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p1134 Tiro

Article by Philip Smith, B.A., of the University of London
on p1134 of

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

TIRO was the name given by the Romans to a newly enlisted soldier, as opposed to veteranus, one who had had experience in war (Caesar, Bell. Civ. III.28). The mode of levying troops is described under Exercitus, pp496, 499. The age at which the liability to military service commenced was 17.

From their first enrolment the Roman soldiers, when not actually serving against an enemy, were perpetually occupied in military exercises. They were exercised every day (Veget. I.1), the tirones twice, in the morning and afternoon, and the veterani once. The exercises included not only the use of their weapons and tactics properly so called, but also whatever could tend to increase their strength and activity, and especially carrying burthens and enduring toil. Vegetius (I.9‑27) enumerates among the exercises of the tirones marching, running, leaping, swimming, carrying the shield, fighting at a post [Palus], thrusting with the sword in preference to striking, using their armour, hurling spears and javelins, shooting arrows, throwing stones and leaden bullets, leaping on and off their horses, carrying weights, fortifying the camp, and forming the line of battle.

Vegetius also gives rules for choosing tirones according to their country, their being rustics or townsmen, their age, stature, personal appearance, and previous occupation (I.2‑8). But these rules refer almost exclusively to the state of things under the emperors, when the army was no longer recruited from the citizens of Rome, but from the inhabitants of the provinces.

At this period, the tiro, when approved as fit for the army, was branded or tatooed in the hand with a mark (stigmata; puncta signorum), which Lipsius conjectures to have been the name of the emperor.

The state of a tiro was called tirocinium; and a soldier who had attained skill in his profession was then said tirocinium ponere, or deponere (Justin. XII.4, IX.1).

(Lipsius, de Milit. Roman. in Oper. vol. III pp32, 33, 184, 193‑197).

In civil life the terms tiro and tirocinium were applied to the assumption of the toga virilis, which was called tirocinium fori [Toga], and to the first appearance of an orator at the rostrum, tirocinium eloquentiae (Senec. Proëm. 1.2); and we even have such a phrase as tirocinium navis for the first voyage of a ship (Plin. H. N. XXIV.7 s26).

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Page updated: 20 Jan 13