« ForrigeFortsett »
troops to their standards was inspired by ihii united influence of religion and of honor. The golden eagle, which glittered in the front of the legion, was the object of their fondest devotion; nor was it esteemed less impious than it was ignominious, to abandon that sacred ensign in the hour of danger.34 These motives, which derived their strength from the imagination, were enforced by fears and hopes of a more substantial kind. Regular pay, occasional donatives, and a stated recompense, after the appointed time of service, alleviated the hardships of the military life,35 whilst, on the other hand, it was impossible for cowardice or disobedience to escape the severest punishment. The centurions were authorized to chastise with blows, the generals had a right to punish with death; and it was an inflexible maxim of Roman discipline, that a good soldier should dread his officers far more than the enemy. From such laudable arts did the valor of the Imperial troops receive a degree of firmness and docility, unattainable by the impetuous and irregular passions of barbarians.
And yet so sensible were the Romans of the imperfection of valor without skill and practice, that, in their language, the name of an army was borrowed from the word which signified exercise.36 Military exercises were the important
34 Tacitus calls the Roman eagles, Bellorum Deos. They were placed in a chapel in the camp, and with the other deities received the religious worship of the troops.*
*• See Gronovius de Pecunia vetere, 1. iii. p. 120, &e. The emperor Domitian raised the annual stipend of the legionaries to twelve pieces of gold, which, in his time, was equivalent to about ten of our guineas. This pay, somewhat higher than our own, had been, and was afterwards, gradually increased, according to the progress of wealth and military government. After twenty years' service, the veteran received three thousand denarii, (about one hundred pounds sterling,) or a proportionable allowance of land. The pay and advantages of the guards were, in general, about double those of the legions.
** Exercittu ab exercitando, Varro de lingua Latina, 1 . iv. Cicero in Tuaculan. 1 . ii. 37, [15.] There is room for a very interesting work, which should lay open the connection between the languages wid manners of nations.t
• Sec also Dio. Cass. xl c. 18. — M.
T I am not aware of the existence, at present, of such a work; but the profound observations of the late William von Humboldt, in the introduction to his posthumously published Essay on the Language of the Island Of Java, (nber die Kawi-sprache, Berlin, 1836,) may cause regret that this task was n it completed bv that accomplished and universal scholar. — M
and unremitted object of their discipline. The lecraits and young soldiers were constantly trained, both in tlw morning and in the evening, nor was age or knowledge allowed to excuse the veterans from the daily repetition of what they had completely learnt. Large sheds were erected m the winter-quarters of the troops, that their useful labors might not receive any interruption from the most tempestuous weather; and it was carefully observed, that the arms destined to this imitation of war, should be of double the weight which was required in real action.37 It is not the purpose of this work to enter into any minute description of the Roman exercises. We shall only remark, that they comprehended whatever could add strength to the body activity to the limbs, or grace to the motions. The soldiers were diligently instructed to march, to run, to leap, to swim, to carry heavy burdens, to handle every species of arms that was used either for ofFence or for defence, either in distant engagement or in a closer onset; to form a variety of evolutions; and to move to the sound of flutes in the Pyrrhic or martial dance.36 In the midst of peace, the Roman troops familiarized themselves with the practice of war; and it is prettily remarked by an ancient historian who had fought against them, that the effusion of blood was the only circumstance which distinguished a field of battle from a field of exercise.39 It was the policy of the ablest generals, and even of the emperors themselves, to encourage these military studies by their presence and example; and we are informed that Hadrian, as well as Trajan, frequently condescended to instruct the unexperienced soldiers, to reward the diligent, and sometimes to dispute with them the prize of superior strength or dexterity.4* Under the reigns of those princes, the science of tactics wis cultivated with success; and as long as the empire retailed any vigor, their military instructions were respected as the most perfect model of Roman discipline.
"Vegetius, 1. ii. and the rest of his first book.
"The Pyrrhic dance is extremely well illustrated by M. le Bean, in the Academic des Inscriptions, torn. xxxv. p. 262, &c. That learned academician, in a series of memoirs, has collected all the jassages of the ancients that relate to the Roman legion.
"Joseph, de Bel1. Judaico, 1. iii. c. 5. We are indebted to tidl Jew for some very curious details of Roman discipline.
40 Plin. Punegyr. c. 13. Life of Hadrian, in the Augustan History.
VOL. U 2
Nine centuries of war had gradually introduced into the service many alterations and improvements. The legions, as they are described by Polybius,41 in the time of the Punic wars, differed very materially from those which achieved the victories of Ca»ar, or defended the monarchy of Hadrian and tho Antonines. The constitution of the Imperial legion may be described in a few words.48 The heavy-armed infantry, which composed its principal strength,43 was divided into ten cohorts, and fifty-five companies, under tho orders of a correspondent number of tribunes and centurions. The first cohort, which always claimed the post of honor and the custody of the eagle, was formed of eleven hundred and five soldiers, the most approved for valor and fidelity. The remaining nine cohorts consisted each of five hundred and fifty-five; and the whole body of legionarv infantry amounted to six thousand one hundred men. Their arms were uniform, and admirably adapted to the nature of their service: an open helmet, with a lofty crest; a breastplate or coat of mail; greaves on their legs, and an ample buckler on their left arm. The buckler was of an oblong and concave figure, four feet in length, and two and a half in breadth, framed of a light wood, covered with a bull's hide, and strongly guarded with plates of brass. Besides a lighter spear, the legionary soldier grasped in his right hand the formidable pilum, a ponderous javelin, whose utmost length was about six feet, and which was terminated by a massy triangular point of steel of eighteen inches.44 This instrument was indeed much inferior to our modern fire-arms; since it was exhausted by a single discharge, at the distance of only ten or twelve paces. Yet when it was launched by
41 See an admirable digression on the Roman discipline, in the sixth book of his History.
•* Vegetius de Re Militari, 1 . ii. c. 4, &c. Considerable part of his very perplexed abridgment was taken from the regulations of Trajan and Hadrian; and the legion, as he describes it, cannot suit any other aje of the Roman empire.
41 Vegetius de Re Militari, 1. ii. c. 1. In the purer age of Caesar and Cicero, the word miles was almost confined to the infantry. Under the 1 awer empire, and in the times of chivalry, it was app floriated almost as exclusively to the men at arms, who fought on horseback.
44 In the time of Polybius and Dionysius of Hal'icarnassus,(1. v. c. 46,1 the steel point of the pilum seems to have )/ccn much longer. In the time of Vegetius, it was reduced to a foot, or even Dine inches, I have chosen a medium.
a firm and skilful hand, there was not any cavalry that durst venture within its reach, nor any shield or corselet that could sustain the impetuosity of its weight. As soon as the Roman had darted his pilum, he drew his sword, »nd rushed forwards to close with the enemy. His sword was a short well-tempered Spanish blade, that carried a double edge, and was alike suited to the purpose of striking or of pushing; but the soldier was always instructed to prefer the latter use of his weapon, as his own body remained less exposed, whilst he inflicted a more dangerous wound on his adversary.45 The legion was usually drawn up eight deep; and the regular distance of three feet was left between the files as well as ranks.46 A body of troops, habituated to preserve thia open order, in a long front and a rapid charge, found themselves prepared to execute every disposition which the circumstances of war, or the skill of their leader, might suggest. The soldier possessed a free space for his arms and motions, and sufficient intervals were allowed, through which seasonable reinforcements might be introduced to the relief of the exhausted combatants.47 The tactics of the Greeks and Macedonians were formed on very different principles. The strength of the phalanx depended on sixteen ranks of long pikes, wedged together in the closest array.48 But it wa» soon discovered by reflection, as well as by the event, that the strength of the phalanx was unable to contend with the activity of the legion.49
The cavalry, without which the force of the legion would have remained imperfect, was divided into ten troops 01 squadrons; the first, as the companion of the first cohort, consisted of a hundred and thirty-two men; whilst each of the other nine amounted only to sixty-six. The entire establishment formed a regiment, if we may use the modern expression, of seven hundred and twenty-six horse, naturally connected with its respective legion, but occasionally separated
'* For the legionary arms, see Lipsius de Militia Romana, 1. iii e. 2—7.
* See the beautiful comparison of Virgil, Georgic ii. v. 279.
41 M. Guichard, Mcmoires Militoirea, torn. i. c. 4, and Nouveaux Memoires, torn. i . p. 293—311, has treated the subjeet like a scholar and an officer.
** See Arrian's Tacties. With the true partiality of a Greek, Axnan rather chose to descrise the phalanx, of which he had read, tLan the legions which he had commanded.
* I'oljb. 1 . xvii. rxviii 9.'
to act in the line, and to compose a part of the wings of the army.50 The cavalry of the emperors was no longer composed, like that of the ancient republic, of the noblest youths of Rome and Italy, who, by performing their military service on horseback, prepared themselves for the offices of senator and consul; and solicited, by deeds of valor, the future suffrages of their countrymen.51 Since the alteration of manners and government, the most wealthy of the equestrian order were engaged in the administration of justice, and of the revenue ;5a and whenever they embraced the profession of arms, they were immediately intrusted with a troop of horse, or a cohort of foot.53 Trajan and Hadrian formed their
M Veget de Re Miiitari, L ii. c. 8. His positive testimony, which might be supported by circumstantial evidence, ought surely to silence those critics who refuse the Imperial legion its proper body of cavalry.*
** See Livy almost throughout, particularly xlii . 61.
"Plin. Hist. Natur. xxxiii. 2. The true sense of that very curious passage was first discovered and illustrated by M. de Beaufort. Republique Romanic, 1. ii. e. 2.
■ As in the instance of Horace and Agricola. This appears to have been a defect in the Roman discipline; which Hadrian endeavored to remedy by ascertaining the legal age of a tribune.t
• See also Joseph. B. J. iii. vi. 2. — M.
t These details are not altogether accurate. Although, in the latter days of the republic, and under the first emperors, the young Roman nobles obtained the command of a squadron or a cohort with greater facility than in the former times, they never obtained it without passing through a tolerably long military service. Usually they served first in the praetorian cohort, which was intrusted with the guard of the general: they were received into the companionship (eontubernium) of some superior officer, and were there formed for duty. Thus Julius Cavsar, though sprung from a great family, served first as contubemalis under the orator, M. Tbermus, and later under Servilius the Isaurian. (Suet Jul. 2, 5. Plut. in Par. p. 516. Ed. Froben.) The example of Horace, which Gibbon adduces to prove that young knights were made tribunes immediately on entering the service, proves nothing. In the first place, Horace was not a knight; he was the son of a freedman of Venusia, in Apulia, who exercised the hum ble office of coactor exauctionum, (collector of payments at auctions.) (Sat i. vi. 45, or 86.) Moreover, when the poet was made tribune, Brutus, whose army was nearly entirely composed of Orientals, gave this title to all the Bomans of consideration who joined him. The emperors were still less difficult in their choice; the number of tribunes was augmented; the ti^le and honors were conferred on persons whom they wished to attach U (he court. Augustus conferred on the sons of senators, sometimes the tribunate, sometimes the command of a squadron. Claudius gave to the knights who entered into the service, first the command of a cohort of auxiliaries, later that of a squadron, and at length, for the first time, th« tribunate. (Suet, in Claud, with the notes of Ernesti.) The abuses that arose caused the edict of Hadrian, which fixed the age at which that honoi tould be attained. (Spart. in Had. &c.) This edict was subsequently