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Blood of the ProvincesThe Roman Auxilia and the Making of Provincial Society from Augustus to the Severans$
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Ian Haynes

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199655342

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199655342.001.0001

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Disarming Ethnicity?

Disarming Ethnicity?

‘Ethnic’ Fighting Traditions in the Alae and Cohortes

Chapter:
(p.284) (p.285) Chapter 18 Disarming Ethnicity?
Source:
Blood of the Provinces
Author(s):

Ian Haynes

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199655342.003.0018

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.

Keywords:   ethnicity, Parthians, falx, Dacian, Birdoswald, Trajan’s Column, Eastern archers, Batavians

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