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Legion transfers

Is there an established theory for the Roman policy on individual transfers between legions? Does anyone know when they began to take place?

(09-22-2017, 07:25 PM)Protectores Donutici Wrote: Is there an established theory for the Roman policy on individual transfers between legions? Does anyone know when they began to take place?

Do you mean ordinary soldiers, or centurions? As far as I'm aware, soldiers usually stayed in the legion in which they first enlisted throughout their careers.

Centurions, on the other hand, could be transferred between legions as a promotion, and we have evidence of this from the Augustan period onward. In the earlier empire this seems to have been arranged by the governors of the provinces and so the transfers only occured between legions in the same province, or later in neighbouring provinces. Later still (perhaps Nero onwards?) these transfers could be more wide ranging - by the 2nd century centurions were regularly being transferred between legions at the opposite ends of the empire, sometimes repeatedly.

One of the best surveys of centuron transfers between legions is this one (starts on p.13):

Summerly: Studies in the Legion Centurionate (1992)
Nathan Ross

If I remember Summerly's thesis, his argument was that even after Nero, centurion transfers only occurred in the same or neighboring province.  So, if a centurion was transferred to a legion in another region, it meant that one or the other legions had a vexillation serving far from home.  That is an interesting theory implying that there was no bureaucracy in Rome arranging things.

Combined with other research (Dobson and Breeze?) that transferred centurions were directly commissioned - not promoted from the ranks,  one gets the impression that transferring legions was a case of who you knew, not what you knew.

Has any other research been done on this?

(10-19-2017, 12:34 AM)Aussum Wrote: If I remember Summerly's thesis

It's been a while since I last read Summerly, but I thought he'd found that long distance transfers became more common after the earlier Julio-Claudian period. I may have to look at it again!

However, that they did - and that men from the ranks could also be moved in this way - is suggested by CIL XI.390: Lepidius Proculus starts as a soldier in V Macedonica, is promoted to centurion in the same legion, and decorated in the Jewish War under Vespasian, then gets a transfer to VI Victrix, then to XV Apollinaris, before becoming Primus Pilus of XIII Gemina.

Vi Victrix at this date were based in Germania Inferior, and if they'd sent a detachment east to the Jewish War Josephus would have mentioned it. So Proculus, a former enlisted man, was moving from one end of the empire to the other in the early Flavian era.

We don't really know why these transfers happened, of course - in some cases, it might be explained by a mobile vexillation, or perhaps by a governor moving provinces and taking some client officers with him. Patronage almost certainly played a part, as you suggest. But I don't think there can always be such a neat explanation.

Petronius Fortunatus (ILS 2658) was also from the ranks, promoted to centurion ex suffragium legionis after only four years service, then then transferred thirteen times over a fifty-year career. He must have spent a considerable amount of this time travelling from one posting to the next, and there must surely have been some sort of central bureaucracy in Rome directing his transfers.

I'm not aware of any new research on this subject, but DB Campbell's article 'Backbone of the Legions: Some centurions and their careers' (Ancient Warfare Special, 2010) has some interesting discussion of the evidence.
Nathan Ross

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