March 19, 2002
Roman Boot Camp

While looking for something else, I ran across an interesting site, Armamentarium, devoted to "Roman Arms and Armour". It seems to be dormant, since it has not been updated in almost five years and most of the elaborately-indexed contents are only titles. (If you root around, you will find some nice illustrations of ancient weapons.) However, it does include Vegetius' fascinating (and short) account of the traditional training of Roman soldiers, in alternating Latin and English. Vegetius is known today for one line, "if you want peace, prepare for war" (si vis pacem, para bellum), but he wrote an entire treatise on military matters.

Interesting aspects of Roman training included:

  • The use of wooden stakes for sword practice. These seem to have functioned rather like punching bags.
  • The use of heavier than normal practice spears, presumably so the real ones would feel light by comparison. The same principle lies behind the lead donuts baseball players put on their bats for practice swings.
  • Learning to leap on and off a horse, first a wooden one, then presumably real one, first without armor, then fully armed. Stirrups apparently came later, brought to Europe (they say) by the Huns.
Posted by Dr. Weevil at March 19, 2002 10:00 PM