Rome’s Regal Armies II

CITIZEN-SOLDIER, CLASS III As each citizen was obliged to buy his own equipment, it seems clearly logical to assume that not all hoplites were identically equipped. The less well-off citizen would have had nothing so elaborate as the bronze or linen corselet that wealthier citizens wore, yet doubtless many of those members of this class w h o had the means actually supplied themselves with a small bronze breastplate, the old Italic round or rectangular models being still very much in circulation (1). The importance of armour to those w h o fight at close quarters can hardly be overstated. Apart from the obvious protection it offers, armour lends confidence to the wearer, and confidence in combat is always extremely important. Where metallic armour was not available or affordable, citizens probably made use of cuirbouilli or padded protection, and we can be certain that the individual citizen-soldier sought to protect himself with at least some form of body armour. The private provision of (expensive) war gear could accordingly reflect individual preference for different forms and styles (Greek, Graeco-Etruscan or Italic). For the most part, however, to compensate for any lack of body armour classes II and III used the oval scutum instead of the round clipeus. The scutum offered better protection to the torso and legs, it being the body shield c o m m o n in Italy and already known in Rome as it had been widely employed in its early days by its clan warriors. In shape and form, whatever may have been true of the period of the clan-based warband, the scutum would by this period have been very much like the thureos (‘door-like’) common to the soldiers called thureophoroi in later Hellenistic armies. With the scutum a soldier could be both defensive and offensive, parrying enemy blows with its board or rim and punching with its metallic boss-plate. The scutum, unlike the clipeus, was a relatively cheap piece of equipment.


Although a neat, tidy and internally consistent model, this traditional account, based on the explicit testimony of our two main literary sources, has always faced a bit of criticism – and particularly the Servian reforms of the mid-sixth century BC. From a very early date scholars have wondered whether a system as complex as the Servian Constitution could have been introduced in Rome in the sixth century BC. It was suggested that the political aspects of the reforms, and specifically the creation of two new assemblies, made no sense in a Rome which was still ruled by a rex. Indeed, neither of the Servian Constitution’s two new assemblies, the Tribal Assembly and the Centuriate Assembly, are recorded as performing any functions or duties until at least the fifth century BC. All of Rome’s political power seems to have remained with the rex, the senate and the old curiate assembly which continued to pass the law granting/confirming imperium. Additionally, questions have been raised about whether Rome would have needed (or even would have been able to field) the elaborate military system laid out in the reforms during this period, with the wide variety of troop types described (including engineers and trumpeters). One possible solution to this issue is that the Servian Constitution, as preserved in the accounts of Livy and Dionysius, represents the final version of something which was only started in the sixth century BC. As noted above, given the passages from Cato, Festus and others, it seems likely that only the first class and equites were really thought of as the classis.

Not all of those in the five classes are called the classici, but only the men of the first class whose census rating was 125,000 asses or more. Those who are called infra classem are the men who belonged to the second class as well as all the other classes, whose census ratings were below that of the first.

The term infra classem refers to those whose census rating is less than 120,000 asses.

These references, and others like them, have suggested to scholars that the Servian system of classes actually developed slowly over time, with the first class and equites being introduced first, and the later classes being slowly introduced at later dates – possibly as late as the fourth or third centuries BC. So the Servian constitution of the sixth century BC may have simply been a rationalization and reorganization of the existing tribal army based on economic and geographic criteria.

This still does not, however, explain the entire situation. Perhaps the most damning criticism of the Servian Constitution and the traditional model of Roman military development has come from increasingly careful analyses of the literary narrative itself. Outside of a few ‘structural passages’ in the literary tradition (essentially where the narrative stops and a bit of detailed information is given by the author on various aspects of early Roman military and political development), the literary narrative for early Rome seems to describe the Romans fighting wars and engaging in battles using a system which does not align with the precepts of the Servian model at all. Instead of fighting wars over land and control of territory, which would suit a community-based hoplite phalanx, during the late sixth and fifth centuries BC the Romans and their opponents seem to engage almost entirely in raiding for individual glory and wealth – a style of warfare for which a phalanx is decidedly ill-suited. Additionally, the few direct references to the Romans using a phalanx in an actual battle situation are surprisingly problematic. For instance, Dionysius of Halicarnassus describes the Roman army fighting against the Sabines in a phalanx.

For their foes, despising them because their troops were new recruits, encamped over against them, and placing ambushes on the roads, cut off the provisions that were being brought to them and attacked them when they went out for forage; and whenever cavalry clashed with cavalry, infantry with infantry, and phalanx against phalanx, the Sabines always came off superior to the Romans, not a few of whom voluntarily played the coward in their encounters and not only disobeyed their officers but refused to come to grips with the foe.

However, he also describes the tribal Sabine people as fighting in a phalanx and the entire passage is placed in a context of irregular warfare. As a result, it could be argued that Dionysius is using the word ‘phalanx’ to simply mean a group of infantry. This type of interpretation is supported by passages like this one, from a later battle narrative.

Against the troops who were fighting in the middle of the phalanx, which was widely spaced and lax, those who were stationed here charged in a body and drove them from their position.

Additionally, as noted above, although Roman society was supposedly reformed with military and political power being handed to the Centuriate and Tribal assemblies, neither of these assemblies seems to be active until the middle of the fifth century BC at the earliest. Instead, Rome’s military and political systems seem to be dominated by a collection of powerful clans and individuals who seem to have had a fairly limited connection to the community. During the Regal period, the city of Rome and her citizen population often seems like more of a bystander than a major player in much of the warfare taking place. So, where did this standard model come from? Why did the Romans think they fought in a hoplite phalanx, if they did not? The answer may lie in the historical tradition itself. Intriguingly, the Roman army which the literary sources describe emerging from the Regal period mirrors, almost exactly, the military situation which Greek and Roman historians seem to have envisioned for Greece at the end of the sixth century BC – and particularly the emergence of the classic hoplite phalanx and the reforms of Cleisthenes in Athens. Whether the ancient Greeks were correct in their view of their own history, and particularly their military development, is still quite a contentious issue in modern scholarship – with scholars like Han van Wees challenging the traditional models and suggesting that the classic hoplite phalanx and hoplite warfare which the sources seem to describe may have represented an idealized version of what was fundamentally a more often individual style of combat. However, the emergence of heavily armoured infantry in the sixth century BC, coupled with social and political reforms, would have made sense to someone familiar with this model. And when the Greeks started to write their histories of the Romans in the third century BC (it should be remembered that the first histories to mention Rome and discuss her origins were written by Greeks), after Rome’s emergence onto the Mediterranean stage with the war against Pyrrhus, and when the Romans settled down to write their own histories a couple generations later at the turn of the second century BC, they naturally looked at the strong historical precedent set in Greece and may have, either consciously or unconsciously, modelled their own narratives upon it.

Revised Literary Approach

Unfortunately, when it comes to looking outside the passages that form the basis for the traditional interpretation of the early Roman army, there is little solid evidence with which to work to create an alternative model. As a result, any attempts to assign concrete numbers, divisions or attributes to the early army will always represent guesswork (although perhaps educated guesswork) at best. The ideal complement of 3,300 men which the literary sources give for the curiate army of Romulus undoubtedly represents a rough estimate, based on what must have been a very muddled tradition, and it is clear that Romans did not envisage Rome’s later Regal army, as organized by the Servian Constitution, as ever having a set size. So it is probably best to consider Rome’s armed forces during this period as being flexible and reactionary, mobilized based on need and not necessarily on a set system or quota as in later periods. The rough proportion of infantry to cavalry in both the army of Romulus and Servius Tullius, effectively ten to one, may represent something like reality – as warfare would have been limited to those rich enough to afford their own equipment and the very rich (possibly the top ten per cent of the army) may very well have utilized horses, as we know these were present in the region. However, given the heavily forested nature of Latium during this period, in contrast to modern day Central Italy, it is questionable how effective cavalry would have been in actual combat – at least as anything resembling a unified force. So it is probably best to consider the number of various troop types and the distribution and use of equipment in the army of this period to be haphazard and largely based on personal choice and preference.

When considering how the army behaved in battle, although there are a number of battle descriptions preserved in the narrative, the vast majority are either so general or so mythologized and full of clearly anachronistic detail that it would be unwise to take them at anything resembling face value. Indeed, most scholars writing about the Roman army during the Regal period have, justifiably, often steered clear of using the more narrative passages in their analyses for these sorts of reasons. However, looking a little more closely, some broad themes do emerge which may shed some light on the situation. Perhaps the most obvious and consistent aspects of early Roman warfare seen in the literature are its open character and individual aspect. Warriors are regularly described engaging in duels and individual combat as part of a fluid battle where movement around the battlefield seems to be both possible and easy. This type of individual combat could (and often did) take the form of a formal duel, as seen with the ‘Battle of the Champions’ between the Horatii and Curiatii in the reign of Tullus Hostilius.

There happened to be in each of the armies a triplet of brothers, fairly matched in years and strength. It is generally agreed that they were called Horatii and Curiatii. Few incidents in antiquity have been more widely celebrated, yet in spite of its celebrity there is a discrepancy in the accounts as to which nation each belonged. There are authorities on both sides, but I find that the majority give the name of Horatii to the Romans, and my sympathies lead me to follow them. The kings suggested to them that they should each fight on behalf of their country, and where victory rested, there should be the sovereignty. They raised no objection; so the time and place were fixed. But before they engaged a treaty was concluded between the Romans and the Albans, providing that the nation whose representatives proved victorious should receive the peaceable submission of the other. This is the earliest treaty recorded, and as all treaties, however different the conditions they contain, are concluded with the same forms, I will describe the forms with which this one was concluded as handed down by tradition.

Alternatively, and far more commonly, there are numerous references to heroes confronting each other on the battlefield. Most notably there is Romulus defeating the king of the Caenina and winning the spolia opima for the first time.

Whilst they were scattered far and wide, pillaging and destroying, Romulus came upon them with an army, and after a brief encounter taught them that anger is futile without strength. He put them to a hasty flight, and following them up, killed their king and despoiled his body; then after slaying their leader took their city at the first assault.

Additionally, there are countless other instances where key figures in the narrative find themselves engaged in combat, as with Mettius Curtius and Hostius Hostilius in the war against the Sabines, or the combat between Brutus and Arruns Tarquin following the removal of Tarquinius Superbus.

Similarly the enemy’s cavalry was in front of his main body, Arruns Tarquin, the king’s son, in command; the king himself followed with the legionaries. Whilst still at a distance Arruns distinguished the consul by his escort of lictors; as they drew nearer he clearly recognised Brutus by his features, and in a transport of rage exclaimed, ‘That is the man who drove us from our country; see him proudly advancing, adorned with our insignia! Ye gods, avengers of kings, aid me!’ With these words, he dug spurs into his horse and rode straight at the consul. Brutus saw that he was making for him. It was a point of honour in those days for the leaders to engage in single combat, so he eagerly accepted the challenge, and they charged with such fury, neither of them thinking of protecting himself, if only he could wound his foe, that each drove his spear at the same moment through the other’s shield, and they fell dying from their horses, with the spears sticking in them.

Although these types of duels likely contain a strong mythic element, scholars (most notably Stephen Oakley) have convincingly argued, based on continued evidence for duelling throughout the Republic, that this type of single combat represented a regular aspect of war within the Roman military system and should not be discounted so quickly. The long tradition of the spolia opima in particular, which involves the Roman commander successfully defeating the enemy commander in single combat, hints that this type of interaction was not unheard of.

Another intriguing aspect which emerges is the importance of families and clans in warfare. This is something which will be discussed in the next chapter in detail, but it is important to recognize here that families and clans seem to play a much larger role in warfare than the state during this period. On the battlefield, family members are often depicted fighting alongside one another and family structures seem to have formed a viable mechanism for military recruitment, even after the traditional date for the Servian Constitution, as seen through Brutus’ recruitment of clan-based forces following the rape of Lucretia or, of course, the famous instance of the private war between the Fabii and Veii in the early Republic and various other similar instances.

Arguably the most interesting and noteworthy difference between the more structural descriptions of the army and the evidence which can be gleaned from the rest of the narrative, is that the bulk of Roman military activity during the Regal period was evidently not centred on state goals or conquest of land, but rather seems to have been largely concerned with raiding for portable wealth. Although all of Rome’s reges are described as expanding Roman territory militarily and conquering numerous settlements, and indeed the sources suggest that this type of activity was the usual goal of Roman military action, there is no evidence to suggest that any of these ‘conquests’ resulted in control of settlements or their territory. For instance, Rome’s famous victory over Alba Longa under Tullus Hostilius did not result in long-term Roman control over the region, or indeed the land in between the settlements. This ‘conquest’, like other victories after it during the Regal period, clearly had an immediate impact on the community in terms of loss of life and property but did not seem to result in the attestable creation of an extensive Roman ‘kingdom’ or ‘dominion’ over Latium.

This changing understanding of Roman warfare and the increasing absence of a grand strategic vision behind Roman military activity has also led scholars to challenge the literary sources’ interpretation of colonization. E.T. Salmon in his great work on the subject, Roman Colonization Under the Republic, published in 1970, followed the line of reasoning presented in Livy that Roman colonies planted during the Regal and early Republican periods were strategic in nature, used to secure territorial gains by the state. This approach has increasingly come under fire, however, in recent years as scholars have noted that Rome’s Regal colonies were actually never founded following victories and did not seem to maintain a strong political or military link to Rome – and indeed they often went into ‘revolt’. All this suggests that Regal colonization should probably not be interpreted as ‘Roman expansion’, as with the creation of citizen and veteran colonies in later periods, but rather as independent elite initiatives established for a range of other reasons.

Overall then, the narrative for early Roman warfare outside of the various authorial asides, which were likely added during the second and first centuries BC during the expansion of the historical narrative, paints a slightly different picture. Instead of having a grand strategy during this early period, Roman warfare seems to have been directed for shortterm gains by powerful warlords who relied heavily on the city’s (and region’s) clans for manpower. Battles themselves seem to have been a mixture of ambushes, raids and the occasional large scale engagements, but were generally open affairs with a significant amount of duelling and individual combat between aristocrats. The nature of warfare is therefore still extremely tribal and heroic where the state and community concerns seem to play a minimal role.

In many ways this situation actually mirrors what Livy and Dionysius suggest existed with Rome’s tribal army under Romulus, although they naturally seem to have envisaged a bit more state control following their expectations based on Rome’s late Republican system. Intriguingly though, there is no evidence in the narrative for any changes which might have resulted from the introduction of the Servian Constitution. During the reign of Servius Tullius and the final Tarquin we do not find the expected shift towards large group engagements or formations, state-centred military goals, the emergence of a hoplite ethos in battle, etc. The sources, despite the fact that they clearly envisaged Rome as a conquest-driven city-state, still describe a mode of warfare which was decidedly aristocratic in nature and driven by raiding/booty. Tarquinius Superbus, for instance, is reported as engaging in raiding against Ardea explicitly in order to acquire booty. The same can also be said of the actions of the young Sextus Tarquinius at Gabii and the vast majority of military actions in the early Republic.

Archaeology of Warfare in Archaic Rome

The archaeology for warfare in Latium during the Regal period is unfortunately limited and subject to a range of interpretations, but still provides an interesting parallel to the revised interpretation of the literature. The military equipment discovered in Central Italy dating to the period, largely from Etruria but also found near rich Latin communities like Praeneste, often seems to corroborate the picture of military development presented by Livy and Dionysius. Initial finds of swords, spears, axes and the occasional bits of bronze armour slowly seem to have given way to more complete bronze panoplies in the seventh and sixth centuries BC, often including large circular bronze shields and what appear to be hoplons. This sequence was clearly visible in Etruria, where identifiable hoplons – complete with the central porpax and antilabe grips, and in some instances with the wooden backing preserved – have been found. Despite the absence of similar evidence from Rome, it was often thought something similar must have been present there, given the strong Etruscan influence on the city during the sixth century BC under the Tarquins.

The key factor in the use of the archaeology to support the literary model was the interpretation of the hoplon and, albeit to a lesser extent, the heavy bronze armour. The mere presence of the Greek-style hoplon was often thought to necessitate densely-packed formations of heavy infantry, simply by virtue of its design. The large circular shield was believed to be too unwieldy for individual combat, while the use of the central porpax (a central metal band meant to carry the weight of the shield on the forearm) would have supposedly created an overlap to the left of the bearer which would have been ideally suited to a dense formation. Additionally, the heavy bronze armour which usually accompanied the shields, and particularly the ‘closed’ bronze helmet, was thought to have limited the sight and movement of a warrior to such a degree that the only practical means of fighting was as part of a dense formation where one only needed to see straight ahead and where movement was limited to a shoving match.

This interpretation of the hoplon and the associated heavy bronze armour has, however, undergone a massive revision in recent years. Led by Hans van Wees and his seminal work, Greek Warfare: Myths and Realities, a growing number of scholars have challenged the traditional view and pointed out that in Greece the hoplon and heavy bronze equipment actually grew out of a very individual form of combat prevalent in the Greek ‘Dark Ages’ (c. 1100–800 BC). Indeed, the closed helmet and full body armour would have arguably been redundant in a dense formation, where the formation itself would have provided the vast majority of the protection. This is something which can be seen during the Classical period of Greek warfare as various pieces of equipment are slowly dropped from the standard panoply until only the shield, spear and helmet are deemed essential in the Athenian phalanx by the mid-fourth century BC, with the minimal armour worn by the soldiers of the sarissa phalanx of Philip II and Alexander of Macedon possibly representing the culmination of development. This argument, although by no means universally accepted, would actually turn the interpretation of hoplon and bronze armour finds on its head, as it might suggest the presence of this equipment in fact indicates an individual approach to combat. It naturally does not rule out the use of a phalanx formation as well, but it suggests that the formation may have developed despite the heavy equipment instead of because of it, likely driven by social forces and not technological determinism.

The development of these models for early Greek warfare has naturally muddied the water quite a bit for early Roman warfare, as it has removed the most obvious reading of the limited finds we have and opened up an entire range of alternative interpretations. Thankfully though, it has also stopped the glossing-over of finds and evidence which did not fit neatly into a mode of warfare which utilized hoplite phalanxes. Most notably this included evidence for a range of different weapons, and particularly the widespread use of axes in military contexts, as axe heads have been found in the vast majority of graves containing other identifiable military equipment and reliefs featuring warriors from Central Italy. There are also a number of bronze shields which were interpreted as hoplons because of their circular shape, but which were clearly never meant to be used in combat as they lacked the wooden backing which provides the ultimate strength – instead the small central handle was attached directly to the bronze sheet which formed the front, creating a beautiful, but ultimately entirely decorative, piece of equipment.

Added to this diverse range of equipment finds are a series of artistic depictions of warriors, again (and unfortunately) almost always found in either burial or explicitly religious contexts, which may shed some additional light on the matter. These include the ubiquitous warrior figurines found in graves throughout Central Italy, tomb and sarcophagus paintings (largely found in Etruria), temple sculptures and vase paintings. All of these types of art defy a clear and detailed interpretation for a number of reasons. First, the artist who created the item may not have been attempting to depict local practice, or indeed anything practical, when creating the work. Archaeologists must assume that the finished piece had some sort of cultural resonance with the local community which ultimately incorporated it into their funerary or religious practice, but what that resonance was is uncertain. For instance, a figurine or vase painting may have depicted a local warrior, a mythic or heroic figure, a god, a Greek warrior, an interpretation of what a Greek warrior looked like, etc. Or it may have merely represented ‘wealth’. There are a few constants running through the artistic and iconographic corpus for Central Italy, however, which are consistent enough, and also align with the more concrete military equipment finds, which may be indicative of local norms. These include the regular use of heavy armour on the torso, including both bronze and linen cuirasses, an overall preference for more open helmets and the use of a wide range of weapons, including swords, spears and axes.

There also seems to have been a very strong connection between both military equipment and warrior depictions and elite status. This represents a very early trend in Archaic Central Italy, as seen in the finds from Osteria dell’Osa where weapon deposits in particular have been shown to align with high-status male graves. Although initially the depositions could be argued to represent merely ‘wealth’, based on the amount of metal and craftsmanship which went into each object (this may help to explain the military equipment found in a few female graves), the increasingly miniaturized and symbolic nature of the finds does suggest that warfare and military equipment had a direct connection to social and political authority. This correlation can also be seen in other graves from around Central Italy, most notably from Castel di Decima and Praeneste in Latium, and many sites, like Tarquinia, in southern Etruria. Warrior figurines and military equipment finds drop off substantially in Latium during the sixth century BC, but the few finds which have been excavated from the sixth and fifth centuries BC – for instance the famous Lanuvium warrior burial, dated to c. 500 BC – suggest a general continuation of practice.

Finally, when looking at the physical remains for warfare in Central Italy, one must also consider fortifications and city defences. For Central Italy, this evidence is puzzling as many communities, including Rome, did invest in fortifications during the seventh and sixth centuries BC, but they were usually simple affairs which only protected the easiest access routes. In Rome, some scholars have suggested that stone blocks found near the Palatine may represent the Archaic ‘Wall of Romulus’, although this is anything but certain. The first clearly identifiable fortifications at Rome are the agger and fossa (rampart and ditch) which cut across the Esquiline plateau, often dated to the sixth century BC based on pottery finds within the fill. Very similar to contemporary fortifications at other Latin sites, this agger and fossa took advantage of the natural topography of the community and protected the easiest route into the area from the east. The fortifications were extremely limited though and left large areas unprotected. This has led many scholars to suggest that these defences were designed to guard against raids and not as protection from sieges or major assaults. The first walls which were built at Rome which seem to have completely surrounded the city, the so-called ‘Servian Walls’, were only built in the fourth century BC.

So the final picture we have from the archaeological and artistic evidence for warfare during the Regal period seems to be one of aristocratic dominance. Military equipment and warrior iconography are only found associated with high status graves and adorn temples and tombs which were built by the aristocracy. This does not rule out participation in warfare by members of the lower class as well – but there is no evidence for it either. Additionally, there seemed to be something about military equipment and warrior iconography which resonated with the region’s elite as they, or in the case of a burial their family, chose these items and images to identify themselves with.

Conclusions and the power of the rex

The evidence for the Roman army during the Regal period is, ultimately then, contradictory. On the one hand we have the explicit testimony of the ancient sources which present a clear and coherent sequence of military development in a series of detailed asides, which envisaged a state-centred tribal army being created under Romulus and transformed into something resembling a civic militia, possibly based on a Greek-style hoplite phalanx, during the reign of Servius Tullius in the sixth century BC. Despite the change in the army’s structure and equipment during the sixth century BC, both armies seem to have functioned as an extension of the state’s (and rex’s) will, in much the same way as the Roman armies of the later Republic. Indeed, Rome’s Regal army, at least in these passages, is very clearly depicted as the point of origin and obvious ancestor for the later army and was seen to exhibit many of its key characteristics.

Outside of these few explanatory asides however, the literary evidence paints a picture of an army and a style of warfare that was much more aristocratic and heroic in nature. Far from being based on state-centred aims, warfare was conducted for booty and glory and short-term goals. Armies functioned not as an extension of the state and state policy, but as an extension of a powerful leader’s will. Military equipment was, and would remain, personal property and the type of equipment used in Archaic Central Italy is increasingly interpreted as being best suited for individual, and not group, action. Even the construction of fortifications is unlikely to have involved and included the full community.

The key issue, then, is the connection between the powerful clan leader, the army and the community – a power that the Roman’s associated with the grant of imperium.

The power of imperium is what bound a powerful clan leader, or warlord, to the community of Rome and to the army. Although we naturally have extremely limited and problematic information for this power in the Archaic period, as all of our evidence comes from later periods when imperium may have changed and evolved, it seems to have given an external leader the power to control, command and effectively integrate the members of the community into his own clan-based military model. A rex, via imperium, represented a powerful father figure to those in his army, with all of the power that a Roman paterfamilias would have wielded – including the power of life or death and the ability to judge those under his control.

This relationship clearly had power both ways, as the inclusion of community members in the army and retinue of a warlord would have changed the character of the power dynamic within. Additionally, the fact that imperium was granted by the community, with the comitia curiata effectively putting themselves under the warlord’s command and power, also suggests that they retained a certain amount of power and control in the relationship and could possibly remove themselves from it if needed. Fundamentally though, Rome’s army in the Regal period seems to have represented the result of an integration with a previously existing mode of aristocratic, clan-based warfare and military model, which actually continued to exist alongside the city’s armies well into the Republican period.

The Roman Army of the 5th Century BC

The Roman army of the fifth century BC obviously reflected the social and political changes occurring in Rome, although the development was evidently subtle. From an outsider’s perspective, very little would have changed in how the Roman army looked or was equipped from the Regal armies of the sixth century BC to the armies of the early Republic. Although military equipment disappears almost entirely from the archaeological record for the fifth century BC in Latium, what little evidence we do have (most notably the Lanuvium warrior burial, dated to c. 500 BC, some problematic sculptures from temple pediments and possible comparative evidence from Etruria) all suggests continuity rather than change. Roman and Latin warriors still seem to have equipped themselves in heavy bronze armour when they could, although there is some evidence for increased use of cheaper variations like the linen cuirass (linothorax). There are also gradual developments in helmet type, generally favouring cheaper options, although largely maintaining the previously existing style and function. This continuity makes sense as, for the most part, the soldiers making up the army seem to have been coming from the same groups as before and were likely using inherited equipment – although there are some hints that the pool for soldiers was gradually expanding during this period to include new members of the ‘upper middle class’ within the community (it is probably these new additions which favoured the cheaper options). The core of the army, however, remained the traditional forces of the gentes and they seem to have continued to use predominantly thrusting spears and the occasional sword in combat, which still seems to have been focused largely on individual duelling in close combat.

The real differences in the army, as discussed above, were in organization – although this would ultimately have a significant impact on how the army would have behaved in the field. The gradual transition from a fundamentally gentilicial or clan-based military structure, to one based on the community, seems to have resulted in a certain level of disorder in the ranks – as in the second half of the fifth century BC there are suddenly references to armies acting in a mutinous or disobedient fashion. Although this may represent a later literary embellishment, this type of behaviour does make some sense if the command structure, power dynamic and indeed the ultimate goals and aims of the army were changing – not to mention the inclusion of an increasing number of ‘new’ troops from the urban community of Rome. No longer were the goals and command structure necessarily aligned along long-standing and traditional clan-based lines, where the word and power of a paterfamilias reigned supreme – and again, this seems to have been the case even in Rome’s previous armies controlled via imperium – but instead everything was passing through the new (and still quite fluid) matrix of the community. Although this new system seems to have resulted in the possibility of slightly larger armies, it did not always result in more effective armies – and particularly not for the powerful, clan-based elite.

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