Let’s open our new rubric dedicated to reenactor’s impressions with the reconstruction of a 2nd century BC triarius, by Alessandro di Leva of the group Legio VI Ferrata – whom we thank for the pictures and the text he sent us.
Triarii were the Roman soldiers of the third line of battle, during the Republican period. They were mainly veterans with many years of service. Their duty was to enter the battle if the other two lines had fallen. Titus Livius testifies a Roman saying, “res ad triarios rediit” (“it comes down to the triarii”), which indeed testifies their important and crucial role in battle.
As written by Polibius, the military equipment of a 2nd century BC triarius didn’t differ from that of hastati and principes. However, triarii had a spear (hasta) instead of the pilum. From various descriptions of Roman soldiers by the same author, we know that they wore bronze helmets decorated with feathers, that they had a scutum, they carried a gladius hispaniensis and that the richest soldiers, just like the triarii, could have afforder a mail armour, instead of a simpler cardiophylax.
The helmet chosen for this reconstruction is of Apulo-Corinthian typology, also known as Etrusco-Corinthian. Such typology recalls a past Greek and Etruscan hoplite warfare, which the triarius, armed with his spear, still carries on in a similar way – even if he abandoned the round aspis for the oblong scutum at least in the 4th century BC.
Also, such a helmet in the 2nd century BC was seen as a richer and more elaborated helmet than other types, and even in art is often associated with high-ranking figures. So, it could be plausible that a soldier with a certain wealth, such as a triarius, could have afforded this kind of helmet.
The scutum is decorated with the depiction of a rooster. It was a sacred animal associated with the goddess Minerva, and it was probably considered a sort of lucky charm in the military world, since he announced the dawn and its voice worked as a sort of “alarm clock”.
Finally, the cingulum is decorated with metal plaques of type Numantia, from the homonymous site in Spain, and are dated to the 2nd century BC.
A special thank to Max Berger, who helped with the research and the development of this reconstruction.