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Roman Military Development in the Fourth Century BC.

This paper will examine and discuss the development of Roman military equipment and
battlefield tactics during the fourth century BC.1 In order to draw a conclusion on the Roman
military during this period it is necessary to survey the range of military equipment likely to
have been in use at this time across the entire Italian peninsula. Therefore this paper will
analyse a range of available archaeological evidence from Apulia, Etruria, Campania, Latium
and Lucania in conjunction with the relevant scholarship in order to support the notion
implied by scholars such as Michael Burns, Gary Forsythe, John Rich, and Nathan Rosenstein
that the manipular reform was part of a much larger gradual process from the fifth century
onwards.2 Together they argue that this process of military evolution was characterized by
the piecemeal adoption of indigenous and foreign military equipment and tactics between
the fifth and second centuries.3 This paper will also argue that the military equipment of the
fourth century can be further characterized by the widespread adoption of the javelin and
the scutum, and the probability that individual soldier’s arms and armour varied greatly
within the armies.

The events of the fourth century were momentously important in the development of the
Roman Republic. The fourth century was characterized by Roman expansion, a feat made
possible by their inclusionary actions, which manifested themselves, culturally, politically,
militarily and ultimately territorially. Rome in 399 did not even control the northern bank of
the river Tiber. However, by 396 Rome had conquered Veii and absorbed its land, in which
Beloch estimated that Roman territory all but tripled in size from c.562 sq. km to 1,510 sq.
km.4 Then in 390 Rome was defeated at the battle of Allia and sacked by a Celtic war-band,
yet by 290 Rome stood on the cusp of defeating the Samnite confederation after three
extensive wars which had embroiled most of the peoples of central Italy (343-290).

All dates are BC.
Michael Burns, “Homogenisation of Military Equipment” in Romanization? Digressus Supplement 1, (Institute of Archaeology, 2003)
pp.61-74. Accessed March 12, 2014,; Gary Forsythe, A A Critical History
of Early Rome: From Prehistory to the First Punic War (Berkeley University of California Press, 2005)p.286,; John Rich, “Warfare and the
Army in Early Rome,” in A Companion to the Roman Army, ed. Paul Erdkamp, (Malden, MA : Blackwell 2007) pp.16-20; John Rich,
“Introduction,” in War and Society in the Roman World, ed. John Rich and Graham Shipley, (London, Routledge, 1993) p.2; Nathan
Rosenstein, “Phalanges in Rome” in New perspectives on ancient warfare(Boston, Brill 2010) pp.299-301
K.J. Beloch., Römische Geschichte bis zum Beignn der punischen Kriege, (Berlin and Leipzig, 1926) p.620

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To fully comprehend Rome’s development and use of military equipment during the fourth
century, it is crucial to first understand the events of the fifth century, during which many of
the fundamental elements of Roman success in the following centuries were established.5
Rome defeated a coalition of Latin communities at the Battle of Lake Regillus in 493,
resulting in the establishment of the foedus Cassianum. The foedus Cassianum was a mutual
defensive alliance between members of the Latin League, who when called upon,
contributed men to serve collectively under an elected Latin or Roman commander. 6
Importantly it was most likely that this arrangement began Rome’s exposure on an almost
annual basis to the variety of equipment, leadership and tactics of greater Latium.
Furthermore it is likely that the treaty officially recognised the established common rights
amongst the Latins namely, commercium which guaranteed legal rights pertaining to
commercial dealings, conubium, which enabled Latin citizens of different origins to marry
and retain their legal rights, and finally ius migrandi, which permitted Latins to migrate to
any Latin community and retain their citizen rights.7

Rome’s military development is therefore likely to have been influenced by its continued
interaction with first Latin, and then the wider Italic communities that it both fought against
and alongside. T.J. Cornell’s theory of peer-polity interaction adds weight to this, dictating
that shared technology is likely to have been transferred throughout Central Italy by means
of continued interaction within this relatively small geographical area.8 In the two hundred
years dating 600-400 Rome either went to war, with, or against virtually every Central
Italian peoples. It fought with Latins, Etruscans, Hercini, Celts, along with the various Hill
tribes of the central and southern Apennines; the Aequi, Volscians and ultimately, the
Samnites for dominance of the Italian peninsula. Therefore this prolonged exposure and
interaction within Italy, in conjunction with Rome’s integrative policies, presents the
Romans as ideal candidates for Cornell’s theory of peer-polity interaction. It is thus
reasonable to argue, that it is likely that some aspects of military equipment and the tactics
of these allies and enemy alike were over time gradually adopted and assimilated by the
Romans during this period of sustained military co-operation and contact.

Stephen Oakley, “The Roman Conquest of Italy,” in War and Society in the Roman World, ed. John Rich and Graham Shipley, (London,
Routledge, 1993) p.14
Andreas Adolfi, Rome and the Early Latins, (Ann Arbor University of Michigan Press 1995) p.403
Andrew Eckstein, Mediterranean anarchy, interstate war and the rise of Rome, (Berkeley University of California 2006) pp.247-249
T.J. Cornell, The Beginnings of Rome, Italy and Rome from the Bronze Age to the Punic Wars (c.1000-264 BC), (Routledge, 1995) pp.163-
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 3

Rome was able to expand its access to military manpower considerably during the fourth
century, and in particular after the Latin League was defeated and disassembled in 338. 9
The bi-lateral treaties that Rome imposed on the defeated Latins were focused upon the
contribution of allied man power towards the Roman cause. Unlike the rather loose
defensive terms of military obligation of the foedus Cassianum, the treaties post-338
ensured that the military service of the allies were specifically tied to Roman aims, and thus
the allied soldier became entwined in Roman battlefield success. Subsequently the allied
soldiers would serve in their own distinct units, solely under Roman command.10 It is
unlikely then that allied soldiers came uniformly equipped, and thus the Roman field armies
were likely to be filled with soldiers armed with a variety of equipment. Furthermore the
introduction of Latin status on defeated communities had no connection with ethnic origins,
and as such Rome was able to extend a corpus of legal rights and military obligations that
fostered close social and economic links between Rome and its new allies, strengthening the
view of Roman inclusiveness.11

A major factor in Rome’s ability to expand its military manpower and its hegemony in the
fourth century was the astute integration of its allies and defeated communities through the
use of municipia (self-governing communities with the full citizen rights), and the extension
of civitas sine suffragio (citizens with full Latin rights, but not the vote), in addition to the
establishment of colonies.12 As a result, Rome was able to increase its territory, and
available military manpower, whilst at the same time imposing little burden upon its own
governmental structures.

Rome had also expanded its political system with the Licino-Sextian laws of 367 which,
further demonstrates the Romans integrative tendencies during the fourth century. The
three overarching features of which were; firstly it opened the Consulship to the plebeians,
secondly it sought to include the plebeians in the distribution of the ager publicus by limiting
the amount of land one could hold to c.500 ieugra (Livy VI.35-42). Finally, it expanded its
political system by introducing the praetorship, two new curule aediles, and expanded the
Board of Two (duumviri sacris faciundus) charged with the sacred performances to a Board

Eckstein, Mediterranean anarchy, p230
Ibid., p.254
H.H. Scullard, A History of the Roman World 753-146 BC, (London, Routledge 1980) pp.205-206
Cornell, The Beginnings of Rome, pp.323-324; Eckstein, Mediterranean anarchy, p.252-255
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 4

of Ten (decemviri sacris faciundus) equally split between five patricians and five plebeians.13
By providing the poorer citizens access to the ager publicus, is likely to have had an impact
upon the military by enabling more citizens to equip themselves with arms and armour.14
The openness of the Roman political system and its willingness to integrate the plebeians is
illustrated by, that between the years 340-331, a total of nine plebeian families obtained the
Consulship which hitherto had not achieved this.15 Furthermore, in 322 L.Fulvius Curvus, the
first Consul elected from outside of Rome was from Tusculum, which had only been granted
citizenship after 381(Livy VI.26).16

It is now important to critically evaluate the archaeological and literary evidence that
pertains to the Roman military. Livy’s first ten books provide the most complete literary
account for the early history of Rome and in particular the fourth century.17 Importantly, in
regard to this study, his books VI-X cover the period 390 – 264, and contain what many
scholars believe to be an increasing amount of reliable historical information albeit in
addition to outright annalistic inventions.18

Livy wrote his account of Rome according to the Annalistic tradition, in which he expanded
his narrative around the major events of each year that were recorded on the archival
records of Rome, the Annales Maximi, and the Fasti Capitolini. These reliably recorded the
names of consuls, magistrates, treaties, triumphs, battles (including many defeats), laws,
elections, founding of temples, eclipses, plagues, and laws.19 Consequently, what remains is
the barest general outline of Roman history.20 It is therefore crucial to first determine what
evidence is reliable, and what is in the words of Salmon “fictional chaff.”21

The reliability of Livy’s narrative divides scholarly opinion, Oakely, and Cornell, in particular
strongly endorse that there is a credible core of information embedded in books VI-X.
Specifically they regard the basic outline of events derived from the Annales Maximi and the

Cornell, The Beginnings of Rome, p.334
Cornell, The Beginnings of Rome, pp.328-330; Forsythe, A A Critical History of Early Rome, p.268; Oakley, “The Early Republic”, pp.18-20;
Scullard, A History of the Roman World, pp.204-205
Forsythe, A. A Critical History of Early Rome, p.270
Adolfi, Early Rome and the Latins, p.417 ; Forsythe, A Critical History of Early Rome, p.270
Gary Forsythe, Livy and Early Rome, A Study in Historical Method and Judgement, (Stuttgart Franz Steiner 1999) p.12
Cornell, The Beginnings of Rome, p.100; Stephen Oakley, A Commentary on Livy Books VI-X (Clarendon Press Oxford 1997) p. 72,96,100;
E.T. Salmon, Samnites and Samnium,(Cambridge University Press 1967) p.6; Walsh, Livy: His Historical Aims and Methods, (Cambridge
University Press 1961) p.280
Oakley, A Commentary on Livy, p.38; Salmon, Samnites and Samnium, p.6
Cornell, The Beginnings of Rome p.15; Oakely, A Commentary on Livy, p.24,72
Salmon, Samnites and Samnium, p.6
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 5

Fasti as reliable, and were unlikely for reasons, that will be explained, to have been

Koon, in particular argues that there is much in Livy’s battle narratives that is creditable. He
argues that Livy’s adherence to the annalistic technique of plausible invention, wherein the
descriptions Livy provides must have been believable to his readers.23 He further states that
in infantry battles there are only a limited number of outcomes.24

Scholars such as Luce, Miles, and Walsh, argue amongst other issues, that the information
extracted from Livy’s annalistic sources cannot be trusted.25 Walsh, the most sceptical,
predicates his doubts over Livy as a historian on two major principles. Firstly, he argues that
Livy was an irresponsible historian who carelessly did not exercise sufficient scrutiny
towards his sources and their material.26 Secondly, that Livy’s “ignorance over military
matters,” particularly weaponry, is the combination of the annalistic techniques that Livy
adhered to and his subsequent use of source material.27 Walsh further states that Livy’s
“basic attitude is unhistorical” and that he “cannot be viewed as a model of accuracy”
because he deliberately exchanges accuracy of detail in order to implement the enhancing
literary techniques of the annalistic tradition.28 Walsh harbours severe doubts over the
evidence derived from the Fasti Capitolini and the Annales maximi. He predicates these
doubts upon the premise that Livy did not directly reference the dates first hand, rather that
he relied on the secondary information, specifically that of Valerius Antias, and Claudius
Quadrigarius.29 As a result Walsh argues that Livy did not exercise proper academic scrutiny
with regard to his source material, and as such may have included information that was
perverted by both familial bias and “Antias’ own fertile brain.”30

The Roman political system was populated by a number of ambitious families that gained
legitimacy through the actions of their ancestors, particularly those achieved whilst holding
political and religious offices. As a result the Annales Maximi and the Fasti were so central

Cornell, The Beginnings of Rome, pp.13-15; Oakley, A Commentary on Livy, pp.38-50
Sam Koon, Infantry Combat in Livy’s Battle Narratives,(Oxford Archaeopress 2010) pp.23
Ibid., p.27
Gary Miles, Livy Reconstructing Early Rome, (Ithaca Cornell University Press 1995), p.13, 220-226 T.J. Luce, Livy: The Composition of his
History (Princeton, 1977) p.26; Walsh, Livy, p.153
Walsh, Livy, pp.143-153
Koon, Infantry Combat in Livy’s Battle Narratives p.24-26; Walsh, Livy, p..197
Walsh, Livy. p.197
Walsh, Livy, pp.110-111,119-122
Ibid., pp.112,121-122, 143-153
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 6

to this competition between Roman families that they are unlikely to have been perverted
by one such family seeking to claim the achievements of another.31 Indeed the Fasti are
seen as being remarkable for their unanimity after 366, with only two years 354 and 328
being seriously disputed.32 The Roman consuls additionally gave their names eponymously
to each year, which consequently would have made it very obvious should there be any
attempted perversion of the consular archives, and therefore there is good reason to accept
the names provided.33

The same methodology of general acceptance regarding the Annales Maximi, and the Fasti
also extends to the lists of Censors, Dictators, Praetors and Magistri Equitum.34 The lists of
Dictators in particular provide a “reliable list of names.” Beloch, challenges the credibility of
the Dictators list, namely he disputes a total of 29 recorded names during the period 420-
302.35 Beloch predicates his argument upon his own refusal to believe that men such as
T.Manlius Torqautus (VII.21.9, VII.24.11), L. Furius Camillus (V.19.2, V.46.10, VI.2.5, VI.38.4,
VI.42.4, VII.24.11, VII.28.3), or L. Papirius Cursor (VIII.29.9, IX.38.14) were able be Dictator
on more than one occasion.36 However, as Oakley convincingly argues there was no clause
in the Roman constitution that directly prevented this occurring, and that the fourth century
was notable for its use of consular iteration.37 Additionally it is likely that many of the men
who served repeated terms as Dictator were talented military commanders, and it is then
conceivable that Rome empowered them when faced with a crisis.38 Therefore, it is likely
that the names recorded on Dictators list are likely to have been reliable, even if remains
some room for dispute.

Furthermore, Cicero (de Re publica I,25) writing in the first century AD refers to the
occurrence of a solar eclipse dated to the 5th of June 400 being recorded on the Annales
Maximi. Astrological research has confirmed that this eclipse happened on the 21 st of June
meaning that there was legitimate historical evidence recorded in some Roman archives. 39
Therefore, as events such as an eclipse were recorded accurately, and it is feasible that the
Oakley, A Commentary on Livy, p.31
Ibid., pp.31, 38
Ibid., pp.27-50
Ibid.,, pp.41-50
Ibid., pp.41-42
Beloch Römische Geschichte, pp.63-77
Oakely, A Commentary on Livy, p.44
Ibid.,, pp.42-44
W.T. Lynn, “Eclipses mentioned in early Roman history” in The Observatory, Vol. 22, p. 205-207 (1899) Accessed October 14,2014
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 7

names of magistrates are reliable then it is plausible to argue that the same credibility may
extend to other important events such as the foundation of temples and treaties.40
However, the information recorded on these lists was threadbare and not nearly enough to
conceive the extensive narratives contained in Livy’s work. 41 Therefore we may regard the
general outline of the fourth century to be reasonably accurate, but little more than that.

Unfortunately, Livy, and his fellow annalistic historians surround this thin outline of credible
information with a myriad of dubious accounts and literary fabrications. One of the most
apparent lapses in the relay of credible information from Roman archival evidence stems
from their sparseness. The problem of Consular provinces presents a specific example of
this; we know the names and dates that the Consuls served are known, but the archives do
not provide the provinces in which they campaigned.42 Consequently this calls into question
Livy’s numerous detailed battle narratives, for if it is not known for certain which
commanders fought where, then how is it possible to accurately attribute battlefield
speeches and events from the same battles? Moreover, if it is not known which
commanders were in which operational theatres, it permits the possibility of ambitious
Roman families to pervert the historical record by falsely claiming victories that may have in
reality been fought by another.

Livy, himself questions the authenticity of his source material when discussing the
appointment of command in 322. “It is not disputed that Aulus Cornelius was dictator that
year; what is uncertain is whether he was appointed to conduct the war” (VIII.40.1-6). Livy
furthers this point of conjecture by stating “it is not easy to choose between the facts and
the authorities. “The record has been falsified... This has undoubtabley led to confusion
both in individual achievements and in public records of events. Nor is there extant any
writer contemporary with those times to provide the firm basis of a reliable authority
(VIII.40.1-6).” Livy notes this discrepancy again in book X “During these operations in
Samnium (Whoever it was who held command)” (X.18.2). These examples illustrate that it is
reasonable to place faith in the years and regions in which these battles took place but not
in the commanders who fought in them, or the events of the battle.43

Cornell, The Beginnings of Rome, p.14; Oakley, A Commentary on Livy Books VI-X, p.24; Walsh, Livy, p.111
Oakley, A Commentary on Livy, pp.22-50,65,72
Oakley, A Commentary on Livy, p.71; Forsythe, Livy and Early Rome, p.44
Oakley, A Commentary on Livy, p.67,72
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 8

The archival and oral history of Roman families represents another stream of information
that is likely to have reached Livy, but the very nature of these histories is also likely to be
riddled with falsifications.44 Cicero (Brutus, 62) mirrors the concerns of Livy towards the
perversion of history by Roman families and their use of eulogies (VIII.40.4) “For families
kept them as a sort of honour and a record… Of course the history of Rome has been
falsified by these speeches”.45 Therefore as Walsh correctly states the familial records
require “discriminating scrutiny” on account of their family bias.46

Livy’s detailed battle narratives are unlikely to have been accurately recorded and
transferred to him. These battle accounts include; the speeches of commanders, individual
acts of valour, battle tactics, and other minor details such as the length of battles (VI.8.10;
VI.12.40; VII.26; VII.38-38; VIII.8-9; VIII.38). Livy (VI.8-9) provides a very detailed account of
Camillus’ victory over the Volscians at Antium c.386, in which he quotes Camillus directly
and records that the centurions spoke with him regarding the morale of his troops before
battle, and details the events of both the battle itself, and the ensuing siege. It is scarcely
conceivable to imagine that these details were accurately recorded let alone transferred to
Livy, or his annalistic predecessors through the sparse information inscribed on the Annales
Maximi, and the Fasti.

If Livy’s battle accounts are highly dubious, then it becomes increasingly unlikely that any of
the descriptions of military equipment delivered by Livy are accurate as well. There are two
examples of Livy describing the weaponry, and tactics that illustrate this point clearly. In his
account of the Roman army in (VIII.8-9) Livy is likely to have been describing the manipular
legion using anachronistic retrojection, and as such “very little of which if any at all can be
accepted as historical.”47

Livy (IX.40.2-3) describes the Samnite shield as being broad at the shoulders and the
tapering towards the bottom like a leaf or wedge. He is presumably basing this description
on the shield wielded by Samnite gladiators in the first century AD, and as such it cannot be
credited as being an accurate description.48 Furthermore in the same passage he goes on to

Oakley, A Commentary on Livy, pp.30-33; Walsh, Livy, p.112.
Cornell, The Beginnings of Rome, p.10
Oakley, , A Commentary on Livy Books VI-X, p.67; Walsh, Livy, p.112
Forsythe, Livy and Early Rome, p.68; Oakley, A Commentary on Livy, p.75,85
Salmon, Samnites and Samnium p.103, 105
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 9

describe two Samnite armies being equipped with shields inlaid with both gold and silver,
together with silver and gold lined tunics and scabbards. The likelihood that any Italic army
in the fourth century was able to equip themselves with golden or silver military equipment
is distinctly improbable. Burns attests to this in his investigation into southern Italic military
equipment noting that “only a few items were inlaid with silver and none with gold.”49
Therefore this description must be discredited, even though it apparently comes from a
period in which Roman history and Livy’s account is becoming increasingly accurate.

In conclusion, the raw data outlining the major events of the fourth century, specifically the
names and dates in which consuls, magistrates, treaties, eclipses, and plagues represent a
credible stream of information that was transferred to Livy and other historians via the
Annales Maximi, and the Fasti. However the remaining details of Livy’s narrative such as the
details of battles including the identity of the commanders serving in a particular theatre of
war, and the military equipment and tactics that are used do not represent credible
historical details, and thus cannot be utilized in this investigation without rigid justification.

Archaeological discoveries constitute “direct and uncontaminated” evidence for the early
Republican period in Italy.50 Bishop and Coulston, Burns, Connolly, Paddock and Small have
all produced works that present a wide range of archaeological evidence pertaining to Italic
warfare during the Republican period.51 The majority of archaeological evidence pertaining
to arms and armour has been found in funerary contexts and can be further distilled into
three main categories; physical examples of military equipment, representational evidence
from tomb paintings, and depiction on a variety of artistic wares. The issues arising in these
categories require examination.

The arms and armour deposited within warrior tombs provide important information
relating to the physical weight of a bronze cuirass, or the size, shape and style of spear-
heads, javelins or swords. Complete sets of arms and armour have been discovered in the
warrior tombs of Lanuvium and Vulci, in addition to Tomb 43 at Narce in Etruria, but it is

Michael Burns, “Southern Italic Military Equipment: The Cultural and Military Significance of the Warrior’s Panoply from the 5th to the 3rd
Centuries BC,” (PhD Thesis, University College London, 2005) p.31 Accessed March 12, 2014,; Salmon, Samnites and Samnium p.102-105
R. Ross Holloway, The Archaeology of Early Rome and Latium, (Routledge, 1994) p.11
M.C. Bishop & J.C.N Coulston, Roman Military Equipment: From the Punic Wars to the Fall of Rome, (Oxbow Books Oxford 2006);
Connolly, Greece and Rome at War; Alastair Small, The Use of Javelins in Central and south Italy in the 4th Century BC." In Ancient Italy in
Its Mediterranean Setting, (Accordia Research Institute, 2000)
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 10

important to understand that these warrior burials are rare, and representative of only a
small fraction of Italic society.52 Spivey and Stottard in their assessment of tomb 43 at Narce
conclude that the bronze cuirass was not intended to be a functional piece of military
equipment rather it represented a “conspicuous display, not advanced military
technology.”53 Therefore the evidence extracted from the wealthy warrior tombs has the
potential to distort the interpretation of military equipment. Furthermore, it is unlikely that
every warrior could afford such a lavish tomb, or even to be buried with his weaponry.54
The evidence from southern Italy in particular suggests that the majority of warriors were
buried with only one or two pieces of equipment, and that this was predominately in spears
and javelins.55

Additionally the economic cost, of equipping a soldier in conjunction with the social status a
panoply such as that found at Lanuvium would have conferred upon the wearer, make it
likely that much of the military equipment was reused inter-generationally and thus not
deposited in a funerary context. Livy (books II-X) records that Rome was at war for
practically the entire fifth and fourth centuries. Therefore to have taken functional military
equipment out of circulation during this period of turmoil would have been impractical. The
physical remains of military equipment do provide valuable information; however, they do
not permit a viable picture to be conceived of how they were used. Therefore, it is
important to analyse, both the physical and artistic evidence.

Tomb paintings crucially depict many items of military equipment that have not physically
survived due to their construction materials such as the linen cuirass, that can be seen
clearly on the François Tomb, and at Paestum.56 These paintings illustrate the techniques
with which equipment such as the spear and the javelin were used; for example there are
clear depictions of the amentum (throwing thong) attached to javelins, and thus a credible
picture, indicating that the javelin and the amentum were used together, can be
constructed.57 Likewise, the painting on the North wall of tomb 7 at Gaudo (Paestum) that

Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, p.96-112
Spivey and Stottard, Etruscan Italy, (London, 1990) p.129
Burns, “South Italic military equipment,” p.50
Alastair Small, “The Use of Javelins in Central and south Italy in the 4th Century BC." p.225
Burns, South Italic military equipment, p.36-38
Burns, “South Italic military equipment,” pp.178-9; Small, “The Use of Javelins in Central and south Italy in the 4th Century BC." p226
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 11

depicts two duelling warriors advancing on each other with spears after having thrown their
javelins first assists in illustrating the method of combat such warriors were likely to have
engaged in.58

Tomb paintings thus present evidence of military equipment across a range of Italic
societies. Etruria holds much of this evidence such as; the Françios Tomb (Vulci), the
Amazon Sarcophagus, the Tomba del Orco II, Giglioli tomb (Tarquinia), all of which date to
the fourth century. Paestum (Lucania) provides an excellent source of pictorial evidence
pertaining to Samnite infantry and cavalry wearing various combinations of single and triple
disc or linen cuirasses and armed with both spears and javelins, whilst other tomb paintings
such as Falerii Veteres depict Greek styled hoplites.59 Archaeological evidence therefore can
be used to construct a creditable image of the variety of military equipment in use across
the Italy during the fourth century.

Military equipment are also depicted on a range of artistic ware ranging from the Arnoaldi,
and Certosa situlae, the Chigi vase, the Väce clasp and in the form of figurines such as the
Capestrano warrior, and the statue of a Samnite warrior now in the Louvre. 60 The Chigi vase
for example is a proto-Corinthian commodity constructed for the Etruscan market depicting
an encounter between two forces of Greek style hoplites and is dated to c.650.61 This
emphasizes that pottery ware was particularly important because the various stylistic
features allow the construction of a relative chronology of both the tombs and their
goods.62 The Chigi vase is also evidential of Italic communities being influenced by Greek
artistic influences, and adds strength to the argument for their physical adoption of the
similar military equipment.

Archaeological evidence provides information pertaining to the design, use and physical
attributes of arms and armour in use during the early Republican period. However, it must
still be approached with caution as it represents only a small fraction of what was in actual
use, and is able to be misinterpreted if not assessed critically.

Small, “The Use of Javelins in Central and south Italy in the 4th Century BC." p.228
Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, pp.97, 105
Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, pp.96-103; Salmon, Samnites and Samnium, p.130
Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, p.38-9; H.L. Lorimer, “The Hoplite Phalanx with special reference to the poems of Archilochos and
Tyrtaeus,” The Annual of the British School at Athens Vol. 42, (1947) p.80-1; Jeffrey M. Hurwit, “Reading the Chigi Vase,” Hesperia: The
Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Vol. 71, No. 1 (2002) p.14
Cornell, The Beginnings of Rome, p.27
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 12

Before further hypothesis is possible an assessment of the actual arms and armour in use
during the fourth century in Italy is necessary. Beginning with the helmet (cassis) there is
evidence of a division between those helmets of Greek origin which the Italians adopted
such as the Italo-Corinthian, Italo-Pilus, Samno-Attic, and Etrusco-Thracian, and of the
helmets Italo-Chalkidian, from the native Italian helmet represented by the Negau style,
through to the Celtic influenced Montefortino, which crucially appears in the fourth century.
This variety of helmet styles reflecting external influences indicates that the perceived
uniformity of Roman arms and amour is perhaps wrong. As old helmets became damaged
and needed to be replaced there would have been increasing disparity appearing in helmet
types throughout the ranks.

There were a wide variety of helmets that are likely to have been worn by the Romans at
the beginning of the fourth century. It appears that the Italo-Corinthian, the Negau, and
possibly after 390 the Montefortino were the helmets of choice. The Italo-Corinthian helmet
emerged sometime during the sixth century as a “clear development of the Greek form”63
and was predominant in the fifth century, lasting down until the end of the Fourth century.
Constructed of bronze, the Italo-Corinthian had set rigid cheek guards that almost fully
enclosed the face with narrow eye holes with a descending strip of bronze that covered the
nose. It was in essence a full faced helmet that severely restricted the wearer’s ability to see
and hear when deployed fully.64 There was also a socket on the crown that supported a
horse hair crest (crista). The Italo-Corinthian was possibly the helmet of choice for the
wealthiest soldiers, as it was the helmet traditionally associated with the classical hoplite,
but pictorial representations do not denote uniform reality so caution is necessary.

The Italo-Pilus helmet was the metal evolution of the conical felt cap (pilos) worn by the
Greeks from the sixth to the fourth century. The Italian adaptation of a simple conical bowl
was “certainly in use by the fourth century” and differed from the Greek adaption in that it
was of a greater height than diameter.65

J.M.Paddock, “The Bronze Italian helmet: the development of the Cassis from the last quarter of the sixth century B.C. to the third
quarter of the first century A.D.” (PhD Thesis University of London, 1993) p.78
Anthony Snodgrass, Arms and Armour of the Greeks, (London: Thames and Hudson, 1967), p.51-58; Michael T. Burns, “The
Homogenisation of Military Equipment,” p.68
Paddock, “The Bronze Italian Helmet,” p.365; Burns, “The Homogenisation of Military Equipment,”p.69
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 13

The Etrusco-Thracian helmet was represented pictorially on the ‘Warriors Return’ fresco at
Paestum, it also appears on the Amazons Sarcophagus from the (Giglioli tomb at
Tarquinia)66 which as the name suggests is an Etruscan adaptation of a Thracian helmet. The
fact that it is an Etruscan adaptation means that it is inferable that it was in use both in
Rome, and central Italy. The soft highly bulbous bowl differed from its Thracian counterpart
in that it offered no protection for the cheek or ears.67

The second style of Helmet represented on the ‘Warriors Return’ fresco is the Samno-Attic
type, and although as its name suggests that it was a Samnite adaptation of a Greek helmet,
it is likely that through trade links, and peer-polity interaction to have been in use in Central
Italy as well, despite the fact that most examples have been located in the South inside
Samnite-Lucanian tombs.68 The hinged cheek piece (buculla) of the helmet allowed greater
flexibility of use.69 With the cheeks tied back it provided greater sight and awareness that
suited skirmishers, and with the flaps deployed over the cheeks it also would have been of
use in melee combat.

The Negau helmet discovered throughout the Italian peninsula is the only helmet type that
could be classified as indigenous to that area.70 Particular examples from Etruria include the
horde of 125 ritually crushed helmets bearing inscriptions of the Haspnas clan that were
discovered outside the walls of Vetulonia dating to the fifth century, and at the Tomb of the
Warrior at Vulci in Etruria c.525.71 This helmet is a clear descendant of the basic Italian pot
helmets that proliferated throughout the seventh and sixth centuries, and continued in use
across the peninsula possibly down into the fourth century. The Negau helmet was a
constructed of a tall angular bowl, usually equipped with a metal ridge that inclined steeply
giving the helmet the ability to deflect most blows, but it was without any neck or facial
defensive plating.72 Additionally there have been numerous discoveries of the Negau in
Celtic graves ranging from northern Italy to the Central European Alps dating from the
fourth century onwards.73 The Negau eventually became one of the most dominant Celtic

Connolly. Greece and Rome at War. p.99
Paddock, “The Bronze Italian Helmet,” p. 321
Paddock, “The Bronze Italian Helmet,” p.400
Ibid., p.401
Ibid., p.174
Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, p.99
Paddock, “The Bronze Italian Helmet,” p.176
Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, pp.121-22
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 14

helmet types thus demonstrating the reality of Celtic willingness to encounter and adopt
Italian military equipment.74

It is likely that the Montefortino helmet was introduced into Italy by the Celts, and is named
after the cemetery bearing their name at Acona in Italy.75 The design featuring a round
conical bowl with a crested knob, thickened rim and small extended neck guard, first
appeared in Italy during the fifth century, and was quickly adopted throughout central Italy
becoming the standard Roman helmet by the second century.76

Rome was sacked in 390 by a band of Celtic warriors; it is therefore plausible to argue that
the transference of the helmet from Celtic to Italian soldiers may have occurred during this
period through peer-polity interaction.77 It also then possibly represents one of the more
dominant pieces of Celtic military technology adopted by the Romans in this period.
Additionally after the defeat at Allia, the Montefortino helmet may have been adopted at
this time. As opposed to the Italo-Corinthian helmet, it offered better all-round vision, which
made it better suited to the more mobile style of warfare, whilst at the same time providing
a more effective defence against the overhead slashing technique of the Celts. Connolly
certainly favours post 390 as the adoption date by the Romans for this very same reason.78
The adoption of the Montefortino may present itself as one of the first indications of the
move towards Celtic military equipment.

In summary the archaeological evidence illustrates that there were a wide variety of helmet
types likely to have been in use during the fourth century. There are examples of Celtic
(Montefortino), Greek (Italo-Corinthian, Italo-Pilus, and the Etrusco-Thracian), and
indigenous Italian (Negau) designs and influences within Italy. The hybrid names of the
helmets present a clear example that the various people of the Italian peninsula were willing
to adapt and adopt the military equipment of another state or culture. Furthermore
evidence of the Negau helmet in Celtic graves suggests that this willingness to adopt pieces
of military hardware from others is not a uniquely Italian phenomenon.

Paddock, “The Bronze Italian Helmet,” p.175
Bishop and Coulston, Roman Military Equipment, p.65; Paddock, “The Bronze Italian Helmet,” p.469; Connolly, Greece and Rome at War,
Paddock, “The Bronze Italian Helmet,” p.470; Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, p.120-22
Burns, “The Homogenisation of Military Equipment,” p.70
Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, pp.127-128
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 15

It is also clear that the range of helmet types catered for the military needs of a variety of
troop types. The Italo-Corinthian helmet was designed to protect an infantryman in close
quarter combat, yet it sacrificed hearing and vision for this purpose. The Italo-Pilus and
Etrusco-Thracian helmets achieved the opposite; exposing more of the head but they were
lighter and allowed for better vision; attributes presumably sought by mobile lightly armed
troops. This range of evidence suggests that the likelihood of little uniformity of helmet
types amongst the ranks of soldiers presumably dependant on how they physically fought.

Two dominant shield types that were likely to have been used throughout Central Italy. The
first was the clipeus, a round shield in the traditional hoplite mould (aspis). The warrior
figures represented on the Certosa situla c.500 depict both the round clipeus, and the oval
scutum in use, and although these are in Etruria the likelihood is that the clipeus was
common throughout most of Central Italy at the time. The clipeus was a round slightly
convex shield with a flat rim, and a diameter of between 80cm to 1m79, and was c.0.05 mm
thick.80 The shield itself was constructed of layers of wood covered by either rawhide or, in
the more elaborate cases, bronze usually less than a millimetre thick.81 The clipeus was a
heavy shield and its direct the Greek equivalent was the aspis which at around 1 metre in
diameter and weighing sixteen pounds made was relatively burdensome. A recent
reconstruction conducted by Connolly resulted in a shield weight of 7kg.83 However,
because of its size and weight the clipeus offered superb defensive qualities. The clipeus,
was secured onto the bearers’ left arm by a bronze sleeve known as the porpax, and a
second handgrip of leather or rope located on the far side of the inside rim called the
antilabe.84 The porpax allowed the fighter to relieve some of the weight of the shield away
from the central hand grip. It also enabled him to maintain a grip on the shield if the
antilabe is dropped. Initially this may have allowed the warrior to maintain his grip on the
shield whilst holding his two javelins in his hand85. The image of this is reinforced by a
Campanian krater from the Montesarchio tomb 1005 dated 350-330 that depicts a warrior

Michael Burns, “South Italic military equipment,” p.149
Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, p.52-53
Peter Hunt, "Military Forces." in The Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Warfare, ed. Philip A. G.Sabin, Hans van Wees and Michael
Whitby, (Cambridge University Press 2007) p.109
Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, p.53
Cartledge, ‘Hoplites and heroes: Sparta’s contribution to the technique of ancient warfare, Journal of Hellenic Studies 97, p.14
Ibid., p.13; Peter Krentz, “The Nature of Hoplite Battle,” Classical Antiquity, Vol. 4, No. 1 (Apr., 1985) p.53
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 16

holding an extra javelin in his shield arm.86 The functional aspects of the clipeus were that it
was designed to be held close to the body, and to protect the upper body from spear thrusts
and other melee weapons. It was less effective when defending against missile weapon due
to its circular shape which did not protect the bearer’s legs.87 The unsuitability of the clipeus
against missile projectiles, specifically the javelin, which increasingly became the dominant
offensive weapon across the Italian peninsula, is likely to have contributed to it being
gradually phased out of use during the third and fourth centuries.

The second shield type is the scutum, the oblong or oval full length body shield that is
believed to be of Italian origin. The earliest representation of the scutum was found in an
Eighth century grave in the necropolis of Poggio alia Guardia at Vetulonia in Etruria. 88 The
scutum was longer than the clipeus, thus it covered more of the warrior’s body, and
particularly the upper legs. This gave the scutum a distinct advantage over the clipeus as
warfare in Italy became more orientated towards the use of javelins. The scutum is likely to
have been in use throughout the Italian peninsula possibly as far back as the seventh
century, and pictorial examples have been found dating to the same period.89 Additional
representations of warriors bearing the scutum have been discovered on the Certosa situla
c.500, which together with examples from the Väce clasp and the Arnoaldi situla indicate
that it is likely that the Romans were using the scutum before the Samnite wars during the
second half of the fourth century.90 Additional archaeological evidence illustrates that the
scutum or regional variations of it were in use among peoples from Italy, and the Lé Tene
region of Switzerland well before the fourth century, and possibly from “pre-historic
times.”91 If the javelin was the predominant offensive weapon of the period, then it would
correspondingly make good sense to equip soldiers with a full body shield that gave mobility
and defensive worth, rather than reliance on the round clipeus that did not afford as much
defensive capability against missiles.

Burns, “South Italic military equipment,” p.151
Ibid., pp.151-152
Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, p.95
Connolly, Greece and Rome at War , p.96
Salmon, Samnites and Samnium, p.106; Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, p.96, 103
Salmon, Samnites and Samnium, p.107
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 17

Polybius describes the scutum’s construction as consisting of two layers of wood laid across
each other in differing grains similar to today’s plywood construction, and glued together
with bull’s hide glue (Polybius 5.23). The scutum was constructed of wood or wicker then
covered by rawhide and studded with a central iron boss (umbo). Livy (VIII.8.3) states ‘The
Romans had formerly used round shields; then, after they began to serve for pay, they
changed from round to oblong shields’. This would place the dates of change in shield types
to the siege of Veii 396, when it is recorded that the Roman soldiers first received pay
(stipendium) (Livy 4.59-60). However, this is problematic, and it is highly unlikely to have
occurred at this early date as the scutum only appears in tomb paintings from ‘Capua and
Nola during the last 30 years of the fourth century,” and in Paestum at the beginning of the
third Century.92 Polybius, writing in the second century describes the scutum as measuring
four feet (1.18m) long by two and a half feet wide (0.74 cm) and was as thick as a palms
breadth at the rim. Conversely a second century scutum discovered at Kasr el-Harit in Egypt,
was slightly larger than Polybius’ portrait at 1.28m long by 0.636m wide.93 The discrepancies
in length and width between the shields carries two particularly interesting aspects of both
the scutum itself, and military similarities in shields used by javelin armed troops.

The long single handled shield with central iron boss, or scutum had many varieties in the
Mediterranean world between the sixth and fourth centuries. In the north, Celtic warriors
were frequently equipped with an oval single horizontal grip shield equipped with an Italic
iron boss that in some cases could also be rectangular, hexagonal or round.94 Three
examples made of oak were discovered at Lé Tene in Switzerland and were c.1.1 metres
long by 1.2 cm thick in the centre, showing that although slight variations were possible,
there was not too much difference across cultures.95

The variety of shields types likely to have been used in Italy are somewhat less diverse than
is the case with helmets, but still essentially conform to the same basic principles. Shields
like helmets were designed around the intended use of the bearer, for instance clipeus
afforded maximum protection of the upper body, and was suited to close quarter combat,
whilst the scutum presented a lighter, longer shield more suitable for protection against

Burns, “South Italic military equipment,” p161
Ibid., p.157
Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, p.119-120
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 18

javelins. The presence of these two shield types indicates that soldiers did not fight
uniformly armed; rather they went to war armed with a variety of weaponry. Thus it is
plausible that Italian warfare of the fourth century included both heavy and light troops who
equipped themselves for different battlefield purposes.

A lighter, more flexible, and ultimately cheaper alternative to the metallic cuirass was the
linen cuirass, which was in widespread use throughout the Italian peninsula “before and
beyond the fourth century.”96 The physical evidence of the Linen cuirass is scarce due to the
construction materials; however there is artistic evidence particularly from Etruscan tombs
where it was the most “commonly depicted type of body armour in the Fourth century.”97
The Amazon Sarcophagus from Tarquinia provides the most informative artistic
representation of the Linen corselet in which Warriors wearing Linen corselets are depicted
on all four sides of the Sarcophagus.98 Other depictions of the Linen cuirass from Etruria
include; the Françios Tomb at Vulci the Sarcophagus of the Priest, and the Tomba del Orco II
both of which are to be found in Tarquinia and date to the Fourth century99. An additional
pictorial representation of the Linen cuirass was discovered on the wall paintings, and the
statue of Mars from Todi.100 The Linen cuirass consisted of four panels, two sides and a
front and rear101. It was constructed by multiple layers of ‘linen glued together to form a
stiff shirt about 0.5cm thick’.102 Connolly has replicated a Linen cuirass and it weighed 3.5kg
as opposed to the 13-18 kg of a metallic cuirass.103 This significant discrepancy in weight
would have facilitated a lighter more mobile method of warfare. Pteryges are also ‘regularly
found on linen corselets.’104 Pteryges were stiffened linen or leather strips that were
attached to the bottom of the cuirass in order to protect the legs from missiles. Xenophon
advises ‘let the flaps (pteryges) be of such material, and such size that they will keep out
missiles’ (Art of Horsemanship XII.1.3). The addition of pteryges to light linen cuirasses
illustrates that protection from javelins was as important for the Italian soldier as mobility.

Margarita Gelba, “Linen-Clad Etruscan Warriors”, in Wearing the Clock Dressing the Soldier in Roman Times, (Oxbow Books, 2012
p.84;Burns, “South Italic military equipment,” p.106
Burns, “South Italic military equipment,” p.103
Gelba, “Linen-Clad Etruscan Warriors,” p.49
Gelba, “Linen-Clad Etruscan Warriors,” pp.48-53
Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, p.99; p.162
Burns, “South Italic military equipment”, p.104
Ibid., p.106
Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, p.58
Burns, “South Italic military equipment” p.90
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 19

Thus the Linen cuirass provided less wealthy soldiers with a considerably cheaper, lighter,
and importantly more flexible body armour that gave excellent protection.105 The linen
cuirass certainly appeared more suitable for a soldier equipped with a javelin as his primary
weapon than a rigid and heavy Bronze cuirass. The increased flexibility of a linen cuirass
allowed the javelin wielding soldier far more offensive freedom in upper body, torso and
shoulders. It is reasonable to conclude that this greater freedom of the limbs, would have
added accuracy and distance to the warriors throw, which presumably would have appealed
to soldiers fighting in raiding parties armed with javelins. Most important was that the
relative lightness in comparison to the bronze Greek, and Italian styled cuirasses, meant that
it offered reasonable protection without sacrificing speed or mobility; the very requisites for
raiding. Thus, its widespread use throughout the Italian peninsula provides evidence that
there were elements of military uniformity operating between Italic communities since at
least the sixth century.

The nature of warfare throughout Central Italy was likely to have been based upon mobility
and raiding, which consequently made the heavy and blinding armour of the classical
hoplite unsuitable, thus Italic variations are likely to have been in use alongside the bronze
cuirass. For instance the Hill tribes of the Aqeui, and the Volsci used a central bronze disc
(cardiophylax) measuring 20-24cm wide and c23.5cm in diameter.106 An example can be
found on the famous Capestrano warrior, who dates to the Fourth century. It is probable
that through both intermittent warfare and alliances with the Latin communities, and the
Hill tribes, Rome also utilized this type of armour. The discs were suspended over the
shoulder by hinged leather straps reinforced with iron hinges and trimmings. The bronze
disc was suspended over the chest by a leather strap with iron hinges and trimmings
mirrored on the back by another central disc. Whilst it did not provide the complete
protection of the Greek or Italian cuirass, it was still certainly an effective and popular form
of body armour. The cardiophylax was also much easier to repair. If damaged an armourer
could simply remove the damaged disc and replace it with a new one, as opposed to the
heavier bell-cuirasses which required a more specialized method of repair.

Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, p.58; Peter Krentz, “Warfare and Hoplites”, in The Cambridge Companion to Archaic Greece,
(Cambridge University Press, 2007) p.68
Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, p.102
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 20

In addition to the single disc type of armour we find a triple disc (spongia) counterpart swas
popular among the Samnites, and other Southern Italian peoples. The spongia gave slightly
more protection that the singular disc, as having three discs would denote but it did not
otherwise differ drastically in its design. Both the cardiophylax and the spongia provided
greater mobility than the bell cuirass, consequently allowing the soldier to free his arms,
and thus providing greater flexibility to wield javelins effectively. This armour has been
found at Alfedena, and Campovalano di Campli, and is likely to have been worn by at least
some elements of the Roman army if not certainly by their Latin allies, most probably the
Hercini who dwelt near the Aqeui and Volsci homeland. Paestum provides a wealth of
archaeological and artistic evidence for the spongia, all of which date to the period 420-

Both the Greek and Italian bell cuirasses were made of bronze, and were composed of a
breast and back-plate which was decorated with stylized or anatomical male features.108
The Greek and Italian cuirasses were very similar, yet they retained certain unique traits. For
example the two plates of the Greek cuirass were joined at the sides and shoulders by a
mixture of hinge and ring fasteners, whereas the Italian cuirass was much shallower, and the
two plates were not directly joined at the shoulder.109 Another significant difference
between the two styles of cuirass has been found on the tomb of the warrior at Lanuvium.
Here the cuirass has separate shoulder plates 6cm wide, and are hinged to the breast and
back-plates.110 This addition of a hinged shoulder plate may reflect that the Italian heavy
infantryman were attempting to protect against the downward slashing of one-edged
swords such as the kopis, and also an offensive innovation that allowed the warrior more
flexibility with which to hurl javelins with greater effectiveness. Furthermore the Greek
cuirasses tended also to be larger ranging in height from 40-50cm111, as opposed to the
Italian version which ranged in size from 29.5cm-37cm.112The bronze cuirass thus afforded

Burns, “South Italic military equipment” p.66
Ibid., p.94
Ibid., p.83
Ibid., p.86
Burns, “South Italic military equipment,” p.83
Ibid., p.94
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 21

the warrior protection from his lower neck to the lower abdomen, but due to its weight of
around 6kgs it was heavy which reduced manoeuvrability drastically.113

It can be argued that the diversity of body armour available in Italy during the fourth
century was an ostensible result of the individual soldiers’ preference for fighting. The
metallic cuirass was both heavy and cumbersome, but provided excellent protection in
melee combat, as well as being a marker of social status and wealth due to its sheer cost.
The lighter versions of body armour such as the cardiophylax, spongia, and the linen cuirass
provided greater flexibility and mobility when compared to the bell-cuirass, and thus were
conceivably the armour favoured by troops armed with the javelin. The different armour
types dictated by financial restraints illustrate that warfare in Italy during the fourth century
was presumably waged between a combination of heavy infantry and lightly equipped
Archaeological evidence from Orvieto dating to the second half of the fourth century was
discovered in conjunction with a clipeus and a Montefortino helmet.114 Artistic
representations of the Greek-styled bronze muscled cuirass were also discovered; most
famously at the Françios tomb at Vulci from the same time period. 115 The evidence,
however, of both Greek and Italian styled cuirasses in Italy, presents a likely indication that
the Italians did not blindly adopt Greek military equipment, rather that Rome gradually
adapted and integrated the variety of arms and armour that best suited it battlefield needs.

During the fifth century Italic and Celtic societies were beginning to experiment with
different types of throwing javelins and by the end of the fourth century the javelin had
become the most important offensive weapon throughout the entire Italian peninsula.116
The fact that the primary offensive weapon of the hastati and velites of the Manipular
legion was the pilum, and that the Messapians sent a “specialist unit of 150 javelineers to
assist the Athenians in the failed siege of Syracuse c.413”indicate widespread use of the
weapon.117 A soldier did not require intensive training to effectively hurl a javelin thus

Peter Hunt, “Military Forces,” in The Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Warfare, ed. Philip A. Sabin, Hans van Wees and Michael
Whitby, (Cambridge University Press 2007) p. 109.
Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, p.100
Marie-Françoise Briguet, “Art” in Etruscan Life and Afterlife, ed. Larissa Bonfante, (Wayne State University Press, 1986) p.162
Small "The Use of Javelins in central and south Italy in the 4th Century BC," p.232
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 22

making it a perfect weapon for what was essentially an army of farmer-soldiers. Its range
made it suitable for raiding, and set battles alike. Archaeological and pictorial evidence from
across Italy suggests that the Etruscans and many other communities had been using the
javelin or a form of it before the Samnite wars. It is unclear at what precise stage the
Romans specifically began to utilize the javelin as their primary offensive weapon. It seems
feasible that after the sack of 390 and Rome’s succession of wars mainly to the south in
Campania, and Samnium, that the Romans gradually made greater use of the javelin as their
enemies and allies alike were utilizing it to good effect in the same period. The specific
origin of the javelin is somewhat hard to specify as the light javelin (vericulum) seems to
have been the preferred weapon in Southern Italy in Lucania and Apulia, and the heavier
javelin (gaesum) is apparently of Celtic design.118

Unfortunately there is not any archaeological or pictorial evidence of Roman use or design
of the javelin until the third century in Spain at Castelruf. The javelin discovered at Castelruf
is the fully developed Legionary pilum, which resembles in form and design the heavier
Celtic javelin, that has similarly been found at La Tene in Switzerland c.300-225, and the
Montefortino cemetery dating to the late Fourth century.119 . The Castelruf pilum highlights
to the scholar a large gap in javelin development from the fifth century, where
experimentation with the javelin began, until the third century where it seems to have
evolved into its final form. 120 The archaeological evidence of the Castelruf pilum shows that
the head was 22mm long, and connected to a shank that measured 250 mm long and was
20mm at its widest point.121 There is also evidence from Spain that points to a heavier
version of the pilum with the head being 60mm long, and the shank 554 mm long 122.
However this heavier pilum may in fact be the primary offensive weapon of the hastati that
appeared in the later manipular reforms army. The shank itself was attached to the haft in
two ways; the first was the spike tang which appeared to be in use by the first quarter of the
fourth century, with the second flanged type appearing later. To ascertain the different
types of javelins used in Italy in the fourth century it is necessary to assess the

Small "The Use of Javelins in central and south Italy in the 4th Century BC," p.231
Ibid, p.225
Bishop and Coulston, Roman Military Equipment, p.51
Ibid., p.52
Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, p.100
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 23

archaeological evidence which was predominant in the North, and the pictorial evidence of
Tombs and vases that was bountiful in the South of the peninsula.

In the Italian north there is fifth century archaeological evidence of a javelin from tombs at
both Montericco near Imola, and Metaponto. The Montericco javelin’s shank and blade
have a combined length of c.45cm, with the head itself measuring c.6cm and was attached
to the wooden haft by a socket. Whilst the Metaponto shank is shorter at c.31cm, both of
these javelins point towards a style reminiscent of the Castelruf pilum, and with their small
narrow heads would have been designed to pierce armour, and most likely would have
bent upon impact.124 Additionally in Etruria there is pictorial representation of a similar
javelin in the Giglioli tomb at Tarquinia and dates from the mid Fourth century,125 which
indicates the Legionary pilum being of Northern Italian or Gallic descent.

In Southern Italy, namely Lucania, and Apulia the light javelin was popular 126, certainly the
javelin was the most commonly found weapon found in Southern Italian graves, and
sometimes the only weapon with which they were buried.127 The Southern Italian light
javelin consisted of a small, low or medium shouldered leaf shaped head ranging from 15-
35cm in length. The javelin’s head itself was constructed in a variety of shapes either
barbed, triangular or an ellipsoid head.128 The most common form of evidence from this
region however is from Tomb and vase paintings, specifically from Paestum. In artistic
representations the light javelin is ‘always shown with a throwing thong (amentum)

Archaeological evidence from tomb 669II at Lavello discovered a total of 18 spears and
javelins illustrating the immense variety available to Italic warriors in the fourth century.130
Xenophon echoes this in his discourse on preparing for hunting ‘the javelins must be of
every variety, the blades broad and keen, and shafts strong’ (Xenophon On Hunting X.2-5).
The Southern Italian light javelin consisted of a small, low or medium shouldered leaf

Small, “The use of javelins in central and south Italy”, p.225
Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, p.100
Burns “The Homogenisation of Military Equipment,” p.75
Small, “The use of javelins in central and south Italy” p 225
Ibid., p.180, Norman Gardiner, “Throwing the javelin,” The Journal of Hellenic Studies 27 (1907) p.250
Burns, ”South Italic military equipment”, p.181
Ibid., p.175
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 24

shaped head ranging from 15-35cm in length. The javelin’s head itself was constructed in a
variety of shapes either barbed, triangular or an ellipsoid head.131

The javelin was especially common in Apulian red-figure ware, for example a vase by the
Maplewood painter depicts four Italic youths, one of whom holds two javelins in his left
hand and is throwing the third, whilst another directs his javelin towards a soldier equipped
with a thrusting spear and shield.132 Both javelineers hold their weapons at the balance
point near the head thus clearly differentiating them from the thrusting spear.133 Further
artistic evidence can be found on a column krater from Ruvo in which a soldier aims a
second javelin at his enemy who has already been wounded by the first javelin. 134 The North
wall of Tomb 7 from the Gaudo cemetery at Paestum further north in Campania portrays
two duelling warriors advancing on each other with thrusting spears, but both carry javelins
lodged in their legs.135 This artistic evidence from Southern Italy aids the interpretation of
Italic warfare illustrating that both heavy spears and lighter javelins were used on the
battlefield. The javelins were clearly the primary weapon and the thrusting spear was to be
used after the javelins had been thrown. There also seems to be uniformity in the numbers
of javelins carried by each warrior, with three being commonly depicted. This subscribes to
the image of the Roman legionary in the coming centuries and makes it likely that the form
and use of the Legionary javelin stems from a mixture of influences originating in both
Northern and Southern Italy that eventually developed its final form in Roman hands. What
can be said is that, according to pictorial evidence, there were two distinct types of javelin in
existence in central Italy by the fourth century.

The amentum increased the effectiveness of the javelin, and as such must also be examined.
The amentum is an “exclusively European invention” that was in use by the sixth century
and was widely distributed across Italy, Gaul, Greece, Spain, and as far north as Denmark
and Ireland.136 As the amentum is widely depicted in Greece it was once thought that the
Romans adopted it from the Greeks, however Gardiner states that it is much more probable

Ibid., p.180
Small, “The use of javelins in central and south Italy” p.230
Gardiner, “Throwing the javelin,” pp.256-7
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 25

that Rome adopted it from ‘her own allies and subjects.’ 137 Physically the amentum
consisted simply of a leather thong c.12-18 inches long that was firmly wrapped around the
javelin’s shaft in such a way that there was a loop 3-4 inches long left free so that the
thrower could insert his first, or first two fingers into it.138 The amentum additionally
marked the optimum balance point where the javelin needed to be held prior to flight, and
allowed the weapon to be kept at the ready, which was vital particularly in battle when
there was precious little time to adjust the javelin with precision.139 The functional use of
the amentum allowed the javelin to generate rotary motion whilst airborne, acting similarly
to todays rifling in firearms, providing the weapon with greater range, accuracy and,
considerably more penetrating power despite the weight of the weapon. One of the most
practical aspects of the amentum was that it provided the thrower with additional leverage
thus increasing the distance that the javelin was able to be thrown. Experiments conducted
by General Reffye for the Emperor Napoleon discovered that a javelin could only at best be
thrown twenty metres by hand, but could reach distances of 80 metres when thrown with
an amentum140. Another more recent experiment conducted by Jüthner proved that an
inexperienced thrower could potentially increase the distance of his throw from 25 to 65

As the amentum is represented widely in tomb and vase paintings, and in ancient literature,
it is necessary to examine as evidence found in tomb and vase paintings in Italy and Greece.
Xenophon writing in fifth century Greece describes use of the amentum by the peltasts
(skirmishers traditionally equipped with the javelin) when the Greek army was marching
through the mountains of the Carduchi (present day western Kurdistan) picking up the long
arrows of the enemy and “used them as javelins fitting them with thongs” (Anabasis IV.2.28)
In other passages he orders the peltasts to advance with their fingers already in the
amentum (Anab IV.3.28; V.2.12).

In Etruria there are several examples to be found specifically; the Françios vase (sixth
century) discovered at necropolis of Fonte Rotella near Chuisi which depicts two warriors

Ibid., 256
Ibid., p.250
Gardiner, , “Throwing the javelin,” p.250
Cf. Ibid., p.258
Cf. Ibid.
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 26

arms raised above their head in the act of throwing their javelins with their fingers clearly
fixed inside the amentum. The amentum is also depicted inside a tomb at Chuisi, which
presents an Etruscan athlete in the motion of throwing with his fingers through the
distinctive loop. A painting at Paestum presents a battle scene where two warriors are each
armed with a shield and two javelins, both are carrying a semi-circular loop that is the
amentum.142 The amentum is also apparent in the imagery on the walls of the tombs at
Caere, and there are similar depictions in both Samnite and Messapian tombs. This evidence
indicates that the amentum was widely distributed and was used throughout the Italian
peninsula, and therefore was likely to have been utilized by the Roman army of the fourth
century, if not beforehand. Thus it is increasingly plausible to argue that the heavy or light
javelin was deployed by the Roman army of the fourth century.

In conjunction with various models of the javelin, the heavy thrusting spear (hasta or
kontus) was also in use, and it is most likely to have been a dominant close combat weapon
of some Roman infantry at the beginning of the fourth century. 143 Archaeological evidence
indicates it was the most common offensive weapon found in Central and Southern Italy
during the Iron Age and was the most common weapon of the Gauls in the same period. 144
The preference for the spear lies in the simplicity of its use, and the ability to strike at ones
foe from a reasonable distance as compared to the distance needed to wield a sword
effectively. The heavy thrusting spear (kontus) consisted of a small leaf shaped iron head
varying from 15-30cm long, and 2.5-4cm wide.145 The spear head was attached to a thicker
wooden shaft than the javelin and was equipped with a spiked butt (sauroter). The sauroter
could double as a second stabbing point should the primary spear head become broken, and
gave protection to the shaft when stuck in the ground146. As Small points out, the spiked
butt allowed the spear to be securely driven into the ground at an angle, which made it
effective against cavalry.147 The heavy spear used by the Roman army of the fourth century
was therefore in all likelihood the same design as the later triarii of the manipular legion
were equipped with.

Gardiner, “Throwing the javelin,” p.254
Burns, South Italic military equipment, p.175; Small, “The use of javelins in central and south Italy,” p.231
Small, “The use of javelins in central and south Italy,” p.221
Burns, “South Italic military equipment” p.182
Bishop & Coulston, Roman Military Equipment, p.53
Small, “The use of javelins in central and south Italy,” p.223
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 27

Archaeological remains of spearheads dating from the fifth and fourth centuries have been
unearthed at the Arpi, Canosa, (Apulia) Pontecagnano (Southern Campania), Pietrabbonte
(Samnium), Oppido Lucano (Lucania), Campovalano, and Imola (Po valley).148 These
particular finds vary immensely in size and shape, further illuminating the wide range of
influences present on the Italian peninsula before the Roman conquest was completed. The
spearheads ranged from triangular stiletto bladed shape that may have been designed for
armour piercing to a broader quadrangular shape 149. One such head in particular unearthed
at Alife measured 45cm long.150 Evidence from Veii seems to indicate that the spearheads
were bound to the shaft with metal wiring.151 The fact that some spearheads have been
found in graves has allowed scholars to measure the length of the complete spear (kontus)
to between 1.6m (5.3 feet) – 2.5m (8.2 feet) in length. This may point to the use of the
shorter hasta being in common use, alongside the longer hoplite spear before the manipular
reforms were completed, and further adds to the notion that the manipular reforms do not
specify one date in particular, but rather that Rome was witness to a continual military
development beginning in the fifth century.152 Precisely attributing specific spearheads to
one particular peoples or region is made incredibly difficult to discern simply by the
immense variation in the shape and size of spearheads found in Italy before the third
century. It cannot be said with any authority that any one spearhead design in particular can
be of a specific regional or ethnic origin.153

Pictorial evidence of heavy spears provides insight into how they were used, and crucially
for our interpretation, they often appear alongside images of javelins. The evidence ranges
from Lucanian red-figure vases such as the bell krater in Vienna that depict a warrior
equipped with a helmet and shield advancing with a thrusting spear to tomb paintings at
Paestum and Capua.154 In particular a painting from tomb X Laghetto at Paestum depicts
two duelling warriors attacking each other with thrusting spears.155 Additionally heavy

Small, “The use of javelins in central and south Italy,” p.223-225; Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, p.104
Bishop & Coulston, Roman Military Equipment,p.53
Small, “The use of javelins in central and south Italy” p.222
Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, p.104
Small, “The use of javelins in central and south Italy,” p.225
Burns, “South Italic military equipment,” pp.176-177; Small, “The use of javelins in central and south Italy,” p.221
Small, “The use of javelins in central and south Italy,” p.228
Burns, “South Italic military equipment,” p.182
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 28

spears appear commonly in Attic black-figure vases from the fifth century down to the first
century. These were a popular import into Etruria and suggests that heavy spears were in
use during this period.156

Spearheads and javelins constitute the most archaeological evidence pertaining to

weaponry in the fourth century. There is archaeological evidence ranging from tomb
paintings at Paestum, to artistic ware in Etruria, and the physical remains of spear-heads
and javelins found throughout Italy. Italian spear-heads and javelins varied widely
suggesting a range of influences, and designs which the Roman army is likely to have
encountered in some form during the fourth century. The presence of spear-heads and
javelins when viewed in conjunction with previously discussed shield types, suggests that
two distinct configurations of warriors were fighting in the fourth century. The first as a
heavily armed infantryman, equipped with a clipeus and a thrusting spear, and the second
as a warrior who fought at range with javelin and scutum. Therefore, it is reasonable to
conclude that the spear and the javelin were the most common weapons of the battlefield
in the fourth century, which holds important and significant implications for the style in
which the Roman army fought.

The increasing reliance on the spear and javelin as the primary offensive weapon in Italy can
also be related to two additional factors. Firstly a soldier had to be trained to wield a sword
effectively, which required considerable time and effort. In contrast a soldier trained to
wield a spear or javelin required less training to be effective than that of a swordsman.157
Secondly, Rome at this time had no comprehensive training school similar to the Spartan
agoge in which to train sword wielding troops.158 The less experienced warrior, could by
utilizing the amentum located at, or near, the javelin’s centre of gravity greatly increase the
range and penetrating power of a javelin, or if need be his thrusting spear As a result the
Italic warrior made much greater use of the spear and javelin which were more suited for
use by part-time farmer soldiers who had little time to train. Additionally the potential
reason for soldiers to equip themselves with spears and javelins can be argued to lie within

Small, “The use of javelins in central and south Italy,” p.225
Hunt, “Military Forces” p.146
David Potter, "The Roman Army and Navy" In “The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Republic”, (Cambridge University Press 2004)
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 29

Cornell’s peer-polity model of interaction which argues that geographical neighbours in such
constant military interaction are likely to have adopted the same techniques as those
around them in order to balance the military equation.159

The majority of Rome’s enemies during the fifth and fourth centuries were the tribes
occupying the rugged hill country where the Apennines drop down into the plains south and
west of Latium and Campania. The Aequi, Volsci, Hercini, and later the Samnites, together,
are likely to have relied on a “predatory” raiding style of warfare where they descended
down to raid the settled cities and towns of Latium and Campania for moveable spoils of
war.160 To facilitate these hit and run tactics they utilized the javelin as their primary
offensive weapon, the weapon of “war and the chase.”161 Consequently javelins became the
primary offensive weapon throughout the Italian peninsula in the fourth century.

Swords (gladius/kopis/macharia/xiphos) excavated in the Po Valley are common and show

strong trans-alpine influences however, by the fourth century swords, although in use, were
not the primary offensive weaponry. There is evidence of three major types of swords that
were in use in Italy by the Fourth century, all were made of iron. The first and most common
was the double edged antennae sword found at Alalia in Corsica, Alfedena, and on the
Capestrano warrior. The blade length ranged from 60cm – 70cm and was designed to act as
a cut and thrust weapon. There is also lesser evidence of similar shaped single blade swords
of roughly the same length that were weighted towards more cutting than thrusting. Finally
there is considerable evidence of a one edged curved sword (kopis) that bears a
resemblance to the Spanish falcata in which the blade is weighted so that, when used in a
slashing motion, it develops considerable power, but has little balance for thrusting. A fifth
century (c.470) example of this type of a kopis was discovered in the tomb of the Warrior at
Lanuvium.162 The weapon is 81.7cm long and its blade is 7cm wide, which is
characteristically for this type of sword far wider and heavier towards the tip of the blade,
and tapers dramatically inwards towards the hilt. The heavy head of the kopis acted in a
similar way to an axe head mounted on a wooden haft, increasing the momentum of the

Cornell, The Beginnings of Rome, p.171; “The Conquest of Italy,” in The Cambridge Ancient History Vol.7 part 2: The Rise of Rome to
220 BC, (Cambridge University Press, 1990) pp.359-362
Cornell, The Beginnings of Rome, p.309
Gardiner, “Throwing the javelin,” p.257
Ramsey MacMullen, The Earliest Romans: A Character Sketch, (University of Michigan Press, 2011) p.103
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 30

blade as it was chopped downwards. An Etruscan kopis has also been discovered at Alalia,
and there is a Samnite wall painting of a kopis in the Naples Museum.163 Indeed Connolly
believes that the kopis was likely to have originated in Etruria.164 The kopis seems to have
been one of the more popular sword types across the Mediterranean from the sixth to
second centuries with examples discovered in Greece, Macedonia and Spain.165

Swords were primarily weapons of intimidation, not weapons of initial preference for both
tactical use and personal safety. A swordsman was restricted to close quarter combat, his
killing zone was dictated by the length of his sword, and this placed the warrior at a
disadvantage when facing enemy equipped with an eight foot thrusting spear, or a ranged
missile like the javelin. A swordsman, in order to overcome this reach disadvantage, and
physically inflict wounds on the enemy would have found it necessary to close this gap as
quickly as possible. As a result it appears conceivable that swords were only used to quickly
decide the outcome of a battle, either in the form of an initial charge aimed at breaking
their rivals will to fight or in the final phase when the enemy had been sufficiently weakened
by repeated javelin fire.166

Finally axes were also used throughout the Italian peninsula, and like the sword acted as a
secondary weapon to be used in close quarters after the javelins were exhausted. What is
interesting with axes is that they are depicted more frequently than “the sword in
Campanian vase paintings.”167 Indeed the Capestrano warrior carries two javelins, and an
axe not a sword. The depictions of axes appear to show that the axe was used by soldiers in
Italy. The Italic axe was single bladed, with a wedge shaped head and hafts of c.50-60cm in
length. An example of an Italic axe was unearthed in the tomb of the Warrior at
Lanuvium.169 A warrior wielding an axe and carrying two javelins along with a scutum is also
represented on the Väce Clasp.170 The axe like the kopis was used in a downwards chopping
motion, which enabled it to cause considerable damage, and was in all probability an
Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, p.63; 98; 107
Ibid., p.63
Ibid., p.63; 77; 98
Juliusz Tomczak, “Roman Military Equipment in the 4th Century BC: pilum, scutum and the introduction of manipular tactics,” Acta
Universitatis Lodziensis. Folia Archaeologica 29 (2012) p.42 Accessed March 12, 2014
Burns, “South Italic military equipment,” p.195
Ibid., p.196
MacMullen, The Earliest Romans: A Character Sketch, p.103
Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, p.103
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 31

alternative melee weapon of personal preference, able to perform the same purpose as the
kopis. The evidence pertaining to swords and axes further concludes that there was a range
of close quarter weaponry likely to have been in use during the fourth century in Rome. This
variety does not however indicate any real sense of uniformity of arms between soldiers
making it likely that, as a secondary weapon, swords and axes were subject to the personal
preference of the particular soldier.

The different types of melee weapons also represent a variation of close combat methods
likely to have been employed by solider during the fourth century. The antennae sword was
physically longer in the blade making it suitable for thrusting and slashing widely, and
reasonably effective in both a defensive and offensive use. The kopis and the axe on the
other hand were not designed with defence in mind, they were powerful offensive weapons
used a downwards chopping motion to smash into their opponent. The development of
swords and axes in Italy appears to mirror events in Macedonia, where the kopis became
the preferred secondary weapon of the phalangite.171 Therefore, it is reasonable to
conceive of a Roman army in the fourth century as being primarily armed with spears and
javelins, but also being equipped with a diverse range of melee weaponry

The preceding examination of archaeological evidence of Italian military equipment

indicates that a wide spectrum of military equipment was likely to have been in use during
the fourth century. This evidence, does not suggest that the Roman military fought in
uniformly armed ranks as spearmen and javelineers. It does illustrate that soldiers were
likely to fight with what they could afford, or chose to equip themselves with. Thus it is
important to consider how soldiers with this diversity of weaponry fought together tactically
on the battlefield.

The potential cost of a bronze cuirass and helmet, clipeus, thrusting spear and possibly
either a sword or an axe would have most likely excluded the majority of Roman citizens
from equipping themselves as heavy infantrymen. Roman soldiers, like the Greeks were

Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, p.63
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 32

required to qualify economically in order to fight on behalf of the city.172 They were not
paupers, yet the cost involved in obtaining the hoplite panoply was in all probability
restricted to a smaller number of wealthier men.

This suggests that the variables of social class and wealth seem to have been important
factors in determining the types of equipment that an individual soldier was able to outfit
themselves with. The economic implications of equipping heavy infantry raise the distinct
possibility that the majority of Roman soldiers arrived on the battlefield armed with varying
combinations of the two ‘staple’ panoplies. A Roman solider potentially was able to afford a
clipeus and yet they could present themselves for service wearing an Etrusco-Thracian
helmet and a linen cuirass. The reasons for this included a badly damaged cuirass, that the
soldier and was unable to afford either the repair or replacement costs. Alternatively, the
soldier may have also looted his weaponry from the battlefield. This then increased the
likelihood of the next soldier in the rank presenting themselves in a mixture of arms and
armour. The lack of uniformity in arms and armour throughout Italy then proffers a very
tenable illustration of the Roman army in the fourth century being equipped with similar,
but not the same arms and armour.

If the Roman army in the fourth century was arrayed in such a varied way it does not mirror
Livy’s description of both the Servian army and the manipular army. The Roman armies
presented by Livy should be rejected in favour of Quesada Sanz view that the Romans
fought in ranks of heavy and light infantry mixed together in clusters or ‘clouds’.173 The
mixture of troop types allowed the formation to expand and contract depending on the
particular phase of battle.174 For example, heavily armed soldiers may not have participated
in the initial skirmish phase, but rather they held their positions at the back of the line,
providing both a rallying point from which troops wielding javelins could sally forth and
retreat to between volleys, or alternatively seek support amongst when the melee phase

Ronald T.Ridley, “The Hoplite as a Citizen: Athenian Military Institutions in the Social Context,” L’Antiquité Classique, T. 48, Fasc. 2
(1979) p.508,519; Anthony Snodgrass, “The Hoplite Reform and History,” The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 85 (1965) p,114 ; Connolly,
Greece and Rome at war p.95; Cornell, The Beginnings of Rome, pp.185-6
Fernando Quesada Sanz, “Not so different: individual fighting techniques and battle tactics of Roman and Iberian armies within the
framework of warfare in the Hellenistic Age” In L’Hellénisation en Méditerranée Occidentale au temps des guerres puniques Pallas 70
(2006) p.251. Accessed March 21, 2014
Quesada Sanz, “Not so different: Individual fighting techniques,” p.251
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 33

began.175 Moreover, if due to economic reasons, the heavy infantry were populated by
wealthier Romans it is then possible to conceive that these men of high social status
maintained their ground thereby allowing the less heavily armed soldiers with a point to
prove to sally forth and engage the enemy first.

The role played by the heavier, and potentially more experienced troops resembled that of
the triarii in the manipular legion described by Polybius (VI.21).176 In the manipular legion,
the oldest, most experienced troops assumed a similar role in that they did not engage in
the skirmishing, and were not called upon to fight unless the hastati and principes were
unable to break the enemy ranks.177 It is likely then that the wealthier Roman soldiers
assumed a similar role in the army during the fourth century. The design of the clipeus may
also have accounted for the heavily armoured infantry standing their ground during the
initial phase of the battle. The circular shape of the clipeus was designed to protect the
soldiers’ torso and chest in melee combat, but this structural difference also rendered the
clipeus “deficient when protecting a large part of the body from missile fire.”178 This might
help to explain why the Romans eventually adopted the scutum as their preferred shield
type, and offer evidence in support of the hoplite soldier as they began to encounter larger
armies who, like them, were reliant on the javelin as the primary offensive weapon.

The archaeological evidence previously examined in this paper identifies two broad
categories of soldier, in Italy during the fourth century, heavily armed spearmen, and more
lightly equipped javelineers. The physical characteristics and limitations of weaponry dictate
the tactics in which warfare is conducted. Therefore it is likely that soldiers equipped with
the spear or the javelin influenced the way in which warfare was conducted.

The heavily armed Italic infantryman is depicted specifically in the tomb paintings from
Falerii Veteres, and on the Chigi vase from Etruria, as well as on the armour in the Lanuvium
warrior’s tomb.179 Therefore it is reasonable to conclude that some wealthier Italian
warriors went to war equipped similarly armed to Greek hoplites, and that these Italic heavy
infantrymen physically fought in a similar fashion to Greek hoplites. For reasons, such as
Bishop & Coulston, Roman Military Equipment, p.53; Connolly, Greece and Rome at War ,pp.128-29
Bishop and Coulston, Roman Military Equipment, p.53; Lawrence Keppie, The Making of the Roman Army: From Republic to
Empire,(Barnes and Nobles, 1994) p.22,34,39; Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, p.128-29
Burns” South Italic military equipment,” p 75
Connolly, Greece and Rome at War pp.96-017; MacMullen, The Earliest Romans: A Character Sketch p.103; Rosenstein, ““Phalanges in
Rome,” p.291
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 34

loss, damage and expense, soldiers could have equipped themselves with slight variations
on the hoplite panoply, and still be able to fight in the same manner. The Campanian vase
depicts an Etruscan warrior equipped with an array of weapons including a thrusting spear,
a bronze helmet and a singular disc cardiophylax as well as a warrior depicted equipped
with a triple-disc spongia, bronze helmet and clipeus on Campanian vase.180

The second category of soldier illustrated appears to have been equipped with either a linen
cuirass or cardiophylax together with a range of helmets and have to been equipped with
javelins and a scutum. It is possible therefore that in light of this evidence a more flexible
armour and full body shield was preferred in order to maximise the effect and use of the
javelin. Examples of this occurring include a tomb painting of an Etruscan warrior on the
Sarcophagus of the Amazons and bronze figurines of both an Etruscan warrior discovered at
Todi (c.425), and Samnite warrior found in Sicily.181 Other examples of such a soldier are
depicted on the Väce Clasp and the Arnoaldi situla.182 If it is accepted that the spearman and
javelineer represent the basic troop types operating in Italy during the fourth century then it
is presumable that the tactics employed on the battlefield were organised around the
strengths and weaknesses of their weaponry.

There are no surviving Roman first-hand accounts detailing exactly how Roman battles were
tactically fought in the fourth century. Livy (VIII.8-9) describes the manipular legion, but his
account of the Roman army was written in the first century AD and relying on the evidence
of the older annalists of the second century. It is also possible that Livy was influenced by
the description of Polybius in the second century, but it is probable that Livy’s description is
not only inaccurate but also misinformed. The picture that emerges from the archaeological
evidence is an army composed predominantly of lightly armed troops with javelins, and
heavily armoured spearmen. This image is portrayed on both the Chigi vase (c.650) and the
Certosa situla found in Bologna (c.500). 183 The Certosa situla, in particular, depicts warriors
equipped similarly to Greek hoplites marching interspersed with warriors carrying javelins,
bearing scutums and different helmets'.184 Correspondingly, evidence of similar military
equipment can be found in Greek depictions of warfare on pottery-ware, tomb paintings

Connolly, Greece and Rome at War p.98, 108
Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, pp.57-58,105,108; Briguet, “Art”, p.93
Connolly, Greece and Rome at War,p.58,105
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 35

and the physical evidence of javelins and spears in tomb deposits. These share similar
characteristics with the evidence discovered in Italy. Therefore in order to construct a clear
hypothesis of how Roman warfare in the fourth century was conducted; it is necessary also
to examine examples of similar military equipment in use in Greece, and Macedonia
between the mid-seventh to at least the second century.

The research of Fernando Quesada Sanz, argues that the Roman and Spanish armies of the
second century conformed to the same essential military weaponry and tactics.185 Quesada
Sanz contends that the Romans and the Spanish both fought similarly with spears and
javelins in massed ranks or ‘clouds’ that were able to expand and contract depending upon
the particular needs of the army.186

The image of the classical Greek hoplite fully equipped with Corinthian helmets, circular
aspis, and armed with an eight foot thrusting spear is well attested to in both the physical
evidence of their equipment and artistically in tomb paintings and pottery ware. 187 Artistic
evidence from the Corinthian styled Chigi Vase from Etruria, and Macmillan Aryballos
(c.650) portray soldiers equipped with aspis’, thrusting spears and full faced Corinthian
helmets massed together in the front ranks with lighter armed soldiers’ wielding javelins in
the rearmost ranks.188 This further demonstrates that Greek warriors, like their Italian
counterparts were equipped in a similar variety of arms and armour.

Paul Cartledge, Peter Krentz, and Anthony Snodgrass have proposed convincing theories
arguing that the development of the Greek hoplite and the phalanx in which they fought
were subject to a long process of piecemeal absorption of equipment and tactics. 189 In
addition they argue that the individual Greek poleis adopted the hoplite panoply and
phalanx at different times between the mid-seventh and third centuries.190 This argument is
further sustained by evidence which illustrates that Greek hoplites were still being

Quesada Sanz, “Not so different: individual fighting techniques” p.246,16
Ibid., pp.248,251-252, 260, 263
Snodgrass, “The Hoplite Reform and History,” pp.110-112; Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, p.39-64; Robin Osborne, Greece in the
Making 1200- 479 BC (Taylor & Francis, 2009) ,p.176
Paul Cartledge, “Hoplites and Heroes: Sparta's Contribution to the Technique of Ancient Warfare,” The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol.
97 (1977), pp.13-15; Hurwitz, “Reading the Chigi vase,” pp.14-15; Krentz, “The nature of Hoplite battles,” p.52;
H.L. Lorimer, “The Hoplite Phalanx,” pp.80-84; John Salmon, “Political Hoplites?,” The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 97 (1977) pp.87-89
Paul Cartledge, Spartan Reflections, (University of California Press, 2003) p.155; Snodgrass, “The Hoplite Reform and History,” p.110
H.L. Lorimer, “The Hoplite Phalanx,” pp.80-84; John Salmon, “Political Hoplites,” pp.87-89;
Krentz, The nature of Hoplite battles p.52; Cartledge, “Hoplites and Heroes,” pp.13-15
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 36

introduced in the 270’s when Philopoemen restructured the Achaean army from lightly
armed skirmishers to classical hoplites.191

Sparta, the Greek polis most commonly associated with the classical hoplite provides
additional evidence that they also fielded armies of lightly and heavily armed troops. 192 This
when viewed together with the account of Iphicrates force of javelineers defeating an entire
Spartan mora in 390 (Xenophon, Hellenica 4.5.11-17).193 The sum of the archaeological
evidence from Greece appears to corroborate with the first-hand literary accounts of Greek
warfare found in the poetry of Tyrtaios a Spartan general during the second Messenian war
and who was also a contemporary of the MacMillan painter in the seventh century (11.35-
38).194 Xenophon, a Greek mercenary commander in the fifth century also refers to the use
of javelins alongside heavily armed hoplites (Anabasis, IV.2.28, IV.3.28, V.2.12; Art of
Horsemanship XII.1.3).

These examples demonstrate that the Greeks were using javelins, and that they could
potentially play a devastating role against heavily armoured melee troops, if they were not
adequately countered. It also illustrates that warfare in Italy and Greece was fought with a
combination of troops primarily armed with either the javelin or heavy thrusting spear from
the mid-seventh century onwards.

The Macedonian army of Alexander the Great in fourth century constituted of a core of
phalangites, heavy Companion Cavalry, and light skirmishers; peltasts or Agrianian
javelineers.195 Hellenistic battle practice in general often began out in front of the phalanx
with a skirmish between groups of light infantry armed with missile weapons. 196 Evidence
pertaining to the use of both light and heavy infantry suggests that Greek and Hellenistic
armies were employing both light javelin troops together with regional variations of the

J.K. Anderson, “Philopoemen’s Reform of the Achaean Army,” Classical Philology, Vol. 62, No. 2 (Apr., 1967) pp.104-106
Matthew Trundle, “The Spartan Revolution: Hoplite Warfare in the late Archaic period,” War and Society, 19.2,( 2001) p.1,13 Accessed
March 21, 2014
Louise Rawlings, “Alternative agonies: hoplite martial and combat experiences beyond the phalanx,” in War and Violence in Ancient
Greece, ed. Hans Van Wees (London, 2000) p.233
Hurwit, “Reading the Chigi Vase,” p.15; Peter Krentz, “Fighting by the Rules: The Invention of the Hoplite Agon,” Hesperia: The Journal
of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Vol. 71, No. 1 (Jan.- Mar., 2002) p.29; Kurt Raaflaub, “Soldiers, Citizens and the
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Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, p.70-71
Everett L. Wheeler and Barry Strauss. "Battle," The Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Warfare. Ed. Philip Sabin, Hans van Wees,
and Michael Whitby. 1st ed. Vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007) p.203
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 37

spearmen. Indeed the evidence from the burials at Sindos reveals the presence of both
heavy and light spears until the late fifth century.197

Quesada Sanz in his investigation into the Roman, Iberian and Celtiberian warfare in the
second century argues that they fought in similar ways.198 Sanz points out that the Roman
“maniples” once the battle had begun did not remain positioned within a rectangular
formation similar to the phalanx. Rather he argues that the light troops armed with javelins
positioned around the heavily armed spearmen who were able to both expand when
launching volleys, and contract around the spearmen when faced with melee combat.199 It is
also compelling that the peoples inhabiting the Spanish peninsula during the second century
are attested to having similar sword types to those present in both Italy and Greece.200 The
Spanish tribes similarly utilized both the kopis (falcata) and a regional variation of the
antennae sword suitable for both thrusting and slashing which the Romans would
eventually adopt (gladius hispaniensis).

In conclusion a key feature in the development of the Rome and subsequently the Roman
army during the fourth century was inclusive expansion. Rome expanded its military, by the
virtue of its alliance system, which as its territory of control enlarged so did its available
military resources. Social class and economic stratification dictates that the wealthy are few,
and the bulk of the population hold less wealth, therefore it is plausible that only a small
percentage of the men called to serve in the Roman army, or any Italic army, would have
been able to afford to equip themselves with expensive panoplies similar to the example
found at Lanuvium, or depicted at Falerii Veteres, or on the Chigi vase. Moreover, the types
of military equipment that soldiers were able to equip themselves with were largely
influenced by economic and social factors.

This is strengthened by the archaeological evidence from throughout Italy indicating that
the spear and the javelin were the most prolific types of weaponry in use, and that the
clipeus and the scutum were the dominant shield types. Furthermore, there is a evidence of
a variety of body armour, which indicates that body armour was the most likely piece of
equipment to be influenced by economic factors. Consequently the majority of soldiers in

Krentz, “Fighting by the Rules,” pp.29-34
Quesada Sanz, “Not so different: individual fighting techniques and battle tactics of Roman” p.246,258
Ibid., pp.250-251
Burns, South Italic military equipment, p.53; Connolly, Greece and Rome at War, p.150
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 38

the Roman army during the fourth century were most likely to have been equipped with
either the cardiophylax, spongia, or the linen cuirass, and to have been armed with the
javelin and the scutum. There were certainly soldiers who were able to afford to equip
themselves similarly to the classical Greek hoplite, but due to economic cost, and social
stratification they, like the later triarii, were likely to have constituted a smaller percentage
of the soldiers fighting in the armies.

The method by which armies wage war is largely dictated by the arms and armour they are
able to equip themselves with. The bulk of archaeological evidence pertaining to military
equipment; the spear, the javelin, the clipeus, and the scutum, cardiophylax, and both the
linen and metallic cuirass reinforce the likelihood that the Roman army fought according to
tactics which optimized the use of these types of equipment.

If the wealthy went into battle armed with a spear, clipeus, and a metallic cuirass, they were
dependant on the numbers of soldiers similarly armed around them to both negate their
lack of mobility and to increase the effectiveness of their weaponry. Alternatively a soldier
armed with javelins, and lighter more flexible armour was required, by his equipment, to
rely on his increased mobility and to maintain his distance from the heavily armed
spearmen. Therefore the combination of these two dominant types of warriors and the way
in which they utilized their equipment is likely to be representative of the style of warfare
which the Romans employed during the fourth century. This provides further weight to
Quesada Sanz’s ‘cloud’ theory; i.e. as the heavily armed spearmen were likely to have
maintained their distance from the enemy, whilst the javelineers surged backwards and
forwards from them in order to launch their missiles.201 The evidence does not support the
proposition that the Roman army of the fourth century adopted a radical change in
equipment and tactics, rather the diversity of equipment indicates that it was most
probable that the Roman army gradually adopted and assimilated the military equipment of
its allies and enemies alike. It also indicates that it is in the fourth century that the javelin
and the scutum played an increasingly dominant role on the battlefield.202

In addition there are congruencies in the depictions and physical remains of military
equipment from Italy, Greece, Macedonia, and Spain between the mid-seventh to second
Quesada Sanz, “No so different:” pp.24-252, 258-263
Small, “The use of javelins in central and south Italy, ”p.225, 231-232
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 39

centuries .It then can be argued that if these geographically diverse cultures were
reasonably uniform in their use of equipment and tactics, then it is also plausible that the
Roman army operating in the middle of this continuum would have organized themselves in
a similar way.
Alastair Lumsden #3095332 AncHist 792 40


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