Follow by Email

Inspirational Reads

Friday Morning Latin Lesson, Vol. XCVIII

February 11, 2011

Today, moviegoers, is the opening of the new Roman epic movie, The Eagle. In case you were wondering, in Latin, the title of the movie would simply be Aquila, that being the Latin word for "eagle". That might seem familiar to you if you're an amateur astronomer, as Aquila is the name of the constellation of the eagle. It might also be familiar to you if you have a particularly beaky, hooked schnozz, and we tend to describe such noses as "aquiline". To bring this crap-fest full-circle, the Romans were reputed for their aquiline features.

The Eagle is a movie adapted from a book by Rosemary Sutcliff titled The Eagle of the Ninth about a young man seeking the truth about the disappearance of his father's legion, the Ninth Spanish, in northern Britain.

Wait...the Roman legion named the Spanish disappeared in Britain? That sounds like a story!

The Roman legions were divisions in the army (unless you're a lazy fuck; if that's the case, you simply refer to the entire Roman army as "the legion"), usually varying in size, but they could be up to 6000 men. They were usually comprised of Roman citizens, but occasionally there would be men from outside the Roman state fighting in the legions in hopes that Roman citizenship would be granted to them and their families should they survive long enough to retire honorably. Wait, that sounds familiar...

Strictly speaking, legions were infantry units--the typical disciplined bands of soldiers that we envision when we think of the Roman army. They could be supported by cavalry, ranged troops, and skirmishers, who were essentially guys with spears who were sent out onto the field to die. Typically, the auxiliary troops were comprised of provincial soldiers. A typical legionnaire would have a spear (called a pilus), a sword sword (the gladius) a shield (scutum) and some light chain mail (lorica hamata).

During the years of the Republic, legions were created and disbanded as needed. This is how the Celts could sack Rome in 353 BC--the Romans had to hastily assemble a defensive force that was ill-trained and ill-prepared to face the onslaught of bands of wild savages from the north. It wasn't until the time of a fellow named Marius that anyone thought to create permanent, standing armies to serve the Roman Republic (this was late in the second century, BC).

Marius created a permanent army--again, divided into legions--and had the brilliant idea of paying them for their services. Soldiers were expected to serve for a minimum of six years (less in case of such things as dismemberment, permanent injury or death). Marius also saw fit to praise the soldiers, rewarding them for acts of bravery on the battlefield. In short, this led to bands of soldiers who became faithful to one man as opposed to Rome itself (though the man would often claim to be doing things for the benefit of Rome, to make his actions seem legit).

The legions were numbered...but since there had been so many legions created and disbanded, they took to giving themselves nicknames. The nicknames could come from any number of sources, such as where they were headquartered, i.e. Hispana (Spain), Macedonica (Macedonia, north of "Greece"), or Italica (ur, duh, Italy); from the emperor (obviously after the Republic turned into the Empire), i.e. Flavia, Augusta, Traiana; from the Gods, i.e. Minervia (Minerva), Iovia (Jupiter) or Herculia (Hercules); from some adjective describing them, i.e. Felix (lucky), Victrix (victorious), Fidelis (faithful) or my personal favorite, Rapax meaning "Devourers". Or there were the ones, like Aquila or Alaudae (larks) which were taken from animals.

So, to answer the question, the IX Hispana was a Roman legion stationed in the province of Hispana Terraconensis and sent to the island of Britain for support of the troops there.

As for what happened to them, perhaps this is the answer:

Veni, vidi, territus sum, curcurri.

Pronounced: "Way-nee, wee-dee, tare-ee-toose soom, coor-coor-ee."

I'm sure someone will get the subtle meaning here...hovertext for the translation

As the legions became faithful to the more powerful men in Rome, there began to become some strife among those men who collected power around themselves. One was obviously Marius, the dude who created the permanent legions. Another was a guy named Cornelius Sulla, who was a rival of Marius. Another was Marius' nephew, a fellow named Gaius Julius Caesar. The faithfulness of Caesar's soldiers allowed him to cross the Rubicon (a question on Final Jeopardy earlier this week) and, essentially, capture Rome. Since Rome was in a state of civil war, and the laws allowed for it, Caesar set himself up as dictator for life. This, in turn, allowed for his nephew (and adopted heir) Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus to seize power in the wake of Julius Caesar's murder on the Senate floor. Augustus, of course, would consolidate power, kill his two rivals, and become the first Roman Emperor.

And that, as Paul Harvey would say (if he weren't dead), is the rest of the story.


Gwen said...

I fart in your general direction.

Amber said...

I'm going to try and incorporate all of this information into every conversation that I have today.

SkylersDad said...

Run away! Run away!!

DEZMOND said...

If you knew what "curcurri" (or something similar to that word) means in Serbian you would probably die laughing ;)

Wynn said...


Anonymous said...

I've missed my Friday Latin Lesson. Glad to be back to reading blogs again.

I guess they farted in their general direction. RETREAT!!!!