Did the legionnaires’ wives and children live with them in military camps?

(ORDO NEWS) — It is generally accepted that women had nothing to do with the Roman army.

However, a 2,000-year-old monument in the heart of Rome shows that soldiers ignored the marriage ban and that their wives and daughters participated in triumphal ceremonies. This conclusion was reached by the archaeologist Elizabeth Green.

On January 8-11, 2015, during the annual meeting of the American Archaeological Institute, Green mentioned six women depicted on a fragment of the famous Trajan’s Column.

The relief of the ancient monument shows a moment of triumph, during which the girls hold in their hands the objects necessary for sacrifice during a religious ceremony. Interestingly, such duties were usually entrusted to males. According to Green, these girls could be the wives or daughters of Roman generals and senior officers.

It is important to note that scientists have been studying the monument since the 18th century, and this curious detail clearly escaped their attention.

However, it should be remembered that the height of the column is about 30 meters and it is quite difficult to peer into all the reliefs. In addition, scholars have generally regarded the column as a source of knowledge about Roman military art and the armament of the legions.

Did the legionnaires wives and children live with them in military camps 2

It should be remembered that only men were allowed into the Roman army, and during the reign of Octavian Augustus (January 16, 27 BC – August 19, 14), legionnaires were completely forbidden to marry during a service that lasted 25 years (prohibition lasted almost 200 years).

The texts of ancient historians say very little about the opposite sex in the army, so for many years there was an opinion that women had nothing to do with the Roman army and certainly did not share the camp with the soldiers.

The change came in the late 1980s when Professor Alison Jones began to find evidence that women lived with soldiers on the frontiers and in the forts. In the same period, in the former Roman military camps (for example, Vindolanda), shoes began to be found that clearly belonged to women and children.

Today, according to Elizabeth Green, about 40% of the shoe samples found in Vindolanda belonged to women and children who lived with their husbands and fathers in the forts. But Greene says she’s still having a hard time convincing older scientists she’s right.


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