Roman weaponry in the province of Britain from the second century to the fifth century AD

Roman weaponry in the province of Britain from the second century to the fifth century AD

By David J. Marchant

PhD Dissertation, Durham University, 1991

Roman swords - photo by Matt Brown / Flickr

Roman swords – photo by Matt Brown / Flickr

Abstract: This thesis deals with the weapons Of the Roman army in Britain from the beginning of the 2nd century AD until the end of Roman rule in the early 5th century. Initially the various categories of evidence – literary, pictorial and archaeological – are examined, to try and assess their reliability. Then some attention is given to where and by whose authority weapons were produced. The main part of this work is based around the large body of material remains from this country. Individual chapters on each class of weapon discuss the historical references and group the finds according to size, shape or decoration. Some attention is paid to how different weapons were used and how effective they were and to which kinds of units were using particular types of weapon. Throughout, the supposed differences between legionary and auxiliary equipment are analysed, as well as the continuity or lack of it with the arms of the lst century AD. Reasons behind changes in armament are also discussed. Careful use is made of parallels from other parts of the empire, to place the Roman army in Britain in its wider context.

Introduction: This thesis is a detailed study of the weapons of the Roman army in one province and within a limited time period. The choice of this area of research calls for some explanation. Firstly, the material from Britain was the most readily available. The decision to exclude finds dating to between 43 and 100 AD may seem odd, but was based on sound reasons. The Roman army of the lst century AD has been intensively studied and as further projects were underway when this thesis commenced, it was felt wise to avoid excessive duplication of effort. The corpus is in any case still a very large one. Nevertheless the 1st century has not been completely ignored. Pre-2nd century finds are discussed where they contribute to our knowledge of later weaponry.

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