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Shield

(605 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] I. Greece Shields were primarily used to protect soldiers in battle; as a crater from Mycenae ( c. 1200 BC) vividly shows, shields were already part of the equipment of warriors in the Mycenaean period. Homer mentions a round shield (ἀσπίς/ aspís) which was embossed with sheet bronze and strengthened with the skins of oxen (Cattle) (Hom. Il. 12,294-297; 13,156-166). In the middle there was a shield boss (ὀμφαλός/ omphalós; Hom. Il. 13,192). A strap (τελαμών/ telamṓn; Hom. Od. 11,609-614) enabled the shield to be carried without holding it in the hand. The…

Desertor

(279 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] The Roman army regarded as a desertor anyone who did not appear at roll-call (Liv. 3,69,7) or who during a battle was beyond the range of the trumpet or who left his unit in time of peace without permission, without commeatus (Suet. Oth. 11,1; SHA Sept. Sev. 51,5; Dig. 49,16,14) (‘distanced himself from the signa’). The punishments were merciless: depending on the case a person was at risk of slavery (Frontin. 4,1,20), mutilation (SHA Avid. Cass. 4, 5) or death (the condemned person was beaten with canes and then thrown down from the Tarpeium saxum or crucified). The decimatio…

Decanus

(127 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] A soldier who commanded a   contubernium ; he was appointed when the size of this unit was increased from eight to ten men (according to Ps.Hyg.). The inscription IGR I 1046 mentions δεκανοί ( dekanoí) who were either persons of this rank or else commanders of a squadron of ten ships, a fact which can no longer be determined in detail. The decanus is still attested for the 4th cent. AD, sometimes carrying the title caput contubernii (Veg. Mil. 2,8; 2,13). In other documents, this term refers to persons belonging to the lowest level of the palace guard (Cod…

Decorations, military

(877 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] Decorations were used to reward soldiers' bravery and acts of courage in the Roman army as in all other armies, their advantage being that their cost to the common purse was slight, while at the same time they reinforced general awareness of military honour (Pol. 6,39). A pronounced feeling for hierarchical structures also had its influence on such decorations, as they were awarded according to the rank of the receiver (  dona militaria ). As A. Büttner has shown, the origins of Roman decorations may be found not only in Italy, but a…

Armour

(709 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] Even the heroes of the Homeric epics protected themselves with armour made of bronze or linen (Hom. Il. 3,830; 11,15-28). In the archaic period, body armour (θώραξ/  Thorax ) was included as part of the equipment of the Greek   hoplítai ; during the classic period however, metal armour was increasingly replaced by armour made of lighter materials. In the Roman army, armour ( lorica) was worn by the prima classis (according to Liv. 1,43,2, this in the early days of Rome denoted the wealthiest class of citizens with assets of 100,000 As or more). Diff…

Contubernium

(159 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] in the basic meaning of the word meant a communal lodging of soldiers; it applied either to a tent camp during an expeditio or to barracks in a fixed encampment (Tac. Ann. 1,41,1). Two extensions of meaning developed from that: the term was used for a group of soldiers sharing a lodging, and from that it was used to describe a shared sense of trust and solidarity among those soldiers (Suet. Tib. 14,4; Caes. B Civ. 2,29). This included the officers. The contubernium seems not to have been a tactical unit, although in Vegetius (Veg. Mil. 2,13) the contubernium is used as a synon…

Imaginiferi, Imaginifarii

(215 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] The imaginifer was a soldier who, at least at festivals, carried an image ( imago) of the princeps (Veg. Mil. 2,6; 2,7; Jos. Ant. Iud. 18,55); the imaginiferi certainly did not have any specifically military duties. There was an imaginifer in each legion, though he did not necessarily belong to the first cohort (  cohors ) (CIL III 2553: 3rd cohort). According to Vegetius (Mil. 2,7), imaginiferi also occurred in other units. Imaginiferi are attested in inscriptions for the cohortes urbanae and the   vigiles in Rome and for the legions and the units of the   auxilia ( alae, cohor…

Beneficiarii

(119 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] were already mentioned in Caesar (B Civ. 1,75,2; 3,88,5); according to Vegetius (Mil. 2,7), they were soldiers who owed their promotion to the beneficium of their superiors and were freed from the   munera . They were assigned to an officer, in whose service they performed legal and financial duties that required a certain competency. Beneficiarii can be found in all units, in the marines, in the auxilia, in the legions and in Rome. Some of them also performed tasks in the civil sphere and were used in the stationes for the protection of the long-distance roads. Le Bohec, Yan…

Pilum

(592 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] In a brief reference in Servius (Serv. Aen. 7,664: “pilum proprie est hasta Romana”), the pilum, a throwing-spear, is taken for the typical Roman spear. Among the earliest evidence for the use of the pilum in the Roman army is the depiction of the Battle of Panormus in 250 BC (Pol. 1,40). In Livy (8,8), the first two battle rows of the legions in the time around 340 BC are called the antepilani ('soldiers in front of the pilum bearers'). In his description of the Roman army, Polybius speaks of the γρόσφοι/ grósphoi as the javelins of the youngest soldiers, and the ὑσσοί/ hyssoí as …

Tabernaculum

(216 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] (derived from trabs, 'tree trunk', 'beam'; diminutive of taberna, 'hut', 'shop'). In the Roman military context, tabernaculum describes all forms of housing for soldiers (Cic. Brut. 37). Provisional shelters could be built from a variety of materials, such as reeds and wood (Liv. 27,3,2-3; Frontin. Str. 4,1,14). Tents were made of leather (Liv. 23,18,5; Tac. Ann. 13,35,3; 14,38,1); in the winter, they were insulated against the cold with straw (Caes. B Gall. 8,5,2). The arrangement of the tents i…

Soldiers' pay

(831 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
Sources give only little information about the introduction and development of SP in Greece and in Rome, and they contain only few precise figures for the amounts. Hence modern works on SP are largely based on assumptions and estimates resulting from them. [German version] I. Greece In Greece, soldiers of the citizen contingent of a polis probably did not receive regular money until the 5th cent. BC, and this was initially used to pay for provisions (σιτηρέσιον/ sitērésion ); at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War the Athenian hoplítai besieging Potidaea were given pay (μισθός/ misthós…

Bow and arrow

(666 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] The use of bow and arrow for war and hunting goes back a very long time, and was widespread even in prehistoric times. In the Near East, bows and arrows were important weapons of war. As demonstrated on reliefs from Mesopotamia, the Assyrian archers often stood in a war chariot (palace of Assurnaṣirpal II in Nimrūd ( Kalḫu), 9th cent. BC; London, BM); in the siege of cities, archers on foot were frequently deployed (relief of  Tiglatpileser III in Nimrūd, 8th cent. BC; London, BM)…

Bucinatores

(114 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] Along with tubicines and cornicines, bucinatores were musicians in the Roman army; the bucina was a bronze wind instrument (Veg. Mil. 2,11; 3,5), whose exact shape is contentious. In Republican times, the duties of the night-watchmen were regulated by bucina signals (Pol. 6,35; Liv. 7,36; Frontin. Str. 1,5,17). During the Principate, a bucina call signalled the end of the convivium in camp (Tac. Ann. 15,30,1); in late antiquity the bucinatores gave the signal for the execution of soldiers.  Aeneatores Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon) Bibliography 1 R. Meucci, Riflessioni di…

Manoeuvres

(525 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] Military exercises ( exercitium, exercitatio militaris, decursio), for a long time little studied by historians, contributed considerably to the military success of the Roman army and appear to have been conducted on the Field of Mars ( Campus Martius ) in early times. From the late 3rd cent. BC, military exercises were developed further in both practice and theory. Cornelius [I 71] Scipio Africanus organized manoeuvres systematically in Spain in 210 BC (Pol. 10,20; Liv. 26,51,3-7) and then in Sicily…

Tribuli

(192 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] The term tribuli described metal spikes with four points so arranged that one of them always pointed upwards (Veg. Mil. 3,24,4); they represented a very dangerous obstacle for infantry and cavalry. They can be traced to the τριβόλοι/ tribóloi of the Greeks, who may have adopted them from the Persians (Polyaen. 4,17: Darius [3]); even the Celts were familiar with them. The Romans, who are supposed to have used  tribuli as early as  295 BC at Sentinum  (Dion. Hal. Ant. Rom. 20,1), systematically deployed them in the wars with Antiochus [5] III and Mi…

Vallum

(146 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] (related to Latin vallus, 'stake, palisade'), occasionally used with the general meaning 'protective wall' (Liv. 9,14,7; 36,18,2; Frontin. Str. 3,17,9), usually in a military context. The typical Roman defensive installation, which was built during a campaign or a siege, consisted of a fossa ('ditch'), agger ('earthen wall') and v. ('palisade'); soldiers dug out the ditch, throwing the earth inwards and building the v. on this earth wall (Veg. Mil. 3,8,7-9; 4,28,3; Liv. 10,25,6 f.; cf. also the precise description of a Roman v. in Liv. 33,5,5-12). Finally, var…

Burgus

(90 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] The origin of the word burgus is disputed by researchers: either a Germanic (CIL XIII 6509) or else a Greek origin (πύργος; pýrgos; Jos. BI 1,99-100) are assumed. The word, which appears before the middle of the 2nd cent. AD and is still attested under Valentinian I, denotes a small fortified watchtower (ILS 396) or is used as a diminutive for   castellum (Veg. Mil. 4.10).; the burgus was generally used for surveillance (CIL VIII 2494-2495: burgus speculatorius). Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon) Bibliography 1 D. Baatz, Bauten, MAVORS XI, 1994, 83-85.

Armamentaria

(178 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] In early times the armamentaria or arsenals were situated in Rome itself; with the expansion of the Roman Imperium they were also installed in cities close to the theatres of war. In the legionary camps of the Principate the armamentaria were in the principia, those for the navy in the ports (CIL VI 999, 2725; VIII 2563); in Rome there was an armamentarium in the castra praetoria. The weapons were stored according to type, not army unit, and were guarded by the armorum custodes; the armamentarium was under the authority of a curator operis armamentarii and a magister, who was…

Vigiliae

(265 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] One of the chief concerns of Roman generals was the safety of their troops; both in a fixed legionary camp and in the field, legions were protected by the posting of guards, positioned in front of the vallum, outside the camp, and on the gates or on the vallum; individual guards also had the task of protecting higher officers (Pol. 6,35f; Sall. Iug. 100,4). Polybius gives a precise description of the organization of guard duty (νυκτερινὴ φυλακή/ nykterinḕ phylakḗ: Pol. 6,33-37; cf. Onasander 10,10 f.; Veg. Mil. 3,8,17 ff.). To prevent the sentries becoming …

Labarum

(209 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] Before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge ( Pons Milvius) against Maxentius in AD 312, in a dream described as a vision, Constantine I was advised to have the first two letters of the name of Christ, in Greek chi and rho (Χ and Ρ), inscribed on the shields of his soldiers, if he wished victory: τούτῳ νίκα (‘By this sign be victorious’; cf. Lactant. De mort. pers. 44; Euseb. Vita Const. 1,26-31). This Christogram was later fixed to the tip of a standard consisting of a long lance with a flag bearing the Imperial medallion hung on a crosspiece. It is unclear whether the name labarum given…
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