General >> Project Goliath - The History of The Sling >> Peasant slingers, 69 AD

Message started by Fundibularius on Jan 30th, 2013 at 9:32am

Title: Peasant slingers, 69 AD
Post by Fundibularius on Jan 30th, 2013 at 9:32am
I don't know if this has been mentioned before:

Tacitus reports in the Historiae II, 14 that during the spring of the Year of the Four Emperors (69), there was a battle in the Maritime Alps, probably near Forum Iulii (which is now Fréjus in France), between troops loyal to the reigning Emperor Otho and soldiers sent by the contender for the throne, Vitellius. The Othonianists, a relatively inhomogeneous force, recruited peasants as slingers during their march into battle. This is the passage in English:

The conflict commenced without delay, the enemy's [Othonian] line of battle being so arranged, that part of the levies from the fleet, who had a number of rustics among their ranks, were posted on the slope of the hills which border on the coast, the Praetorians fully occupying the level ground between the hills and the shore, while on the sea was the fleet, moored to the land and ready for action, drawn up in line so as to present a formidable front. The Vitellianists whose infantry was inferior, but who were strong in cavalry, stationed the mountaineers on the neighbouring heights, and their infantry in close ranks behind the cavalry. The squadrons of the Treveri charged the enemy incautiously, and found themselves encountered in front by the veteran troops, while on the flanks they were also annoyed by showers of stones from the rustic band, who were skilful throwers, and who, mixed up as they were among the regular soldiers, whether cowardly or brave, were all equally bold in the moment of victory. The general consternation of the Vitellianists was increased by a new alarm as the fleet attacked the rear of the combatants. By this movement they were hemmed in on all sides, and the whole force would have perished, had not the shades of night checked the advance of the victorious army, and covered the retreat of the vanquished.

And the original text in Latin:

nec mora proelio: sed acies ita instructa ut pars classicorum mixtis paganis in collis mari propinquos exurgeret, quantum inter collis ac litus aequi loci praetorianus miles expleret, in ipso mari ut adnexa classis et pugnae parata conversa et minaci fronte praetenderetur: Vitelliani, quibus minor peditum vis, in equite robur, Alpinos proximis iugis, cohortis densis ordinibus post equitem locant. Trevirorum turmae obtulere se hosti incaute, cum exciperet contra veteranus miles, simul a latere saxis urgeret apta ad iaciendum etiam paganorum manus, qui sparsi inter milites, strenui ignavique, in victoria idem audebant. additus perculsis terror invecta in terga pugnantium classe: ita undique clausi, deletaeque omnes copiae forent ni victorem exercitum attinuisset obscurum noctis, obtentui fugientibus.

Both excerpts are from

An indication, to me, for the considerable skills of the "common man" with the sling at the time. Spontaneously recruited peasants can contribute to the defeat of a professional cavalry force.

Title: Re: Peasant slingers, 69 AD
Post by GeneralMushroom on Jan 30th, 2013 at 10:45am
It's an interesting exert, that's for sure. Thanks for sharing :)

Title: Re: Peasant slingers, 69 AD
Post by Thearos on Jan 30th, 2013 at 4:07pm
Excellent !

Tacitus' Histories, one of my favorites

Title: Re: Peasant slingers, 69 AD
Post by Mauro Fiorentini on Jan 30th, 2013 at 5:48pm
Nice find, quickly added here:
Our newest Project Goliath's Index: Tacitus, Vegetius and many more  :)
Check it from time to time, every topic has its own description.

Title: Re: Peasant slingers, 69 AD
Post by Bill Skinner on Jan 30th, 2013 at 7:16pm
Is this before or after the invention of stirrups?  

Title: Re: Peasant slingers, 69 AD
Post by Fundibularius on Jan 30th, 2013 at 11:30pm
Before, if it is right that stirrups were introduced into Europe in the 4th or 5th century, either by the Huns or the Avars.

Title: Re: Peasant slingers, 69 AD
Post by Thearos on Jan 31st, 2013 at 4:50am
P. Connolly reconstructed the Roman (Celtic-inspired) saddle for this period: it's got 4 horns which hold the rider's hips and enable him to grip with his thighs. Apparently it works well (Josephus describes a cavalryman leaning out of the saddle, picking up a Jewish rebel and riding while dragging him to present him to his commander, Titus, which implies good seat).

Title: Re: Peasant slingers, 69 AD
Post by David Morningstar on Jan 31st, 2013 at 7:23am

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