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p74 Alauda

Article by William Ramsay, M.A., Professor of Humanity in the University of Glasgow
on p74 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

ALAUDA, a Gaulish word, the prototype of the modern French Alouette, denoting a small crested bird of the lark kind which the Latins in allusion to its tuft denominated Galerita.a The name alauda was bestowed by Julius Caesar on a legion of picked men, which he raised at his own expence among the inhabitants of Transalpine Gaul, about the year B.C. 55, not as erroneously asserted by Gibbon, during the civil war; which he equipped and disciplined after the Roman fashion; and on which in a body, he at a subsequent period bestowed the freedom of the state. This seems to have been the first example of a regular Roman legion levied in a foreign country and composed of barbarians. The designation was, in all probability, applied from a plume upon the helmet, resembling the "apex" of the bird in question, or from the general shape and appearance of the head-piece. Cicero in a letter to Atticus, written in B.C. 44, states that he had received intelligence that Antonius was marching upon the city "cum legione alaudarum," and from the Philippics we learn that by the Lex Judiciaria of Antonius even the common soldiers of this corps (Alaudae — manipulares ex legione Alaudarum) were privileged to act as judices upon criminal trials, and enrolled along with the veterans in the third decuria of judices, avowedly, if we can trust the orator, that the framer of the law and his friends might have functionaries in the courts of justice upon whose support they could depend.

That the legion Alauda, was numbered V. is proved by several inscriptions, one of them belonging to the age of Domitian in honour of a certain Cn. Domitius, who among many other titles is styled TRIB. MIL. LEG. V. ALAUDAE. It had however disappeared from the army list in the time of Dion Cassius, that is, in the early part of the third century, for the historian, when giving a catalogue of such of the twenty-three or twenty-five legions which formed the establishment of Augustus, as existed when he wrote, makes no mention of any fifth legion except the Quinta Macedonica (Suet. Jul. 24; Caesar, B. C. I.39; Plin. H. N. XI.44; Cic. Philip. I.8 §20, V.5 §12, XIII.2 §3, 18 §37; Gruter, Corp. Inscrip. Lat. CCCCIII.1, DXLIV.2, DXLIX.4, DLIX.7; Orelli, Inscrip. Lat. n773).


Thayer's Note:

a Galerita: "wearing a wig", from Galerus (q.v.). The simile doesn't say much for the quality of Roman wigs.


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Page updated: 21 Jan 13