MARCHING DRILL 9/7/09
There is no surviving Roman
drill from the first century, so most of ours is adapted from the
of Maurice (Maurikios). This was written in the 6th century AD,
but is still
the oldest known Latin drill. Other commands have been added to
necessary actions like drawing swords, etc.--some of these have been
from the Ermine Street Guard's drill. Maurice's drill has some
similarities to an obsolete Greek drill in Arrian's Tactical Manual,
2nd century AD, such as "clina" and "klinon".
The Latin commands and English
translations are given first, as a handy simple list. Below that
is a longer section with pronunciations and
explanations, and some additional commentary.
Mandata captate Attention!
Ordinem servate Keep your position
Dirige frontem Dress the ranks
Accelera Speed up
Tarda Slow down
Depone dextra/senestra Wheel to the right/left
Signo sequute Follow the standard (or leader)
Consiste (or State) Halt
Ad gladio, clina To the right, face
Ad scuto, clina To the left, face
Transforma About face
Redi Return to the original front
Muta locum Countermarch
Langia ad dextram/senestram/
ambas partes Lengthen the line (to right/left/both sides)
Intra Go in--Alternate files step back to the right, doubling the file to their right
Exi Go out--Every other man in a file (2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th) steps left and forwards, doubling the ranks
Ad agmine Assume marching stance
Ad aciem Assume battle stance
Ad testudinem Form testudo
Ad cuneum Form wedge
Pila infige Plant your pila (upright)
Pila pone Lay down your pila
Pila tolle Pick up pila
Pila iace Throw pila
Gladium stringe Draw swords
Gladium reconde Sheath swords
Parati! Ready (To charge, etc.)
Dimitto I dismiss you
PRONUNCIATION AND EXPLANATION
a = as in "ah"
ae = "eye"
c = always hard like K
g = always hard as in "girl"
i = short as in "pit", or long as in "pizza". When used as a consonant, = Y
j = not used in proper Latin--represents consonantal i and pronounced as Y
u = as in "doom" when a vowel, or as W when consonant. Properly written v
v = u
Ad signa (ahd SIGnah)--Fall in. Unit commander or standard bearer takes place at front right corner, facing front. If there is only a centurion or optio or other officer (e.g., Head Grunt), he stands at that position with right arm/vitis/staff/pilum raised to indicate the front right corner. If there is a signifer, the signum serves as the front right corner and the officer may move along the front or around the unit, ordering the men and checking intervals and alignment. If there is a signifer and more than one officer (e.g., both centurion and optio), the higher ranking officer may stand at the front facing the line while the lower ranking officer orders and aligns the troops. Traditionally the optio is a rear-ranker, keeping watch on alignment and not letting men fall behind, but of course he will command from the front if there is no centurion.
File leaders fall in to left of
the front right corner point--they should already know their proper
order. Normal "close order" spacing is three feet per man (a
little more than the width of the scutum). Troops fall in behind
their file leaders--they should already know their proper order in the
file. One file is up to 8 men, with an appointed/elected file
leader. Men move up to fill any gaps if men are
missing. Men fall in at position of "attention", with
shields held in left hand at left side, pilum vertical with butt on
ground by right foot with hand about waist height. Simply lift
the butt off the ground to move.
Silentium (siLENtioom)--Silence. Troops are to stay
silent and attentive until Laxate is called, or giving a battle cry in
a charge. No unnecessary movement, especially of heads while
crests are being worn!
captate (mahnDAHtah cahpTAHtay)--Attention! Literally
"Observe orders". Come to position of "attention", with shields
held in left hand at left side,
pilum vertical with butt on ground by right foot with hand about waist
height. Keep silent and still.
servate (ORdinem serWAHtay)--Keep your position. Maurice
gives this as one of part of the preparation just before engaging the
enemy, along with "Don't worry" and "Do not leave the standards and
pursue the enemy." It will probably not be used much on the
parade ground except to remind a soldier who is out of place.
frontem (DIRigay FRONtem)--Dress the ranks. Literally
"Straighten the front". Front rank men look right and align
themselves on the signum/officer/right file leader. Successive
ranks dress on their file leaders. Check intervals to front and
Laxate (lahksAHtay)--Rest. Set down your shield and
relax in place, moving as you like without leaving your place in rank
and file. Talking is allowed unless Silentium is called.
Moving and talking should be minimal if the public is observing closely
or directly, for instance if the unit is deployed in front of the
audience so they can get a close look at the troops.
Move (MOway)--March. March forwards. Keep the
ranks and files dressed as well as possible. There is no
historical indication for marching in step, but a cadence may be called
on occasion. ("Sin dex sin" is to be avoided at all costs!)
Carrying pila vertically allows for a shorter interval between ranks,
but on a route march they may be rested on the shoulder along with the
Accelera (ahKELLerah)--Speed up. Repeat as necessary.
Tarda (TARdah)--Slow down. Repeat as necessary.
It is very common for troops to spontaneously speed up as they march,
so Tarda should be given whenever needed to keep the pace to an easy
walk, unhurried and even. Remember that some reenactors are
no longer in their prime!
Depone dextra/senestra (dayPOnay DEXtrah/seNEStrah)--Wheel to
the right/left. Unit swings like a door. Innermost file
leader (the "hinge") turns in place, outermost file leader traces an
arc while MAINTAINING HIS PACE. All other file leaders look out
or in as needed to keep the rank straight and maintain their
intervals. Successive ranks dress on the men in front, and help
keep ranks straight. Officer may hold staff or weapon along the
front rank to help them keep straigtht, especially while
practicing. The wheel continues until "Frontem" is called,
typically 90 degrees but may be more or less as required.
sequute (SIGno seQUOOtay)--Follow the standard (or leader).
Typically used while marching in column, to eliminate the need for
wheels to follow curves or turns. Front rank simply stays dressed
on the signum or officer, successive ranks follow behind.
Consiste (conSIStay) or
State (STAHtay)--Halt. Typically followed by Dirige
frontem. Can be given as "Con-sis-TAY!", each syllable on a step,
to alert the troops.
clina (ahd GLAHdio, CLEEnah)--To the right, face. Each man
turns 90 degrees to his right, otherwise maintaining his stance
(whether at attention, battle stance, etc.) and position in rank and
file. Note that this may seem to turn ranks into files and vice
versa, so the officer should take care to return the troops to their
original front at some point. This can also be done on the march,
to instantly turn a column into a battle line, but again be aware of
ranks and files. ("Gladio" has been substituted for Maurice's
"conto", which is obviously a Byzantine word not used in the first
clina (ahd SCOOto, CLEEnah)--To the left, face. As above.
Transforma (transFORmah)--About face. Typically preceded by "Ad scuto" assure all men turn the same way, to avoid tangling or swinging their shields out as they turn. But can be done "Ad gladio" if the commander prefers.
Redi (rayDEE)--Return to the original front. Very
useful for cleaning up messes! (Such as when some troops confuse
Clina with Depone...)
locum (MOOtah LOcum)--Countermarch. Each file leader performs
a U-turn to the left, passing between his own file and that to the
left. Troops follow their file leader, turning at the same point
he did. This quickly reverses the direction of a battle line, but
note that the order of the files from left to right will also be
reversed in the new line. Officers and standard may have to move
to the new right front position.
Langia ad dextram/senestram/ambas
partes (LAHNgee-ah)--Open the interval to right/left/both sides.
One file stays put while the rest shuffle left or right as
ordered. Men extend shield arms to gauge the distance, making
enough space between files for another file to be inserted. This
is "open order".
Iunge (YOONgay)--Close ranks. Used to close the
interval between files, such as after giving "Intra". Generally
the files move right from open order to close order, but can be
commanded "ad senestram iunge" instead.
agmine (Ahd AHGminay)--Assume marching stance. Shield at
side, pilum vertical in left hand, sword sheathed. This command
is not found in Maurice, but is used for public display to bring troops
back to camp or display area after demonstrating battle tactics.
aciem (Ahd AHkee-em)--Assume battle stance. Shield in front,
left side leading, slightly crouched to bring shield rim up to nose
level. Pilum is brought up and grip reversed in preparation for
throwing. Second pilum can be held behind shield, secured by
thumb and/or shield strap, etc. If soldier has no pilum, sword is
drawn and held horizontally at about hip height, ready to
thrust. This command is also not found in Maurice.
testudinem (Ahd tesTOOdinem)--Form testudo. Done from very
close order, shield to shield. Front rank half-crouches, with
shields in front and rims up to nose level, and draws swords.
Successive ranks hold shields up horizontally, bottom edge forwards,
over heads of men in front, overlapping the shields in front, but do
NOT draw their swords (for safety!). Advancing is done very
slowly. This command is given by Maurice as "Ad fulkon", the
testudo being the first-century equivalent.
cuneum (Ahd cooNAYoom)--Form wedge. It is actually not known
how the wedge was formed, and it could have been done with one century
followed by two followed by three, etc. For reenacting purposes,
starting from close order, the officer takes "point", just in front of
the center two files and between them. He and those two files
advance, and at each pace the next files outward move forwards as well,
so that the front rank takes a wedge shape. If there is an odd
number of files, the officer can simply take the head of the center
file and go from there. This command is adapted from Maurice's
infige (PEElah inFEEgay)--Plant your pila (upright). Stick
buttspikes in the ground.
Pila pone (PEElah POnay)--Lay down your pila. Better if ground is hard, or if pila may fall over on public, etc.
Pila tolle (PEElah TOLlay)--Pick up pila. Also given to man or men assigned to gather unit's thrown pila after a battle demo.
Pila iace (PEElah YAHcay)--Throw pila. Can be done in two ranks, but safer to have only front rank throw. Throwing can be done from a standstill, but if done on the move the men should take care to keep a steady pace and hold the line as straight as possible. Immediately after throwing, swords are drawn and advance continues in battle stance. --These four commands are modern additions for reenactment use. Maurice only says that the troops throw their javelins or spears as the enemy comes in range.
stringe (GLAHdium STRINGay)--Draw swords.
Gladium reconde (GLAHdium rayCONday)--Sheath swords. These two commands are also modern.
Parati! (pahRAHtee)--Ready (To charge, etc.). Alerts the troops for action.
Literally "Get 'em!" Given when the opposing forces are only
yards apart. The troops charge full speed with a yell. Be
sure to stop before running into the audience! This command is
not in Maurice.
Dimitto (diMITto)--I dismiss you. The troops are
dismissed from ranks, to leisure or other duties.
As with the rest of our
impression, Legio XX bases its marching drill strictly on historical
evidence, tempered only for reasons of safety or absolute
necessity. Interpolation is kept to a bare minimum. There
is no hint or suggestion in any ancient literature that drill was
performed in a modern precision parade-ground fashion. The only
possible reference even to marching in step is from Vegetius, and it is
not conclusive. Therefore, modern concepts of detailed precision
of movement, cadence, and exactitude are considered completely
irrelevant, and similarities to modern "drill sergeant mentality" have
been avoided here. They are not necessary! While the
parallels between Maurice and Arrian, not to mention Maurice's use of
Latin commands while the rest of his work is in Greek, do suggest that
a basic system of commands was in use for several centuries, both
writers give a very strong suggestion of what can only be described as
a loose or casual attitude.
If a comparison to modern drill
must be made, commands such as "Ten hut!" or the pronunciation of
"March" as (approximately) "Harch" might imply to us that perfect
grammar and syntax are not necessarily required in Roman drill.
So the inconsistent use of singulars and plurals is of little
concern. The command "Depone" has raised questions, but we have
decided to retain it until a clearly better alternative is
offered. Just because we don't understand the word does not mean
the Romans did not!
There is very little need for
any further commands to be added. Clearly the method of
lengthening or closing the order (for instance) will work with small
groups of men, up to a century in strength, but would be unworkable
with full cohorts or legions. But since this work is aimed at the
small groups of reenactors which currently exist, that isn't a
problem. Modernisms such as "Mark time" or commands of execution
must be rejected, lacking any reasonable evidence for their use.