Roman Tactics and Frontier Defence in the Early Empire ( 1st to 3rd centuries AD)
Andrew Poulter, The University of Birmingham, The School of History and archaeology
Although we now know a great deal about forts, with some exceptions, little attention has been paid to how they functioned and controlled a section of the frontier which, presumably, they were ordered to control and, in emergencies, to protect. As early as the middle of the first century a governor could observe that he was responsible for the protection of the right bank of the Danube –ripam quam tuebatur.. However, to understand how frontier defence operated, it is desirable to consider the spacing of forts, their garrisons and logistics (availability of fodder). Only in the 2nd to early 4rd century is it know, with a fair degree of certainty, which garrisons were in residence in particular forts, whether cavalry or infantry. Therefore, this study is best limited to attempting to suggest what units could achieve, and the limitations to military control of the river preventing raiding by bandits (latrones). Untill the Marcommanic Wars, the second century was largely spared large-scale invasions so the distribution of garrisons must have reflected the need to deal with small-scale interception of enemies crossing the Danube, rather than confronting a significant force. They are cases where, with the onset of barbarian invasions, there were changes in the disposition of military forces but the evidence is largely too disparate to determine if this represented a conscious reaction to a changing military situation after c. AD. 225.
Legionary functions are a more complex and a different issue. Auxiliary units provide sufficient information to reconstruct, in many cases, the distribution of garrisons – and to suggest explanations for their establishment at particular sites. Partly, this can be achieved (for certain sectors) in calculating the distance between individual forts and how it could be adequately controlled. Ethnographic studies and information from early modern military history can be introduced. The distance a cohort on the march could travel has been studied by colleagues in Austria. For cavalry, the closest modern horse which approximates to the size of Roman mounts are Mongolian ponies. For these we have detailed information on the quantity of fodder required and the distance they can travel in a day – half of which, assuming that patrols returned to base every night – would offer some estimate as to whether particular bases could house a garrison able to patrol its own ‘sector’. Where this would not seem to be effective, intermediate fortlets or watch-towers could be required, as clearly was the case in Pannonia during the last quarter of the 2nd century where wachtowers were employed,.Differences between the spacing of forts suggest that in Pannonia the forts were more spaced out which may explain the regular location of intermediary towers. Comparative studies on frontiers along the western and eastern frontiers are intended to identify common and different approaches to tactical defence. The capability of mounted forces (using data from the studies on modern Mongolian horses) can propose the maximum distances they are likely to cover, assuming that a unit would return to its base at the end of the day. Factors such as the collection and storage of fodder will aslo be assessed.
It cannot be maintained that an analysis of this kind will provide any degree of certainty as to the actual function of a particular fort. Both the two pridiana we have (Papyrus Hunt and the example from Vindolanda) prove that individuals or detachments of auxiliary units performed functions which could take them well away from their primary base, even (probably) in 105 during, or on the eve of the 2nd Dacian War. However, such an approach has the virtue of formulating the limits of control provided by auxiliary units. This offers a starting point for regional detailed studies of how the Roman army operated, and stimulate debate about the tactical function of the army on different sectors of the Roman frontier, introducing also the impact of different topgrafic factors whichdictated the character of different parts of the frontier (eg. The Iron Gates).
Traces of Octavian’s military campaigns in the north-easternmost part of Roman Italy and western Illyricum
Roman military assaults, probably related to Octavian’s Illyrian War (35-33 BC), left archaeological traces recovered at three sites in the hard-to-reach hilly area of the hinterland of the Soča Valley (W Slovenia; Istenič, J., Evidence for a very late Republican siege at Grad near Reka in Western Slovenia, Carnuntum Jahrbuch 2005, 77–87; Istenič, J., Traces of Octavian’s military activities at Gradišče in Cerkno and Vrh gradu near Pečine. – In: Istenič, J., Laharnar, B., Horvat, J. eds., Evidence of the Roman army in Slovenia, Katalogi in monografije 41, 2015, 43-73).
Recent archaeological research in Slovenia has identified other sites and discovered further evidence from the period between Caesar’s proconsulate and the beginning of the Middle Augustan period (15 BC) that are probably also related to the Illyrian War and shed additional light on the Roman conquest of what became the north-easternmost part of Roman Italy and of western Illyricum. The new discoveries also advance our knowledge of the Roman army (military installations, equipment, tactics) in the post-Caesarian to pre-Augustan period, for which archaeological evidence is relatively scant.
My Home is My Fortress – Combat in built-up areas in the Roman Army
Ze’ev Safrai, Ran Ortner
In the abundant Roman combat literature, and in contemporary research, three tactics for achieving victory are described: the battle, the siege and the breaching of walls. The Romans are the attackers and the enemy city is breached. After the walls are breached the war is over, the enemy stops fighting, and the stage of destruction begins.
In the modern world an additional stage of war developed, namely combat in the built-up area itself. The entry of the army into the city symbolizes the beginning of this stage, which is likely to be prolonged. In the democratic world, battles in built-up areas became complicated due to an effort to prevent (or at least to reduce) harm to the civilian population and the municipal infrastructure.
But even armies that refrained even from making such declarations and limitations, sometimes found it difficult to capture large built-up targets.
The modern army finds combat in built-up areas very difficult. It devotes long training exercises to preparations and develops weapons and tactical approaches. And still it’s a difficult and exhausting stage, which in democratic countries sometimes ends only years after the war, in court. Of course such problems of morality, public opinion, rhetoric, demagoguery and law were nonexistent in the Roman world.
The purpose of this article is to prove
1. That occasionally there was warfare in built-up areas during the Roman period, in some opportunities.
2. That combat in built-up areas most probably took place in additional cities, but such details about their capture were not preserved.
And to discover:
3. What conditions were required in order to enable significant combat in built-up areas.
4. Whether the leaders of the army understood that there was a problem with combat in built-up areas, and whether they prepared for it (combat doctrine, training, weapons, etc.).
5. Why there is a lack of awareness of this combat method and it is not included in the general literature from the Roman period.
Combat in built-up areas – the historical evidence
This type of combat is familiar from the following sources:
Josephus’s description of the siege and capture of settlements during the Great Revolt, in Gamla and Jerusalem (66-70).
Archaeological excavations in Roman Judea mainly from Gamla, yotapata and Jerusalem (66-70 C.E.).
A very short and general historical description of the Second Jewish Revolt by Dio Cassius (132-135 C.E).
Archaeological findings primarily from the Second Revolt (132-135 C.E.), primarily in the Judean plain, and to a small extent in the Galilee, in the Lydda Plain and the Judean hills (very little).
Sparse findings in the rabbinical literature (and the national Jewish memory of the two revolts).
In this article we will bring to a discussion the two major cases of Combat in built-up areas; Gamla and Jerusalem. Gamla was a north highland situated field town, densely built and protected with its steep topography, one massive wall and a labyrinth of narrow steep allies. Jerusalem was a very well protected city with big population that lived in a very densely populated and crowded built up area. Due to this description, Both cities, served as a big battle zone, as they posed a very problematic and challenging battle ground for the roman army. Mainly due the fact they forced to romans to fight in built-up area and subterranean battle grounds. This paper will deal as well with the tactical and strategic meaning and outcomes of this unusual battle grounds for the roman army. The most obvious one is the fact that the Jewish two revolts (also known as the ‘Jewish wars’) lasted for a relative long time, much longer when taking in to account the unbalanced military Equation between the strong roman army and the Jewish military abilities and small population that consisted the Jewish nation during the first to second century (C.E.). in this paper we suggest, that one of the key explanation for this phenomena, is the so called, “Subterranean Jewish tactic” and the built-up area battle ground, formed by the Jewish form of settlement. We also claim that this key explanation, was much wider and spread then it appear in the ancient historical sources. If so, we can also determine that the romans losses and casualties were much higher then was thought till now. This could bring to a more realistic description of the ‘Jewish wars’ from the roman’s aspect, as a Many casualties – high intense war.
The battlefield – emphasis on the house and the complex elements
General speaking, The urban communities in the West, and particular the pre-Roman cities, were less crowded than those in the East. In the context of this discussion we would like to focus on the basic unit of the house. we claim that the ordinary house in the Eastern empire differed from that in the West. The `East` here is mainly the province of Judea. But the houses in the other provinces in the East are similar (Syria Arabia and so on).
Combat in built-up areas – the historical evidence
a. The capture of the city of Gamla
The capture of the town of Gamla is described in detail by Josephus flavius (Wars 4. 1), which is the only historical source for it. In addition, the town has been excavated. The siege lasted for about three weeks. The legions that breached Gamla believed that, that was the end of the combat, but encountered fierce fighting in built-up areas, which forced them to withdraw temporarily from Gamla (ibid. 17). The description indicates that the rebels were not alarmed by the entry of the Romans into the city, but ascended to the top of the steep city.
The streets in Gamla are spread out along the lines of altitude in the city, and the ascent from one level to the next is via steep streets of stairs. The rebels prevented the ascent of the Romans, attacking them from the roofs, and throwing stones at them. The Romans, who had not planned for such situation, went up to the rooftops and captured the roofs of one level, and from there tried to penetrate the courtyards and homes of the higher level. Josephus tells of the collapse of the roofs on which the Romans were positioned, causing them multiply death casualties and losses.
Today, when we are familiar with the construction method in Gamla, these descriptions can be understood.
The Roman army got confused in the alleys, and despite their large numerical and tactical advantage were unable to capture the city, and consequently withdrew from it.
In effect there was a military situation here that was unfamiliar to the Romans: After the capture of the city the army actually fled. Afterwards the Roman army planned its moves, entered the city and conducted orderly house-to-house combat, from the upper to the lower city, thereby preventing a repetition of their failure. In the ‘west’, such phenomena are rare or absent. In this paper we will try to explain it.
The subterranean fighting
At the same time, there is evidence of combat on an additional level – the subterranean level. In Jerusalem itself there is evidence that the Jews used underground spaces, cisterns, drainage tunnels and tunnels for escape and attack against the Romans (Wars 6, 7, 3-4 (366-367); 6-9, 4 (370).
The Romans finally understood that, and we have also been told that they broke into these canals and tunnels with the assistance of collaborators, which is how they were able to find and catch rebels who hide in them.
Archaeological research in Jerusalem has recently produced a number of discoveries and impressive evidence of that. A good example is a network of drainage canals in the ‘City of David’ excavation, beneath a section of a graded street paved with large stone slabs. There are many proofs to this method of fighting during bar-kokhba revolt. (132-135 A.D)
In the Western empire there is very little subterranean hiding and tunnels complexes and the phenomenon is almost nonexistent.
We suggest viewing the aspect of combat in built-up urban areas and the underground hiding/attacking complexes as a newly observed element, that must have caused the Romans, heavy losses in the final stages of the sieges against the Jewish fortresses
We assume that such a scenario of combat in built-up areas also took place in many other settlements, which this information was not preserved. it is not mentioned for the same reason that Vegetius doesn’t discuss this stage – out of lack of awareness, and perhaps also because it is included in the major battles for the conquest of the Western provinces.
In addition, we suggest viewing the statement (about the number of Roman casualties in Gamla) as the result of a tactic that was typical and widespread in the Jewish revolts, and was repeated in other places.
Traces of Sertorian’s military campaigns in the north-east of Hispania
In the framework of the 2014-17 research project War and conflict in the northeast of the Iberian Peninsula in the Roman Republican period (III-I BC) we have located, after several survey campaigns, four archeological sites in the lower reaches of the Ebro river related to the Sertorian wars. The archaeological finds are very similar: denarii and Iberian coins, clavi caligae, fibulae, some pieces of bronze tableware, and the most significant remains, sling-bullets with inscriptions Q.SERT/PROCOS, alluding to Quintus Sertorius. In addition, they share a strategic emplacement, controlling river fords and road routes. These characteristics confirm these sites as roman encampments, most of them related to the Sertorian army. These remains have to be connected with other glandes inscriptae found in the middle zone and the high river Ebro. All this evidence seems to be related with the defensive strategy adopted by Quintus Sertorius during the years 77-76 BC, in an attempt to stop the advance of the Pompeian troops. Among other actions, it is worth mention the deployment of Perpenna’s army in the lower course of the Ebro River (Livy, Per. 91, 22).
Roman garrisons on the edge of the eastern frontier
Emzar Kakhidze, Lasha Aslanishvili
Pontus-Caucasian frontier was formed in order to serve the purpose of reinforcement of Roman positions in the Southern Caucasus and to take the region of Northern Caucasus under good control during the 70s of the 1st century AD. Rome had actually lost Armenia and there emerged an urgent necessity to concentrate much more troops along the frontier territories with Armenia Major, Syria and even along the whole eastern frontier. As to the other one dividing Rome from Cappadocia and Armenia Minor, it was completely modernized and its terminal links were Melitene, i.e. the XII Fulminatae and Satala, i.e. the XV Apolinaris legions with their headquarters. These districts were regarded as the main distributors of Roman garrisons to Pontus, Colchis, Cappadocia and Armenia during the 1st-3rd centuries AD.
The Roman forts built along the eastern Black Sea littoral played important role in the defense of the Caucasian border. Apsarus (modern Gonio, close to Batumi) was one of the most significant places of the Caucasus defensive line where auxiliary units of cohors II claudiana, I SAGI, С·COH(ors) AVR(elius) C(ivium)·R(romanorum), Coh(ortis)∞(milliariae) and probably vexilatio of Legio X Fretensis were served in the 1st-3rd centuries AD. Another vexilatio of Phasis garrison, VEXFA was stationed at Petra (modern Tsikhisdziri, close to Kobuleti), eastern outpost of Apsarus. A much larger Roman garrisons were located to the west of Apsarus: λογχοφóροι (spear-bearing) from Rhizus (modern Rize), Cohors Apuleia civium Romanorum at Hissoporto (modern Arakli) and Cohors I Lepidiana at Καινη παρεμβολη (new camps) close to Trabzon. All garrisons stood there since 2nd century AD to the turn of the 5th century AD.
There is almost all evidence for present day on the garrisons stationed on the edge of Imperium Romanum, i.e. Lazica (modern western Georgia) and its southern adjacent. Archaeologically are studied only Apsarus and Petra, which played important role in the defense of the southern part of Caucasian frontier.
Tropaea in Gelduba? Neue Befunde zur Bataverschlacht in Krefeld-Gellep
Vom April 2017 bis Februar 2018 fanden in Krefeld-Gellep wieder archäologische Untersuchungen durch das Museum Burg Linn statt. Mit 3,4 h untersuchter Fläche und mehr als 3300 archäologischen Befunden war es die bisher größte Ausgrabung im Vorfeld des ehemaligen Auxillarkastells Gelduba. Vorrangiges Ziel der Untersuchung war es, die Strukturen und das Umfeld des bisher nur wenig bekannten sogenannten „Nordvicus“ zu erforschen. Daneben wurden jedoch auch zahlreiche Gräber der frühen vorrömischen Eisenzeit und der frühen Kaiserzeit freigelegt.
Im Fokus dieses Vortrages sollen jedoch die neuen Befunde und Funde der bei Tacitus überlieferten Schlacht bei Gelduba im Zuge des Bataveraufstandes im Herbst 69 n Chr. stehen. Neben verschiedenen Befestigungsgräben, die uns eine genauere Vorstellung von den Feldlagern der römischen Vexillationseinheiten geben, wurden auch zahlreiche verscharrte Pferdekadaver und wenige menschliche Überreste gefunden, die vom unmittelbaren Kampfgeschehen zeugen. Ein neuer Fund eines Helms vom Typ Weisenau lässt die Zahl der Helme vom Schlachtfeld auf drei anwachsen. Die Art der Niederlegung und die vorhergehenden Manipulationen an diesem Helm sind identisch mit einem bereits 1988 an anderer Stelle des Schlachtfeldes geborgenen, typgleichen Stück und sind der Schlüssel zur hier vorgestellten Interpretation. Gedeutet werden können beide Stücke als Teile von ephemeren Tropaea, welche von den siegreichen römischen Einheiten an besonderen Brennpunkten des Kampfgeschehens aufgestellt worden sind. Solche Siegesmale sind literarisch und ikonographisch seit dem 5. Jahrhundert v. Chr. gut bezeugt, jedoch wären die Gelleper Funde der erste archäologische Nachweis auf einem antiken Schlachtfeld.
Garrisons of Syria and Rome’s military strategy during the late second-early third centuries CE Parthian campaigns: the case of Dura-Europos
This paper presents the problem of Roman garrisons in Syria in the context of the Parthian campaigns of the late Antonine and Severan dynasties. The main focus of the speech will be given to the archaeological, papyrological and epigraphical sources from the cite of Dura-Europos. Very little is known about the first decades of Roman presence in Dura. In the Age of the Severan dynasty, the garrison consisted of the vexillations of the legions that were regularly settled in the province of Syria Coelae. That included Legio IV Scythica and Legio XVI Flavia Firma. The presence of the Legio III Gallica and Legio III Cyrenaica in the city during the years 216-220 CE can be strongly connected with the Parthian campaigns of Caracalla. The main attachments in the city were cohors XX Palmynerorum and the vexillations of the legions settled in the province of Syria Coelae. The papyri documents provide us information about the military activity of it’s soldiers including the wars against Parthia.
The military garrison was increased at the beginning of the third century CE – the fact, that was recorded with a number of epigraphical and papyrological sources. The archaeological sources help us to verify this information, for we can see how the military camp expanded in that period that was also followed with an amount of building activity in the area.
Another question of how the Romans dealt with the enemy activities in the region is appearance of the institute of dux ripae. The only information about the office of the military command of the region in the early third century comes from an assumption, that was made by M. Rostovtzeff, who believed that the dipinto from the palace of the dux can be used as source to date the appearance of this office. Nerveless, the papyrological material finds the earliest mentions about this command only in the 240-s CE. The existing evidence can be used to date this office as by the time of military expeditions of Caracalla and Macrin against Parthia or the other possible variant are the wars with the Sasanian Persia.
Has Septimius Severus ever been in North Africa fighting aginst the Garamantes? A reconsideration of the campaigns of the emperor
The chronology of the campaigns of the emperor Septimius Severus and what we know about it ist mostly based on the biography written by Anthony Birley, first published in the year 1971. Most of the modern scholars have adopted his opinions in further consequence. If we look at the sources, however, the chronology as well as some campaigns themselves are not certain and must be reconsidered. Particularly the emperors visit of North Africa in the years 202/203 A.D and the in this context conducted campaign against the Garamantes is questionable. In this paper therefore the informations about his expeditions will be rediscussed consulting the sources.
The Myth of a Legion Lost – The Incident at Elegeia in Xiphilinus’ Epitome of Cassius Dio
The paper takes an in-depth look into the Roman defeat at Elegeia (Armenia) in 162 CE, which is presently assumed to have involved an unnamed legion that was lost in the course of this battle. A closer examination of the sources mentioning this incident reveals that the present interpretation suggesting a legion lost in battle is based purely on a singular piece of evidence, namely that of Ioannes Xiphilinus’ Epitome of Cassius Dio, and the manner how the modern translations of Cassius Dio have understood the Greek term στρατόπεδον. The precise meaning of the term in its narrative context is not without doubt, and alternative suggestions have been presented on previous occasions. Thus, the present study will first elaborate how both Cassius Dio and his later epitomizer Ioannes Xiphilinus understood this term.
How the other, more contemporary sources, such as Lucian of Samosata and Marcus Cornelius Fronto, presented the incident and how it can understood against the background of the larger political narrative of the Parthian war of Lucius Verus (162–166 CE) will be examined in detail. These sources would seem to suggest that contemporary individuals did not consider the Roman reverse in Armenia as such a massive military defeat as the modern interpretations would make it. Instead, the incident seems to have been taken to have been severe, but not catastrophic from the Roman point of view. The reactions of the Roman government, and especially the actions of Lucius Verus, the newly appointed co-emperor of Marcus Aurelius, would also seem to confirm this view and they seem to cast a serious doubt to any assumptions of a massive military defeat at Elegeia.
The location of Elegeia in eastern Turkey and its strategic importance on the Roman eastern frontier will also be explored. The geophysical realities would seem to suggest that the location played a vital role in the control of the Cappadocian-Armenian frontier, and thus, the history of the site from its first mention in the ancient sources related to the Trajanic times (114 CE) until its disappearance from the sources with the incident in 162 CE will be briefly examined. Taking in consideration all the available evidence, the present interpretation of the incident is challenged and an alternative one presented, one that is more in line with the terminological tendencies of Dio/Xiphilinus and that can be supported by contemporary evidence.
The Frontiers and the Mirror
Archaeological, epigraphical and literary sources provide vital information for modern understanding of the nature of the “limes”: however, the frontiers of the Roman world seem to avoid any analytic categories. “I am perplexed by my own data and my conclusion is a direct contradiction of the original idea with I start” (Shigalyov, in the Possessed by Dostoevskij).
This contribution aims to propose a debate on the usefulness of some conceptual tools borrowed by different fields of study, notably the modern strategic analysis and the anthropology, and on the epistemological value of their application for the study of the frontiers of the Roman empire.
The point of view of this debate is primarily politic: imperial leaders looked at the world from the frontiers of their own empire. But what they saw?
Bathurst (Intelligence at the Mirror – Oslo 1993) would answers “themselves”: the idea of “mirroring the other” assumes that a community “mirrors” its own forma mentis on other communities, especially on potential enemies. Similarly, historians are sometimes tempted to use modern conceptual tools to explain and understand the nature of the imperial frontier policy.
In this sense, it is well known the debate inflamed by the approach developed by Luttwak: adopting ideas from modern war analysis, Luttwak developed an approach that has been judged not respectful of the uniqueness of the ancient world.
Purpose of this interventions is to highlight the theoretical approach of the “strategic culture” as way to frame the analysis of Roman Imperial frontier policy. Since its origins, in the 1970s, the concept of strategic culture has been developed as a means of improving our understanding of why different national communities approached strategic affairs in different ways. As clearly stated by Johnston (Thinking about Strategic Culture, International Security 19): ”Indeed, strategic culture is compatible with notions of limited rationality (where strategic culture simplifies reality), with process rationality (where strategic culture defines ranked preferences or narrows options, and with adaptive rationality (where historical choices, analogies, metaphors and precedents are invoked to guide choice)”. In particular, scholars collectively known as “the second generation” developed an approach that, starting from the available sources and notably from literature and propaganda, intends to explore the formative processes of a strategic culture. Respectful of the way of use archaeological and literary sources that characterized the study of ancient history, this approach provide a fresh and stimulating point of view.
The Cavalry of the Roman Army in the IVth and Vth century
The processes initiated back in the Principate period, which resulted in an increase in the number of mounted units in the structure of the Roman army, accelerated in late antiquity. At this time, new types of horse units were created that took an important place among the comitatenses and limitanei.
Additionally, at least from the reign of Constantine, the prestige of the riders themselves increased, which was reflected in the recruitment procedure as well as in the equipment used. The ways of its adornment were taken from members of the imperial court by riders who served mostly as a mounted guard of the ruler and spread to the borders of the empire, where a large number of horsemen were stationed.
The main questions is whether, along with the afore-mentioned processes, the place of cavalry in the military doc-trine of the Romans changed that time and what was its role in military operations. These issues are particularly vital in the frontier areas because the percentage share of mounted units was much higher in “provincial” armies commanded by the duces than in the “central” comitatenses.
Armamentarium of the I Italian Legion in Novae (Moesia Inferior)
Andrzej B. Biernacki and Elena Klenina
The subject matter of arsenals (Lat. “armamentaria”) is still among the least investigated aspects of Roman military camps and cities. In most cases, their locations have been established based on the available few written and epigraphic sources as well as on the occurrence of weapons and military gear.
The past Polish-Bulgarian archaeological and interdisciplinary studies at the site of the legionary camp and the Roman and Early Byzantine town of Novae have made it possible to identify and analyze a number of elements constituting its urban and architectural uniqueness. Polish and Bulgarian missions have exposed a significant section of the latera praetorii. The via quintana and the via principalis divided the camp into three districts: the latera praetorii, the praetentura and the retentura. In the latera were the arae, the auguratorium, the tribunal, horrea or carnarea, as well as the armamentarium.
Studies carried out in the course of previous science and research projects related to uncovering the large legionary baths and the bishopric complex in Novae led to the discovery of a monumental complex, the only one of its kind in this part of the Roman Empire, which represents several architectural and construction stages. The team found remains of five monumental pillars, 5.20 × 1.40 m each. Their uniqueness stems from the fact that they were built from rectangular rusticated limestone blocks — a method previously found in Novae only in defensive walls, towers and gateways. Passageways between the pillars are 5.50–5.70 m wide. During the successive stages of the structure’s use, it underwent substantial modifications, which improved its functioning and characteristics. Thus, the passageways between the pillars were neatly replaced with walls and at least eight new pillars were built of stone and brick, of the size of 1.80 × 1.60 m, laid out in two rows of four. The research team has proposed the hypothesis that in the second local stage, the arsenal operated in conjunction with the fabricae which produced and repaired artillery for the Legio I Italica.
Previous results of long-lasting Polish-Bulgarian archaeological studies in Novae clearly indicate that the main representative structures of the legionary camp were located within the latera pretorii to the west of the principia in the direction of the porta principalis. The fact that an arsenal used to be located in this place, which in the second phase of its operation was connected with the fabricae, shows how unique this complex was, situated beside three other crucial complexes: the legionary bath to the east, the alleged praetorium to the south and the complex of the barracks, conceivably occupied by a Roman ala, to the west.
The frontier defence in Noricum before and after the Marcomannic wars
Andreas Schwarcz, University of Vienna
From the late Augustan-early Tiberian period onwards we have to assume a strong Roman military presence from Raetia to the Lower Danube, with the exception of Noricum, where we have up to now no signs of early fortifications along the Danube. But at the end of the Pannonian war in 9 AD the eastern border region of Noricum with the Amber Road, Carnuntum and the Viennese Basin was joined to Illyricum inferius and included into its defense system. The next step in the formation of the Danube Border was done in the reign of Claudius (45-54 AD). Whereas the existence of a fort at Lentia-Linz is still insecure, earth and timber forts at Vindobona and Carnuntum were built in Claudian times. The Danube region became the focal point of the Northern defense of the empire in the time of the Flavians. First earth and timber forts were also built in Noricum at this time. A further development and a thorough regrouping followed in the time of the war against the Dacian kingdom of Traian in 101/2 AD and 105/6 AD and after the conquest of Dacia. In Noricum the forts from Passau-Boiodurum to the most eastern fort in Noricum, Zeiselmauer-Cannabiaca, were first built as earth and timber forts at the end of the first century and rebuilt in stone till the middle of the second century. The Marcomannic wars (166-180 AD) and their aftermath brought again bigger changes on the Upper Danube frontier. Forts which had been destroyed during the Marcomannic wars were renewed along the Danube in Raetia and Noricum. The (temporary) legionary fortress at Albing was already built during the war from 170 AD onwards. Their permanent garrison was to be Lauriacum-Enns-Lorch, where construction work began around 190 AD. The relatively unfortified stretch between Passau and Linz was closed by the watch towers and a fortlet at Ioviacum-Schlögen. The ripa along the Danube consisted out of a chain of forts in a distance of 10 to 30 km between them with watchtowers and signal towers in a distance of 500 m to 2 km from each other. This system was connected by a road along the southern bank of the Danube, which served as a means of communication and of troop movements along it.
Not all the enclosures look the same! New archaeological data for the study of the conquest and occupation of NW Iberia in Early Imperial times
José Manuel Costa-García, David González Álvarez, João Fonte, Andrés Menéndez Blanco, Manuel Gago Mariño, Rebeca Blanco-Rotea, Valentín Álvarez Martínez
This paper summarises the research carried out by the archaeological collective Romanarmy.eu since the celebration of the last Limes Congress in 2015. In this period, our investigations have moved from the detection of new sites by using remote sensing techniques to their systematic ground survey, enabling us to propose new historical narratives about the extension of the Roman state in NW Iberia. The eagerness for scientific dissemination has also been a constant, following a thorough outreach strategy based on the principles of open science: by designing methodologies for both communication and audience analysis we can understand the social impact of the archaeological research according to different parameters.
In the last two decades, the increasing availability of geospatial datasets has transformed Roman Military Archaeology in NW Iberia. As a result, not only several new sites have been documented, but also their distribution is now more homogeneous across the territory, including regions such as Galicia and Northern Portugal, formerly misrepresented. This situation also reveals an important qualitative observation: the existence of military activity outside the areas where the traditional narratives, mainly based on the classical sources, believed it to concentrate.
However, it is still a difficult task to identify the actual military operations carried out by the Roman army here. The surviving Greek and Latin literary sources focus on very specific war episodes and even those best described events, such as Augustus’ campaigns against the Cantabrians and Asturians, are characterised by the lack of reliable geographical references and details about the military actions.
Luckily, the potential of Roman military Archaeology for answering many questions related to the conquest and occupation of these territories by the end of the 1st century BC/early 1st century AD is far from exhausted. On one hand, only a limited number of the already discovered sites has been exhaustively explored by archaeological means. Therefore, an important amount of useful data about its function and dating can still be recovered by using appropriate methodologies – if illegal detectorists or agrarian and forestry activities do not erase them before. On the other hand, by studying every site from a landscape archaeology perspective we can understand the rationale behind their construction and the mobility of the army across NW Iberia. Furthermore, these approaches could help us to build up predictive models for discovering new sites.
Some Significant Permutations in the Auxiliary Camps of Dacia
The purpose of the present paper is to draw attention on the spectacular deplacements inside Dacia of some auxiliary units under the Severans. They appear like series of permutations. For example, the cohors I Ulpia Brittonum milliaria abandoned under Septimius Severus and Caracalla its camp from Pomet/Porolissum and went probably to Bumbești, in the southern part of Dacia, where we find it under the name of cohors I Aurelia Brittonum milliaria Antoniniana. Its place in Porolissum was taken by the cohors III Campestris milliaria, transferred from Drobeta. The place of the cohors III Campestris milliaria was taken in Drobeta by the cohors I sagittariorum milliaria, which moved from Tibiscum. In the place of this last troop came to Tibiscum the cohors I Vindelicorum milliaria. The purpose of such permutations was hardly the need to change the landscape. The explanation seems to be that some of these troops were sent into expeditions to the remotest provinces and frontiers and, when they retunrned after a couple of years, they found their initial garrisons occupied and had to be relocated.
The Lower Danube and the Balkans: Strategy and Tactics from Hellenistic Republican Warfare to the Flavian Defence-System
After 146 BC, Roman armies were fighting in campaigns beyond the frontier of the province of Macedonia against neighbouring tribes and tribal federations. There was no interest in the occupation of territories. Roman Rule was based on a network of allies and treaties. This was warfare in the tradition of Hellenistic campaigning used in the middle-republican wars against Philipp V, Antiochos III or Perseus. This was different from Roman warfare in Spain or Southern France and in North Africa where Roman provinces as permanent and in its territories defined forms of direct Roman rule were the aim of Republican politics. On the Balkans, outside Macedonia (Achaea became a province only in 27 BC), even in the time of Caesar, although a province in Illyrico was established in 59 BC, of the Triumviri and still in early Augustan times. The campaigns of Crassus 30 to 28 BC did not end in the occupation of territories, only in enforced Roman rule and authority up to the Lower Danube, and Roman legions encamped in the border zone north of Macedonia. The whole system only changed with the campaigns of Vinucius, Lentulus and Aelius Catus and with the organisation of Moesia, first only a military district, an area of command, already after 27, and then a Roman province in the strict sense. But the alignment of the Roman troops along the Danube was only the result of the reign of Domitian.
In the last few years the archaeological research on the Roman limes in Hungary was strongly influenced by its World Heritage nomination process. There have been executed aerial archaeological and geophysical prospections connected with field research, but also some small scale excavations to verify and to extend knowledge on limes sites. Investigations have been made in the auxiliary forts of Crumerum, Intercisa and Altinum, in more watchtowers between Intercisa and Annamatia, and in more temporary camps round Brigetio. In the legionary fort of Brigetio a late Roman apsidal building could be unearthed. However, apart from this research activity focused on the WH nomination there have been made excavations in Brigetio, Aquincum, Tokod and other sites partly continuing former research according to the long-time research plan, and also as preventive or rescue excavations. The most important archaeological research could be made in the canabae of Brigetio, where a big building with hypocaust could be unearthed. In the late Roman fortified storage base at Tokod and in the late Roman hillfort at Pilismarót new buildings and other structures could be found and partly excavated. In Visegrád-Szentgyörgypuszta new parts of the watchtower Solva-28 have been excavated, and a new pottery kiln has been unearthed south of Dunaszekcső. A sorrowful situation has been evolved in the fort Lugio in Dunaszekcső, because new, more than 20 m wide stripe of the hill has fallen in the Danube. As rescue investigations or observations were forbidden, only a few new data could be gained in the site.
The work on the international academic project CLIR (Corpus limitis imperii Romani) could be continued first of all through the preparing its international database. It is suitable to maintain both scientific and site managing data, therefor it can be used also to prepare the limes World Heritage nomination file. As it is now ready to use, the uploading of the material can be started.
From the numerous scientific papers, evaluating limes sites and finds, let me mention the research on the epigraphic material of Pannonia. A new program was started by Géza Alföldy, to edit all inscriptions of Pannonia in the framework of CIL. The latest volume contains the stone inscriptions of Intercisa, and the volume on the inscription of the southern Hungarian territory is under preparation. At present the volumes have been published with Hungarian commentary, but later they will be published in Latin.
Fleeting Fleets – Who did control the Rivers and Seas?
At the Newcastle congress in 2009, the session on fleets showed that the established classes on the river frontiers Rhine and Danube could not have provided the permanent control and policing actions that are widely believed to have been their main function during the 1st-3rd centuries AD. A regular control of rivers by series of patrol boats can be proven only for late Antiquity. During the height of the Empire, the fleets operating on the river frontier appear to have been small units of auxiliary size that provided specific services, more akin to those of modern pioneer or engineer units, within limited, and very clearly defined, areas of operation.
This observation poses the fundamental question – also discussed within several past congress formats – of how river frontiers actually operated and what role the waterways themselves played within these frontier systems or zones. This paper seeks to revisit earlier discussions of the operation and function of river frontiers and the role, or lack thereof, played by waterborne military units on the Rhine and Danube.
A particular focus of the paper will be on the variouse types of available evidence for military units that were not fleets, such as regular legions or auxiliary units, maintaining naval detachments: as the fleets have been shown not to have had the capacity to provide a controlling or patrolling element, this contribution will posit the question whether such an element could have been provided by other units – or whether river frontier systems actually required regular patrols or controls of the waterways at all.
Classis Histrica and its Bases – First line of defense in Moesia Prima and Dacia Ripensis
Viminacium port was one of the best known strongholds of river fleet in Moesian section of Danube frontier. Although we still have no port excavated, presence of fleet was confirmed in both sources and archaeological finds.
Location of Viminacium river base was carefully chosen as well as position for the legionary fort. Unfortunately modern researchers have misfortune that situation along the Danube today is very different comparing to antiquity.
In the Danube before building of hydroelectric power plant Đerdap I in front of Viminacium there were twelve river islands including one almost 20 km long (Ostrovo). These islands were suitable to hide invasion force or cover all the movements of the fleet, especially in opportunities like river crossing at the beginning of the first Dacian war.
Danube was in antiquity, as it is today, frontier barrier and major communication and trade root. Although river Mlava on whose confluence Viminacium was located at, does not represent a navigable river, short section between city and Danube was accessible to smaller vessels.
Ports were not excavated so far but there are enough data collected through remote sensing and field surveys to assume its location. Main port facilities were probably located at the banks of Danube straight to the north from porta praetoria. We also recognize smaller auxiliary port next to the city itself along the right bank of river Mlava. Latest annex to the city fortification system from 4th and 5th century was directly related to this auxiliary port.
Very few inscriptions mention port and fleet comparing to army or auxiliary units. Probably the most important was mentioning of the praefectus classis Histricae, Viminacio in the Notitia Dignitatum. Among the few confirmed temples that existed in Viminacium one of the most prominent was Neptunes temple. Both votive altars were found intra muros in city urban area on diferent locations. The first was dedicated to the divine triad of Flora, Neptune and Jupiter. The second mentions rebuilding of the Neptunes temple by the C. Valerius Vibianus – nautarum quinqenalis with donation of 2000 sestertii.
Existence of the fleet on Danube is of enormous importance for defense of the frontier. Its role would not be just to stop hostile actions from barbaricum, but also to supply legions as well as auxialiary units along the right bank and bridgeheads on the left. Civialian merchant fleet would also exist in the major trade center as Viminacium. Most of export and import transports would be natural to be caried by ships along Danube.