: Securing seas and shores: Fleets of the Roman empire
Introduction: Courtney Foster, 'Introduction to the theme'. Illustrated by JÃ³se Antonio GermÃ¡n.
Regardless of its achievements, the Roman navy will forever
be eclipsed by the prominence of the Roman army. Though the
legionary campaigns of Imperial Rome historically created a legacy
of glorified military supremacy, the navy nevertheless played a
significant part in its foundation, maintenance, and overall preservation.
J.H. Rose, a contemporary historical scholar, explains the
necessity of the Roman navy best in his work The Mediterranean
in Ancient Times: â€œâ€¦in promoting the Roman civilizationâ€¦the
influence of Roman fleets in bringing about that miracle has been
almost entirely ignored. Yet it is demonstrable that the Roman
empire dependedâ€¦on its fleets.â€
The source: Michael J. Taylor, 'The papyrus letters of Claudius Terentianus - A voice from Egypt'. Illustrated by Andrew Brozyna.
Letters home provide a rich insight into the daily lives of soldiers
and sailors. They are historically quite rare, as illiteracy and censorship
generally conspired to mute the voices of men in the ranks.
The dry sands of Egypt, however, have preserved a number of
examples of letters written by Roman military men, and these
provide invaluable portholes into their social world. One famous
collection of papyrus letters, known as the Tiberianus archive, provides
military historians a double benefit. It contains letters written
by a young man named Claudius Terentianus, who served first
in the Imperial fleet before transferring to a legion. These letters
therefore provide a window into life in both the classis and legion
during the high empire.
Theme: Raffaele Dâ€™Amato, 'An officer of the liburna Aurata - The tombstone of Montanus'.
One of the most intriguing stela depicting classiarii was found
in 2005 in Ravenna (Italy), during the excavations of the area of
Classe, the harbour of the Ravennate fleet. It is the gravestone of
a young Roman officer in full military dress. In his right hand he
holds what is presumably a javelin and in the left a paludamentum
(cloak). The junior officer wears a muscled cuirass with pteryges on
the shoulders and along the bottom of his cuirass. A gladius is also
visible and caligae are shown on his feet. The incomplete inscription
reports the soldierâ€™s name as Montanus[?], which was originally
linked with the name Capito, an optio serving on a liburna
called Aurata (golden). The monument was commissioned by the
heir of the deceased, probably one of his colleagues.
Theme: Jasper Oorthuys, 'Deciphering the structure of the fleets - Marines and Mariners'. Illustrated by Graham Sumner.
Ancient history is full of examples where we know that a reliable
author wrote about a certain person, event or development, but
where his testimony has not survived for whatever
reason. The study of Roman naval forces
has its own example in Appianâ€™s promise, stated
in his introduction to his Roman History, that
he would detail the exact disposition of Romeâ€™s
armed forces in a later book. Of course, that
book does not survive, so what we know about
the fleets has to be pieced together from passing
mentions in literary narrative, and especially
inscriptions. The latter are invaluable for
our understanding of the internal structure of
the fleets. Actually, theyâ€™re both invaluable and
frustratingly ambiguous, if we are being honestâ€¦
Theme: Mihail Zahariade, 'The Roman provincial fleets - Workhorses of the Imperial navy''.
In the fading years of the Republic after the battle of Actium, while
Augustus slowly solidified his position, it had become one of his
main goals to achieve a general reshuffling of the military forces
throughout the empire. The rapid sequence of political and military
events set new boundaries for the Roman Principate: the Atlantic
Ocean, two major seas (the North and Black Seas) and three key
rivers (Rhine, Danube and Euphrates) were of critical importance
for the defense against powerful neighbors near and beyond the
frontiers. The management of waterborne human and material
resources along these natural boundaries remained an inseparable
part of the military policy of the empire during the subsequent six
centuries of its existence.
Theme: Paul McDonnell-Staff, 'The battle of actium, 31 BC - The winds of fate'. Illustrated by Jason Askew and Carlos Garcia
The whole story of Caesarâ€™s death, Marcus Antonius and Cleopatra,
together with the rise to power of Octavian, later Augustus the first
Emperor of Rome, is surrounded by so many myths and legends â€“
what modern commentators would call â€˜spinâ€™ â€“ that it is hard to
discern the truth. This article attempts to undo some of this â€˜spin,â€™
in an effort to discover the likely facts about the key moment in
history that led to the rise of the first Roman Emperor.
Theme: Jesse Obert, 'The personal relationship between an emperor and his navy - Classis mea, my fleet'.
The bay of Naples has been a tourist hotspot
since the birth of tourism. The idyllic Italian
towns and beautiful coastline attract international
interest, and its ancient sites remain
essential to any classical education. In 2009
I spent a week at the bay. I wandered through the
ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum snapping
pictures and exploring every alley. As a Roman archaeologist,
I was awed by the beautifully preserved frescoes
and mosaics. However, by the end of the week, the
archaeologist in me had all but forgotten the ancient
cities once I reached the small island of Capri.
The Find: Murray Dahm, 'Head wounds, healing and helmets - Don't lose your head'.
An intriguing Scythian helmet held in the Ashmolean Museum,
Oxford, together with the skull which it was
buried with and which it protected, provide
remarkable insights into the archaeology
of head wounds in antiquity.
Special: Allan Smith IV, 'Testing Polybius' formations - The anatomy of battle'. Illustrated by Angel Garcia PintÃ³ and Andrew Brozyna.
It is too often forgotten to critically
review every work, no
matter how credible a source
it is generally considered to be.
Instances of insufficient critical
review exist throughout scholarly
history. Similarly, cases
of historians relying too heavily
on the interpretations and
claimed evidence of other works
have taken their toll too. Many
authors have relied more on
secondary (or tertiary) sources
rather than the primary sources.
As such, it is vital to reconsider
every source and investigate
every author (as both
should be given equal scrutiny)
for any deliberate error, unintended
authorial bias, or simple
The Debate: Duncan B. Campbell, 'Who killed Alexander the Great? - Death in Babylon'.
Alexander the Great died unexpectedly on June 11, 323 BC, in the
ancient Persian city of Babylon. The preceding eight years had
seen him crush the Persian King Darius III at the Battle of
Gaugamela, capture his capital city of Persepolis, and overrun
his empire as far as the Punjab. Then, â€œjust when he seemed to
be at the peak of power and prosperityâ€, wrote the historian
Diodorus Siculus, â€œfate cut short the lifetime granted to him by
natureâ€. Ancient writers were perplexed by his mysterious death,
and scholars continue to offer various explanations without
reaching much agreement. So, can we ever say, for certain, who or
what killed Alexander the Great?