The Legion of "Rome-The miniseries"

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The Legion of "Rome-The miniseries"

Postby JOHN THURSTON » Sat Sep 30, 2006 12:19 am


HBO's Miniseries "Rome" makes good watching. Sort of like a historical "soap" where you have an idea about the start and the ending.

Roman Legionaries are nearly always depicted in the equipment and dress of a "Legionarius" of the Early 1st Century AD. This would feature the "Imperial" Gallic Helm, so called as it was Iron or Steel and of a design apparently having its birth in subjugated Gaul and the straight sided 'cylindical" Scutum or shield.

The Gauls were reputed to be excellent metal workers. The Imperial helm did not appear, obviously, until after the birth of the Empire.

The "Cylindrical" shield shown in the Miniseries is more typical of that of a Legionarius of the Early Augustan Period.

Most of the Legionaries shown in the series appeared to have A lorica (corselet) of mail, the Latin designation of which I have momentarily forgotten.

This is more or less correct as the Lorica Segmentata which we often see depicted in Roman armies on Screen is popular with reenactment groups but, in my opinion, belongs to Legionaries of the Early Empire.

Earlier scholarship had not yet uncovered and documented changes in armor and equipment of the Legions when many film depictions were made.

A republican era shield has actually been found in Egypt. It is quite tall and oval in shape,, and not as depicted in the Series.

Also I find no mention of Caesar having adopted or incorporated the "Eagle" as symbolic of his Legion or other Legions.

It is said that Caesar's legion was the Tenth, later to appear at Masada and at some time received the Cognomen "Fretensis".

Signifiers of the time carried the Bull, Dragon, Horse and Boar.

Helms were of Bronze, but generally not of the configuraton shown in the series.

The 13th Legion, depicted as that of Caesar, was indeed raised by Caesar ( Gaius of Gens julii called Caesar or "curly haired".) but listed as being raised by Caesar and disbanded at the end of the Gallic War, according to one source.

I do not think this source is correct and we will talk of the XIII Gemina later. Another source, suffice it to say, says the XIII was disbanded in 46BC and reconstituted by Octavian, a main character in the Series. Their is no mention of it that I can find of it being destroyed at sea in transit to Greece.

Its sister Legion the XIV, later called "Gemina Martia Vitrix" is labeled by one author as "Nero's Killing Machine".

The "Muscled" corselet molded of boiled leather is more or less corrrect for officers of the time, but perhaps not for Centurions.

As to the helm of the Centurions, the transverse mounted crest is correct for a Centurion of Imperial times, but perhaps not for a centurion of the Late Republic.

As an additional historical note, Roman citizens, I thought, were all entitled to wear the "toga". I may be wrong in this.

Whether men of the capita (head count or general population) generally did so is not clear to me.

Roman citizenship or at least the franchise and the "Right" to join the Legions was restricted to men of property or minimum wealth in the days of the Early Republic.

The Marian Reforms included recruiting men from the "head count" into the Legions.

This was done over much objection, at least according to Colleen McCullogh author of the "First Man In Rome" referring to Gaius Marius. Gaius Marius was a man of some wealth, but not, as i understand it, a Patrician.

Too many citizens (Italian as well as Roman) and patricians had apparently been killed prior to Maruis' Consulship due to the Republic's habit of appointing officers who had no Military experience as Legates of the Legions.

Ms. McCullogh's Scholarship in her books on Rome is much to be commended.

She apparently visited the Tombs of Men and Women of later times related to the characters in her books to establish family resemblances on which some descriptions in her books were based.

Even though the Legions are my chosen expertise, the subject itself is so vast and changing as to require much research and mistakes will be made and corrected.

"All Enlightenment Gratefully Accepted"
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