LEGIO XX--The Twentieth Legion

MARCHING DRILL                    9/7/09

       There is no surviving Roman marching drill from the first century, so most of ours is adapted from the Strategikon 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 allow necessary actions like drawing swords, etc.--some of these have been adapted from the Ermine Street Guard's drill.  Maurice's drill has some striking similarities to an obsolete Greek drill in Arrian's Tactical Manual, from the 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

Ad signa                                        Fall in
Silentium                                       Silence
Mandata captate                            Attention!
Ordinem servate                            Keep your position
Dirige frontem                               Dress the ranks
Laxate                                            Rest
Move                                             March
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.)
Porro!                                            Charge!
Dimitto                                          I dismiss you



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!

Mandata 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.

Ordinem 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.

Dirige 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 sides.

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 marching pack.

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. 

Signo 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.

Ad gladio, 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 century AD.)

Ad scuto, 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...) 

Muta 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".

Intra (INtrah)--Go in.  Alternate files step back to the right, doubling the file to their right.  Each man in the moving file steps behind the man to his right.  Doubles the length of the files and makes twice as many ranks. 

Exi (EXee)--Go out.  Every other man in a file (2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th) steps left and forwards, doubling the ranks.

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.

Ad 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.

Ad 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.

Ad 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.

Ad 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 "Ad fulkon".

Pila 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. 

Gladium 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.

Porro! (PORroh)--Charge!  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.

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