(Members of the Ancient Rome Refocused Group got into a discussion on Facebook. What do you think? Either click on the comment balloon on the upper right or join in on the discusson over on Facebook. Either way we want to hear from you.)
In working on my research that early Roman and eastern cultures had a very strong element of ritual behavior in both the the the wars/battle began to the end of the conflicts. That was an element the the Romans in their way had modified within their culture that confounded their enemies. Thoughts?
Ancient style Psychological Operations? We have the favor of the gods so get ready to die?
I remember Rome’s early wars were declared by the ritual act of throwing a spear from the Forum, to the general direction of the enemy territory. And also, of course, by an Augur reading the signs of the Gods. Many of these rituals are of Etruscan origin.
I have given much thought to the above thoughts, as during the evolution of the Roman people and it’s Legions the legacy of Numa during the period of the kings among others had a great influence on Roman culture. The other peoples of Italy and both the East and west that helped to form Rome and it’s Legions, in looking at what evidence the archaeology offers the mosaic of languages and material culture due give hints as to their influence. The space allowed here makes it difficult to present some of ideas that have popped up during my work, such as the behavior of some Roman generals and they way they used and informed their Armies. I can think of at lest two generals in the conflicts of the 300’s and 200’s that managed to the officers and NCO’s that reminded me of the behavior of the paratroopers in the WW 2 drop into Sicily, but I go on too long.
My only comment is that is that rituals seem so innate to man since the beginning. Battle rituals (and other rituals) provide bonding and obedience, inspiration and comfort, an opportunity for storytelling, a source of propaganda (scare the enemy), a source of strength and a bit of superstitious magical thinking.
That has been part of my thinking in working on this and in some ways the roman’s used those thoughts in both how Rome in all it’s aspect’s like other cultures did at the time and earlier, and used it for a tactical advantage against it’s enemies.
I’m racking my brain on rituals before battle and the only thing I remember right now is the killing of chickens (At the battle Drepana during the First Punic War, an admiral named Publius Claudius Pulcher did not get the ritual correct I believe), the other is the ritual of the JANUS door that was left open (of course this was a large national symbol rather than an Army Level symbol…question…did not the American eagle have the lightning bolts at one time in the right hand as opposed as its now held in the left?) I’m been fascinated by an account of music being overheard leaving the city of Alexandria before Octavian took the city from Antony – the music being interpreted and I’m sure spread about the city by Anthony’s enemies as “the gods leaving and taking their protection with them.”
What about the role geese played during the siege of Rome by the Gauls? And the ritual sacrifice of a dog, each year, as a reminder of their failing to warn the Romans?
As the American eagle with lighting bolts the SAC and Air Force have that/had that in their flags and patches, and the DOD may still have that symbolism. The accounts of Legion eagles turning or being difficult to remove has been noted before battles or campaigns the when badly for the army and the generals. The knowledge of both lunar and solar eclipses were used to calm Roman troops and allies and were it seems an added element to discomfort enemy forces. Just as the reports of the turning of statues and other event of the same nature effected the political life of Rome. In Gaul the destruction of shrine sites may have been used to both effect the civilian population and push the enemy to fight on unfavorable ground or before there full forces could be consolidated, as the more disciplined legion had a advantage over the more individualist fighting style of the Gauls. having Generals such as Caesar who was both an auger and chief priest omens could be worked in a creative for your army.
(Anyone got a comment? What do you think?)