Late Roman Army

Introduction To Our Reconstruction

Archaeological finds will always form the basis for any reconstruction. It is possible to use iconography to support physical finds, but period art styles contain a wealth of hidden messages and artistic conventions. Period representations of soldiers must be viewed with "period" sensibilities that are beyond the scope of this website.

Written evidence can be used to support reconstructions and the way they were used. The major works relied upon from this period are by Vegetius, Procopius, and Maurice. Vegetius, writing sometime in the late 4th, perhaps early 5th, century gives valuable detail amongst a rather idealised view of the early army. Later writers from the 6th century can also provide useful information. Procopius was a staff officer serving with Belisarius in Persia, Africa and Italy from A.D. 527 to around A.D. 540. But in terms of clear practical advice on weaponry, armour and organisation Maurices’ Strategikon stands out. Written in the late 6th century, the work concentrates on the cavalry; however the chapter on the infantry may date from an earlier work."

Some may take the equipment described as proof of the “barbarisation” of the late Roman army. Nearly every piece of equipment used by Comitatus can be traced back to a non-Roman source. But such a view would be too simplistic. The Roman army had always adopted equipment used successfully against them. In the same way the army had a tradition of relying on allied peoples to supply them with troops skilled in differing fighting methods. This was in no way a late Roman phenomenon, but a constant throughout the history of the army, and it was not a one-way process. The so-called barbarians were happy to adopt Roman weapons, equipment, factories, tactics and troops.