Home Forums Ancients Roman Legion Support Troops – Cavalry, Pioneers etc discussion

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    Avatar photoAlan Hamilton

    My current, on and off, project is to build a representative (generic) Roman Legion of the 1st/2nd Century AD in 28mm with a selection of the supporting troops.  I am using mainly Warlord Games figures as I was given quite a lot for my birthday.  I am content with the organisation and composition of the 10 cohorts of Legionary heavy infantry (I have 1 double cohort and 9 standard cohorts), the artillery (I have 2 carroballistae, 6 scorpio and 1 onager so far).  Supporting them I have 3 cohorts of Auxiliary spearmen, 1 Auxiliary cohort of mixed spear armed infantry and cavalry, Balearic slingers, western archers and eastern archers. Not all these are built never mind painted!

    From my reading over the years I have seen things change as archaeology and research progresses.

    For WARGAME purposes I am thinking ahead to filling the following gaps with suitable figures.

    The Legionary Cavalry – each legion had a small force of attached cavalry that appear to have acted as scouts and messengers and (another?) that acted as bodyguard to the General.  The discussion here is whether I should use the standard Auxiliary cavalry painted differently or use other figures to represent them?  I see “Praetorian” cavalry advertised that would certainly make a different unit for (say) the bodyguards.  But what about the “Legionary Cavalry”?

    The Pioneer Corps, Engineers, surveyors etc – I have seen these described as Auxiliaries and also as men drawn from the cohorts.  I imagine both are possible maybe even simultaneously.  They are described as carrying axes, saws and other equipment to clear the way, mark our camps etc.  Again I want to depict them but in hostile country should they wear lorica segmentata or Lorica hamata ?

    Medical – the medical corps is frequently mentioned and vague references are made to troops being assigned or paid to evacuate the wounded but no references to vehicles being assigned for the purpose other than that wounded, sick or injured officers may have been carried in litters.  So were there ambulances or wagons assigned? Or some sort of seat or stretcher arrangement on mules as other (later) armies used?

    Military Police – mentioned occasionally.  How would they be identified?  Many helmets had pipes on the side for plumes so maybe they had a distinguishing colour or perhaps a staff (truncheon) marking their role.  Anyone got any ideas?

    There may be more discussion later as the project progresses.

    Avatar photoMike Headden

    During the early Empire legionary cavalry consisted of four turmae of (nominally) 30 men each. As far as I know, those 120 men were responsible for all of the roles you mention. They were paid more than the footsloggers so probably looked a bit more “blingey” but other wise seem to have looked similar apart from their shields.

    Cavalry escorts for army generals might have been more distinctive.

    Engineering works were carried out by the troops themselves. In the face of the enemy troops seem to have split into guards who would be in full battle gear and work parties who did the grunt work. I guess the job of grunt or guard would rotate (unless the century/ cohort was on the tribune’s sh*t list!).

    Otherwise the bulk of the troops would work in tunics (shirt-sleeve order for those days) with perhaps a small number of guards, just in case.

    From the time of Augustus onwards, if not before, Roman armies had milites medici, ordinary soldiers with medical training who were excused the worst chores. They were expected to treat those who could be saved and ease the passage into the underworld for those who could not.

    To begin with, the speculatores were scouts but became messengers, bodyguards, military police and even executioners.

    Exploratores were tasked to keep watch on enemy movements in the field.

    Either group might need to wear ‘Civvies’ and act as spies (Occulta speculator/speculatrix).

    There are 100 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who can work from incomplete data

    Avatar photoAlan Hamilton

    Mike, thanks a lot for confirming a lot what I have read, adding to my knowledge and giving me some food for thought (some of which is below).

    So are you suggesting that the Legionary Cavalry would look pretty much the same as the Legionary infantry though probably with a flat shield rather than a scutum?  Though I have read that Legionaries were trained to vault onto horses and also mount and dismount in full armour with shield.  So for the bodyguard I may use the Warlord Praetorian cavalry with their dismounted equivalents being their Marines with a head swop to Attic style helmets.

    If I understand you correctly my Legionary Cavalry may be wearing lorica segmentata which would be a relatively simple conversion to add infantry torsos onto the figures and different shields.

    I understand that the engineering and construction would be done by the Legionaries.  That said, route clearance in the face of the enemy appears to have been done by some sort of auxiliary pioneer corps in some to articles and books that I have read.  So in this role I would imagine that lorica hamata might be more flexible  so my pioneers may need to be conversions of Republican figures.

    Yes I also know of the Medical Corps but my question was about how the casualties were evacuated.  By mule, horse, ambulance, litter, on his shield or whatever.

    “To begin with, the speculatores were scouts but became messengers, bodyguards, military police and even executioners.”  I had not realised that they became military police and executioners.  Interesting.  Also interesting that you used the feminine of the noun as well.

    My exploratores may well be in civvies.

    More food for thought.

    LATE EDIT – Just realised that some of the Aventine Miniatures may offer the variety that I am looking for.

    Thanks again

    Avatar photoMike Headden

    I believe legionary cavalry would wear whatever metallic armour was to hand. Bear in mind that though Trajan’s column (aimed at citizens in Rome) shows all legionaries in lorica segmentata Trajan’s tropaeum at Adamclisi (built by the army) shows legionaries in mail. I assume they would carry flat oval shields, probably with the legion’s decoration.

    I’m not aware of a Roman “corp of engineers” separate from the legions. Doesn’t mean it didn’t exist!

    As to engineers in mail, whether specialists or legionaries, mail is appropriate.

    The wounded would be stretchered off if badly wounded. Clearly in the middle of a pitched battle such niceties would tend to go by the board but by and large Roman Imperial battlefield medicine would not be equalled for more than a millennium. The valetudinarium (field hospital) was essential to ensuring as many men as possible returned to the standards.

    As to the occulta speculatrix, the Romans were a very practical people and there are places a woman can go and a man cannot. “Honey traps” are not a new invention!


    There are 100 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who can work from incomplete data

    Avatar photoAlan Hamilton

    Thanks again.  Very useful.

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