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Old August 4th, 2010, 07:33 AM   #1

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Little-Known Roman Garrison and Legion Facts


Okay, everyone, I *really* need some help here.


As I love studying the ancient Roman world and especially the army, I enjoy constructing a variety of stories, all set at different times throughout the Empire. There are a few facts I simply cannot find no matter how much effort I put into the endeavor. Please help!


(1) I am interested in the destruction of Herculaneum in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, August 79 AD. Was there a Roman garrison there? One of the skeletons excavated was called 'the Soldier.' What types of soldiers would have lived in / guarded Herculaneum? A detachment of a legion? I have no idea.


(2) In the battle of Idistaviso / River Weser in May 16 AD, which Roman legions were present?


(3) (this one I have conflicting sources on) can anyone give me the ethnic makeup of the Jerusalem garrison circa 33 AD, during the time of the Crucifixion? Which legions guarded Jerusalem / stayed at Antonia Fortress at this time?


I hope someone can help!


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Old August 4th, 2010, 07:58 AM   #2

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Re: Little-Known Roman Garrison and Legion Facts


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(1) I am interested in the destruction of Herculaneum in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, August 79 AD. Was there a Roman garrison there? One of the skeletons excavated was called 'the Soldier.' What types of soldiers would have lived in / guarded Herculaneum? A detachment of a legion? I have no idea.
Firstly, I can pretty much promise you that there were no legionary or auxiliary units stationed in Herculaneum. If any city in the Empire was safe (from human enemies, at least...) it would have been Herculaneum and its neighboring settlements.

The soldier who died at Herculaneum is believed to have been a military carpenter attached to the Misenum Fleet, Rome's major naval unit at the time. Whether he was a true marine, or whether he was a legionary or auxiliary transferred to the vessel on which he served for special duties, cannot now be discovered.

Marines were equipped similarly to legionaries; they carried the same sword and dagger, though they generally found fewer applications for the shield, javelins, and armor of land-based soldiers. They were a very common sight in coastal cities. Some (such as the guy at Herculaneum) would have been making repairs to their ships or shopping for supplies. Others would have been on leave, and inevitably in pursuit of wine and wenches. Marines were also sometimes temporarily drafted into field armies to put down revolts and disturbances, though that is unlikely to be the case here.

The point of my above rambling is that, chances are the only soldiers you would meet in Herculaneum on the eve of its destruction would have belonged to the Misenum Fleet. In the event of an attack (say a freak raid by a band of Illyrian pirates), Herculaneum's defenders would have been a motely crew including whatever marines were at hand, a smattering of retired legionaries, and local citizens armed with homemade weapons.
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Old August 4th, 2010, 08:03 AM   #3

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Re: Little-Known Roman Garrison and Legion Facts


Thanks for the info, Salah ad-Din. I hadn't thought of that . . . Herculaneum wouldn't have needed a protecting force or any kind of garrison. So I wonder what a Roman soldier of the imperial legions (i.e. in my short story) would have been doing at Herculaneum when Vesuvius erupted.


Ideas, anyone?


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Old August 4th, 2010, 08:04 AM   #4

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Re: Little-Known Roman Garrison and Legion Facts


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(2) In the battle of Idistaviso / River Weser in May 16 AD, which Roman legions were present?
I can probably find this one out for you, but I don't know off the top of my head
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Old August 4th, 2010, 08:08 AM   #5

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Re: Little-Known Roman Garrison and Legion Facts


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So I wonder what a Roman soldier of the imperial legions (i.e. in my short story) would have been doing at Herculaneum when Vesuvius erupted.
Is your soldier a common private (miles) or an officer? If he is a centurion or a frumentarius (a "secret agent", so to speak), he could be stalking someone suspected of treason, or researching a suspected plot.

If he is a common soldier, he could be on leave, visiting his family. Soldiers often kept contact via letters with their parents and siblings, and undoubtedly lept at the chance to visit home and their loved ones.
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Old August 4th, 2010, 08:10 AM   #6

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Re: Little-Known Roman Garrison and Legion Facts


http://www.bing.com/videos/watch/vid...snhp&GT1=42007

Here's a story you might enjoy.
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Old August 4th, 2010, 08:20 AM   #7

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Re: Little-Known Roman Garrison and Legion Facts


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(3) (this one I have conflicting sources on) can anyone give me the ethnic makeup of the Jerusalem garrison circa 33 AD, during the time of the Crucifixion? Which legions guarded Jerusalem / stayed at Antonia Fortress at this time?
The military situation in early 1st Century Judea was unique, if not totally bizarre.

Both in terms of ethnic composition, and organization, it combined Jewish, Greek, Roman, Celtic, Thracian, and Arab features. During the reign of Herod the Great, we units of Jewish and Samaritan infantry (the sebastoi) armed and armored like Greek/Macedonian phalangites, and being commanded by Roman officers. Celtic, Germanic, and Thracian mercenary warbands played a prominent part in the Herodian Army.

During the lifetime of Jesus, the only legion in or very close to Judea was the Tenth Fretensis. To be honest, I'm not sure where it was garrisoned c. 33 AD; in the aftermath of the First Jewish Revolt it was in Jerusalem, but I don't know if it was there as early as the time of Christ. But either way, if Jesus met any legionaries in his lifetime, they would have belonged to this legion.

There were some Roman auxiliary units in mid 1st Century Judea. If memory serves the Book of Acts mentions an "Italian Band" (cohors Italicae), which would have consisted of non-citizen Roman soldiers equipped similarly to legionaries, but probably with lighter armor.

IMO the soldiers in Jerusalem at the time of the Crucifixtion were probably auxiliaries, not legionaries. But if they were legionaries, they would have belonged to the Legio X Fretensis.

I hope my ramblings are helping you today!
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Old August 4th, 2010, 08:28 AM   #8

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Re: Little-Known Roman Garrison and Legion Facts


Thanks, everyone, for the help!


The soldier in my story is a Centurion. I think I am going to say that he was sent to Herculaneum on some kind of task -- perhaps by an authority figure who wanted to insult him by giving him a 'common' assignment. It is also possible he could have family there.


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Old August 5th, 2010, 01:50 AM   #9

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Re: Little-Known Roman Garrison and Legion Facts


Good morning, everyone!


I did some research about the Battle of the River Weser, and all I can find is mention of "legions under Germanicus". Any ideas which these were? Is the information there and I just missed it?


As for the Jerusalem garrison being an ethnic mix, it doesn't matter for my story, because my main character was an officer (centurion) and thus would have been Roman, most likely.


Any more ideas?? Thanks for the help already provided!


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Old August 5th, 2010, 03:43 AM   #10

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Re: Little-Known Roman Garrison and Legion Facts


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Ideas, anyone?
Germania_Echoes
I'm sure Salah ad-Din can give light to the veracity of this, but could it be a legionary who was seriously, though not mortally, wounded, and sent back here to stay with family while he convalesced?
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