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"Making Antesignani for Caesar's Legions" Topic

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523 hits since 10 Jul 2018
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wmyers10 Jul 2018 11:47 a.m. PST

From a previous post when I asked about the antesignani during Ceasar's (Julius) army, I got some good information, especially D. B. Campbell's article about the antesignani linked by Bashytubits (thank you!).


I wanted to model some of them. I looked at Foundry's unarmoured Caesarian Roman's, noted their 12 Pounds per 8 price and thought better of it.

I then grabbed some Victrix unarmoured hoplites (which I already have and do not have to pay anything for – I am a teacher and just finished Grad Studies and have a family so if I can save money (especially over the summer when I do not work!) that's a good thing), some Victrix Republican Roman heads with the feather's cut off to give them Montefortino helmets without plumes.

I figured if they were going to be on the very front lines, they may be kitted out as lightly as possible to allow for ease of movement (the lack of armour seems to go along with the article's information as well as what else I have read and if they are the postdecessor's of the Velites then that is also consistent).

So, I have a tunic body, Montefortino helmet with no plume.

Now, what kind(s) of weapons?!

Surely they would have a gladius. But javelins? Spears? Pilum? Slings?

Then the shields. Would they have smaller round shields at this time, still? Would they have oval shields (flat)? Would they have the larger scutum the same as the other legionaries?

Any ideas, suggestions, knowledge?

Hagar the Horrible11 Jul 2018 3:39 a.m. PST

I'll be fascinated to see what replies you get. As I understand it the information on these guys is pretty scant and often contradictory. You might get some poetic licence here.

Have you considered joining the Society of Ancients? It's pretty cheap, and the forum is brilliant. There are professors and authors who specialise in the Romans who often post and answer questions.



GurKhan12 Jul 2018 1:17 a.m. PST

There's a fragment of Nonius that says "Quem sequuntur cum rotundis milites leves parmis, antesignani quadratis multisgnibus tecti" – which is highly ambiguous, but may mean that the antesignani used four-sided shields with various designs. In this illustration –

– Nick Sekunda reconstructed them with small round shields.

Mars Ultor Supporting Member of TMP12 Jul 2018 8:27 a.m. PST

Gurkhan,is this Nonius the 6th century writer, or another Nonius of another century? Makes a difference being closer or 6 centuries distant…Also, as noted above, the antesignani mean different things in different times, so I'm wondering what he's closer to.

The interpretation of the Latin is not ambiguous unless he's not being exact with his shield types. Gurkhan's interpretation is exactly what it says (aside fromthe word "multisignibus", which doesn't appear in my little dictionary):"Whom (referring to a group previously mentioned) the light soldiers follow with rounded shields, the antesignani [follow]covered with squared (??multisignibus??) ones."

Quadratis refers to parmis in the previous clause (same ablative case, and if the noun is the same then it's not repeated in the following clause) , which to me indicates a squared version of the parma, not a squared scutum, or he would/should have used that word to show a difference (again, unless he's not being specific in his terminology). In any case, that's what the Latin specifically says.

I can't be sure, but "multisignibus" seems to be something like "with many signs/figures/devices." Maybe the word is some Late Latin word, but the -ibus ending is the same case as the quadratis ending, so refers to the same noun. He could mean individually decorated, so that might make for good modeling opportunity

GurKhan12 Jul 2018 11:14 a.m. PST

Mars Ultor, see PDF link (p.26) for a discussion of the meaning of this passage the author of that thesis is less happy than you (or I) about the clarity of the Latin.

Apparently it's from Varro, Menippean Satires 21, preserved via Nonius, so the original's contemporary with Caesar – my apologies, I should have remembered that.

P Tansey ("M. Titius, Menas and the insignia scutorum", Klio 2008) says:

"The one explicit reference to Republican shield insignia is to be found in a fragment of Varro's Menippeaen satire "Ammon metreis peri philargyrias" which runs: quem secuntur cum rotundis velites leves parmis, antesignani quadratis multisignibus tecti. Unfortunately, the allusion is insufficiently precise, but multisignibus seems to suggest that the shields of the antesignani were decorated with individualized rather than unit blazons."

Personal logo BigRedBat Sponsoring Member of TMP12 Jul 2018 12:01 p.m. PST

"the shields of the antesignani were decorated with individualized rather than unit blazons"

This would follow very neatly from the practise of the earlier Polybian velites, who dressed uniquely so that their brave deeds could be recognised.

Thanks Duncan- I've never seen that quote- really interesting! Might a four-sided shield be a squared off scutum?

Mars Ultor Supporting Member of TMP12 Jul 2018 3:01 p.m. PST

The passage is confusing to the author because his analysis of the Latin is wrong on too many levels to go into here. I understand that he's trying, but he comes to the wrong interpretation on that one, especially on "with the many standards for the square". The author that he criticizes in the footnote came to the right conclusion: squared refers to parmis or some type of shield. The author demonstrates some knowledge of the language, but not nearly enough.

Another thought that occurred to me is that "quem" is masculine singular, so if it means "whom" it means one person, not "those whom" (plural)like he translated it; that would be "quos". It probably refers more likely to a masculine object and should be "which", but I'm not sure I can think of a masculine object used in battle that anyone would follow, except a commander's/ officer's title; signum, vexillum are neuter, and acies is feminine. Not sure about quem's antecedent.

[End of rambling]

Mars Ultor Supporting Member of TMP12 Jul 2018 3:09 p.m. PST


It could be, if Varro is not being precise, but grammatically "quadratis" (squared) refers back to "parmis" (they agree in case, gender, and number). Of course neither one of use have probably seen any Roman type with a square parma, so it could be refering to a shield in general. I don't like taking too many liberties with the wording (because then where does it stop?), but that seems to make sense.

It also indicates that velites and antesignani are clearly contemporaneous but being distinguished from each other. Beyond that it's hard to say.

wmyers13 Jul 2018 8:09 a.m. PST

Thanks all! Your knowledge is very inspiring.

The squared shield presents food for thought.

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