Roman standard-bearer tombstones

I think Graham Sumner created a wonderful painting of Felsonius Verus, the aquilifer of Legio II Parthica for Ancient Warfare XI.2. That painting includes a new interpretation of the famous (or should that be notorious?) eagle compared to the one seen in, for instance, on the cover of Ross Cowan’s Imperial Roman Legionary 161-244.

I’ll let you check out the new article for yourself, but I thought it’d be interesting to have a look at some other tombstones of standard-bearers in the meantime.

When I collected photos for the Romanarmy.com Imagebase (yes, I WILL resurrect that project at some point), it was always extra exciting to find stones of the signiferi, imaginiferi, and aquiliferi. For one, the standards themselves are interesting and always different, but I’m not aware of any book or article that has explained the various elements on the standards satisfactorily. If I missed something, please let me know!

Today, I wanted to just show some of the, granted well-known, tombstones I have photos of in my collection. All but one date to the mid to late first century AD. In that period workshops in the Rhineland and in the UK carved impressively detailed tombstones out of locally available stone with images depicting the deceased. The tradition certainly continued throughout the 2nd, 3rd and even the 4th century, although the quality and detail isn’t always equally high. Geographically speaking, the focus seems to shift to the Balkans, Rome and the East. Though for the latter we always have to take into account the vagaries of survival through the ages. The castra in western Germany, the Netherlands and Britain have generally been more thoroughly excavated than anywhere else.

Anyways… to the stones, in completely random order!

Signifer tombstones

Signiferi, whether in a legion or in an auxiliary unit, were at least sesquiplicarii, i.e. they earned  1.5 times as much as an ordinary legionary. Hence they could more easily afford fancy tombstones!

6 thoughts on “Roman standard-bearer tombstones”

  • Ross Cowan

    Ah, so now it's "Ross Cowan's" Imperial Roman Legionary rather than "Osprey's"... ;-)

    In the design package, I did specify a live eagle in a cage with X-shaped bars, following Verus' gravestone and Balty & Van Rengen's interpretation of it as an 'eagle, clearly a live one in a cage set on top of his staff. as the unit's mascot' (Apamea in Syria: The Winter Quarters of Legio II Parthica (Brussels 1993), p.12). But then Angus McBride produced the illustration with the huge budgie cage. Note also the wee birdies fluttering about in the other plates. Clearly his thing at the time, but hey ho.

    Cheers,

    R!

    Reply
    • Jasper Oorthuys
      Jasper Oorthuys May 26, 2017 at 2:57 pm

      Aarrgh, ok, credit where credit is due...

      Nonetheless, Joe Hall & Graham Sumner's illustration in the upcoming issue is different from McBride/Cowan/Balty & Van Rengen because we're a contrary bunch here, clearly.


      Jasper

      Reply
      • Ross Cowan

        Oliver Stoll's interpretation of Felsonius' aquila (Arch. Korr. 21 (1991) and Mavors XIII; I assume this is followed by Graham) is undoubtedly correct. However, for the purpose of attracting the 'general reader', I would still be tempted to go with a live eagle in an cage with crossbars. For all its faults, McBride's illustration makes for a striking cover image.

        Cheers,

        R!

        Reply
        • Jasper Oorthuys
          Jasper Oorthuys May 26, 2017 at 3:35 pm

          I can see that, but I suspect most 'general readers' who also read Ancient Warfare, have seen the Osprey volume (better? ;-) ) before. And if not, they just might pick it up now to compare the two.

          Reply
  • GILBERT François
    GILBERT François August 8, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    Hello, I am very interested in Roman signs. I have written several articles on this subject. If you are interested, I have just finished a series of 4 articles on the vexilla, in the French magazine PRETORIEN. There are beautiful illustrations of my talented comrades Florent VINCENT (who has already illustrated my book on Caesar's army).
    Best regards
    FG

    Reply
Leave a Reply
Post your comment

Karwansaray Publishers Webstore