Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Samnite Linen Legion

According to Livy, the Samnite infantry were divided into two corps. The first wore bleached white tunics and silvered armour. the second wore bronze and muti-coloured tunics. It was the custom of the Samnites to concecrate themselves before battle, and this is why they dressed themselves in white and whitened their arms , as this is the colour of religious purity. In the middle of the camp an enclosure was erected made of wicker fences this was then covered with linen. Here a sacrifice was made according to the ancient rites preserved on linen rolls. The chosen band was created firstly by the imperator selecting ten of the most eminent of the Samnites. These then in turn chose a further ten each until they numbered 16,000 men. These soldiers swore a sollemn oath over the sacrifices, which were guarded by centurions with drawn swords. These were called the Linen legion after the linen roof of the enclosure. They were given silvered arms and crested helmets to distinguish them from the rest.  They were the elite of the army and held the post of honour , the right wing.