Vol. VII, no. viii, August 1997
It seems no one out there (including me) caught the little blooper in Darren Nunez's June article about his trip to Rome. He visited the Pantheon, not the Parthenon, which is still presumably in Athens. Never trust an editor...
On Saturday and Sunday, September 27-28, the Legion will be encamped at Marietta Mansion by the invitation of La Belle Compagnie. I'm guessing the site will be open to the public from roughly 10 AM to 5 PM, as usual. The military camp will include the tent and other usual paraphenalia, and the civilian display will at least include Hortensia the herb-seller. It will be a low-stress weekend, and lots of fun. CALL QUINTUS WITH YOUR PLANS!!
Mike Cope and I took part in a non-commissioned officers' induction ceremony at Ft. Myer, VA. I gave a brief talk on the role of NCOs or their moral equivalents in the Roman Army, and took a few questions from the audience. Mike held the signum and chatted up the officers and NCOs afterwards. We were presented with plaques and medallions for our efforts and were very well-received.
The latest Journal of Roman Military Equipment Studies, vol 6, 1995, has finally arrived.
--A brief article by blacksmith David Sim shows that Roman spearheads and pila were not specially hardened. This did not detract from their effectiveness, but would speed up production and make field repairs much easier.
--Alan Wilkins presents a long and exhaustive analysis of ancient descriptions of the chieroballista (Yes, Fabius, I'll make a copy for you!), a Trajanic metal-framed light catapult. Includes photos of his reconstruction and data on tests.
--An article on Dacian graves is like a phone book: full of information but not exactly easy reading. The interesting tidbits are 2nd-3rd century AD belt parts.
--"Pouring Lead in the Pouring Rain" is wonderful, and concerns sling bullets found at the fort of Velsen in Holland. Seems it was attacked by local bad guys at some point and the Roman defenders had to make some hasty sling ammo. So they poked little cylindrical or conical holes in the sand and poured in molten lead; at first they quickly hammered one or both ends to make more of a bullet or acorn shape, but then they just shot them as poured. Finally they resorted to sticking their fingers in the sand to make the molds--the imprint of the fingernail is clearly visible! Tests on a rainy day at ROMEC '94 showed that all of these were perfectly functional and accurate.
--Finally there is an article in German concerning the finds from Kalkriese, the site of Varus' defeat in the Teutoberg Forest in 9 AD. What caught my eye was a photo of a LORICA SEGMENTATA BREASTPLATE. With the help of a German-English dictionary I worked out the description, and the author confirms that this is the only known lorica plate from an undisputed Augustan site. I had seen buckles and strap hinges from Kalkriese which looked an awful lot like lorica fittings, but they were open to interpretation until this smoking gun showed up. Now, we won't know exactly what this lorica looked like unless more plates are found. The hinge at the top, for connecting to the mid-collar plate, is smaller than the Corbridge lobed type, square with a pointed bottom edge and held with three rivets. But the hinged strap and buckle are mounted exactly as on the Corbridge type A lorica. There are two small holes near the outer edge for the shoulder guard leathers. So we can put to rest some of the wild theories about the lorica segmentata being invented because of the Varus disaster--it was already in use. We thank the archeologists who dug this baby up, and beg them to get their trowels out there and find the rest of it!
SEEING RED, PT. II
Last month's article did indeed stir up some input. Linda Thompson and Emilie Amt both sent excellent analyses on the Martial epigram. They conclude that these epigrams were most likely little verses to be written on tags for Saturnalia gifts, and that they related to what the gift was. This one is entitled "Canusinae Rufae", and is found amongst a whole batch of epigrams dealing with cloaks of various sorts. "Canusina" is apparently a cloak made in the wool-producing town of Canusium. So in our poem, Romans prefer dark cloaks, while Gauls, boys, and soldiers like red ones. It can be dropped from our discussion of tunic colors, but when we start arguing cloak colors we can fight about what kinds of "soldiers" might be on Martial's mind.
Terry Nix sent a couple contributions. A few hazy photos show frescoes of battle scenes in the National Museum of Rome. They show Republican style scuta (in pale colors) and apparently date to the first century BC. Terry says there are about the same number of red and white tunics, plus other tunics in at least three other colors. It's impossible to tell from these photos which figures might be armored, or which ones might be Roman or otherwise.
Terry also sent a black and white photocopy from a book (WHICH BOOK, TERRY?!?) showing the "Judgement of Solomon" fresco from Pompeii, and it questions some answers, too. Some parts are very indistinct, but this is what I think I can see. There is a crowd of people at the left, including men and women. Then comes Soldier #1, a round table with the baby sprawled on it, and a person (woman?) leaning over the table opposite the soldier. Just towards the background and left of that are Soldiers #2 and #3, then in the forground is a figure (mother?) kneeling in front of the podium, face and hands raised. Three figures are seated on the podium, and behind it are the dark shadowed figures of, oh, half a dozen other soldiers.
Soldier #1, hand raised and holding what really looks like a meat cleaver, has been labelled by Terry as having a white tunic. He wears armor shaped like a muscled cuirass, and there seem to be a couple short pteruges visible at the waist (but maybe these are just tunic folds). His helmet can only be a Montefortino, with a short neckguard and probably cheekpieces. His crest and those of the other soldiers #2 and #3 have all been labelled red by Terry. Soldier #2 has also been labelled as having a white tunic, and the Fuentes article says he has bronze armor, too. His helmet is also a Montefortino, but he holds a spear in his right hand, and on his left arm in front of him he carries a round shield with a rim like a Greek hoplon. Next to him stands Soldier #3, with a red tunic, and armor and helmet that are much lighter in color than on the other two soldiers, as if tinned or silvered. He also holds a spear and wears a cloak, and the inside of his round shield is visible--he seems to hold it like a hoplon. His crest is identical to the others visible (just like the one I recently made!), and none of the three seems to be wearing greaves, but while #2 holds his spear with his hand at waist height, #3's hand is up at head height. That's a pose I have seen on other officer (and deity) figures, such as on the altar of Domitius Ahenobarbus, and it's the same way that the central seated figure on the podium (Solomon?) holds a spear or staff. This pose, and the fact that his color scheme is different from the other two soldiers, still suggest to me that he represents an officer of some sort.
This whole scene is frustrating. Chris Haines says it is copied from an original in Alexandria, which would explain the shields, but the helmets are Roman. So are the other features Roman or Hellenistic, or mixed? All of the figures are strangely dwarfish, with short spindly legs, but Jane (professional artist) says that's probably just a convention used to make the scene look as if viewed from above. Considering that it was found in Pompeii and that we have so few color illustrations of soldiers, I'm not quite ready to disregard this as evidence, but I wouldn't say it's a clincher. Where can I get a look at this fresco in color??
Dan Peterson is not the only
who believes that white tunics are completely impractical as a battle
because of the bloodiness of ancient combat. But aside from the
that the winning side in most ancient battles usually had very light
Jane says that blood will wash out of fabric if cold water is used; if
allowed to dry it turns almost black and would then be visible on a red
tunic anyway. Obviously there has not been any experimentation
with blood on various colors of wool--any butchers or hospital
out there who would be able to run a few tests? That sounds
but we cannot make claims that something will or will not happen unless
we have tried it out, eh? I'm also not sure that blood on tunics
would be much of a morale problem for disciplined troops who watched
kill each other for fun. The dust and dirt of a soldier's life
have posed more of a problem, but other armies --notably the
and eighteenth century French troops--have worn white on campaign.
Well, we could theorize our heads off without convincing either side. At this point I'd have to say that I have NO IDEA what color Roman tunics were. They could have been white or red or both or neither. Certainly I'd like to be convinced in one direction or another. Thanks to all who passed along their information and ideas. Please keep it coming, and remember to cite your sources thoroughly: author and title, chapter and verse.
Over the last several weeks I have been in touch with a growing number of Roman groups and individuals around the U.S. Tom Tuck of Joliet, Illinois, is heading a group that wants to equip 16 legionaries for a church Easter presentation in the spring of 1998. He invites us to participate if we like. Kevin MacGregor is also hoping to start a unit in the Chicago area. Darren Nunez started his branch of Legio X Fretensis in Louisiana some time ago, but is gearing up for an event in November and wouldn't mind a few of our milites in line, if anyone in Legio XX is headed south at that time. There is also a new Legio XIV in Canton, Ohio, and a Legio II Augusta in Portland, Oregon, both of which are making authentic equipment as well as SCA fighting gear. In the south there is Jeff Stewart in Savannah, Georgia, John Costello in Orlando, Florida, and of course our old recruit Lloyd Broadwater in the Fort Lauderdale area. While Legio IX Hispana grows in San Diego, Jerry Axtell has started gathering a unit in Sacramento. And thanks to the Ninth's web page, I have email addresses for people in several other states as well.
Since Darren will be short a couple helmets for his event, I am loaning him our "votive offering" Italic. Would anyone else be willing to lend a helmet? Darren offers to pay a deposit and shipping; contact Quintus for details.
Readers may recall that after seeing the latest offenses in Museum Replica's catalog, I sent a long letter to Hank Reinhardt, the director, detailing all the mistakes they made. Well, believe it or not, he answered! They plan to change at least the description of the gladii, but he doesn't say that any actual items will be improved. His basic message is that he has to sell what will sell--some people tell him he should drop his historical pieces and just sell fantasy swords! Apparently their pugio is not selling well, so they may discontinue that, and he maintains that the triangular "ricasso" ground into the top of their gladius blade was copied from an original in the Stibbert Museum in Florence--I'll have to look that up. He also says, however, that "Apache boots", the curse of every reenactment era, were used by Vikings, Scythians, and various medieval people--where, at a Renaissance Fair? I'd really like to see some evidence on that one! So, don't expect Museum Replicas to become the Official Armorer to Legio XX anytime soon.
Dan Peterson reports that Scott Martin of Illusion Armoring now offers "excellent" Imperial Gallic helmets, either $375 if made from a spun bowl, or $600 completely hand-forged. Presumably this includes all the brasswork, but for details contact Illusion Armoring.
Terry Nix recently travelled to Roma, and sends us his report:
"Going to Rome for me was like going to the place of my roots. I had studied it for most of my life and knew it like the back of my hand. Although I was in the city for fourteen days, it was still not enough. Many monuments were under repair and some important areas of Museums were closed This I understand is a continuing problem. However I would not have had the extra time to see it anyway. The Flavian Colosseum pulled me to it like a magnet. I spent several hours just studying its design work. The theater of Marcellus that was built by Julius Caesar was half way cleaned. It actually looked better on the half that was not cleaned yet. The Circus Maximus is only a dirt jogging track now but when I stepped into the Pantheon, I actually had the feeling of stepping back into a day in ancient Rome. Its interior is perfect and the marble work is beyond description in its beauty. The mausoleum of Hadrian is still in very good condition and retains much of its original work. The mausoleum of Augutus can also be seen in more or less good condition. The Ara Pacis (Altar of Peace), which was built to commemorate the peace of Augustus, is in great condition and is one of the most beautiful structures that can be seen from that time. Trajan's Column and the Column of Marcus Aurelius are still in very good condition and seemed to keep calling me back to them. The column base for Antoninus Pius is truly awe-inspiring in its marble relief work. The soldiers seem to be coming right off the marble, with only a small piece still holding them on. The different forums of the Emperors still have their bases, some steps, a few columns and partial walls left. The Forum of Rome is more like a skeleton of what it was. The arch of Septimius Severus and of Titus are still in pretty good shape. The arch of Constantine, however, is spectacular. The temple of Hadrian has a Roman bank in it now. Another smaller, yet very beautiful arch to Septimius Severus I found is one quarter inside a church. Another temple I found to Septimius Severus had a synagogue inside it. I was amazed how much ancient Roman material was used to build things with or just to fill in here and there. An Italian restaurant had parts of high relief writing and sculpture mixed into its outer wall. Just west of Rome is the well-preserved city of Ostia. It was Rome's port city and you can still see parts of ancient pottery just lying around on the edge of the city. Although I could go on and on, I will call it quits with these words. There's no place like home."
Thank you Terry! I think you mean, "There's no place like Rome"! He also sent a few photos, including one of himself by the remains of the colossal statue of Constantine. He says, "No wonder they conquered the world. Look how big they were."
Oh, yes, I did get a report on Greg Fabic's trip to Britain. Briefly put, he had almost no time for sight-seeing (it was a business trip). He was able to slip into one museum, Caerleon, I think, and did determine that the reproduction armor and gear that they have for tourists to try on is not nearly as good as what we make.
We have a bear. A Markland friend of mine, Eric Littlewood, has loaned us a bearskin to put on a signifer. For a while it was in the custody of Pat Keating, who had joined the military and disappeared. But he recently contacted me and sent the skin to me, having rehabilitated it with lots of neatsfoot oil. The bear will need a little careful surgery around the mouth and nose, and I will try to put in something for false eyes. Hooks of some kind to secure it to the helmet will also be needed. Otherwise, it seems to be in good shape, not shedding or too stinky. We may have the option of buying the bear from Eric eventually, but in the meantime we can use it on loan. Thank You Eric (and Pat!), and we will take good care of it. Hmm, shall we call it Ursula?
Oh, and I made an optio's staff, so that anyone who is wearing the bear will still be outranked by Yours Truly.
Mike Cope has been putting together his belts, with cast plates by Triad Foundry, and also his pack satchel. Good stuff!
The last casting workshop at Mark Graef's house convinced me that making cast apron studs in the large quantities needed (40 or more per belt) would involve vast amounts of work and many days or evenings burning up Mark's accetyline. So in order to finish (finally) a belt I've been assembling for Lloyd Broadwater, I have begun punching discs out of .015" sheet brass and soldering on rivets. Mark and Greg have also made studs this way, and much as I'd love to have perfect cast ones, this method is relatively easy and it's very hard to tell that they're soldered once in place. Optimally, someone out there could poke around and find a rivet or knob company that can make studs like what we want, flat heads 3/4" to 1" in diameter, with c. 1/8" shanks. I've checked with Moore Push-Pin Co., Bee Industries, and Jay-Cee Sales; the latter carries studs with a 5/8" head and a 3/16" shank 5/8" long, for $10.60 per pound (c. 100 studs), with a 3-pound minimum. These would be suitable for and apron with 5 to 8 narrower strips, tho if the heads had concentric rings or something you might have to file them smooth. But for inch-wide strips we need studs at least 7/8" wide. Help!
There is a new picture book out called Imperial Rome at War, by Martin Windrow and Angus McBride. It is a series of large color plates by McBride, each accompanied by a small black and white version of it and a description that includes a bit of background history and technical discussion. While McBride's artwork is great as usual (my favorite is the cavalryman spiking a German) and very inspirational, there aren't really any surprises to be found here, no new information. Windrow's text is generally good if necessarily basic, with only a couple bloopers (he says wearing the gladius on the right is "awkward"). This is a good book for "show and tell", better than Simkins and nicely complimentary to Peterson, and there is a good map in the back.
I also picked up the Osprey Campaign series book on Cannae (right before the August 2 anniversary of the battle!). Most of the color plates come from previous Osprey books, but some of the primary material was new to me. The campaign and its battles are all clearly analyzed, and there are panoramic photos of the battlefields.
Well, now, isn't this nice? People write to me about things
everyone gets a longer newsletter!
ADLOCVTIO is the official monthly Newsletter of the Twentieth Legion, which is, well, if you don't know you'd better ask me. "Me" is the Editor and Commander, Matthew R. Amt, aka Quintus Darius Macro. (Our little web page: http://www.geocities.com/Yosemite/3761/ROM.HTM ) Jane Walker is the long-suffering Commander's wife, proofreader, and artistic consultant. If you or anyone you know has any questions or input regarding membership, activities, subscriptions, controversies, other Romans around the world, or most anything else, contact Quintus! Until next time, Valete!