The Transformation of the Roman Auxiliary Soldier in Thought and Practice.

by Jonathan James McLaughlin

Institution: University of Michigan
Department: Greek and Roman History
Degree: PhD
Year: 2015
Keywords: Roman Empire history; Roman army, auxiliaries (auxilia); Roman frontiers and provinces; Roman culture; Roman social history; Mediterranean imperialism; Classical Studies; History (General); Humanities
Record ID: 2057863
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/2027.42/111635


In this dissertation, I investigate the multi-cultural community of soldiers and their families that comprised the Roman imperial institution of the auxilia, military units recruited initially from non-citizen provincials, and how their everyday experiences shaped Roman ideas of soldier, ???barbarian,??? and Romanness. Many scholars believe that auxiliary soldiers were incorporated as Romans in both the legal and cultural sense through their military service. In contrast, I argue that a passive ???barbarian??? to Roman transformation insufficiently describes their experience. Auxiliaries did not simply adopt a Roman identity but rather altered the very notion of Romanness itself. I show how Roman officers??? expectations regarding soldiers, as reflected in the writings of Valerius Maximus and Velleius Paterculus, played a major role in shaping how auxiliaries imagined their own position. I analyze the ethnic stereotypes found especially in Caesar, Tacitus, Strabo, Pomponius Mela, and Ovid concerning Batavians and Thracians, two key peoples who contributed large number of soldiers to the auxiliaries, and I argue that auxiliary soldiers adopted and modified these stereotypes to their own advantage. While Roman stereotypes about foreigners and soldiers shaped the image of auxiliaries, individual soldiers nevertheless managed to redeploy these ideas through their everyday practices, in turn shaping what it meant to be Roman. I investigate how auxiliaries adapted to and changed Roman ideals of discipline and hierarchy as expressed in the second-century technical treatise on surveying, De munitionibus castrorum. An analysis of the archaeological remains of military bases in Britain, the Rhine frontier, Egypt, and Syria reveals not only that the spatial practices and experiences of auxiliaries were more diverse than previously imagined but also that the soldiers themselves contributed to this diversity. Finally, I use funerary iconography, inscriptions, papyri, ostraca, and tablets from auxiliaries stationed in the Alps, Britain, and Egypt to show how auxiliaries??? varied daily interactions contributed to a broader Roman military identity. Ultimately, despite the inertia of barbarian ethnic stereotypes, Roman policy regarding auxiliary units changed, partially through the collective and individual efforts of generations of auxiliary soldiers, thereby transforming the Roman Empire into a multicultural state of near-universal citizenship.