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Thread: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

  1. #41
    SeniorBatavianHorse's Avatar Tribunus Vacans
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    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    The reference to Huns in a military context circa 400AD might be from Letter 78 of Synesius found online here which I also post below in full - Synesius is talking about a troop of Hunnic cavalry - more of which can be read here

    And a further mention but Synesius here and here. Although these were stationed in Cyrenaica and not in Aegypt but close enough!


    Nothing could be more advantageous to Pentapolis than to give honor to the Unnigardae, who are excellent both as men and as soldiers, in preference to all the other troops, not only those who are termed native troops, but also all that have ever come into these districts as auxiliary forces.

    The truth is that these latter, even when they are much superior to the enemy in numbers, never yet gave battle with courage, but the Unnigardae in two or three engagements, with a handful of forty men, engaged an enemy of over a thousand. Assisted by God and led by you, they have gained the greatest and most glorious victories.[
    1] The barbarians had scarcely shown themselves when some were killed on the spot and others put to flight. They still patrol the heights, ever on the watch to drive back attacks of the enemy, like whelps springing out from the courtyard, that no wild beast may attack the flock.

    But we blush when we see these brave fellows weeping in the very midst of their strenuous service in our cause. It is not without sadness that I have read a letter which they have sent me, and I think that you also ought not to be remain unmoved at their prayer. They make a request of you through me, and of the Emperor through you, which it were only fair that we ourselves should have made, even had they been silent, to wit, that their men should not be enrolled amongst the native units. They would be useless both to themselves and to us if they were deprived of the Emperor's largesses, and if, moreover, they were deprived of their relays of horses and of their equipment, and of the pay which is due to troops on active service. I beg of you, who were the bravest among these, not to allow your comrades-in-arms to enter an inferior rank, but to let them remain without loss of their honors, in the security of their former position. This might well be, if our most kind Emperor should learn through your representation how useful they have been to Pentapolis.


    Make of the Emperor another request on my behalf in your letter, namely, to add one hundred and sixty of these soldiers to the forty that we have already; for who would not admit that two hundred Unnigardae, with the aid of God, like unto these in heart and hand, and no less docile than brave, would suffice, when commanded by you, to bring the Ausurian war to an end for the Emperor? Or what use are many levies and the annual cost of maintaining the troops here? For war we need hands, not a list of names.




    [IMG][/IMG]

  2. #42
    Renatus's Avatar Decanus
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    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    Quote Originally Posted by Valentinian Victor View Post
    Not having Milner's translation to hand, does Vegetius mention the sack of Rome in 410? I thought there was a passage that did allude to this? Also, there is a case for a date of 420AD in that when describing cavalry Vegetius states he does not need to fully describe them, they having been 'brought into perfection in the manner after the Goths, Huns and Alans'. Whilst Goths were in the employ of Late Roman forces from approximately 317AD onwards, I doubt Huns and Alan's would have been employed prior to 395AD, I have a reference somewhere to Huns possibly being employed and stationed in Egypt in approximately 400AD, but until I finally make it back to my own humble abode to check my references I will leave it to others to try and check that one out for me.
    Another thought on this post. If Goths were employed from c.317, Huns and Alans not before 395 and Huns c.400, how does this support a date as late as 420?

  3. #43
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    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    The Huns were not employed in mass extent until aetius brought 15000 soldiers (60000 including nuclear families, as the scources tell us 60k huns). But as vegetius refers to rome as being unviolated, i will go with you on this matter renatus.
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  4. #44
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    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    Quote Originally Posted by Magistri Militum FlaviusAetius View Post
    The Huns were not employed in mass extent until aetius brought 15000 soldiers (60000 including nuclear families, as the scources tell us 60k huns). But as vegetius refers to rome as being unviolated, i will go with you on this matter renatus.
    Thanks. However, so that no-one is misled, I should make it clear that "inviolate city" is Milner's term. What Vegetius actually says (in Milner's translation) is as follows:

    Veg. 4 praef.
    But the value added to the dispositions of your Clemency by the elaborate construction of walls is demonstrated by Rome, who saved the lives of her citizens through the defences of the Capitoline citadel, to the end that she might later win a more glorious Empire of the whole world.

    Veg. 4.9.3
    For at the siege of the Capitol, the torsion-engines broke down from continuous and long fatigue after supplies of sinews ran out. But the matrons cut off their hair and presented it to their husbands as they fought, the machines were repaired and they repelled the hostile attack.

    Veg. 4.26.5-6
    Geese also by their clamour indicate night-attacks with equal skill. For having attacked the Capitoline citadel the Gauls would have destroyed the very name of Rome, had not Mallius been roused by the clamour of the geese to stop them. Marvellous was the watchfulness or good fortune, whereby one bird saved the men destined to send the whole world under the yoke.

    These three passages refer to the successful defence of the Capitol against siege by the Gauls in 390 BC and indicate that, to Vegetius, Rome was "inviolate" (to use Milner's word). They would be entirely out of place, if Rome had fallen to siege by the Goths by the time Vegetius was writing. Milner says that they would be "in poor taste", which seems to be an understatement to say the least.

  5. #45
    SeniorBatavianHorse's Avatar Tribunus Vacans
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    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    I thought this thread from Comitatus might be interesting in visualising the development of Roman armour - here.
    [IMG][/IMG]

  6. #46

    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    Quote Originally Posted by Renatus View Post
    Another thought on this post. If Goths were employed from c.317, Huns and Alans not before 395 and Huns c.400, how does this support a date as late as 420?
    I have seen the cut-off date of 420AD given so many times in works that discuss Vegetius that I've forgotten why! Probably due to the fact that Vegetius dedicated his work to an Emperor rather than a Patrician such as Aetius.

  7. #47

    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    Quote Originally Posted by Renatus View Post
    Thanks. However, so that no-one is misled, I should make it clear that "inviolate city" is Milner's term. What Vegetius actually says (in Milner's translation) is as follows:

    Veg. 4 praef.
    But the value added to the dispositions of your Clemency by the elaborate construction of walls is demonstrated by Rome, who saved the lives of her citizens through the defences of the Capitoline citadel, to the end that she might later win a more glorious Empire of the whole world.

    Veg. 4.9.3
    For at the siege of the Capitol, the torsion-engines broke down from continuous and long fatigue after supplies of sinews ran out. But the matrons cut off their hair and presented it to their husbands as they fought, the machines were repaired and they repelled the hostile attack.

    Veg. 4.26.5-6
    Geese also by their clamour indicate night-attacks with equal skill. For having attacked the Capitoline citadel the Gauls would have destroyed the very name of Rome, had not Mallius been roused by the clamour of the geese to stop them. Marvellous was the watchfulness or good fortune, whereby one bird saved the men destined to send the whole world under the yoke.

    These three passages refer to the successful defence of the Capitol against siege by the Gauls in 390 BC and indicate that, to Vegetius, Rome was "inviolate" (to use Milner's word). They would be entirely out of place, if Rome had fallen to siege by the Goths by the time Vegetius was writing. Milner says that they would be "in poor taste", which seems to be an understatement to say the least.
    From memory does not Vegetius state that many cities were destroyed by the barbarians, and that phrase is taken by some historians as an allusion to the sack of Rome in 410AD?

    Mind you, according to Heather and others, the 'sack' of Rome in 410AD was a most strange and bizarre affair in that it was carried out in an orderly fashion with a most unseemly lack of rape and pillage!

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    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    Yes, it's more like a roman legion sacking rome than something like the huns.

    Also, great post SBH! +rep what a wonderful webpage. *realizes the allitteration in a surprised manner, and laughs to self.*
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  9. #49
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    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    Quote Originally Posted by Valentinian Victor View Post
    I have seen the cut-off date of 420AD given so many times in works that discuss Vegetius that I've forgotten why! Probably due to the fact that Vegetius dedicated his work to an Emperor rather than a Patrician such as Aetius.
    I don't remember ever having seen it, not that that means anything! A co-favourite with Theodosius I as Vegetius' emperor is Valentinian III but that would put it after 425. Honorius (395-423) or Theodosius II (408-450) would fit but why 420, rather than any other year in their reigns?

    Quote Originally Posted by Valentinian Victor View Post
    From memory does not Vegetius state that many cities were destroyed by the barbarians, and that phrase is taken by some historians as an allusion to the sack of Rome in 410AD?

    Mind you, according to Heather and others, the 'sack' of Rome in 410AD was a most strange and bizarre affair in that it was carried out in an orderly fashion with a most unseemly lack of rape and pillage!
    You are quite right. Vegetius refers, in Milner's translation, to "the sacking of so many cities" (Veg. 1.20.5). Charles (see my post #34) prefers "the loss of such great cities" (p.52). I can quote the following historians as taking this to include the sack of Rome:

    W. Goffart, 'The Date and Purpose of Vegetius' de re militari', Traditio 33 (1977), 65-100 at p.83 = Rome's Fall and After, London & Ronceverte 1989, 45-80 at p.63: "and the fall of 'great cities' (like Rome)".

    A.P. Dorjahn & L.K. Born, 'Vegetius on the Decay of the Roman Army', Classical Journal 30 (1934), 148-158 at p.150: "Of course, he may have written before that date [410]; but we may postulate that he wrote some twenty or twenty-five years later and in that period of chaos felt no cause to single out one example, however striking it may seem to us."

    I do not agree. Rome was not just any city; it was for some 1100 years before 410 the actual and, later, symbolic centre of the Roman world. The sack may have been less ferocious than others but I doubt whether contemporaries drew any distinction. The reaction of St. Jerome is instructive:

    Letter 126: ". . . my mind was so much agitated by the devastation of the western provinces of the empire and especially by the sack of Rome itself by the barbarians that, to use a common proverbial phrase, I scarcely knew my own name . . ."

    Letter 127: "While these things were taking place in Jebus, a dreadful rumour reached us from the West. We heard that Rome was besieged . . . The city which had taken the whole world was itself taken . . ."

    Letter 128: "The glorious city that was the head of the Roman Empire has been engulfed in one terrific blaze. There is no part of the earth where exiles from Rome are not to be found."

    Commentary on Ezekiel, Preface to Bk.1: "But when I heard that the bright light of all the world was quenched, or rather that the Roman Empire had lost its head and that the whole universe had perished in one city . . ."

    Jerome also says in Letter 127, refering either to the messenger bringing the news or to himself dictating the letter (depending on the translator), that the voice of the speaker was so choked by sobs that he could scarcely get the words out.

    It is interesting to compare his words with those of Vegetius (my post #44). To Vegetius, Rome was still the conqueror of the world; to Jerome, she was the former conqueror who had now been conquered herself.

    Book I of Vegetius' Epitome, which contains the reference to the fallen cities, is where his most trenchant criticisms of the army are to be found. If Rome had fallen, what a wonderful opportunity it would have been for him to ram home his message, that the army had become so ineffectual that it could not even protect the Eternal City. Likewise, in Book IV, he could scarcely expect to get away with boasting of Rome having successfully defended herself against foreign siege when it was known that she had more recently fallen to just such a siege, unless he were to draw the comparison between former and modern times and use that to demonstrate the abysmal failure of the army to meet the standards of the ancient legions.

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    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    Maybe 420 is cutoff as in 421 Constantius was declared co-emperor and he would have to dedicate it to 2 emperors.
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  11. #51

    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    The only impression I have of Vegetius argument is Roman inf ceased wearing metal armor on the march and general duty. It was very much Marius who enforced the doctrine of the trooper marching in their armor and personally carrying much of their equipment to lighten the baggage train. The troopers weren't enthusiastic about this referring to themselves as "Marian mules". Early Mediterranean soldiers had been a social elite who viewed their only duty was to fight and the chores could be left to servants and slaves.
    There were certainly light troops who as a strategic concept didn't wear body armor. But troops intended to be light were increasingly pressed into the main battle line as the numbers of enemies increased. I'd conclude these troops became fully armored as time progressed to be replaced by new doctrines on light troops like archers.
    But I suspect that later Roman infantry no longer had personal chain mail and this was transported with the baggage and handed out on a strategic basis. Marian Roman troops purchased all their equipment as a loan to be deducted from their wages. It was their personal property, if they lost it they paid for it.
    Mail was very expensive for the state to supply, but infantry with years of experience where many times as costly to replace. I can't see cost as argument against armor for Roman infantry. The Late Empire may have been broke, but not that broke.

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    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    Yes, and and my argument is that the Fabrica currently in place were not able to take on the challenge of replacing 20000 troops with full body armor. Back then It took about 4 days to make a quality roman sword with steel bands in it. It could take a week or a month to make a high quality steel sword with an iron core. Chainmail took even longer, about a week for a person to make and link it together. Helmets and greaves took about a week too. And Spearheads/belt buckels/etc. took about 3 days
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    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    Quote Originally Posted by Magistri Militum FlaviusAetius View Post
    Yes, and and my argument is that the Fabrica currently in place were not able to take on the challenge of replacing 20000 troops with full body armor. Back then It took about 4 days to make a quality roman sword with steel bands in it. It could take a week or a month to make a high quality steel sword with an iron core. Chainmail took even longer, about a week for a person to make and link it together. Helmets and greaves took about a week too. And Spearheads/belt buckels/etc. took about 3 days
    Have you any authority for these times?

  14. #54

    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    I was able to have a brief flick through my book collection this weekend (I'm not at home for the next month now unfortunately), and whilst many here dispute the fact that Late Roman auxilia were unarmoured, this is not what authors such as Sumner, Witby, Coulston, Nicasie, Elton etc state. They state that the auxila did not appear to wear armour. All the art work that is contained in some of those books, as well as in the Osprey ones, seems to support the idea that Late Roman auxilia did not wear any armour apart from a helmet.

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    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    Ermmm... yeah. Go on youtube and you can watch videos of that stuff. It takes days to do the process. You have to heat it and cool it and heat it and cool it and the hammer it and fold it and hammer it again and then cut it and hammer a blade on when it's long enough for your sword. It's insane. It was only considered mass production because there were a hundred slaves doing it in the factory.
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    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    Quote Originally Posted by Valentinian Victor View Post
    I was able to have a brief flick through my book collection this weekend (I'm not at home for the next month now unfortunately), and whilst many here dispute the fact that Late Roman auxilia were unarmoured, this is not what authors such as Sumner, Witby, Coulston, Nicasie, Elton etc state. They state that the auxila did not appear to wear armour. All the art work that is contained in some of those books, as well as in the Osprey ones, seems to support the idea that Late Roman auxilia did not wear any armour apart from a helmet.
    This sort of comment is valueless without references. I acknowledge that you had little time but how long would it take to jot down the page numbers and include them in your post? I can tell you, Nicasie p.188 does not support your contention.

  17. #57

    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    Quote Originally Posted by Magistri Militum FlaviusAetius View Post
    Ermmm... yeah. Go on youtube and you can watch videos of that stuff. It takes days to do the process. You have to heat it and cool it and heat it and cool it and the hammer it and fold it and hammer it again and then cut it and hammer a blade on when it's long enough for your sword. It's insane. It was only considered mass production because there were a hundred slaves doing it in the factory.
    The Bloomery process was a very time consuming method of extracting iron from ore. The purpose of the repeated forging was to remove the impurities from the iron. Once you got the soft iron it could be carbon treated in charcoal for a week to get mild steel. All of this required skilled labor and lots of charcoal which itself wasn't cheap.

    Once all that was done relatively unskilled labor had to punch the rings from sheets of steel. After that a slave could "knit" the mail which was time consuming itself. But after everything else that had gone on before, this last bit was the least of your worries.

    Not so easy as popping into Walmart for rolls of steel wire.

    At a rough guess something like a new scale hauberk could've been made for 12 soldi of silver. But new mail would've been more costly although preferred. The one big advantage with mail was it was so long lasting it still represented a good investment.

    Still the Empire only had to worry about equipping the one in a hundred men of its population that served as soldiers. This wouldn't have even been beyond the means of even the later bankrupt Empire.

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    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    But the thing is that it took a long time to do this. From you just said that's about 2 weeks for a chainmail hauberk.
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  19. #59

    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    Quote Originally Posted by Magistri Militum FlaviusAetius View Post
    But the thing is that it took a long time to do this. From you just said that's about 2 weeks for a chainmail hauberk.
    The biggest problem was creating the quantity of pig iron to be distributed and worked into pure iron. Generally it was slow worked out of the ore, freeing it of basic impurities. In the late middle ages mechanically driven blast furnaces were used to simply melt the iron out of ore. Hence we see plate armor abounding for every man and his dog.
    Actually there is no reason that Romans couldn't have used more advanced methods for iron smelting. But there doesn't seem to be any great evidence. More advanced methods were used from the ME to China during the dark ages.
    Impatience to get out product would have left defective metal. Frankish craftsmen reputedly made the best product, maybe they had the patience?
    A good craftsmen could make an excellent product with the primitive methods. But this took skill, patience and care, and a bit of luck.
    At a guess a new chain mail hauberk might have cost 18 solidi. Over half a years wages for ordinary labor. The minimum would have been a thousand hours of labor.
    Creating all the charcoal required took many man hours.

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    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    Yeah, and the romans may have had blast furnace methods, probably in toledo if anything.
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