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Title: Recruitment and ethnicity in the Auxilia of Britannia, Gallia Comata and the Germanic provinces
Author: Marshall, Brian
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2007
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The allies and client kingdoms of Rome had a long and established tradition of serving in her armies. From an early date, the Italian allies, or socii, at times contributed over half the fighting strength of Rome's armies (Polybius 6.30; Brunt 1971, 683). Similar to the formalized auxilia from Rome's future provincial exerciti, the Italians were ethnically distinctive from Rome with their own languages, customs and practices. Alongside these diverse soldiers, there were also tribal levies from Rome's client kings and non-Italian allies; these were comprised of everything from Gallic horseman, to Cretan archers and Balearic slingers (Livy 42.35.6-7; 43.7.1-4; Polybius 3.67.3; CIL I 864; Appian, BC 1.42.188; Plutarch, Sertorius 4.1). In other words, Rome had long depended on allied and conquered peoples to provide her with manpower for further conquests - arguably the auxilia was no different in this respect. From the reign of Emperor Augustus onwards, and the gradual formalization of the auxilia, its history clearly becomes an epigraphic and archaeological one. There are over 800 records of auxiliary soldiers ranked no higher than decurion in the ala and centurion in the cohors for the Germanic provinces and Britannia alone.1 These epigraphic sources frequently cite information including the unit of service, the years served, the age of death and occasionally the homeland of the soldier recorded in the inscription. Although the ancient Roman sources frequently cite auxiliary units, in particular the Batavians,2 the inner workings and general information on the ethnic make-up and recruitment of the provincial armies are all but absent from their accounts. As a result, it is primarily up to the surviving epigraphy to provide information on these questions. This research focuses in particular on the provinces of Britannia, Germania Superior, and Germania Inferior and the auxiliary soldiers in their garrisons. The soldiers who served in the auxilia of the first three centuries AD in these provinces came from many different parts of the Empire, in the European portion of the western Empire, soldiers serving in the auxilia traditionally came from tribal backgrounds that were either directly under their control or were friendly and beyond her 'borders.' In contrast, soldiers who were recruited from the east were typically drawn from the long established cities of the East, though of course there were exceptions to this rule.4 It is the origins of these auxiliary soldiers in terms of their recruitment and ethnicity that are also of primary interest in this research. In a broad sense, the central question to this research is where did the soldiers that made up the garrisons of these two geographic areas come from? Was there, for example, a particular emphasis on specific geographic regions for the auxiliary recruits of the Germanias? These questions are, however, easier to postulate than to answer. The vast majority of rank and file soldiers in the auxilia, especially those who were not officers, remain silent in the historical and archaeological record. Specific information such as a name, unit of service and origin are largely available only from epigraphic evidence. Other clues to the origins of soldiers can be gained through an examination of the material evidence, though this, for the most part, only leaves clues to larger groups and not as much to individual soldiers. For example, pottery and cooking methods related with those items were often taken with soldiers to the new location of their garrison. Another type of evidence related to material culture which leaves clues about ethnicity is burial practices. These were often specific to particular geographic regions, and when people were recruited into a cohort or ala from that region and posted elsewhere they took their rituals of internment with them (Topal 2000, 197ff; Cool 2004, 463). The idea of local recruitment was first postulated and became standard as a result of research by Mommsen in the 19th century (Mommsen 1884, 1-79). The accepted theory has become that increasing local recruitment became the norm during the 1st century and that by approximately the middle of the 2nd century foreign born soldiers would have been few and far between. He came to this conclusion by examining the epigraphic evidence from North Africa and hypothesized that this was the standard for the rest of the Empire as well (Mommsen 1884, 1-79; Haynes 2001, 66). There is, however, nothing to suggest that the recruitment in North Africa was the same as in Germania or elsewhere in the Empire for that matter. For this reason the topic is much in need of further exploration. In an attempt to answer questions concerning the recruitment of auxiliary soldiers and their origins, all the epigraphic data concerning those soldiers from the Germanias, Gallia Comata and Britannia was systematically compiled and is in the attached appendices. In the first two chapters of this research, I will describe my methodology concerning the epigraphic evidence that has been collected in an effort to depict the overall demographics and potential patterns there in of auxiliary soldiers as best as is possible; these two chapters will constitute the primarily analytical portions of this paper. Following this, a comparative look between the Germanic provinces and Britannia will be taken in order to examine potential differences in the recruitment patterns of these two areas and try to ascertain to what degree the provinces of the north-west Empire acted in isolation of each other in terms of recruitment as opposed to some sort of overall system. After this comparative section, I will explore the topics of onomastics, cultural continuity and material culture as contributing factors to understanding the ethnic make-up of the auxiliary garrisons. In the final chapter, I will examine a specific case study of Britons serving in the Roman army with particular emphasis on their contribution to the garrison of their native province. Recruitment to the Roman auxilia was a complicated matter. When a unit was raised from a particular group, it is true that they would have comprised the entire regiment at its inception, but after its transfer to another province or location, the ethnic dynamic of that cohort of ala would begin to change. There were probably a percentage of local recruits that were taken in, though direct evidence for this appears to be sketchy at best. Though in addition to this, there were probably large scale dilectus that took place to take larger groups of recruits to provincial garrisons in need of additional soldiers. To put it another way, there were probably very many layers to the ethnic composition of any auxiliary regiment. An additional layer of difficulty in tracking that composition was created when the sons of former soldiers served in the auxilia, as well. It is difficult to prove whether this was the case or not, but it may account the high degree of onomastic evidence and potential continuity that has become apparent during the course of this research. Cultural continuity is an essential theme to determining the origins and the composition of the provincial auxiliary garrisons of the north-west provinces and for all provinces in the Empire as a whole, this includes the onomastic continuity mentioned above, religious continuity, the burial practices also mentioned, and indeed the continuity of material goods. The idea of identifying with the homeland of a soldier's forefathers will inevitably have influenced his personal identification with tribal or ethnic groupings. All these factors present contributing evidence to the question of auxiliary recruitment and the ethnic composition of the north-west provinces.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available