Vexillatio : temporary units and special commands of the Roman army 211 BC-AD 268

Tully, Geoffrey D (2002). Vexillatio : temporary units and special commands of the Roman army 211 BC-AD 268 PhD Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics, The University of Queensland.

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Author Tully, Geoffrey D
Thesis Title Vexillatio : temporary units and special commands of the Roman army 211 BC-AD 268
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2002
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Jones, Brian
Total pages 432
Collection year 2002
Language eng
Subjects L
430110 History - Classical Greek and Roman
780107 Studies in human society
Formatted abstract

In 1985, Professor M.P. SPEIDEL noted that 'the structure and command of vexillations is still largely unknown.,1 Since then, a number of scholars have advanced our knowledge of particular vexillations, but we are still very much in the dark with regard to even the elementary aspects of the origins, methods of creation, organization, command and service of these units in general. The universally accepted English translation of the word vexillatio is 'a detachment', and, according to the established view, the employment of such bodies was an innovation of the Emperor Augustus, who, after settling the legions and auxihary units in permanent garrisons around the Empire, devised the vexillatio as a means of quickly re-deploying portions of armies or units to deal with emergencies. Detachments, it is widely believed, could range in size from a small handful of men through to a force of several thousand, and, when taken from the legions, were normally commanded by senatorial officers, that is up until the time of the Marcomannic wars, when the pressures of that conflict necessitated the employment of equestrian officers in the same role. However, a close examination of the evidence reveals that the word 'detachment' is a misleading, and at times incorrect, translation of vexillatio. In truth, a vexillatio was a new (albeit temporary) unit, usually (though not exclusively) structured on the model of a regular unit and/or sub-units, with a new title and a new commander, who (even from the late first century BC) was most often an equestrian officer, a decurion or a centurion. The origins of the vexillatio, moreover, go back well beyond the reign of Augustus, at least as far back, in fact, as the Second Punic War of the late-third century BC. Though vexilla are seldom recorded in our sources for the Republic, the wealth of evidence for these types of units in the Principate has revealed a great many details about how soldiers were selected for service in a vexillatio; what the strengths and organization of single vexillations and larger special commands were, and the ranks of those who led them, as well as a number of aspects concerned with their operational employment.

1M.P. Speidel, 'A Pannonian Optio Vexillationis Buried at Stratonikeia', Epigraphica Anatolica 6 (1985),75=Mavors 8,67.

Keyword Rome -- Army -- Organization
Rome -- History, Military -- 30 B.C-476 A.D.
Rome -- History, Military -- 265-30 B.C.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: UQ Theses (RHD) - UQ staff and students only
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Created: Fri, 24 Aug 2007, 17:57:36 EST