered first by Nannienus, comes, "who was in command in that district", and then, after some Roman losses, by the magister peditum Severus, who arrived with reinforcements: an example of comitatensis troops being used in support of (probably) limitanei.


(11-05-2015, 12:48 PM)Legate Wrote: What would be a standard line up of a roman army of the period? Similar to earlier periods with Auxiliary units on the flanks, legions in the center?

Ammianus's description of Julian's array at the battle of Strasbourg (AD357) seems to suggest so. Julian placed his legionary infantry in the centre, with auxilia palatina units - Cornuti, Bracchiati and others - on the flanks and the cavalry on the extreme right, with a strong central legionary reserve of the Primani in the second line.

The auxilia, however, were not the same as the 'auxiliaries' of the earlier empire (despite Ammianus using the same term to describe both, and also barbarian allies!). They were elite front-line infantry of the field army. Some of the old 'auxiliary' cohorts and cavalry alae still existed in frontier garrisons, although we don't have much evidence of their use.



(11-05-2015, 12:48 PM)Legate Wrote: Did different legions/units have unique shields?

Apparently so. The Notitia Dignitatum (a late 4th / early 5th register of imperial offices) provides illustrations of most of them, although we have no way of telling how accurate it may have been!

You can find them all illustrated and annotated here: Late Roman Shield Patterns from the Notitia Dignitatum


(11-05-2015, 12:48 PM)Legate Wrote: Where would the Foederati of the late army stand on the battlefield?

This would depend on 'late' you want to take things! In earlier armies they probably took the flanks. Things might have changed by the 5th century though...


(11-05-2015, 12:48 PM)Legate Wrote: Is there an accurate list of all the late army units, types of units, legions etc?

The Notitia Dignitatum (see above) is certainly a list, and very detailed. But, as I say, opinions are divided on its accuracy! There's plenty of stuff about it online, though, so you can form your own opinion.

Meanwhile, you might be interested in these blog posts, which give a general overview of the army of the earlier 4th century:

The Roman Army of Constantine, Part 1

The Roman Army of Constantine, Part 2
Nathan Ross
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#3
Thank you very much for the reply and info Nathan Smile

So as for the Axillary units being elite front line units, same as the legionary units, what were the differences between the two? I understand it wasn't just roman citizens that could now join the legionary units. So what set them apart?

Can it be said then that the Foederati took the role of the earlier period auxiliaries?

Cheers
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#4
(11-05-2015, 01:51 PM)Legate Wrote: what were the differences between the two? I understand it wasn't just roman citizens that could now join the legionary units. So what set them apart?

A good question, and we don't know enough about the process by which these units were formed to answer it clearly.

Officially speaking, as far as I know, citizenship remained a necessity for legionaries - although we see evidence from the later second century that already provincials were being given citizenship on enlistment. Also, after AD212, citizenship was extended to all inhabitants of the empire, making it less of a prized possession. Barbarians settled within the empire (laeti) seem to have been a good source of recruits, as they were obliged to provide military service. Quite possibly many of them ended up in the legions too.

The auxilia, it seems, took both citizens and non-citizens into the ranks (although it's often hard to tell, with many 'barbarians' taking Roman names!). I suspect that they originate with semi-irregular barbarian units ('numeri') in the late 3rd or very early 4th century, who at some point in the 320s (perhaps) were taken officially into the imperial comitatus as bodyguard troops - hence the 'palatina' title. By this point, service in the auxilia was attractive enough to entice citizen recruits as well - the earliest known member of the Cornuti auxilium was a citizen, born in Roman Singidunum, who joined in the 320s (which refutes the idea that the auxilia were all Germanic barbarians!)

As for differences in equipment or training between auxilia and legiones, we really don't know. The auxilia (if we can trust Ammianus) seem to have been more prestigious, exempted from the manual labour that had always been the legionary's lot.

They do seem to have had a different rank structure though (dealt with in the second of the blog posts I linked above), which was not used in the legions - although this too is very unclear!

So much about prestige in the later Roman world hinges on proximity to the emperor(s). Any unit of the comitatus would be close to the person of the emperor, and therefore more prestigious.



(11-05-2015, 01:51 PM)Legate Wrote: Can it be said then that the Foederati took the role of the earlier period auxiliaries?

I'm sure others could answer this one - my knowledge of the later 4th-5th centuries (when foederati as we tend to use the word came to prominence) is rather slight!
Nathan Ross
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#5
(11-05-2015, 02:23 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: [quote pid='332499' dateline='1446731489']
Can it be said then that the Foederati took the role of the earlier period auxiliaries?

I'm sure others could answer this one - my knowledge of the later 4th-5th centuries (when foederati as we tend to use the word came to prominence) is rather slight!
[/quote]

In some sense yes, in another, no. Angel

The classic auxilia were multi-task infantry (as opposed to the legionary heavy infantry). This distinction does not exist in the late Roman army, where the infantry can perform both light as well as heavy tasks. For instance, the auxilia regiments attacking the Alamanni on the islands in the Rhine at night before the batle of Argentorate is a clear feat of a commando-style raid performed by heavy infantry.
Foederati did not perform that role in any way.

Foedearti were in some cases used as 'cannon fodder' (e.g. at the battle of the Frigidus river), which sounds a lot like the classic auxilia doing the hard work at Mons Graupius while the legions looked on, inactive.

But as Ross already said, it both depends on circumstances and modern knowledge. Foederati were not a homegenous group, nor was every 'foedus' exactly alike another. Constantine and other emperors sent out to hire as many barbarians as possible before they went on campaign, while Alaric effectively led a 'Roman' army of Visigoths around the empire, attacking the West on orders of the high command of the East!. Anything inbetween could probably be found on the battlefields of the 4th century: tribal groups or hired specialists.
Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR
FECTIO Late Romans
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
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#6
Before the 5th century most Foederati would have been recruited the same way as Roman citizens would have, dispersed amongst legions indistinguishable from the Roman soldiers, because they were recruited to be normal Roman soldiers, and were just as good and loyal.

Actual units of Foederati could be compared more to the Socii and other allies from the Republican army, than to the Auxilia.
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#7
(11-10-2015, 05:29 PM)Flavivs Aetivs Wrote: Before the 5th century most Foederati would have been... dispersed amongst legions... recruited to be normal Roman soldiers.

This is where things get complicated, I think!

What's the earliest known use of the term foederati in the late Roman sense? (I know it was used in the republic for socii etc)

As far as I know, the term was quite late, and referred only to large 'barbarian' groups, whether settled in the empire or not, who fought en bloc, often under their own leaders (although the leaders may have been 'dignified' with some Roman military title!)

Earlier (2nd/3rd/early 4th) settlements of barbarian groups within the empire would either have been dedicitii (prisoners of war - perhaps like the Sarmatians settled in Britain by Marcus Aurelius) or laeti (entire social groups brought into the empire, like the Frisii and Franks settled in Gaul by Probus and Constantius I). These groups were both, I think, required to provide military service, although since they had come into the empire in a state of submission (probably), they did not tend to form their own units but, as Ammianus Marcellinus suggests, may have been drafted into regular Roman ones.

I'm pretty cloudy on most of the above though, and what the difference between the various types of 'foreign fighter' might have been at this point I'm really not sure!

3rd-4th century Roman armies did use large barbarian bands from outside the empire - Galerius and Licinius both had Goths in their armies, apparently fighting under their own tribal leaders. I don't know whether we could, in hindsight, call these troops foederati or not, or what they might have been called at the time (aside from the ubiqituous auxilia, which Roman writers used, confusingly, to designate all sorts of things!)
Nathan Ross
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#8
(11-10-2015, 05:29 PM)Flavivs Aetivs Wrote: Actual units of Foederati could be compared more to the Socii and other allies from the Republican army, than to the Auxilia.

That's correct, foederati were never standing army units of non-citizens such as the auxilia. Foederati were never part of the regular army and were usually sent home (wherever that was) after a campaign.
This was Alaric's main motive to pressure the West: his demands were a permanent role for his 'forces'.

In later times, the foederati became regular army units.

Ilkka Syvänne (2015) Foederati, in: the Encyclopedia of the Roman Army (Wiley):


The foederati (Latin for federates; sing. foederatus; Greek phoideratoi) were a type of late Roman troops. The word foederati was derived from the Latin word foedus (treaty; plural foedera), which meant a treaty of alliance between Rome and its ally. Such treaties were concluded from an early stage, but the actual names used for these treaty-bound allies varied over time. There was also not one standard blueprint for the treaties. The terms varied according to the situation.


When historians refer to the foederati, they usually mean the late Roman foederati, that is, the barbarian foederati of the period after the treaty between the Goths and Theodosius I in 382 CE. After the crushing defeat at Adrianople in 378, the Romans had lacked adequate resources to defeat the Goths decisively, with the result that Theodosius concluded this face-saving treaty. We do not know the exact details, but the treaty seems to have required the Goths to provide units of warriors under their own chieftains for specific campaigns in return for land and subsistence in Thrace. The Romans wanted to stress the treaty aspect, but in practice the Goths proved too powerful to be bound by it. The Goths were not subject to Roman discipline and fought according to their native customs. Thereafter similar contracts were also concluded with other tribes. After the division of the empire, this eventually led to the wholesale barbarization of the army and gradual marginalization of the regular forces in the west.


Besides the foederati, the late Romans also employed other purely barbarian units that had such titles as gentiles (gentiles, foreigners) and laeti (half-free or willing settlers). The exact difference between the laeti and gentiles on the one hand and the foederati on the other is not known with certainty, but the foederati seem to have had a greater degree of tribal autonomy than the former. The former may have consisted mostly of the dediticii (defeated tribesmen settled within the empire), but we cannot exclude the possibility that the foederati also included some dediticii. In addition, if not from the very start then definitely well before the foederati, both the laeti and gentiles were also included among the regular forces of the empire.


During the reign of Honorius (393–423), the foederati, just like the bucellarii, came to consist of a mix of barbarians and Romans (Olymp. fr.7.4). This seems to have resulted from the advantageous situation of the warriors who belonged to the foederati, which made the joining of the Germanic warbands and retinues (membership of which was never restricted solely to members of the tribe) very lucrative also for native Romans (Oros. 7.41.7). Consequently, the difference between the foederati and bucellarii was blurred. The foederati were not yet collectively enrolled into the regular army by the time the Notitia Dignitatum (c.395–430) was written. Rather the old pattern of enrolling individual units into the regular army persisted. From Orosius (7.40ff., esp. 7.40.7) we learn that some of the foederati units had already been enrolled into the regular army with the name Honoriaci by c.409, which means that we cannot detect the change from allies into regulars from the unit titles of the Notitia Dignitatum. There also seems to have been a difference between the practices of the two halves of the Roman Empire. In the west a very significant proportion of the army came to consist of the tribal federates and only a small proportion of these became Romanized or were successfully enrolled into the regular army. In the west federates were fighting federates until the empire itself collapsed and was divided up by the predatory federates. In contrast, in the east the vast majority of the armed forces continued to consist of natives. The East Romans managed to Romanize a significant proportion of the federates until at some point in the 5th century they were all enrolled wholesale into the regular army and given a single commander with the title comes foederatorum (count of the federates, first mentioned in 420). Nevertheless, there were still two classes of foederati in the east during the 5th century: (a) the cavalry retinues that owed personal loyalty to their commander and stayed loyal to the central government; (b) the various groupings of Goths and others settled in the Balkans, which included significant numbers of infantry, who retained their full tribal independence under their kings. It was only the departure of the Thracian Federates under Theoderic the Great to Italy in 489 that finally freed the East Romans of the Gothic menace and enabled them to incorporate the remaining foederati fully into their army. The allies were henceforth known by the generic name symmachoi (allies), a title that implies at least a modicum of autonomy. Therefore, by the 6th century, the foederati had become part of the regular army of the east, and, in fact, the regular foederati played a very important role in almost all of the wars of the period (Procop. Wars 3.11.3–4).


True to their inheritance, the East Romans continued to enroll new units of foederati in their army. The largest single recruiting drive occurred under Tiberius II. In 577 he placed 15,000 newly recruited Germanic foederati horsemen under the comes foederatorum and comes excubitorum (count of the excubitors) Maurice for use in the eastern wars. Henceforth, most of the foederati were usually grouped together into a single cavalry corps. The foederati were considered crack troops and were typically placed in the center of the first line of the cavalry formation. Since they were regulars, their equipment and fighting tactics were harmonized with Roman combat doctrine. By the time of the Strategikon written in the 590s, the foederatus was equipped with ankle-length armor, a shield, a helmet, a spatha sword, a contus spear, and the horses of the front rankers were armored. At least some 60 percent of the foederati also carried the composite bow. The trained foederatus could be expected to perform equally well at long- and short-distance combat. Only the young untrained barbarians occupying the middle ranks were allowed to use spears and shields. Despite this integration, the Romans did not fail to exploit the national characteristics of the different federate units when considered appropriate, even before some sort of unity could be instilled through regular training, that is, cavalry lancers versus mounted archers and vice versa.
Robert Vermaat
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FECTIO Late Romans
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
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#9
The issue is clouded by Ammianus referring to bands of 'barbarian' troops as 'auxiliaries' hired by the Late Romans for specific campaigns, even though they were not auxilia unit's such as the Batavi or Cornuti he also refers to.
As others have already said, the Notitia gives the shield designs of most of the Late Roman units stationed in the West around 420AD and the East around 390AD.

Again, not only in Ammianus but also in Julian's writing's we know that the 'standard' Late Roman army deployment was an infantry centre, often comprised of a battleline and a reserve line, made up of Legions and Auxilia units, and on the flanks of the infantry was posted the clibanarii/catafractarii, cavalry and light horse. The infantry had attached to them skirmishers who often screened the deployment before retiring behind the heavy infantry, their only role then being to pursue routing enemy according to Vegetius.

Vegetius is worth reading as he mixes current (390-420AD) practice to more ancient practice. He also includes a number of alternative army deployments as well.
Adrian Coombs-Hoar
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#10
(11-17-2015, 02:41 PM)ValentinianVictrix Wrote: The issue is clouded by Ammianus referring to bands of 'barbarian' troops as 'auxiliaries' hired by the Late Romans for specific campaigns, even though they were not auxilia unit's such as the Batavi or Cornuti he also refers to.

In the case of Ammianus I would not see that as too much a problem, as Ammianus often used archaised terminology (gladius for spatha, Parthians for Sassanid Persians etc). I don't think we should look for a 4th c. survival of the old auxilia system here.
Robert Vermaat
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FECTIO Late Romans
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
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#11
It is difficult at best knowing what the Auxilia looked like during Ammianus' time. The recent publication of the translation of the Perge Fragments are leading to historian's having to re-evaluate the Late Roman Legion structure and size, I am convinced that this in turn will lead to a re-examination of the Auxilia as well.

My point was though that there are specific mentions of the Roman's during the 3rd & 4th Centuries AD employing 'barbarian' troops under their own tribal leaders, and these troops would not have been enrolled into Roman units, they appear to have fought, and probably been equipped, in their own native styles. They were called 'auxiliaries', possible because the term 'foedorate' had not come into common use before the reign of Theodosius.
Adrian Coombs-Hoar
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#12
We'll have to await proper publication of the Perge find in English I think.

As to the barbarians, I can agree that the word 'foederati'' might indeed not yet have been in common use.

However, how did you come to the conclusion that such particular groups
a) did fight under their own ledership (I would think that there was Always a higher-ranking Roman in command) and
b) that they fought equipped in their own native styles? I mean excluding of course those hired for very specialist roles such as for instance archers, slingers or cataphracts?
Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR
FECTIO Late Romans
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
[Image: artgroepbutton.jpg]
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#13
(11-19-2015, 12:03 PM)Robert Vermaat Wrote: a) did fight under their own ledership (I would think that there was Always a higher-ranking Roman in command) and

One example of this would be Licinius's army at Chrysopolis:

"Then Licinius began a battle at Chrysopolis, being especially aided by the Gothic auxiliaries which their prince Alica had brought"

Deinde apud Chrysopolim Licinius pugnavit, maxime auxiliantibus Gothis quos Alica regalis deduxerat

(Excerpta Valesiana, 1.5.27)


There are a number of mentions in Ammianus of Germanic kings etc given Roman commands. Perhaps it's more likely that the 'higher ranking Roman' was actually a 'barbarian' with a Roman title, than vice versa!


I suspect that we're too prescriptive in our own use of the term 'auxiliary' - a modern historian's desire to classify, perhaps. Ancient authors seem to use it very generally, to refer to various types of troops, not just the 'classic' auxiliaries of the Principiate and the 'elite' auxilia palatina.
Nathan Ross
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#14
Roman authors were using a living language; things that have come down to us as technical terms often had everyday meanings, auxila and auxilia just meant help/helpers. Sometimes, writers were employing the everyday meanings of words.
Martin

Fac me cocleario vomere!
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#15
Vadomarius and Macrianus were both Allamanni Kings who initially opposed the Romans but then ended up initially leading a band of their tribesmen on Roman campaigns and in the case of Vadomarius actually becoming a high ranking military officer in the Roman army. The Goths who supported Procopius against Valens were not enrolled in military units, nor were the 'Skythian Auxiliaries' who served on Julian's campaign against the Sasanids, they appear to be hired for those particular campaigns.
Adrian Coombs-Hoar
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