Coins of the Twelve Caesars – VITELLIUS – read online



Twelve Caesars – VITELLIUS COINS

[Of the twelve Caesars who exercised imperial authority at Rome from B.C. 47 to a.d. 96, Vitellius, a.d. 69, was the ninth. The eight who preceded him under this title, were: Julius Causae, b.c. 47-44; Augustus, b.c. 31-a.d. 14; Tiberius. 14-37; Caligula, 37-41; Claudius, 41-54; Nero, 54-U8; Galba, 68-69; and Otho, 69. The three who succeeded him: Vestasian, 69-79; Titus, 79-81, and Domitian, 81-96.]

Aulus Vitellius, ninth of the Caesars, Emperor of Rome from January 3 to Decemher 21, a.d. 69, was born (place unknown) September 24, a.d. 15. The reigning Emperor was Tiberius. The name of his father was Lucius Vitellius, who, by the arts of flattery, gained considerable promotion. He was Consul a.d. 34, and twice afterward; also governor of Syria. At his death he was honored by a public funeral and statue, with the fulsome epitaph: PIETATIS IMMOBILIS ERGA PRINCIPEM (“To the man of unflinching conscientiousness!”). His mother’s name is not preserved. His brother. Lucius, was Consul a.d. 48. and lost his life in 68. The subject of our sketch possessed some knowledge of letters and eloquence. According to Suetonius he had few graces of person, being “a man of enormous stature, rubicund countenance, obeBC stomach, and of such voracious appetite (scrrdida gula) that neither in the sacred rites nor upon a journey could lie temper it, but would even snatch from the altars the consecrated bread and flesh, and around the cook-shops by the roads would devour the fish, burnt, old and half-eaten.” It was particularly observed that he was fond of oysters.

Pleasant details, those of the court-gossips of the first century! His best qualities consisted in skill at gaming and chariot-driving. The greater part of the youth of this hopeful ” whip and sharper ” was spent in the court of Tiberius at Caprea, an island off the coast of Campania, chiefly known in history as the abode of that, imperial monster, and the scene of his infamous debauchery. The present writer passed Caprea February, 1868, on his way to the Orient. It was occupied as a place of exile by the illustrious Garibaldi. In that, stew of iniquity the Seraglio of Tiberius, the subject of our sketch, signalized himself as a flatterer, in imitation of his father, and upon the murder of Tiberius ingratiated himself successively with Caligula (who admired his skill as a charioteer); with Claudius (who coveted his knowledge of gaming), and with Nero (who found use for his proficiency in music). A.D. 48 he was Consul with his brother Lucius; then Pro-Consul in Africa for a year, and the next year Legatus there under his brother Lucius, in which two stations he is said to have behaved with integrity. The death of Nero and the elevation of Galba led to further advancements, for, to the surprise of many.

Galba gave him command of the legions in Germany. He left Rome with his affairs so embarrassed that he was compelled to put his wile Galeria Fundana and his children in lodgings, and to rent out his house. The importunity of his creditors was met by giving security to some and instituting unjust proceedings against others. When he became Emperor he compelled his creditors to give up their securities, comforting them with the remark that they should be content to have their lives spared! Vitellius was made Emperor by his soldiers January 3, a.d. 69. Otho, who assumed the purple at Rome on the death of Galba, January 15, wrote to Vitellius, upon hearing the intelligence from Germany, and offered to share the government with him. This proposition, however, was declined.

The armies of the two contestants met on the Po about the 12th of April, 69, and after a terrible contest the forces of Otho gave way with the loss of forty thousand men. The two armies then joined in fealty to Vitellius, and on the 15th of the same month Otho committed suicide. Vitellius proceeded slowly to Rome, which he entered in July. The praefect of the city, Sabinus, brother of Vespasian, took the oath of allegiance to Vitellius, in which he was followed by the soldiery there; and the Senate, as a matter of course, decreed to him all the honors which previous Emperors had enjoyed,—honors represented by PM, TRP, CENS, COS, etc., initials that concealed all the prerogatives of despotism. All the Empire submitted to him ; even Muciaous, governor of Syria, and Vespasian, who was conducting the Jewish war, made their legions take the oath of fidelity to Vitellius. The rule of Vitellius opened well. He pardoned hjs opponents, with but few exceptions. He conferred the title of Germanicus upon his young son, with the insignia of imperial dignity.

He conferred the title of Augusta upon his mother. On the 18th of July he assumed the office of Pontifex Maximus. He even paid honors to the memory of the dishonored Nero. He confiscated no man’s property, neither disturbed any persons in the enjoyment of the gifts they had received from his predecessors. The crying fault of Vitellius has already been shown up,—he was an epicure, a glutton. His chief amusement was the table, on which he spent enormous sums of money, and this made him one of those spendthrifts particularly obnoxious to the Roman people. His end was fast approaching. Although, as above stated, the soldiers of Syria, Palestine and Egypt had taken the oath of fidelity to Vitellius, this was only upon the command of their generals. The forces in the east were plotting to make an Imperator among themselves, and on the 1st of July those at Alexandria, in Egypt, set the example by proclaiming Vespasian. Thus, within a little more than a year, the Roman Empire witnessed the death of Nero, the accession and death of Galba and Otho, the accession of Vitellius and the proclamation of Vespasian. The new Emperor was speedily recognized by all the East.

Then the Illyrian legions entered northern Italy and declared for Vespasian. The fleet was treacherously delivered up to that general by their admiral, and the first commanders sent against him all proved unfaithful to their trust. About the 26th of October the armies joined battle near Bedriacum, and those of Vitellius were defeated. On the 18th of December the Emperor left the palace in the dress of mourning with his infant son, and declared before all the people, with tears, that he renounced the Empire. Receiving some encouragement from the bystanders he made one more rally, and a contest ensued in the heart of the city. The Capitol was burnt, and Sabinus, brother of Vespasian, was killed. He attempted to arm the slaves and the populace. Rome was filled with tumult and bloodshed.

The Emperor was taken in an obscure part of the palace, having gorged himself at his last meal. He was led through the streets with every circumstance of ignominy, and dragged to the Geinoniac Scalae, where the body of Sabinus had been exposed. There he wa6 killed with repeated blows. His head was carried about the city and his body cast into the Tiber. But it was afterward interred by his wife, lie was fifty-seven years of age. and reigned a year lacking ten or twelve days. His brother and infant son were put to death. In examining the attributions and legends that mark the reverses of the coins of Vitellius, the eye falls with surprise upon that of Pax (Peace). With what joyful surprise must it have met the eyes of the millions who struggled with each other to examine the coins of the new Emperor, as one in these times would look at a public proclamation. For coins were made by the Senate and the Emperor, mediums of intelligence of current news. True, the information thus communicated was such as ” the powers that, be ” chose to impart.

The Church of Jesus which was in the iron grasp of the heathen, and whose blood cried aloud to God daily for vengeance, found nothing upon coins to console them. The down-trodden nations oppressed with the yoke of Rome looked in vain for any comfort to them. Yet to the freemen of the Empire, the numismatic intelligence of Pax missa per orbem sent a thrill of joy, and we may imagine one universal shout of gladness go up as these peace-coins were distributed throughout the vast Empire. In mythology we learn that Pax was honored with an altar at Athens. At Rome Claudius began a magnificent temple to this deity in the Forum, which was completed and dedicated by Vespasian. This was consumed by Are under the wretched Commodus (a.d. 180-192).

The statue of Pax represents her as a matron holding forth ears of wheat in her hands and crowned with olive, laurel, sometimes roses. Her particular symbol was the Caducaeus. Since the reign of Augustus we vainly search the coins for the legend so common upon his, expressed in these abbreviations — III VIR AAAFF. What a puzzle to young numismatists! ”Triumvirs for melting and striking gold, silver and bronze ” (Triumviri auro argento acre flando feriundo). Save upon Colonial coins and notedly the Imperial Greek, it is rare to see the name of a mint-master or Praetor upon coins as late as this. The rapidity with which Vitellius degenerated from a brave and active soldier to the glutton who made a god of his ruling lust (sua cuique deus fit dira cupido,—Virgil) is one of the mysteries of our lower nature. Elagabalus, one hundred and fifty years later, exhibits the same infamous degeneracy. Even Alexander behaved more like a lunatic than a sensible man after his conquests were ended.

Had he survived for a long life he would probably have been an implacable tyrant. Examining the dignified, grave and massive features of Vitellius, we ask ourselves into what kind of a demon he would have been transformed, had his rule extended tor a term of years! The record of his brutal atrocities, confined to the few months of his empire, would serve one oriental despot of the present day for half a lifetime. The attributions of Neptune upon coins of this period excited peculiar interest in the minds of those Roman people who resided in the inner provinces, far from the sea. For Rome by this time had become a maritime power, able by the number of her ships to transport the largest armies to any scene of war in the briefest period. This fact was communicated to the people by the figure and attributions of the marine deity, Neptune. lie was the son of Saturn and Rhea, the brother of Jupiter and Juno, and one of the most ancient divinities of Greece. Like Jupiter, he is represented of a serene and majestic aspect, with strong and muscular form, bearing in his hand the three-prong trident, symbol of his power. Dolphins and other marine objects accompany his images.

At Rome the temple of Neptune stood in the Campus Martina, not far from the Septa. In his festival the people formed umbrae (tents) of the branches of trees and sat under them. When a Roman commander sailed out with a fleet, he first offered up a sacrifice to Neptune, which was thrown into the sea. And all this was well understood by the people into whose hands a coin of Vitellius came impressed with one or more of the attributions of Neptune. A brief estimate of the coins of the Roman Emperors that were preserved in the cabinets of Europe as far back as 1784, will fitly close this theme. The figures are furnished by the author of “Essay on Medals” of that date: Of aurei (golden coins), 3,000; silver, 6,000; bronze. 30,000. The Abbe Rothelin had secured for his own cabinet no less than 1,800 coins of Probus (A.D. 276-282), no two having the same reverse.




Of thirteen coins, silver and bronze, of the Emperor Vitellius, from the illustrations on the fourth page. [The student will observe in these Readings:

First, that the size of a Coin does not always agree with the size of the picture.

Second, that the metal is distinguished by an abbreviation,—-AV (aurum) standing for gold; AR (argentum) for silver; AE (aes) for copper, bronze or brass, words indiscriminately used in Numismatics.

Third, that there are few punctuation points on Coins, though sometimes introduced by engravers to facilitate Readings.

Fourth, that we do not reproduce the old forms of Greek letters here, but substitute modern type; and,

Fifth, that these Readings are prepared as well for the use of Learners as experts.]

No. 1, AR. Obverse. Laureate head of Vitellius to the right; beardless; features rugged, heavy, aged. He is about fifty-three years old. Inscription (abbreviated): A VITELLIVS AVG IMP GERMAN; (supplied)—Aulus Vitellius Augustus Imperator Germanicus —’ Aulus Vitellius Augustus Emperor Germanicus.” Reverse. Jupiter, chief of the gods, seated in his temple to the left. Inscription (abbreviated): I O MAX CAPITOLINVS; (supplied)-Jupiter Optimus Maximus Capitolinus,—”The Capitoline Jupiter; the Be6t; the Greatest.” The history of this coin expresses the peculiar feeling of worship entertained by the Romans. The soldiers had burned the temple of the Capitoline Jupiter while besieging the brother of Vespasian (Sabinus) in the citadel. Vitellius commanded a representation of the temple to be struck on coins, as if he intended shortly to rebuild it; reasoning that this most mournful and detestable crime happened not through any fault of the Roman people or of himself.

No. 2, AE. Obverse. The laureate head of Vitellius to the right. The massive features are distinctly marked; beardless; bust undraped. Inscription (abbreviated): A VITELLIVS GERMA IMP AVG PM TR P; (supplied) —Aulus Vitellius Germanicus Imperator Augustus Pontifcx Maximus Tribunitia Potestate. The last two expressions are ” High Priest, Exercising the Tribunitian Power.”

No. 3, AR. Obverse. Laureate head of Vitellius to the right. Inscription as in No. 2. Reverse. WiDged figure of Victory to the left, taking branches from the palm-tree, to which two shields are attached; behind her is a piece of armor. Legend: VICTORIA AVGVSTI—” The Victory of the Augustus ” (or ” The goddess Victory, tutelar of the Augustus “). As it was an ancient maxim of the Roman law that from the sentence of a general in actual service there was no appeal, the Emperors, who assumed the whole military power of the nation, were fond of stamping IMP, for Imperator (” Emperor”) upon their coins.

No. 4, AE. This may be studied in connection with the next nine, for all have the same Obverse. Reverse. Joined hands. This type is the ancient token of fidelity. Legend: FIDES EXERCITVM—” The fidelity of the Armies; “‘ S. C, for Senatus Cousulto—” By Decree of the Senate.” The Joined Hands refer to the same event as the figure in No. 5, which see. Read also 2 Kings x, 15. The expression Senatus Consulto (having ” Senatus ” in the genitive case) has the same meaning as Senatus Decreto—” By Decree of the Senate.”

No. 5, AE. Reverse. The Emperor Vitellius in the habit of Mars advancing to the left; on his left shoulder is a trophy affixed to a spear; in his right hand is a gloriola, or image of Roman glory. Legend: CONSENSVS EXERCITVVM—-The agreement of the Armies.” This, as well as the term •’Fidelity of the Armies,” in No. 4, refers to the harmony that pxisted among the different forces stationed in Gaul, in relation to the choice of Vitellius to be their Emperor.

No. 6, AE. Reverse. Victory, with her usual attributes, moving gracefully to the left, holding out a circular shield on which is inscribed S P Q. R, for Senatus Populusque Romanus—”The Senate and Roman People.” Legend: VICTORIA AVGVSTI-” The Victory of Augustus;” B.C., for Senatus Consulto—” By Decree of the Senate.” This figure has the same reference as that in No. 7.

No. 7, AE. See remarks upon No. 3. Reverse. A Victory, with usual attributes, to the left, assisting to raise a heavy trophy of shield and body-armor affixed to a po6t. A man, sitting upon a globe is aiding in the work. Legend, the same as No. 6. The reference is to the victory obtained by Vitellius at Bebriacum, where the forces of Otho were defeated” and Otho took his own life.

No. 8, AE. Reverse. A soldier and a citizen joining hands. An expressive group. Legend: PAX AVGVSTI—” The Peace of the Augustus” (or “The goddess Peace, tutelar of the Augustus”); S. C, for Senatus Consulto—” By Decree of the Senate.” The reference, doubtless, is to the reconciliation between Vitellius and the Senate, who speedily transferred their allegiance after the death of Otho.

No. 9, AE. Reverse. The figure of Concord seated to the left, holding the patera over an altar, on which fire is burning. On her left arm is a full cornucopia. Legend: CONCORDIA AVGVSTI—” The Concord of Augustus ” (or ” The goddess Concord, tutelar of the Augustus “); S. C, for Senatus Consulto—”By Decree of the Senate.” Vitellius received the title Concordia from the Senate for his efforts to restore that neglected virtue to afflicted Rome.

No. 10, AE. Reverse. The goddess Ceres seated to the left; in her left hand is the long torch, her well-known and mournful attribute; in her right hand, two spicae (wheat-ears), the token of her gift to the human race. Legend (partly mutilated): CERES AVG (usti)—” The Ceres of the Augustus” (or “The goddess Ceres, tutelar of the Augustus”); S. C, for Senatus Consulto —” By Decree of the Senate.” This coin was struck to laud the efforts of Vitellius in providing an abundance of grain from Sicily, Egypt and other grain-producing provinces, for the use of the people of Rome.

No. 11, AE. Reverse. Figure of Security seated to the left. The body nude to the hips; the right hand upon the head; the left arm resting upon the arm of the throne. Iler long torch lies transversely over the top of her basket, from which is emerging a serpent. The whole group is admirably suggestive of security. Legend (abbreviated): SECVRITAS P ROMANI; (supplied)—Securitas Populi Romani—”The Security of the Roman People” (that is, “The goddess Security, tutelar of the Roman People”); S. C, for Senatus Consulto —” By Decree of the Senate.”

No. 12, AE. Reverse. The figure of Equity standing to the left; her left hand supported by an armed spear; in her right hand a pair of scales. Legend: AEQVITAS AVGVSTI—”The Equity of Justice) of Augustus” (that is, “The goddess Equity, tutelar of the Augustus”); S. C, for Senatus Consulto—”By Decree of the Senate.” This specimen commemorates the equity of Vitellius in the decision of controverted public questions, as in the government of his own affairs as Emperor.

No. 13. AE. Reverse. A large square altar with home corresponding with the number of corners. Below is the word PROVIDENT (ia)—”The Providence” of Augustus (that is, “The goddess Provision, tutelar of the Augustus”); S. C, for Senatus Consulto—”By Decree of the Senate.” Besides the thirteen coins figured on the fourth page there are others hearing various attributions, struck by Vitellius. Oue is a denarius with the laureate head of Vitellius on the Obverse, and A VITELLIVS IMP GERMAN AVG; and on the Reverse a seated figure representing Clemency bearing in her right hand a branch. The Legend is CLEMENT1A AVG GERMAN—” The Clemency of the Emperor Germanicus.”

The title “Germanicus” was bestowed upon our subject by the legions of Upper Germany. Otho being dead, Vitellius spared the life of his son, contrary to the Roman custom in similar cases, which was the same as the Oriental practice of the present day. ” On account of his Clemency he spared him.” Other cases of the same class are on record, so that Tacitus is constrained to acknowledge that ” the victorious Vitellius took the glory of Clemency.” There is also a gold coin (aureus) somewhat like our No. 9, save that the sitting figure has a branch in her hand. The Legend is CONCORDIA PR—”The Concord of the Roman People.” When the death of Otho was known at Rome, the people applauded Vitellius. In the Senate, all things being properly arranged immediately, due honors were decreed to him, and upon the coin the fact of their unanimity is impressed. A very rare denarius of Vitellius is in existence with Legend, CONCORDIA PRAETORIANORVM—”The Concord of the Praetorian Guards.”

It has the figure of a woman standing; in her right hand, a branch; in her left, a cornucopia. When the death of Otho was made known, these veteran and princely forces called Praetorians, took the oath of fidelity (sacrameutum) to Vitellius. Thus he was received as Emperor by “the Agreement of the Pretorians.” This far-famed band of soldiers, of which so much appears in Roman history and upon our coins, appears as early as Scipio Al’ricanus, B.C. 200. It was then a Cohort (the tenth of a Legion) of select soldiers entitled, Cohors Praetoria, who attended the General and served as his body-guard. Augustus organized from these the Imperial Guard, upon which Napoleon’s “Guard “was modeled. The Imperial Praetorians consisted, at first, of nine cohorts, each being a thousand men, horse and foot.

They were enlisted in Italy alone. Under Vitellius sixteen Praetorian cohorts were enlisted, and four to guard the city. Severus (a.d. 193-211) remodeled them and increased their number by four times their ancient strength. They were finally suppressed by Constantine, and their camp, a strongly fortified post between the Porta Viminalis of the city and Esquilina, without the wall of Rome, was destroyed. They are often denominated Milites Praeloriard. This favored corps of troops indulged in great pay, leisure and luxury, became extremely corrupt, made and unmade Emperors, and were far more a standing terror to the city than a garrison. Another coin, found both in gold and silver (aurei and denarii), presents the figure of Mars gradient; in his right hand a spear; on his left shoulder a trophy.

These were struck before the self-murder of Otho occurred. Mars gradient suggests the destruction of the enemy in fight, which Vitellius exhibited as an omen of success. He had taken the sword of Julius Caesar from the temple of Mars, says Tacitus, after which, by the consent of the two German armies, he was proclaimed Emperor. The Legend on this coin expresses the fact, CONSENSVS EXERCITVM—” The Consent of the Armies.” In the first coin of our series we present the figure of the Capitoline Jupiter. There is another, an extremely rare denarius, with the Legend, IVPITER VICTOR. In this device we see Jove seated; in his right hand a Victoriola; in his left, a spear. Hete Jupiter is styled Victor, because “he is thought to conquer all things.” His temple as seen in our No. 1, was situated on the Palatine Hill, because on his festal day, on the ides of April, Vitellius defeated the forces of Otho at Bebriacum.

Another coin found, both in gold and silver, presents the head of L. Vitellius, father of the Emperor, who was Consul three times, and Censor. The head of L. Vitellius is given. Before it is an ivory scipio, on which is perched an eagle. The Legend is, L VITELLIVS COS III CENSOR — “Lucius Vitellius, Consul the third time; Censor.” Another die of the same coin has the togated figure of a man sitting in a curule chair, his right hand extended; an ivory scipio in his left. It was a worthy desire in Vitellius to have the merits of his father thus published. As all gold and silver coinage was made under personal direction of the Emperor (not the Senate), he gave these directions to the moneyer as we read to-day upon the coin. Plutarch says the office of Censor was the apex of all honors.

The ivory scipio was the badge of Consulship. Another coin, in both gold and silver, gives the children of Vitellius. They are seen facing each other with the Legend, LIBERI IMP GERM AVG —” The Children of the Emperor Germanicus Augustus.” We do not know the names of these children whose honors were 60 exalted and so brief. Tacitus speaks of one of them who perished with his father and grandfather. A denarius has the device of our No. 4, viz.: Two Right Hands Joined, and the Legend. “The Concord of the Praetorians.” The twelve cohorts of this elegant corps at first proclaimed Otho. but when that prince was dead, went ever, with unanimity, to Vitellius; hence the Legend. A coin, both in silver and gold, presents a crown of oak leaves, Corona civilis, inclosing the Legend, S P Q R OB C S — Senatus Populusque Romauus ob Cives Servatos—”The Senate and Roman People for saving the lives of Citizens.” “The civic crown was composed of oak leaves and bestowed upon him who had saved the life of a citizen. The mural crown was made of gold, and presented to those who, in assaults, were the first that forced their way into the towns.

The camp crown was of gold and given to the man who mounted the rampart of an enemy’s camp. The obsidional crown was composed of grass and presented, by the troops relieved from a siege, to the commander who succored them.” But none of these was so honorable as the civic crown. Vaillunt observes in relation to the coin last named that it was struck at the commencement of the government of Vitellius. The soldiers who nominated him had dragged him in his night-clothes from his bed to do so. That he was not likely to save the lives of citizens was seen in the fact that as he passed the battle-field, which had won for him the purple, instead of being offended by the stench of the cadavera there unburied, he declared it was delightful to smell the carrion of a dead foe, especially if he was a citizen. This brutal remark was repeated by the author of the St. Bartholomew massacre fifteen centuries later.

Another coin, in both gold and silver, has the figure of Vesta sitting; in her right hand the patera or sacred dish; in her left, a flaming torch. The Legend is VESTA P R QVIRITIVM — Vesta Populi Roman! Quiritium—” Vesta of the plebeians of the Roman People.” This denotes that Vitellius was Pontifex Maximus (High Priest), and as such had the control of the Vestals, or priestesses of Vesta. He afterward sent them as ambassadors to meet Vespasian and solicit peace. Another coin, in gold and silver, is much like our No. 3, a Victory gradient, having a shield in her right hand on which is written S-P-Q-R. The Legend is VICTORIA AVGVSTI. This refers to the victory over Otho obtained between Cremona and Verona, where Otho, who yet was not present at the battle, rather by treason than by the courage of his enemy, was overcome and committed 6uicide. The last coin which we present in this series is an aureus, having a Tripod (tripus) on which is placed a dolphin, and beneath it a raven.

The historian Suetonius avers that Vitellius was adorned with the honors of the priesthood, even before he assumed the purple, and this coin implies that he was one of the Qnindecimvirl who had charge of the Sibylline Leaves and the general government of the state religion. The Legend is XVVIR SACR FAC—” Quindecimviri for performing sacred rites.” The tripod was U6ed in the ceremonies of worship of Apollo, as the god himself had taught. The Raven was sacred to Apollo among all the birds. The Dolphin among fishes bore the same relation to him, for, as we learn in Homer, Apollo upon one occasion was transformed into a dolphin. As a coin-emblem the tripod pertains to the island of Gaulos.

The four engravings occupying the lower half of the coin-sheet are thus named:

1. The Pantheon at Rome;

2. Head of Julius Caesar;

3. A Roman war-galley;

4. The various classes of Roman soldiers, viz.. the Triarius. Princeps, Hastatus, Velites, Funditores, Jaculatores.

They will serve to illustrate various subjects throughout, this series. When the general, after consulting the auspices, decided to give battle, he displayed a red flag (rexillum) at his headquarters (praetarivm). The assembly was then called by sound of trumpet (tuba condone advocata) and the commander made an address to the soldiers, who gave assent by raising the right hand, shouting and beating their shields with spears. Then all the trumpets sounded (signa canebant) and the soldiers cried out ” to arms ” (ad arma conclamatum est). The eagles were drawn up from the ground, the watchword was given, and the soldiers made nuncupative wills while preparing for battle. The forces having advanced near the enemy, the general rode through the ranks, exhorted them to courage, and gave the signal for attack. The Velites began by harassing the foe with light javelins and other missiles, in which they were aided by the Funditores (slingers) and Jaculatores (javelin-men).

As the hostile lines drew nearer, these light troops retired through the intervals or by the flanks, and the Hastati (heavy spearmen) came up and launched their steel-pointed darts upon the enemy. If they failed to check the onset, they also retired, and gave way to the Principes, who formed the second line. If they in turn were compelled to retire. the Triarii (men of the third line), who thus far had stood in stooping posture, rose up and took the matter in hand. Hence the expression ” it has come to the triarii ” (ad triarios ventum est). These veteran reserves were so conscious of their skill and valor and the weight of their responsibility that they often stood the shock of cavalry as well as infantry. The combat being thus brought to close quarters, the three orders of soldiers united with closed ranks (compressis ordinibvs) and in one compact body (uno continents agmirie). and the result was rarely to its disadvantage. For the enemy, after suffering from the light troops, must needs overcome, in three separate encounters, the Hastati, the Principes, and finally the Triarii reinforced by both the others.

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