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"Caesarian Roman Auxiliaries' Uniform/Dress" Topic

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04 Apr 2018 12:20 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Changed title from "Caesarian Roman Auxiliaries' Unform / Dress" to "Caesarian Roman Auxiliaries' Uniform/Dress"

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Asteroid X04 Apr 2018 11:53 a.m. PST

I know there are a lot of very well learned people on this site so I defer a question to you.

What did Caesarian era auxiliaries wear? (this, of course, will help me field a more accurate force)

There must have been something to distinguish Gallic allies from foes? Same with Germanic.

JimSelzer04 Apr 2018 12:19 p.m. PST

many carried roman shields

Prince Rupert of the Rhine04 Apr 2018 12:20 p.m. PST

No uniform for auxiliaries in Caesarian era armies that I'm aware of that didn't happen to the early empire under Augustus.

I believe auxiliaries where recruited under their own leaders dressed in their own clothes using their own equipment.

LtJBSz04 Apr 2018 12:33 p.m. PST

Initially auxiliaries would wear their own clothes, but after marching and campaigning a while these would most probably wear out, wouldn't it be reasonable that their clothing would be replaced locally or in bulk and made to a pattern especially to longer service veterans. Wouldn't they also most likely acquire some arms and armor of Roman patterns? Its not like they are getting care packages from home in the post.

arsbelli04 Apr 2018 1:20 p.m. PST

Caesarian Roman auxiliaries could be either native allies or mercenaries hired for a given season or campaign. All of the available evidence indicates that these auxiliaries fought in their native styles using their native clothing and weapons.

Gallic and/or Germanic tribes that fought one another apparently could distinguish friend from foe without too much difficulty, so it is logical that they would also have been able to do so when fighting for or against the Romans.

GurKhan04 Apr 2018 1:34 p.m. PST

Have a look at link and link if you can, that is, I'm never sure which Forum threads are open to the public.

Caesar, in Gallic Wars VII.50, says that his Aeduan Gallic allies were distinguished from the (equally Gallic) enemy by baring their right shoulder. This is the only time such a "field sign" is mentioned that I know of.

The Warrior of Vacheres (picture), who comes from a long-Romanised part of Gaul, is sometimes identified as an officer of Gallic auxiliaries. He has the mailshirt that the Romans adopted from the Gauls, over Gallic clothing, and a short Roman haircut.

arsbelli04 Apr 2018 1:46 p.m. PST

I could recall the mention about Caesar's Aedui cavalry and their bared right shoulders, but not the specific citation many thanks, Duncan!


Personal logo Herkybird Supporting Member of TMP04 Apr 2018 3:20 p.m. PST

The term Auxilliary is often a cause for confusion. Auxilliary cohorts – as correctly noted above, are a feature of the Empire, not the late Republic of Julius Caesar.
The allied contingents were Numeri, retaining their original structures, during this period

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP04 Apr 2018 4:17 p.m. PST

From what I have read the above is spot on – in the late Republic there were a number of auxiliary units used, but they were raised or recruited for a single campaign – so pretty sure would use native dress

Asteroid X04 Apr 2018 4:22 p.m. PST

You guys are awesome! Thank you for the quick and informative replies!

What about the slingers (funditori) and archers (sagitarii)?

Were some form of velites still in use by Caesarian era armies? (Antesignani?)

arsbelli04 Apr 2018 6:29 p.m. PST

Wesley Like other auxiliary troops of Caesar's day, slingers and archers were usually mercenaries in native dress and using native weapons, e.g. Baleraric slingers and Cretan archers, amongst others. The velites were no longer a separate troop type by Caesar's time link As for the antesignani, the limited evidence for them is summed up pretty well here: link

herkybird With all due respect, I think you have it backward. The term auxilia link was used for non-legionary troops during both the Republic and the Empire, while the numeri link were contingents of 'barbarian' allies who fought in their native clothing and dress within Roman armies of the Empire.

Asteroid X04 Apr 2018 9:43 p.m. PST

I suppose the upside to this is the fact I can use the troops for other settings/eras/campaigns.

I would have thought, however, that some of the troops like the slingers and archers would be Roman and therefore have some type of uniformity about them.

I note that Warlord Games' Caesarian Roman Legionaries have alternate arms for slingers. There must be some speculation/evidence of this?

gavandjosh0204 Apr 2018 10:04 p.m. PST

Not sure of your period but I understand that evidence points to some imperial troops (inc. legionaries) using slings as an ancillary weapon – perhaps to give garrison troops some firepower.

GurKhan05 Apr 2018 1:18 a.m. PST

The main evidence is surviving slingshot from the Civil Wars period with Latin inscriptions, notably many from the Perusine War, which indicate Italian rather than foreign slingers (and of course the only native Latin-speaking troops were now the legionaries, with legionary light infantry having apparently vanished); and some with actual legion numbers.

Much, much later, Vegetius recommends that legionary recruits should be trained to use the sling. This may have been the practice earlier as well, or maybe there were simply enough ex-herdsmen and country boys who'd grown up with the sling.

Asteroid X05 Apr 2018 9:50 a.m. PST

I believe it would make sense to train with the sling. It is an extremely light weapon that could be rolled up and tucked away yet the ammunition for it could be readily found (rocks) and official lead shot, while heavy for what it is, does not have to be overly large (ie a pouch on the belt) and if every soldier has one and the ammo, it becomes a very great increase to firepower – especially if a trained slinger can reach 300 yards with their shot.

I am still unsure of the immediate disappearance of support troops for the legions to quickly in the later Republic.

I know there is a lack of evidence, but is there evidence that states all slingers and archers are only contracted for a campaign?

I can see contracting extra troop types as one sees a need, but to completely remove such valuable troops from your army while ensuring to keep pilum and gladius troops only seems a bit extreme. (a bit like a modern world power deciding to eliminate artillery and armoured units from their military and only having heavy infantry and then using contractors from other countries for the service branches eliminated – doesn't make a lot of sense; yet, if one were to go on campaign and wanted extra resources, then they could look for allies to help – (like Britain looked to the USA in WWI and II))

I believe I have read about mounted archers at the time of Caesar as well, but not sure if they would be purely and solely non-Italian.

VVV reply05 Apr 2018 1:51 p.m. PST

I don't think there were a lot of uniforms around in ancient times. Lack of production lines. Usual way to distinguish friend from foe, where the two sides dressed similarly (even in later ages) was to tie on a piece of cloth.

like Britain looked to the USA in WWI and II

And let us not forget that in both of those wars, the USA chose to fight when it suited them. Just as Russia became Germanys enemy in WW2, after Germany invaded Russia.
Perhaps a better example of Britians allies, were the nations of the Empire.

arsbelli05 Apr 2018 6:34 p.m. PST

Wesley Gary Brueggeman's site is very good, but nowhere does Brueggeman say that the funditores or sagittarii (or velites for that matter) were Roman citizens. His interest is in examining how a Roman army moved and functioned in battle, so he does not discuss the distinctions between citizens and non-citizens at all. His site can be somewhat misleading in that regard.

Roman commanders of the Early to Mid-Republic didn't "remove" Italian archers, slingers or horse archers from their armies they never had them in the first place. The hastati, principles and triarii of the Middle Republic were heavy infantry troops recruited from the 1st-3rd classes of Roman citizens. Leves and elites were light infantry javelinmen (and a few of the very poorest slingers) drawn from the youngest and poorest citizens, while the cavalry was drawn from the knightly equites class from Rome and its Italian allies,

By the Late Republic, all of the legionaries were uniformly armed as heavy infantry, while the equites had become an officer class. The Romans employed subjects, allies and mercenaries for their cavalry and light troops because they now had access to peoples who possessed specialized skills that the Romans did not.

By the way, the auxiliary units of archers, slingers, horse archers, etc. of the Roman Empire were also recruited from non-citizen foreign peoples. The main difference being that they were now recruited into permanent, regularized units with relatively standardized armor and weapons.

Here are some good websites about the Late Republican Roman army and its auxiliaries:

And auxiliaries of the Early Imperial army:

Asteroid X05 Apr 2018 9:06 p.m. PST

Thank you arsbelli, I was looking specifically for Caesarian era. I note the links are primarily for Punic era and then EIR.

I try not to use Wikipedia as an academic (there are reason's we do not allow students to use it – but I always tell my students to follow the links for the references and then see if they have anything of substance (or if they are even real …)).

I find it hard to believe that ALL Romans would ONLY be employed as legionaries with pilum and gladius and not allowed to perform other duties. The same for the rest of the Italians (yes, I know, at this time they were now made citizens but to assume that all of sudden the Italian Allies can now only be legionaries with gladius and pilum seem far fetched.

Some Romans were still in the role of equites. It may have been cheaper and more plentiful to hire foreigners for that role but to assume that ONLY non-Italians were cavalry is a bit presumptuous.

Common-sense needs to temper historical evidence that is so scant.

I hope that makes sense.

Asteroid X05 Apr 2018 9:43 p.m. PST

I have found an interesting article in 'Historia'

The 'Face of Roman Skirmishing'

Abstract: "One of the more fruitful trends in Roman military history has been interest in the 'face of battle'. But as of yet, none of the modern scholarship in this field has satisfactorily evaluated the evidence for how Roman soldiers engaged in combat outside of the pitched battle. This paper seeks to add to the small corpus of Roman 'face of battle' studies with an assessment of the nature of skirmishing and combat outside the realm of the line infantry clash. Following John Keegan's 'face of battle' approach, I will seek to show that Roman techniques and training were specifically designed to support Roman values of courage and discipline while skirmishers learned to cope with the experience of stress and fear during combat."

arsbelli05 Apr 2018 10:26 p.m. PST

Wesley If you read the first set of links carefully, you will see that most of them cover the development of the army for entire Roman Republic. I also provided links for the Late Republican army in my earlier post, #11 from the top.

The article by Adam Anders does not in any way suggest that Roman citizens were fielded in units of archers or slingers during the Late Republic, but rather proposes that new recruits to earlier Republican legions may have first served as velites, then moved up into the acies after they had become more experienced. Here is a link to the PDF article: link

However, you appear to have already made up your mind on the subject, so I will not trouble you further. You should definitely field your auxiliaries any way that you wish, based on your understanding of the subject.

In closing, here are a few additional secondary sources that I would recommend:

Dorst, Sander van. The late republican Roman army (2000); link

Goldsworthy, Adrian Keith. The Roman Army at War: 100 BC-200AD (1996): link

Keppie, Lawrence. The Making of the Roman Army from Republic to Empire, 2nd edition (1998): link

I would also highly recommend the following ancient sources in translation:

Caesar, The Gallic War & The Civil War: link

The Roman History of Cassius Dio, chapters 36-43: link

Asteroid X06 Apr 2018 2:27 p.m. PST

Arsbelli, thank you for more links! I will read them.

I did not dismiss the previous links, as you assume. (Just Wikipedia, but for obvious reasons.)

I have read other sources (like the newer Osprey books – and older ones) and the primary source information is very scarce, as is the secondary.

The Osprey books on Roman Military Clothing note late Republic images of slingers show them wearing tunics just like the legionaries. As for colours, that's a different matter.

Evidence does seem to suggest that while troops paid for their own equipment, it was deducted from their pay and they were issued gear – including clothing.

So, were some "auxiliaries" issued kit?

We know there were different types (roles) of auxiliaries, but what about different types of enlistment roles? Such as, some auxiliaries were straight from another country/area and went into service in their home dress they showed up in?

I have read the German cavalry were often the equivalent of "hostages" to ensure their home tribes did not rise against Rome and were the sons of nobles of those tribes (which would allow them more gear than the average German warrior).

And about archers. What were they wearing at the time? We know Asiatic archers had a uniformity to their dress, the same with Imperial era Western archers.

Even though someone was temporarily employed from another area and they were not enlisted in the legions the same as a regular legionary, could they not have been issued equipment or dress?

Perhaps those who would show up with more were paid more and those who showed up with less gear less (as the cost of equipment was deducted)?

Then again, perhaps a minimum standard for employment was set up?

Mars Ultor08 Apr 2018 7:14 p.m. PST

Art of War, I'm glad you mentioned at least some proportion of slingers in early to mid-Republican Roman army, as there were a number of sling stones or bullets found outside Veii and associated with the Roman siege of that Etruscan town in the early 4th century BC. Slingers do not fit the gamer model of Velites-Hastati-Principes-Triarii, but it may go back further to the "Servian" classes model or just show that the poorer classes that slingers belonged to didn't get mentioned or accounted for but were ever-present.

Xenephon, acc to AW article, says that the Greeks involved in the Anabasis made ad hoc units men who had experience with slings in order to drive off the Persian cav and missile troops. Something like this could easily be done with just about any group of people in the ancient world.

arsbelli09 Apr 2018 9:38 a.m. PST

The Roman army changed greatly in organization and composition during its 1000+ years of existence, and this discussion appears to be mixing up different periods and wandering away from the OP's question "what did Caesarian auxiliaries wear?"

To help clarify a bit, here is a very basic and simplified outline of the Roman army's composition during the different periods from the Early Republic to the Early Empire:

Early Republic (c. 400-210 BC)
Equites: Equestrisn-class Roman citizens fielded as cavalry with light armor, round shields and spears;
Triarii: Roman citizens fielded as legionaries and armed with light armor, curved oval shields, swords and spears;
Principes: Roman citizens fielded as legionaries and armed with breastplates, curved oval shields, swords and spears:
Hastati: Roman citizens fielded as legionaries and armed with breastplates, curved oval shields, swords and spears;
Leves: Roman citizens fielded as skirmishers and armed with small round shields and javelins;
Accensi: Roman citizens fielded as skirmishers and armed with slings and stones.
Roarii: Roman citizens very little information, but possibly fielded as skirmishers.

Middle Republic (c. 210-105 BC)
Equites: Equestrian-class Roman citizens and Italian allies fielded as cavalry with light armor, round shields and spears;
Triarii: Roman citizens and Italian allies fielded as legionaries and armed with light armor, curved oval shields, swords and spears;
Principes: Roman citizens and Italian allies fielded as legionaries and armed with breastplates, curved oval shields, swords and pila:
Hastati: Roman citizens and Italian allies fielded as legionaries and armed with breastplates, curved oval shields, swords and pila;
Velites: Roman citizen and Italian allies fielded as skirmishers and armed with small round shields and javelins;

Late Republic (c. 105-30 BC)
Legionaries: Roman citizens fielded as heavy infantry and armed with curved oval shields, swords and pila;
Auxiliary Cavalry: Non-citizen auxiliaries recruited from conquered peoples, allies and/or mercenaries, and fielded in temporary units of heavy cavalry, light cavalry or horse archers armed in native fashion;
Auxiliary Infantry: Non-citizen auxiliaries recruited from conquered peoples, allies and/or mercenaries, and fielded in temporary units of heavy infantry, light infantry or skirmishers armed in native fashion.

Early Empire (c. 30 BC 193 AD)
Legionaries: Roman citizens fielded as heavy infantry and armed with curved oval and/or rectangular shields, swords and pila;
Auxiliary Cavalry: Non-citizen auxiliaries recruited from conquered peoples and fielded in permanent units of heavy cavalry, light cavalry or horse archers uniformly armed in Roman fashion;
Auxiliary Infantry: Non-citizen auxiliaries recruited from conquered peoples and fielded in permanent units of heavy infantry, light infantry or skirmishers armed in Roman fashion.

Changes in the structure of the Roman army over time reflect changes in Roman society, expansion of the empire and adaptation to different enemies faced, among other factors. At least, that is my interpretation of the available evidence. Naturally YMMV.


Asteroid X11 Apr 2018 1:53 p.m. PST

Hi Scott, thanks for the info! It makes sense that with the establishment of terms of enlistment for Auxiliaries that the "uniform" would be introduced – at least to a much stricter degree.

Marius' reforms would dictate formation.

I recall reading about Pompey having a sizeable amount of equites in his forces. They would not be Germans or Gauls. I know there is apparently scant evidence and only vague reference to them.

Warlord Games makes Caesarian cavalry. These are clearly not Gallic or Germanic in tribal kit.

Mars Ultor13 Apr 2018 11:35 a.m. PST

Pompey's cavalry were foreign auxiliaries. Their nationalities and number are listed somewhere, totalling 7000. But they were not Roman (or at best had Roman officers leading them like Labienus).But I do recall that some of them were Gauls and some Thracian. In their description of Warlord's caesarian cav, Warlord claims that they are indeed foreigners/ non-Italians who have adopted a Roman kit. I could see either using these figures as auxiliaries who have been in service for some time, or using more native Germans and Gauls figures to represent newly recruited cavalry.

Assumptions about uniformity do not hold up. Even in Imperial times, most historians concur that armor and tunic colors varied. The most common tunic colors being earthy red, off white, and pale green, but various others as well. There is no evidence for uniformity for tunics or even armor, it was used and passed around until no longer functioning. Mail is most common, but scale too. In the Imperial era these types were used concurrently with lorica segmentata, the Hollywood Roman armor, for somewhere in the rough neighborhood of 125 years.

Relating to the categories listed above, there were slingers inscribing curses and insults _in Latin_ on their sling bullets both during the Social War (91-88 BC) as well as the Caesar's civil war. The Social War ONLY included Romans vs Italians, as far as ifantry, so those were the people using the slings. As for the Caesarian civil war bullets, they are written in correct Latin form, which requires some decent knowledge or handling of the language (knowing the right endings, of which there are many). This is more evidence that there were Roman soldiers (or Romanized Italian, the same thing by Caesar's time)using slings. Given that the same thing is found back at the siege of Veii (c 396 BC), this suggests that slings were around and in use even though they don't fit neatly into one of our gamer categories. I should add that the majority of the cases I've seen bullets from (in articles and books)are siege situations, so I'm not sure about their use on the open field.

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