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Old December 15th, 2012, 12:42 PM   #1

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Roman Army in Britain


Can any of our experts here provide some information about the Roman army, on the second invasion of the British Isles?. I would be interested to read any comments about auxillery units, support services and administration/staff etc. Iam aware that 4 legions were the basis of the invasion forces, but how many support units were involved?. In addition, can anyone give an idea of the numbers involved?
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Old December 15th, 2012, 01:35 PM   #2

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this will give you a basic picture of the invasion yet i can't say how accurate this is, one should always be dubious of shows made by the history channel
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Old December 15th, 2012, 03:00 PM   #3

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I highly recommend this book:

Conquest: Roman Invasion of Britain Illustrated History Paperbacks: Amazon.co.uk: John Peddie: Books
Conquest: Roman Invasion of Britain Illustrated History Paperbacks: Amazon.co.uk: John Peddie: Books




John Spaul wrote a report on the auxilliaries involved in the imperial conquests of Rome (Cohors2, I think it was called iirc). Some of them were:

Augusta Proculeiana
1 Britannica
Classiana
1 Tungrorum
Indiana
Sabiniana
Tampiana
1 Thracum
Vettonum


Most of these were from Germania, and the odd units from Spain and Pannonia. The Batavians were also there, as they played an important part in swimming across the Thames and the Medway to outflank the position of the Britons (they could allegedly do this in armour).

I had the report by Spaul, but I appear to have lost it.

Last edited by Mangekyou; December 15th, 2012 at 03:22 PM.
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Old December 15th, 2012, 04:27 PM   #4

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It's a great misfortune Tacitus: http://http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tacitus

volumes concerning the Claudian invasion are missing, so people best guess. the only auxiliary troops we have historic record of are Batavian Calvary mentioned by Suetonius.

Last edited by Tommy Atkins; December 15th, 2012 at 04:57 PM.
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Old December 16th, 2012, 02:48 AM   #5

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mangekyou View Post
I highly recommend this book:

Conquest: Roman Invasion of Britain Illustrated History Paperbacks: Amazon.co.uk: John Peddie: Books



John Spaul wrote a report on the auxilliaries involved in the imperial conquests of Rome (Cohors2, I think it was called iirc). Some of them were:

Augusta Proculeiana
1 Britannica
Classiana
1 Tungrorum
Indiana
Sabiniana
Tampiana
1 Thracum
Vettonum


Most of these were from Germania, and the odd units from Spain and Pannonia. The Batavians were also there, as they played an important part in swimming across the Thames and the Medway to outflank the position of the Britons (they could allegedly do this in armour).

I had the report by Spaul, but I appear to have lost it.
This "swimming in armour" speculation is a little hard to take in, unless they had devoloped a floatation system, (maybe of animal skin bags possibly?). the Medway is a serious prospect, and the Thames an even greater one.

My question in this thread really concerns the "army" of support units and civilians?, required to keep an army viable in the field. iam aware that the legions had a system where the individual soldiers carried tools for erecting camps etc, but what about all of the other personnel such as carpenters, cobblers, vintners, mule skinners etc?. These additional people would swell the invading force numbers substantially.
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Old December 16th, 2012, 04:42 AM   #6

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Quote:
Originally Posted by SPERRO View Post
This "swimming in armour" speculation is a little hard to take in, unless they had devoloped a floatation system, (maybe of animal skin bags possibly?). the Medway is a serious prospect, and the Thames an even greater one.

My question in this thread really concerns the "army" of support units and civilians?, required to keep an army viable in the field. iam aware that the legions had a system where the individual soldiers carried tools for erecting camps etc, but what about all of the other personnel such as carpenters, cobblers, vintners, mule skinners etc?. These additional people would swell the invading force numbers substantially.
The soldiers that swum the Medway are described by Dio only as "Celtic". It is likely as auxilliaries that they wore less than full armour. The crossing point is highly conjectured. There was no bridge at the time, nor Watling Street (current A2) at this point, so the current Rochester Bridge is unlikely to be the point. Watling Street's predecessor, the Pilgrim's Way would have led to Aylesford, but one can ford the river there, so there would be no need to swim.
My personal choice would be just below the point where the modern M2 Motorway bridge crosses the river. When the bridge was being built in the 1960s a iron age settlement was found on the Left bank ( something suppressed at the time) and two roman Gladius-style swords found just downstream when dredging was underway. At low tide the river is less than 200M at that point.
Most of the craftsmen in the Legions, carpenters, blacksmiths etc. were also fighting soldiers. They had one beast (mule/donkey) per contubernium (a squad of eight who shared a tent) that was tended by one of the eight. Carts were likely to be a handicap in rough country before the roads were built. There were Galearius, servants, to fetch and carry, these were still expected to carry out a military duty such as piquet duty and were equipped with weapons and then there were the Lixae, their role is uncertain and have been described as camp followers which normally means whores and scroungers, but they have also been interpreted to be self-employed tailors, cooks, medicants, fortune tellers, peddlers, scribes etc. who traded for profit with the troops.
Claudius also took Elephants on the British campaign, so he would have needed some mahouts (or whatever the latin expression was).
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Old December 16th, 2012, 06:27 AM   #7

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Quote:
Originally Posted by SPERRO View Post
This "swimming in armour" speculation is a little hard to take in, unless they had devoloped a floatation system, (maybe of animal skin bags possibly?). the Medway is a serious prospect, and the Thames an even greater one.
Yes, I dont think they swum in full armour without aid, but they were definitely renowned for their swimming abilities and used in that capacity.

They demonstrated these skills to Germanicus, when they crossed the river Ems, and during the later civil wars, in 69 when they crossed the Po.



The Batavians were quite renowned for their abilities to swim and cross wide rivers. Some sources below.


In his work "Agricola", Cornelius Tacitus tells us about the ability to swim, during his campaign against the druids of Anglesy (Mona):

Quote:
Depositis omnis sarcinis lectissimos auxiliarium quibus nota vada et patrius nandi usus, quo simul seque et arma et equos regunt, ita repente inmisit, ut obstupefacti hostes, qui classem, qui navis, qui mare expectabant, nihil arduum aut invictum crediderint sic ad bellum venientibus”.

”After dropping all baggage he quickly sent the most elite of the auxiliaries, who were familiar with shallows and traditionally used to swimming in such a manner that they kept control over arms and horses, to the effect that the flabbergasted barbarians, who expected a fleet, who expected a ship across the sea believed that nothing was hard or insurmountable to those who went to war in this fashion”.


Source: Tacitus: Agricola, 18.4

Vegetius also gives us insight into how they likely achieved river crossing, in his Rei militaris:

Quote:
Expediti vero equites fasces de cannis aridis vel facere consueverunt, super quos loricas et arma, ne udentur, inponunt; ipsi equique natando transeunt colligatosque secum fasces pertrahunt loris”.

“Battle ready horsemen though have been accustomed to make bundles from dry reeds or, on these they put the body armours and weapons, in order that they do not get wet; they themselves and their horses cross by swimming and they draw the packed bundles along with them with leather straps”.


Source: Vegetius: Epitoma Rei Militaris, 3.7

Dio Cassius also talks about the Batavians, during the reign of Hadrian, concering their "unique" skills in swimming:

Quote:
So excellently, indeed, had his soldiery been trained that the cavalry of the Batavians, as they were called, swam the Ister with their arms. Seeing all this, the barbarians stood in terror of the Romans, they employed Hadrian as an arbitrator of their differences”.

Source: Dio Cassius Liber LXIX 9.6

The best demonstration of the swimming skills are located on a tombstone from a Syrian serving in a Batavian unit. His name was Soranus, and this is written on his epitaph:


Quote:
Ille ego Pannoniis quondam notissimus orisinter mille viros fortis primusq(ue) BatavosHadriano potui qui iudice vasta profundiaequora Danuvii cunctis transnare sub armisemissumq(ue) arcu dum pendet in aere telumac redit ex alia fixi fregique sagittaquem neque Romanus potuit nec barbarus unquamnon iaculo miles non arcu vincere Parthushic situs hic memori saxo mea facta sacravividerit an ne aliquis post me mea facta sequ[a]turexemplo mihi sum primus qui talia gessi

"I am the man who, once very well known to the ranks in Pannonia, brave and foremost among one thousand Batavians, was able, with Hadrian as judge, to swim the wide waters of the deep Danube in full battle kit. From my bow I fired an arrow, and while it quivered still in the air and was falling back, with a second arrow I hit and broke it. No Roman or foreigner has ever managed to better this feat, no soldier with a javelin, no Parthian with a bow. Here I lie, here I have immortalised my deeds on an ever-mindful stone which will see if anyone after me will rival my deeds. I set a precedent for myself in being the first to achieve such feats”.

Source: CIL 03, 03676 (AE 1958, 0151).


Quote:
My question in this thread really concerns the "army" of support units and civilians?, required to keep an army viable in the field. iam aware that the legions had a system where the individual soldiers carried tools for erecting camps etc, but what about all of the other personnel such as carpenters, cobblers, vintners, mule skinners etc?. These additional people would swell the invading force numbers substantially.
An exact itiniery will be hard to find. The most likely place will be in some scholarship work. I do remember covering something like this a long long time ago. Ill have to conduct my own research again here though. Suffice to say though, that most Roman soldiers were trained as engineers and could perform menial tasks themselves.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ancientgeezer View Post
The soldiers that swum the Medway are described by Dio only as "Celtic". It is likely as auxilliaries that they wore less than full armour. The crossing point is highly conjectured. There was no bridge at the time, nor Watling Street (current A2) at this point, so the current Rochester Bridge is unlikely to be the point. Watling Street's predecessor, the Pilgrim's Way would have led to Aylesford, but one can ford the river there, so there would be no need to swim.
My personal choice would be just below the point where the modern M2 Motorway bridge crosses the river. When the bridge was being built in the 1960s a iron age settlement was found on the Left bank ( something suppressed at the time) and two roman Gladius-style swords found just downstream when dredging was underway. At low tide the river is less than 200M at that point.
Yes, this is what Cassius says:

Quote:
"The barbarians thought the Romans would not be able to cross this [the River Medway] without a bridge, and as a result had pitched camp in a rather careless fashion on the opposite bank. Aulus Plautius, however, sent across some Celts who were practised in swimming with ease fully armed across even the fastest of riv-ers. These fell unexpectedly on the enemy".
However, given the special skills and traits of the crossings, which match those done by the Batavians at other times, it is likely them. Onc more, the Cohors I Batavorum were known to be attached to the Legio XIV Gemina, who were one of the legions involved in the conquest, making it more likely, they were used in the Medway.

The only other option, it could be is Tungrians, who often served with the Batavians. They were a Celtic tribe. However, despite Tacitus' account being lost, he does tell us that the Batavians served long term in Britain, and there was at least eight cohorts of Batavians of serving in Britain, when they were recalled from Britain by Nero in 67.

Here is an article that goes over the Batavians involvement with Britain. Unfortunately you will have to purchase it or have a jstor account, but its a good read.

JSTOR - Batavians in Britain


We also have the Vindolanda tablets ofc.
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Old December 16th, 2012, 06:36 AM   #8

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The Rise and fall of an Empire - 5 - YouTube
this will give you a basic picture of the invasion yet i can't say how accurate this is, one should always be dubious of shows made by the history channel
Thank you for introducing this series =)
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Old December 16th, 2012, 07:59 AM   #9

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If the swimmers were Batavian CAVALRY, then there may not have been too much problem. I have read of troops from many eras swimming their horses across rivers and holding their tails or gripping the saddle and swimming alongside.
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Old December 16th, 2012, 08:35 AM   #10

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ancientgeezer View Post
If the swimmers were Batavian CAVALRY, then there may not have been too much problem. I have read of troops from many eras swimming their horses across rivers and holding their tails or gripping the saddle and swimming alongside.
Yes, I have read similar accounts myself, but there are those that are good at it and those that are specialists.

I am a good swimmer myself but I could never hope to compete with Ian Thorpe.

The Batavians came from marshy regions and were adept at crossing rivers in formations, so its a position that they were used in quite often. That is one of the reasons auxillaries such as these were employed, for their specialist skills. That being said, Batavians were also renowned for their cavalry. Caesar supposedly employed them against the Gallic cavalry.

Last edited by Mangekyou; December 16th, 2012 at 08:44 AM.
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