Roman Drill and Where Some of Today’s Commands Come From

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Oddly enough, no one bothered to write down the Latin commands used by the Roman army until ca. AD 580, when the East Roman Emperor Maurice Tiberius included them in his book Strategikon. This was well past they heyday of the Roman army and 450 years after the era we portray (AD 130-140), but as far as primary references go, it’s all we’ve got for actual commands. However, other ancient writers give accounts of Roman training methods, and putting the available evidence together with some basic common sense, we can attempt to recreate the Roman infantry drill.

This work has already been pioneered by the Ermine Street Guard, who fleshed out Maurice’s commands with some common-sense interpolations to create the drill most Roman reenactment groups use today. Further additions were made by Matt Amt of Legio XX Valeria Victrix in MD.

Ad signa:  Fall in. When you hear this command by the Centurio (or the CO for the day), stop whatever you’re doing, pick up you shield and pilum, and proceed to the vexillum and CO, forming a single shoulder-to-shoulder rank facing them.

Silentium:  Silence. In other words, no chattering in the ranks.

Mandata captate:  Literally, “observe the orders.” This is the command we use for “attention!” You stand straight, eyes front, shield held by its grip in the left hand, pilum held vertically in the right first just below the square block.

Ordenem servate:  Keep your position. Or “stay put.” Infrequently used if at all.

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