Miniatures Talk

Late Roman cavalry- Mauri

Posted by Ochoin on 27 Jan 2022, 21:54

My reading suggests that the Romans used Moors (the famous Numidians of Hannibal's day) for light, skirmishing cavalry right up to the end & beyond (the Byzantines evidently using them under Belisarius).

They were called Mauri & were part of the numerous light cavalry units of the 4th & 5th centuries.

As to their appearance.....only the Barker book ('Armies & enemies') has anything on them as far as I can discover.

What are the thoughts about using the Zvesda set? Several centuries before "my" period, I know.....

I would only use the figures with shields. Is this ridiculous? How about the saddle-less horses?

Any thoughts from the learned membership would be appreciated.

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Ochoin  Scotland
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16 Jan 2010, 04:00

Posted by Chariobaude on 27 Jan 2022, 22:12

Donald, i've used google translate in order to transcript in english the few words i wrote about it, making my unit of Equites Mauri Alites

translation :
It is quite rare for ethnicities to end up becoming a synonym for a type of unit. Two exceptions exist in the roman imperial army: the "Dalmatian" horsemen and the "Moorish" horsemen. It is also surprising to note that they describe, as far as we know, the same reality: light cavalry.

The ethnic numeri of Moors existed for a long time, and since the 2nd century they already appear numerous. Under Marcus Aurelius, there are already maurorum cohorts in Pannonia, where the main invasions were raging.

From 272, the sources regularly “couple” the new Mauri and Dalmati equites. Their creation, in their final form, seems to coincide with the military reorganization of Gallienus, who raised many troops in the two recruitment basins that remained to him at that time: Illyria and Africa.

It seems that Gallienus created two types of cavalry: elite units, heavily armed, called Promoti, scutarii, stablesiani, armigeri or sagittarii. On the other hand, from the beginning, it seems that the Dalmatians and the Moors were light cavalry units, of about 600 men, posted at the borders.

Their spears were subarmalis, that is to say jet, and it was their task to harass the enemy, cut off his communications, or even pursue him.

In reality, they were originally to be inspired by the modes of combat of the riders they faced in Africa. Trajan's column also describes these adversaries: riding bareback, without bridle, small horses, the Moors only carried a small leather shield and javelins. Renowned for their speed, they systematically refused hand-to-hand combat.

We know thanks to the stele of a certain Rufinus, buried in Caesarea and having fought in the unit (recruited locally) of the ala Parthorum, that the African horsemen carried only a small round shield, contrary to the oval shields of the traditional Roman formations. Moreover, unlike other stelae found in the same city, Rufinus shows a very short javelin, typical of this mode of combat.

In two other military tombstones from Mauretania, we find these small atypical shields for horsemen. Like for example Rogatus, rider of another Ala milliaria.

This adaptation is at the heart of Roman military doctrine. From Julius Caesar to Heraclius, the great strategists of their time advocated the use of enemy methods and weapons. Thus the Roman military genius ends up building up a “portfolio” of highly diversified martial skills, from which it draws according to its adversaries. It is therefore not surprising that in Pannonia, we find on the funerary stele of a veteran of the Moorish wars of Antoninus Pius, soldier of the ala I Thracum Veterana, the perfect equipment of the so-called Moorish cavalry. He must have been proud of his know-how acquired in Africa!

Almost two centuries later, among the vexillations comitatenses, the elite cavalry of the Empire, there are two units of Moors. The equites Mauri Alites, which could be very imperfectly translated as the "flying Moorish horsemen" were now based in Gaul, while the fierce equites Mauri were in Italy.

To what extent were these units still, three or four generations later, composed of Moors? It is difficult to know. As with all units, their recruitment depended above all on their place of garrison, and the recruitment pool on which it depended. It is common to see Roman citizens in auxiliates at this time, so it is probably not improbable to consider that these "Moors" must have been at least partly Gaulish, even very "multi-ethnic"!

Likewise, their equipment may have varied over time. The versatility of this type of unit relied as much on the training of the riders as on their ability to equip themselves for different phases of combat. Belonging to the Army of the Rhine, they must have had little in common with the appearance of their distant predecessors, though naturally they were never heavy cavalry.

It is impossible to know when these units disappeared, but probably long after our time. In Belisarius' army, which set out to liberate Italy from the Ostrogothic yoke, the historian Procopius, who was also General Romain's "secretary", noted that there were 400 Moors, the exact numerical equivalent of one unit! Procopius hardly citing the name of the regular units, impossible the name of this one: perhaps it was simply lifted during the conquest of Africa the year before.

that's why i don't recommand to use "native moors", but regular light cavalry, maybe painted with darker ski, as i did, in a "strange" compromise....

I hop that it helps !
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Chariobaude  France
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22 Feb 2016, 10:43

Posted by Ochoin on 27 Jan 2022, 23:25

Thank you for going to all this trouble to provide such a comprehensive answer.

Your conclusions seem very plausible. Wishful thinking on my part, I guess, that they'd look like their Punic predecessors.

Having read your answer, it also occurred to me that the flimsy robes worn in North Africa would not have worked in central Europe.

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Ochoin  Scotland
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16 Jan 2010, 04:00

Posted by Flambeau on 28 Jan 2022, 11:27

I'm with Chariobaude here. I think the names of the units most probably denote their orign (viz. the province where they were first recruited) and the people who made up the bulk of the first recruits. However as the units were deployed elsewhere be it to defend the empire's borders or on a campaign, it would have been difficult to get replacement troops from the original province, so their ranks would have been filled with soldiers from other regions. It repeats itself through history. Think of the French regiment "Royal Suedois" - it was swedish in name only. In theory the officers would have been Swedes, but the buld of the soldiers were Germans from (then Swedish) Pommerania. And as time moved on they were foreigners from a lot of places (mostly German states). The famous black Brunswickers when fighting in the Peninsular, were less and less "German", their ranks were filled with recruits from Italy, Poland and elsewhere. The same was most likely the case with many Roman units
Flambeau  Germany
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22 Oct 2020, 16:29

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