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"Roman Republic - Second Punic War - Standard Placement?" Topic

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701 hits since 19 Feb 2017
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SaxonOfSaxony19 Feb 2017 1:34 p.m. PST

Does anyone know where a standard would be placed in a formation and how many standards a legion would actually have?

I've read that a standard would be back with the Triarii but then I've also read that the Hastati and Principe also had standards.

If anyone can shed any light on this that would be fantastic, I'm fairly new to the period

Jamesonsafari Inactive Member19 Feb 2017 3:56 p.m. PST

Each maniple had it's own.
Although for a wargame army that could be a bit much.
I did one or two for each line
Each Legion also had a distinct standard. Eagle, wolf, boar etc Eagle's weren't standardised as the legionary emblem until Marius.
The fellows carrying the standards would be a few ranks in the middle of the maniple. There is mention of troops called antesignanti (spelling?) who were better armed to fight in the front ranks in front of the standard.

Personal logo Swampster Supporting Member of TMP19 Feb 2017 4:29 p.m. PST

Livy and Polybius don't seem to agree.
Livy implies that the triarii (and perhaps the rorarii and accensi) had standards and that the hastai and princepes didn't.
Polybios says that each maniple had a standard bearer which seems to include the hastati and princepes. They may, though, have carried something else instead of a vexilla.

The various legionary standards are supposed to have been carried by each legion. Here is Pliny's note on the subject:
"The eagle was assigned to the Roman legions as their special badge by Gaius Marius in his second consulship. Even previously it had been their first badge, with four others, wolves, minotaurs, horses and boars going in front of the respective ranks; but a few years before the custom had come in of carrying the eagles alone into action, the rest being left behind in camp. Marius discarded them altogether. Thenceforward it was noticed that there was scarcely ever a legion's winter camp without a pair of eagles being in the neighbourhood."

SaxonOfSaxony19 Feb 2017 4:57 p.m. PST

Swampster, does that mean that the animal on the standard is specific to a legion or to a Maniple? Can't imagine everyone in the same legion carrying the same standard would be that useful.

Skeptic19 Feb 2017 7:36 p.m. PST

My interpretation of the quote from Pliny is that each legion used to have five figurative standards, of which the eagle was the principal one.

The mention of "respective ranks" for the four secondary standards is interesting, since it would seem to imply that each may have had its own place in the legion's formation, and that the formation may have been divided into four parts.

The reference to a pair of eagles may imply that legions tended to be paired-up.

By implication, the maniples would have had other standards of some kind.

TKindred Supporting Member of TMP19 Feb 2017 8:55 p.m. PST

It could also infer a specific animal standard for each of the 4 lines: Velites, Hastati, Princeps and Triari.

Such a system would be a good point for rallying, but also a basically signalling device supporting the Cornicens. It goes forward, YOU go forward. It falls back, YOU fall back. Not at all unlike the colors and bugle commands for ACW battalions.

Deuce03 Inactive Member19 Feb 2017 9:32 p.m. PST

What I'm about to suggest is entirely speculative but seems to make sense to me.

I would not be surprised if the five standards originally corresponded to each of the five classes of line infantry: hastati, principes, triarii, rorarii, accensi. The last two classes fell out of use, with the individuals who would previously have comprised these units either being incorporated into the main lines by the gradual extension of the franchise or excluded altogether. However, the soldiers were still responsible for providing their own equipment and expensive, prestigious items like standards were probably passed down through families, and so over time became jumbled up between the remaining lines.

I expect though that, given the history of the animals, some of them remained more prestigious than others, and soldiers would much rather march into battle alongside an emblem associated with the triarii than the rorarii. So I can imagine that when the army was assembled in camp there were rounds of swapsies for maniples to borrow or buy spare, better, standards, from other maniples that found themselves with duplicates. The less prestigious standards would be brought along in case units couldn't find anything better but if possible would be left behind. By the time Marius came to abolish the property requirements and infantry class distinctions altogether, this resulted in pretty much everyone using an eagle, and abandoning the rest. (One would presume the eagle was associated with the triarii or maybe the principes, in that case).

The introduction of the cohort (whether Marius invented it or just abolished the maniple to make the cohort the standard unit) was likely then the death knell for individualised standards. In that case, each maniple would still require its own standard for drill, but in battle in a cohort formation they'd only need one between three, and would presumably use the "best" one available (the eagle), and would leave the rest behind.

As I say, I have absolutely no evidence for that whatsoever, but it seems like it would be consistent with the development of Roman warfare and some of the weird artifacts that remained in place in the Roman military (and society in general) for centuries after they stopped being relevant.

SaxonOfSaxony20 Feb 2017 5:19 a.m. PST

It sounds like I can't go wrong with what I decide to do, which is great!

A very interesting idea deuce03, I'm not sure the Victrix boxea come with an eagle standard but I'll be putting it on my Triarii as it makes the most sense, given your interpretation.

Mars Ultor Supporting Member of TMP20 Feb 2017 1:21 p.m. PST

That's usually how it is in this period: bits of info, but not enough evidence to be definitive. Do the best you can and have fun with it.

ether drake Supporting Member of TMP22 Feb 2017 8:01 a.m. PST

Very interesting and helpful discussion as I'm also assembling my Victrix Republicans.

As an add-on question, where would the centurion stand? On the far right as in Greek formations, or in the centre (as per WAB :) ), or elsewhere?

Personal logo BigRedBat Sponsoring Member of TMP22 Feb 2017 8:27 a.m. PST

from memory, on the right and just in front of the line.

SaxonOfSaxony22 Feb 2017 7:29 p.m. PST

Have my box of Victrix Republican Romans on their way to me now.

I believe there's also a second centurion who brings up the back of the line.

ether drake Supporting Member of TMP22 Feb 2017 9:15 p.m. PST

Thanks, Simon.

The second centurion is the optio. IIRC he replaces the primary centurion should the latter fall in battle.

Enjoy the Victrix. They fit together pretty well.

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