Aquis Querquennis

Roman Army clothing worn by the different forces - AquisQuerquennis 3D

Aquis3D 15 May, 2020 No Comments

The previous article described the clothing of the legionaries or heavy infantry soldier. In this case, we will continue where we left off, explaining in more detail the clothing of the rest of the military corps that made up a Roman camp.

Auxiliary Soldier or Light Infantry

As a whole, the auxiliary military corps clothing was far more diverse to that shown by the legionaries. This is largely due to the fact that these units were recruited among the different peoples that inhabited the empire for very different tactical purposes. However, from the end of the 1st century AD, clothing began to be standardised, at least with regard to the infantry corps, and on many occasions was difficult to differentiate from that of the legionary.

In the current state of the investigation, with the barracks of the theoretical cohort III revealed and with a lot of area still to be dug, the hypothesis cannot be ruled out that other troops could have been stationed in the Bande fort – either permanent or temporary military detachments, infantry or cavalry. In fact, some of the pieces of weaponry recovered at the site could be used by both legionaries and auxiliaries.

In the beginning, auxiliaries would continue to wear garments reflecting their geographical origin; however, towards the period in question, the differences begin to be less and a standardisation in clothing is noticeable.

Cavalry soldier

The Roman army not only had auxiliary cavalry units, but legionary units could also have a small mounted corps. We do not know if any detachment of cavalry could have been stationed at Bande, since much of the fort has not yet been dug. All in all, the use of horsemen for the tasks of exploration, surveillance and messaging would have been habitual, with which cavalry soldiers – either legionaries or auxiliaries – would have frequent interaction anyway.

In theory, the cavalrymen’s clothing would have been very similar to that of the infantry. Some of the possible variations studied have mentioned that the breeches might be longer and the tunics shorter, to facilitate mounting. Regarding footwear, riders would use the usual military boots, to which they could add spurs to facilitate guiding the horse.

The NCOs (non-commissioned officers)

In accordance with the principles of organisation of the Roman army, each of the six centuries that made up the cohorts had a centurion and several non-commissioned officers. Thanks to various documentary sources, we know that the equipment of these soldiers was in several ways different to that of the private soldiers.

A good example is that of the centurions, whose attire was distinctive for several reasons. In the field of defensive armaments, their helms were crowned by a crosswise or longitudinal crest attached to the helmet by an apex, like the one found in Bande. The crest itself would be crowned with feathers of birds or horsehair.

Their shield would be theoretically similar to that of the men under their command, but sometimes centurions are represented with a clipeus or flat circular shield. Likewise, the armour used would be similar to that of the troops. However, there are many representations of centurions with other types of armour, either muscled –in bronze or leather- or following Hellenistic models.

As for their clothing, most artistic representations have centurions with the classic sagum or military cape; however, in some cases they also appear with the paludamentum, a rectangular-shaped cape attached to the shoulder by a metal clasp. This piece of clothing, dyed scarlet or purple, was characteristic of commanders and appears in many sculptures and reliefs draped over the left arm.

Many of these features would not be exclusive to centurions, and the rest of the main NCOs wore garments that would reflect the different functions they had to carry out. For example, the distinctive feature of the optios would be a staff of about 1.5 m, with a ball or similar at the end. The most popular theory is that this would help maintain the formation of the rear ranks during combat.

Different types of centurions
Different types of centurions

The officers

We do not know which officer would have been in charge of the Bande garrison. Given the particularities of the legions’ chain of command, no specific officer would have been in charge of each of the cohorts. Command over the detachment could be exercised by a wide range of persons, from a legionary tribune to a primipilar or veteran centurion.

We suppose it was a tribune of equestrian rank (angusticlauus). As a person of a high social class, the low nobility, the commander would have the right to wear items that denoted his rank. His clothing, in itself richer than that of the soldiers, would probably have been white, with his tunic having two narrow longitudinal bands of purple. In addition, he would wear a gold ring on his left hand, awarded by the emperor as a symbol of his social position.

On the tunic, a tribune would wear the paludamentum, a robe revealing his command. Officers could also wear different footwear on their feet. Instead of conventional military boots, they might have calcei, a type of low-cut shoe made with softer and more comfortable leather, completely covering the sole of the foot.

Legionary saluting a centurion
Legionary saluting a centurion

Recreation of a Roman Legionary and Centurion – Aquis Querquennis 3D – Making Off: