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Ancient warfare magazine Vol III -6 - Carnyx, cornu and signa

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2227000016 Ancient warfare magazine Vol III -6 - Carnyx, cornu and signa

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Ancient warfare magazine Vol III -6 - Carnyx, cornu and signa Ancient warfare magazine Vol III -6 - Carnyx, cornu and signa Ancient warfare magazine Vol III -6 - Carnyx, cornu and signa
Ancient Warfare III.6, Dec 2009/Jan 2010

Theme: Carnyx, cornu and signa - battlefield communications

Introduction: Adam Anders, 'Introduction to the theme'

The Source: Christian Koepfer, 'Caged eagles and vexilla. The evidence for Roman standards'

Since the inception of the study of the Roman army, battlefield tactics have been a central topic. The questions that arose as a result of these investigations led to a great interest in the structural organization of the Roman army and the Roman army's tactical proceedings. It followed that a further interest in the military standards and their role in the organization as well as religious and unit identity, came into existence.

Theme: Alberto Pérez, 'Standards and music in Pre-Roman Europe. Standards and music in Iron Age Europe'.
Illustrated by Johnny Shumate

To communicate orders is the main task of both standards and music - but not the only function - on the battlefield. Far from the individual warrior clash of the former heroic ethos, Late Iron Age ba ttles were complex affairs, with hundreds and even thousands of combatants present, as European societies - Celts, Iberians, Germans and others - evolved and the first state entities appeared. The need to face highly disciplined and organized enemies such as the Romans and Carthaginians doubtless hastened the adoption of these means of command, control and communication - the famous C's in modern military thought.

Theme: Paul McDonnell-Staff, 'Musical instruments of war. Development of Roman brass instruments.'

The origins of loud wind instruments (as opposed to soft sounding pan-pipes, flutes, etc) lies in natural instruments such as the conch shell or the horns of animals. Polybius (12.4.6) tells of the skill with which Italian swine herds used horns, and the intelligent response of the swine to various calls. Naturally the use of this loud instrument for signalling was quickly recognised for staying in touch while hunting, and from there it was but a short step to use for sounding alarms, and then to military use generally. Metal trumpets appeared early on in the Mediterranean world, and two were found in the tomb of Tutankhamun. That these already had military uses is shown on a number of Egyptian wall paintings where the trumpeters are shown leading files of soldiers.

Theme: Sean Manning, 'Leading the Persian spears. Persian standards of the 5th and 4th centuries BC'.
Illustrated by Igor Dzis

'The spear of a Persian man has gone forth far,' said King Darius. When the Achaemenid kings of Persia went to war, they did so under a military standard. In peace, it accompanied them at court. Military standards, or decorated poles carried above an army, had a long tradition of use in southwest Asia, but the Persian type of standard would be especially influential on later cultures. Although less is known about Persian standards than about the Roman eagle or Sarmatian draco, it is possible to learn surprisingly much about their appearance and use.

Theme: Ducan B.Campbell, 'Eagles, flags and little boars. The Cult of the Standards in the Roman army' Q.Luccius Faustus, standardbearer of the 14th legion

The various standards carried by Roman armies were not simply for show. Nor were they purely utilitarian symbols to mark a rallying point in battle, or honorific emblems representing tradition or unit pride. In fact, each unit's standards were venerated as deities that encapsulated the very spirit of the unit itself. It is no wonder that the loss or destruction of the standards was considered shameful and brought disgrace on the men, on the unit, and on Rome herself.

Theme: Raffaele D'Amato, 'Symbols of the empire. The signa of Justinian the Great.'
Illustrated by Igor Dzis.

The battle standards of the 6th century AD, which joined the armies of Belisarius and Narses in the re-conquest of the West, were a continuation of an ancient Roman tradition.


The battle: Sheda Vasseghi, 'Two brothers face off. The battle of Cunaxa, 401 BC'.
Illustrated by Carlos de la Rocha and Giorgio Albertini.

There are many 'what ifs' in history. The battle of Cunaxa in 401 BC is one of them. It was a blessing in disguise for the Greeks that Cyrus the Younger (424?-401 BC) did not win the battle. By becoming Great King over the Greeks, he would likely have subjugated many of them since he had learned how from his good friend, the Spartan general Lysander. Despite its outcome, Cunaxa was a turning point for the Achaemenid Empire (550-330 BC) and a prelude to Alexander's subsequent invasion of 334 BC.

Special: Ross Cowan, 'Changing formations and Specialists. Aspects of later Roman battle tactics'.
Illustrated by Andrew Brozyna.

This article examines three aspects of Roman b ttle tactics in the second to fourth centuries AD. First, what is the evidence in this period for the triplex acies, the classic triple battleline? Second, how did Roman light cavalry and clubmen operate against cataphracts and Clibanarii? Third, what were forfex, orbis and cuneus formations?

Be a general: Murray Dahm, 'An ancient enigma. Solving the secrets of Ancient military signalling'.
Illustrated by Andrew Brozyna.

In the 'Be a General' series we have examined almost every surviving didactic military handbook. If we cast our net slightly wider, we can use a variety of sources to make some fascinating discoveries. One aspect of military life which has existed as long as the soldier has is the idea of the military secret. Whether it was passwords or secret plans, military organisations have always had secrets to keep and ways of communicating them so that only friends could understand.

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