chapter  5
27 Pages


What is immediately striking is the enormous diversity of the weapons we know about. The same man can be represented in four different modes of dress, for instance: for a parade the soldier did his utmost to flaunt his wealth and his luxurious clothes; in combat his equipment was more functional, more effective; on the training ground, however, his equipment was not so shiny or dangerous as accidents had to be avoided if possible; on his tomb the sculptor he commissioned was free to indulge in flights of fantasy, reproducing Greek models, so that the artist assimilated the Roman warrior to a Hellenic hero in order to flatter him.s

Whatever the actual role of this officer, ancient writers attributed Rome's success largely to the superiority of their individual weapons. At the time of the Jewish War which started in 66, Josephus was unstinting in his admiration for his opponents: 7

The footsoldier is armed with a breastplate and helmet, and wears a sword at each side, but the one on the left is significantly longer, the one on the right being only a half a cubit in length. The best infantrymen, who constitute the general's guard, carry a spear and a round shield, the rest of the legion a javelin and an oblong shield as well as a saw, a basket, a spade and an axe, not to mention a belt, a scythe, a chain and rations for three days. In this way the infantryman is hardly less heavily laden than the pack mules. The horsemen carry a long cutlass by their side and a large javelin in their hand. A long shield rests diagonally across the horse's flank, and in the quiver hanging by their side they have three or more broad-headed javelins as long as spears. Their helmets and their breastplates are identical to those carried by all the infantrymen. The best horsemen, who constitute the general's personal guard, have the same weapons as the other horsemen.