‘Ethnic’ Fighting Traditions in the Alae and Cohortes
Students of auxilia have often sought to identify the survival of ‘ethnic’ fighting traditions in the alae and cohorts. There is nothing inherently improbable about this idea; Roman commentators tended to foreground weapons and tactics in their discussion of ethnic groups and unit titles routinely emphasized regiments ethnic or tribal origins. This chapter shows that there is actually relatively little direct evidence for the survival of ‘ethnic’ fighting traditions in these regiments. Much of the evidence cited in support of such survivals is actually misleading. It presents three case studies: the swimming of the ‘Batavians’; the curved sword of the Dacian cohort stationed at Birdoswald; and the distinctive ‘Eastern’ dress of the archers on Trajan’s Column. It argues that these phenomena may be less ‘ethnic’ survivals than products of imperial initiatives. By contrast, truly effective tactics and equipment were adopted across units irrespective of their place of origin.
Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.
If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.