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From Aug 2006 - Nov 2013 WeDig provided a live forum for diggers & fans of Vindolanda. It has now been mothballed and will be maintained as a live archive.

Here you will find preserved 7 years of conversation, photos, & knowledge about a site many people love. Vindolanda gets under the skin. (Figuratively and literally as a volunteer excavator!) It's a place you remember, filled with people you remember!

Thanks for 7 great years!

The Ninth Cohort Of Batavians
Thanks for the comments. Indeed a nest of big hornets; which seems to urge me to raise the level of caution to "question everything"-level... I certainly would have thought that the Roman army's strengths organising and bureaucracy would have lead to at least systematic numbering of cohorts. Also, I thought the addresses on the Vindolanda letters themselves suggested a high level consistency in names and whereabouts of units. Otherwise letters might have ended up on the wrong side of the empire a few times too many. On the other hand it might mean just a higher level of local organization. Which makes me wonder if the militairy reports that were found were just ment for local use or (also) for higher levels like the governor in Britain. But that's a spin-off for perhaps another item. I guess the best chance in discovering hard evidence on whereabouts, appearance or standards are newly found Roman grave-monuments or letters.

In the meantime I dug up a booklet dating from 1979. "What the soldiers wore on Hadrian's Wall", by H. Russel Robinson, with to my surprise on page 11 a detail-picture of Trajan's Colonna with the adjacent comment "Auxiliary cavalry and infantry from Trajan's Column, Rome, early 2nd century A.D. All wear simple helmets, mail shirts and carry oval shields." No idea if Russel Robinson's right that they are auxiliaries, but these pictured soldiers all have differently decorated shields. Maybe different units were 'summarized' by picturing one soldier (with his unique shield) per unit. But, perhaps more obvious, the auxiliaries just had no uniform shield decorations.

Just one thing on standards. In the same booklet two images of gravestones or -monuments show a soldier. Interesting to see that both happen to carry something of a standard. The one in Hexham carries some portrait on a pole; the one found at Carrawburgh shows an animal (a bull, or, wishfull thinking: a horse) on a trident. They seem as small as the Vindolanda horse, of which is said that it might have been too small to be a standard. In both cases Russel Robinson's comment is that the soldiers are standard-bearers.
If Russel Robinson is right, of course, but to quote Dirty Harry on this: "If you want guarantees: buy a toaster."

The Ninth Cohort Of Batavians
One thing about ancient history is that our knowledge on certain eras resembles Emmental cheese. The scholars among us are trying to fill the holes with solid proof; dilettantes like me make up a filling by fantasizing. Here are just some runaway thoughts on the ninth cohort of Batavians, alternated with - I hope - some pieces of scientific consensus.

Right, well, so what happened with Flavius Cerialis and his Batavian cohort when they left Vindolanda?

One of the letters to the Batavian commander Flavius Cerialis starts as follows: "Niger and Brocchus to their Cerialis, greeting. We pray, brother, that what you are about to do will be most successful." Although in this letter a meeting with the governor is mentioned, I can imagine that what Niger and Brocchus ment with "you are about to do" could very well be the Batavian's oncoming departure to Dacia. This letter oozes a conspiring atmosphere; taking part in an emperor's campaign might have been kept secret for some time.

“..tile stamps which name the unit have been found at Buridava in Moesia Inferior and these have been dated to the period between the first and second Dacian Wars (c. AD 102/6).” (Bowman and Thomas, on Vindolanda Tablets Online). The ninth cohort of Batavians is said to have served in the Dacian wars. In theory therefore, they could be depicted on the colonna Traiana in Rome on which the Dacian wars spiral to a high level of propaganda. We're talking about one cohort, and the chance that it played role in the Dacian wars significant enough to be depicted on the colonna is very remote, but the level of detail and accuracy of the colonna must give an idea of what the cohort must have looked like. Apparently the soldier's attires per regiment were not as uniform as we often see in the movies, still the regiments at least used standards to be recognized. On the colonna there are quite a few standards to be found. Unfortunately I haven't spotted the bronze standard yet with the horse which became the logo for Vindolanda. On the other hand there are many different types of shields depicted on the colonna. Maybe here on the forum there's an expert on militaria who can tell if there are auxiliaries depicted on it. Surely they did not look the same as legionnaries?

That the ninth Batavian cohort at least had a standard, can be found in one of the Vindolanda letters. Decurion Masculus asks his commander Cerialis: "..Are we all to return with the standard, or.." (I couldn´t find this letter on Vindolanda Tablets Online, strangely enough, but it was on the BBC History website). It is open to debate if the bronze horse was a standard to begin with, and if so, if it was the one for the Batavian cohort. Since Batavians were famous for their horsemanship, it seems very likely to me that the bronze horse was carried by the Batavian cohorts that inhabited Vindolanda. In Batavian territory in the Netherlands a large collection of beautifully made bronze harness-ornaments (phalerae) has been found. It is said to be the largest collection of anywhere in the Roman world and probably dates from 40-100 AD. Also, Tacitus mentions that no one but the Batavians were capable of crossing the Rhine on horseback while armed. The horse obviously played a very important role in Batavia.