chapter  8
18 Pages

Power at the periphery: Military authority in transition in late Roman Britain


The Roman army was a vital force of imperial hegemony, and the officers of the army were men of power and authority that functioned at the intersection of the high-imperial culture and lower-status military identity.1 These commanding officers, ranked tribune, prefect or even just “commander” (praepositus), were typically men of equestrian rank and responsible for a range of military activities, including the training and maintenance of their soldiers’ fitness, supply of their unit and maintenance or management of the attached estate (territorium), and carrying out of duties relating to active campaigning, defence or security/police-actions.2 For the majority of commanders during the Imperial period, these duties were carried out from a fort in a frontier. But while their authority was technically related to military matters, the actuality of their power stretched beyond the mere military remit.3 But what do we know about these men? What were their backgrounds, and how did they achieve command? To what extent can they be distinguished from other local elites of the Roman Empire? And how did this change over time?