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Curiosities of ancient Rome (Army)

The world of ancient Romans abounded in a number of amazing curiosities and information. The source of knowledge about the life of the Romans are mainly works left to us by ancient writers or discoveries. The Romans left behind a lot of strange information and facts that are sometimes hard to believe.

Roman attempt to conquer kingdom of Sheba

In 25 BCE Egypt’s prefect Gaius Aelius Gallus began a military expedition to subjugate Rome to the Arab kingdom of Sheba. It was located on the territory of modern Yemen, and therefore was an ideal territory from which to conduct maritime trade with countries on the Indian Peninsula.

Roman legionary from the 1st century BCE

Names of animals in legions

Ancient Romans adopted the names of many animals for their military equipment, including: eagles (aquilae) for the legionary mark; the ram (aries) for the ram; “pig’s head” (caput porci) for wedge formation; raven (corvus) for the boarding bridge; cuniculus (“tunnel” derived from the word rabbit – coniglio, thus “rabbit hole”); wolf (lupus) for a defensive tool used to push siege ladders away from walls; or “Marius’s mules” (muli Mariani) to describe Roman legionaries after reform of Gaius Marius.

The image of a boar on the banner of legion XX

Elephants in Roman army?

Romans rarely used elephants in battle. Several pieces captured on Pyrrhus were present at the triumph of Manius Curius Dentatus in Rome in 275 BCE. However, it is not known what happened to these animals later. Perhaps they shared the fate of about 140 elephants captured by Lucius Metellus Pontyfex in Sicily in the battles with the Carthaginians, who died in the arena after the triumph of the victorious leader. As you can see, the chiefs of the city on the Tiber did not initially appreciate the value of these animals. At the turn of the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE

Roman elephant

Conducting trenches

Trenching was an important method of siege warfare in antiquity. According to legend, during the siege of the Etruscan capital Veii in 396 BCE, Roman soldiers digging the tunnel heard a bard over them proclaiming that the victory would be given to the side that offered the gods first to sacrifice the sacred parts of the sacrificial animal.

Roman ram and tunnel

Short javelins – plumbatae

In the Roman legion, apart from the usual javelins (pilum), a type of short javelin (plumbatae) was also used. Plumbata was a kind of a dart approximately 60 cm with a lead load (ball), thanks to which the dart was stable during the flight. Its operation was similar to that of pilum with the difference, however, that it could be thrown much further. Thongs or something like wooden hand-held launchers was used for this.


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