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"EIR Roman Auxilia questions" Topic

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Hobhood428 Oct 2016 3:32 a.m. PST

Could the collective intelligence of TMP help with a few queries?

I've been thinking of doing small battles/large skirmish games set in the northern borders of the Roman Empire during the 1st century. I can't find any detail in my small home library about whether there was a greater likelihood of auxiliary units dealing with raids/border guarding etc, than legions. I'm aware that auxiliary cohorts were attached to legions, but did they operate independently? I was thinking of putting together a small army representing a cohort of auxiliary infantry, archers and cavalry. Also – excuse my ignorance – but should auxiliary archers in the Western Empire be depicted as of the 'Eastern' type or the 'western' type?

gavandjosh0228 Oct 2016 5:30 a.m. PST

Auxiliaries could be stationed in their own forts and so would deal with "small" disturbances in their locality. However, such small actions would probably only involve troops of a single cohort. Eastern or Western archer cohorts are possible. I'd suggest using a cohors equitata – a mixed unit of cavalry and infantry. You could press the issue and add a small unit of locals in support. That would give you 3 troop types. That should give you scope for small and large skirmish actions.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP28 Oct 2016 5:50 a.m. PST

Roman armies had equal numbers of auxilia and legionaries – and actually most auxilia were medium infantry. That being said, most of the specialist troops in the Roman army were auxilia, for example a lot of the cavalry and all the archers

So there were lots of auxilia around and certainly on the frontiers and having an all-auxilia force to deal with those pesky barbarians

As to the archers you actually could use either Eastern or Western – for example, during Boudica's revolt the Roman Army of Britain had a cohort of archers from Thrace

Swampster28 Oct 2016 6:02 a.m. PST

One of the units of archers were the Hamians from Syria. There is a tombstone from the Wall area showing one. He doesn't have the long skirts of Trajan's Column but his helmet probably has an eastern look (though rather eroded now).

Caliban Supporting Member of TMP28 Oct 2016 7:28 a.m. PST

If I remember rightly, many auxiliary infantry were also trained to use slings, so you could go with a cohors equitata that has a bit of integral missile support.

Huscarle28 Oct 2016 9:01 a.m. PST

I guess it depends what you class as your northern border in the 1st Century as it did fluctuate, especially with the various Brigantes' rebellions?

You could read Anthony Riches historical "Empire" series about an auxiliary cohort of the 2nd Century AD stationed on Hadrian's Wall & their various adventures to get some more flavour.

GarrisonMiniatures28 Oct 2016 11:22 a.m. PST

There was also a unit of Sarmations stationed on the Wall – which has been used as the basis for at least one 'Roman Arthurian' film…

In some cases auxilia would be moved away from their home area which would avoid conflicts of interest when dealing with the locals.

GarrisonMiniatures28 Oct 2016 11:23 a.m. PST

Oh, I also read somewhere that the Romans used ferrymen on the Tyne who originated from the Euphrates area.

Bellbottom29 Oct 2016 3:20 a.m. PST

Correct Garrisonminiatures, the Numerus Tigrinensis at Arbeia (South Shields, south side of the Tyne but eastern end of the wall) were Tigris bargees specifically imported in to ship grain up river to the wall garrisons. Arbeia has many granary blocks to hold grain shipped in from Germany.
The Romans didn't mess about – get the right guys for the job, then ship them where they're needed, no matter how far. They must have been freezing in winter.
I'd also recommend 'What the Soldiers Wore on Hadrians Wall' by H Russel Robinson. Excellent info on the wall garrison and it's make up, and superb Ronald Embleton colour plates.

Hobhood429 Oct 2016 9:30 a.m. PST

Thanks for your help everyone. Any good books – fact or fiction – about the German frontier?

Bellbottom29 Oct 2016 9:59 a.m. PST

'Eagle in the Snow' by Wallace Breem, and the 4th or 5th Anthony Riches books 'The Leopard Sword' and 'The Wolf's Gold' are set there.
Ben Kane has a one out in paper back (1st of a trilogy) about the Teutoburger Wald called 'Eagles at War'. The second is advertised in hardback.
I liked all of these, particularly Breem, a lot.

Huscarle29 Oct 2016 1:58 p.m. PST

"Hadrian's Wall in the days of the Romans" by Embleton & Graham

The 4th Falco novel "The Iron Hand of Mars" is set on the German frontier concerning Veleda.
Gregory Solon's "3 Legions" is about the Teutoburger disaster
Rosemary Sutcliffe's "Frontier Wolf" (set on Hadrian's Wall)
Gillian Bradshaw's "Isles of Ghosts" concerns the Sarmatians on the wall (aforementioned by GarrisonMiniatures).
I remember reading a novel about the Batavian revolt a few years ago, but I'm blowed if I can remember the title or author.

Bellbottom30 Oct 2016 2:21 a.m. PST

Anthony Riches has a new book out about the Batavian revolt I think.

TKindred Supporting Member of TMP30 Oct 2016 7:22 a.m. PST

For a really solid series of books on Briton under the Romans during Hadrian's reign, as well as the life of a medical officer in the legions, you can't beat the "Medicus" series by Ruth Downie.

The series develops during the life of a Medical officer on one of the legions, looking to potentially retire. However, he gets involved in various plots and schemes and ends up investigating murders, etc. It's really a crime novel series set in Roman Briton (with trips to Gaul and Rome) but the author superbly captures the background of the period.

I think she's up to 7 books now, but she does her research well, traveling to actual Roman sites in Briton so as to better include them in her work.

I'd offer that many of the things she writes about would make for some excellent scenarios, and a number involve Auxilia.

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