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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces a section of
A Description of the Trajan Column
by John Hungerford Pollen

printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode,
printers to Queen Victoria
London, 1874

Text and engravings are in the public domain.
Any color photographs are © William P. Thayer 1997-

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The Army which the emperor Trajan collected for the war

 p14  The army considered sufficient for the contemplated war consisted of seven legions, viz., the first, the Minervia, the second, the Adjutrix, called also the Pia, and at a later period of the war, Trajana. After the war this legion was stationed in Lower Germany. The second legion at the end of the war received the decorations of a mural crown, and was raised to the equestrian rank. Inscriptions show that the fourth, fifth, seventh, and eleventh, took part in each war. The thirteenth legion seems to have had some share in the expedition, though not actually engaged in the campaign. It was left in reserve in Pannonia, through which country the emperor marched to the theatre of the war. The sixth and thirteenth15 legions both congratulated the fortunate commander on his personal safety. Inscriptions also indicate that other legions, such as the tenth and fifteenth, took some part, probably the charge of the fortified stations and river side ports of the Save and the Danube, which served as reserves and defences of the base of operations. Many of the corps employed were drawn for the army Trajan had already trained so well on the Rhine. To these complete legions were added ten cohorts of praetorians, a corps d'élite. They were raised in this instance from the whole Roman army. "They are known," says Francke, "in the sculptures we are about to examine, by their clasping hands and by their raised fingers, in token of mutual fidelity."16 In No. XXX are shown two men embracing, brothers perhaps, who belong to cohorts drawn from different legions, meeting after a bloody engagement. In No. XXVI will be seen the action of raising the forefinger.

Besides these highly disciplined regular troops, numbers of auxiliaries, some of whom were Germans, were employed by Trajan, who knew what their qualifications were, and how far he could depend on them.

The constitution and division of the Roman legions had undergone much change since the date of the wars of the Republic. Detailed descriptions of the armies and distribution of parts in the legions of the imperial ages, are to be gathered from the doubtful authority of Vegetius Renatus.17. The general account which he gives is confused, but his writings contain a number of traditions and minute details which are illustrated in many parts of these bas-reliefs.

The Author's Notes:

15 Orellius, ii.3048.

16 Francke, Gesch. des Lebens Trajans, p95.

17 Vegetii Renati de re Militari.

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Page updated: 4 Jun 04