Discipline and punishments of the Roman legions

squaddie John as St Sebastian of the Légion. photo by Morgan, copyright © 2003 squaddie John as St Sebastian of the Légion.
photo by Morgan, copyright © 2003
Sebastian was an officer of the Roman Imperial Guard under the Emperor Diocletian; in 327AD he ordered that Sebastian be killed by being shot by archers. He was rescued after being left for dead and survived to be again sentenced to death for his Christian beliefs.

John, 5'9"/148lbs/40's (1m75/68kg); #2 cropped brown hair, slim, muscular, pa; weight trains (barbells and dumbbells), hikes regularly; wrestles and spars when possible.
Lives London, England,
Francophone, travels and hikes Europe frequently air/rail and CBR600F motorbike.
More about me . Personal Page

  1. Discipline for soldiers of the Roman army legions
  2. Sentenced to take the gladiators' oath
  3. Capital Punishment of the enemies of Rome
  4. Translations of source texts

The army of Rome conquered and quelled for well over half a millennium. Although the Romans regarded themselves as a cultured and liberal civilisation, their army was one of the most disciplined military organisations ever and used the threat of severe punishment to keep order in the ranks.The Roman military aggressively developed and deployed new technologies and regarded Rome's slave peoples as resources for exploitation.

The highly developed Roman military and gladiator cultures have many richly homoerotic aspects which are important ancestors of our squad and individual cultures.

Resistance or external opposition was liquidated so it is necessary to adapt Roman methods for re-enactment as survivable safe sane consensual SM. My own interest in Roman army punishments is principally as inspiration for outdoor bdsm, cp and humiliation: the uniform fetish or passion play crucifixion re-enactment aspects are of little interest.

Discipline for soldiers of the Roman army legions

Minor punishments included reduction of the food ration or to eat barley instead of the usual grain ration.

Corporal punishment, CP, was particularly used to enforce discipline amongst the lower ranks, castigato being hit by the centurion with his staff or animadversio fustium. sentenced to a flogging in front of the century, cohort or legion. This was a less severe flogging than the short whip flagrum, flagellum or flagella, which was used for slave volunteers, volones, who comprised the majority of the army in the later years of the Roman Empire.

Other punishments included pecunaria multa fines or deductions from the pay allowance, added duty munerum indictio, or - more seriously - reposting to a less prestigious unit militiae mutatio, loss of long service privileges, loss of rank gradus deiectio, or dishonourable discharge missio ignominiosa.

A Roman legionary soldier swore an oath to serve to death, originally to the Senate and Roman people, later to the General and the Emperor. A consequence of this under Roman military law was that soldiers could be executed.

If a Roman legionnaire left his post while on duty or deserted during a battle, he would be sentenced by the tribune to be killed by fustuarium., usually by stoning or by being beaten. His fellow soldiers, whose lives had been put in danger, carried out the punishment, If he escaped, he could flee but was banished and could not return to his home. Sebastian was sentenced to fustuarium as his beliefs were considered seditious.

If an entire unit deserted or if there was a mutiny, the offenders could be punished by decimation, this came to be viewed as an archaic sanction. One out of every ten men would be put to death. The rest of the men would be forced to live outside the camp and in some instances obliged to renew the military oath, sacramentum.

Some legions were disbanded after a mutiny or if their standard was lost in battle, the soldiers were was stripped of all honour and led the rest of their lives in disgrace. This neutralised insurrections (demands for more pay or better conditions), mutinies or political opposition.

The purpose of severe discipline was to assure loyalty and obedience; though severe, punishments were rarely necessary.

Sentenced to take the gladiators' oath (imprisonment at the gladiator school)

For all the macho glamour and romantic attraction of the cadres of gladiators, it remains a fact that being sentenced to the gladiator school was basically a death sentence deferred by a period of athletic slavery in a combat profession.

Gladiators were "recruited" from armies and peoples conquered by the armies of Rome, those of suitable age and physique and body type were sent to take the oath of the gladiators, the rest sold as household slaves or put to death immediately. Successful soldiers from the Roman armies also volunteered to take the gladiators' oath, either to seek fame and fortune or to continue to sate their thirst for combat violence or because they knew no other profession.

Gladiators became slaves of above average value and so were not entirely killed at whim. Statistics show significant survival rates:it's not the case that two fighters entered the gladiatorial contest but only one survived.

Schools for gladiators were essentially prison barracks. The particular tools of the trade - weapons such as swords, daggers and nets - were required to be safely secured and the gladiators prevented from using them or from mutiny. This importance of this was particularly realised after the mutiny organised by Spartacus.

Capital Punishment of the enemies of Rome

Roman jurisprudence used a variety of capital punishments, according to the status and perceived threat of the criminal.

Common criminals, such as thieves, were stoned. The wronged population exacted revenge.

A cross is a gallows. To crucify was a brutal method of killing the enemies of Rome; "that most cruel and disgusting penalty," crudelissimum taeterrimumque supplicium; Cicero. Verr. 2.5.165.

Crucifixion is first recorded in The Histories of Herodotus the Greek; he reports that the Persian general Darius (512-485 BC) had 3000 inhabitants of Babylon crucified.

Both types of square cross, high cross like a T crux commissa or short cross, t cross, St Anthony's cross crux immissa consist of a vertical stipes that remained in the ground, and a horizontal crossbeam piece patibulum, that was carried by the victim to the crucifixion site.

The X cross crux decussata was much easier to construct but it was more difficult to attach the crucifee. The name decussate cross is derived from the Latin for ten decem because of two fives of the dice, each five being an X cross.

Now known as St Andrew's cross after the crucifixion of Andrew the Galilean apostle in AD 60 at the orders of the Roman Governor, Aegeas/Aegeates, at Patrae in Achaiaunder in the time of the Roman Emperor Nero.

The tradition is that Andrew was bound, not nailed, to a decussate cross in order to prolong his sufferings; he was an old man and might have died too quickly if a square cross was used, so denying the crowd a show and with insufficient deterrent effect. In vexillology (the study of flags), the technical term for an X cross is a saltire.

Alternatively, the I cross, the crucifee was nailed to the stipes or a tree, crux simplex, a "single piece without transom."

The Roman army supervised an order to crucify but the dishonourable task of attaching a crucifee to the patibulum may have been allocated to an executioner or other another criminal awaiting crucifixion.

Roman crucifixion was preceded by torture, most often flogging. The accused stood naked, the flogging covered the area from the shoulders down to the upper legs. The whip consisted of several strips of leather. In the middle of the strips were metal balls that hit the skin causing deep bruising. In addition, sheep bone was attached to the tips of each strip. The flogging may have been to unconsciousness or death.

It seems likely that crucifees were naked after the flogging or were stripped naked on the cross by the mob.

Crucifixion was a slow ignominious death, not least because vital organs remained undamaged. For maximum deterrent effect the crosses were set up along the busiest roads.

Translations of source texts (public domain)

Polybius: The Histories

Each of the men who have gone the rounds brings back the tesserae (passwords) at daybreak to the tribune. If they deliver them all they are suffered to depart without question; but if one of them delivers fewer than the number of stations visited, they find out from examining the signs on the tesserae which station is missing, and on ascertaining this the tribune calls the centurion of the maniple and he brings before him the men who were on picket duty, and they are confronted with the patrol.

If the fault is that of the picket, the patrol makes matters clear at once by calling the men who had accompanied him, for he is bound to do this; but if nothing of the kind has happened, the fault rests on him. A court-martial composed of all the tribunes at once meets to try him, and if he is found guilty he is punished (fustuarium).

This is inflicted as follows: The tribune takes a cudgel and just touches the condemned man with it, after which all in the camp beat or stone him, in most cases dispatching him in the camp itself. But even those who manage to escape are not saved thereby: impossible! for they are not allowed to return to their homes, and none of the family would dare to receive such a man in his house.

So that those who have of course fallen into this misfortune are utterly ruined. The same punishment is inflicted on the optio and on the praefect of the squadron, if they do not give the proper orders at the right time to the patrols and the praefect of the next squadron. Thus, owing to the extreme severity and inevitability of the penalty, the night watches of the Roman army are most scrupulously kept.

While the soldiers are subject to the tribune, the latter are subject to the consuls. A tribune, and in the case of the allies a praefect, has the right of inflicting fines, of demanding sureties, and of punishing by flogging. The castigato is also inflicted on those who steal anything from the camp; on those who give false evidence; on young men who have abused their persons; and finally on anyone who has been punished thrice for the same fault.

Those are the offences which are punished as crimes, the following being treated as unmanly acts and disgraceful in a soldier - when a man boasts falsely to the tribune of his valour in the field in order to gain distinction; when any men who have been placed in a covering force leave the station assigned to them from fear; likewise when anyone throws away from fear any of his arms in the actual battle.

Therefore the men in covering forces often face certain death, refusing to leave their ranks even when vastly outnumbered, owing to dread of the punishment they would meet with; and again in the battle men who have lost a shield or sword or any other arm often throw themselves into the midst of the enemy, hoping either to recover the lost object or to escape by death from inevitable disgrace and the taunts of their relations.

The Roman Armies and Roman Camps - Flavius Josephus (37- after 93 AD)

The Roman army was very victorious in its time (300-100 BC) because of its soldiers. The Roman army was very strict, and was highly trained in warfare, discipline, and engineering. The Roman army call their soldier "legionaries".

The soldiers were separated into four different types (classes). The triarii were the more experienced soldiers. They were rarely used in battle except when really needed. They wore full armour and carried a shield and a long spear. The principes were well armoured and carried a heavy javelin, a light javelin, and a shield.

The hastati wore the same armour, and carried a light and heavy javelin. They carried a shield just as well. The velites were armed with a small shield and a few light javelins. Every soldier in the Roman army carried a sword and a dagger.

The Roman army put their soldiers through basic training. They did running exercises, obstacle courses while wearing all their armour and weapons, and marched eighteen miles three times a month. On these marches the soldiers had to carry all their equipment. They drilled in flanking and column movements used in battles and ceremonies. The Roman army was very strict about being perfect in drilling. But most important they trained in the usage of their weapons.

The Roman army also believed in punishment. If a guard was found asleep at or left his post then he would be stoned or beaten for putting fellow soldiers at risk. The outcome of that was usually death. Even entire legions can be punished. If a legion is defeated it is usually banished from Rome.

A legion contains about 4,200 to 5,000 men. It is divided into ten sections. Each section is called a cohort. One cohort is bigger than the rest because it contains the cooks, messengers, and clerks for the legion. A cohort is made up of six parts each called a century. And a century is comprised of ten contuberniums which each have eight men who eat and sleep together. The Roman army has about four legions but can be increased in emergencies.

Each century is controlled by a centurion and the second in charge is an optio. Each century has its own signifer who carries the century's emblem. He also provides the burial club for his century. The tesserarius of each century gives its own century a new password every morning so impersonators will be filtered out. The praefectus castrorum is in charge of all building and engineering. The cohorts were each led by tribunes. Each legion has its own legatus. The legatus has full charge over his entire legion. Every legion has a silver eagle on a staff carried by an aquilifer. If it is to be captured the entire legion will be banished.

Links: All links that go to other sites are not part of my site. I am in no way responsible for their content

Get in touch: click here | More about me | my HomePage http://www.milism.net

Framed by a previous site? Links to escape to

do not reproduce, copy or reframe: content copyright squaddie John © 2004-7. Page ICRA labelled.