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Евсеенков А.С.

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Sagittarius was a common name for archers in ancient Rome. In the Roman army, sagittarii could be used in auxiliaries ' units , since Roman citizens themselves were not usually used as riflemen, instead traditionally going to the legionnaires when serving in the army.

The name sagittarius comes from the Latin sagitta- arrow. That is, in literal translation, Sagittarius is Sagittarius. Also, this word could refer not only directly to archers-auxiliaries, but also to other types of shooters: enemy archers, hunter-archers, and even gladiator archers. So, based on the name itself, it is obvious that the word is tied to the weapon itself, and not to the social role of the warrior.

There is not much written evidence about sagittarii, and there is no clear description of their equipment, except for the bow, which was the main weapon. At the same time, nowhere is it precisely indicated from what and how these bows were made, and whether they differed in design depending on whether they were used as army weapons or hunting equipment. There are also practically no archaeological finds. Fortunately, a large number of pictorial sources on sagitarii-auxiliaries have been preserved. The most famous of which is the column of Trajan. There are also many tombstones of auxiliaries from rifle and mixed cohorts.

It is assumed that the Sagittarii used loriki hamata and squamata as armor, and could also be completely without armor. They didn't use shields. The most distinctive piece of equipment was elongated helmets of the Auxiliary Infantry D type according to the classification of R. Robenson. Found at the moment, only 2 helmets of this type have been found, and both are decorated to varying degrees with coinage with Roman plot motifs and made of bronze. The first of them, a conical helmet discovered on a mountain near the ancient city of Anchial (Bulgaria), is richly decorated with images: Mars, Apollo, Minerva, Mercury and Victoria. Neptune is depicted on the cheeks. Helmet dimensions: diameter 210 mm, height 197 mm, width 167 mm. The second helmet also has images of gods. It was found in Djakovo, Croatia. It dates back to the 2nd century AD. The height is 205 mm. The rear edge is 20 mm lower than the front edge. A separate slap was riveted to this strip. On the frontal plate are minted figures of Victoria, Jupiter and Mars. The hinges of the cheek pads are riveted on the inside. Also, another distinctive feature of helmets is the preserved traces of the attachment of the barmitsa-a scaly protection of the back of the head attached to the helmet, the presence of which is also consistent with pictorial sources. These helmets were used in the Roman Army, circa 50 BC-170 AD.

Helmet type Auxiliary Infantry D. Karagacha, Bulgaria. It is kept in the Sofia Archaeological Museum. Late 1st century AD
Helmet type Auxiliary Infantry D. Karagacha, Bulgaria. It is kept in the Sofia Archaeological Museum. Late 1st century AD
Auxiliary Infantry D helmet. Bronze. Djakovo, Croatia. 2nd century AD

According to pictorial sources, helmets of this type with an elongated dome are excellent for equipping sagittarii, who are also always depicted with similar helmets, which differ in shape from classical Roman ones. Interestingly, the same helmet shape is also found in gladiators-sagittarii.

Another example of this type of helmet is an Intercise helmet. The helmet, which is kept in the Museum of Dunaivaros, was recovered from the Danube during dredging operations on the territory of Dunaivaros, in the immediate vicinity of the military camp of the Roman auxiliary troops Interziza. The bronze sheet from which the helmet was made was torn in several places, and the lower part of the occipital region of the crown was not preserved. Helmet dimensions: height 23 cm; diameter 24 cm; wall thickness 1-2 mm. Inside the helmet are visible traces of gouging. The exterior surface was polished at the end of the work to remove tool marks. In the hole on the lower edge of the helmet dome, a fragment of a small ringlet was preserved, which could have been part of a chain-mail barmitsa.

The helmet found in Breda stands out in this group of helmets . It was located in a well containing materials from the third century AD. The helmet dome in this case consisted of eight elongated triangular plates 22 cm long and 1 mm thick, riveted together with copper rivets. On the lower edge there was a wide rim that overlapped the plates. The lower edge of the rim was provided with a series of small holes intended either for fixing the lining or for fixing the bar mitt. A helmet of this design was atypical for the western regions of the Roman Empire, and was probably brought back from the eastern provinces by a veteran. Judging by the materials found, this warrior was an ordinary auxiliary, since the settlement completely lacks any status items (Roymans N., Derks T., 2011. P. 153). In this case, we have a sample of those composite helmets that are shown on Trajan's column, and which, undoubtedly, were well known both to the Sarmatians of the Northern Black Sea region and directly on the Bosporus.

A helmet made of Interziza. II century A.D. Dunajvaros Museum. Hungary.
Helmet from Breda. 3rd century AD

Sagittarius used the gladius or pugio as a backup weapon, which they used either in the absence of arrows, or in the event that the enemy managed to impose hand-to-hand combat on them. Despite the presence of armor and a sword, due to the lack of a shield, sagittarii were quite vulnerable in hand-to-hand combat, so they tried to defeat the enemy before the melee began.

Most often, Sagittarians were recruited into the Roman army from the eastern provinces, from which the stereotypical term "Syrian archer" came, although they were not only from the Syrian province.

Sagittarii were also called a type of gladiator armed with a bow. It is assumed that the sagittarii fought either in mass performances, or exchanged fire among themselves for the amusement of the public.

Tombstone monument. Monimus, a soldier from Cohors I Ituraeorum who served for 16 years and died in 50. 1st century AD
Tombstones of the Roman soldier (auxilary) Hyperanor of the auxiliary First cohort of archers (Lat. Cohors I Sagittariorum) from Bingen (Latin: Bingium). Roman Hall Museum, Bad Kreuznach, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. Second half of the 1st century AD
Bas-relief with an archer from cohors I Hamiorum. Found in Housesteads, Hadrian's Wall, UK. First half of the 2nd century AD


The equipment of an auxiliary spearman for the period of 1-2 centuries AD could consist of the following elements::

Fabric / Leather products:

Protective equipment items based on metal:

Shooting weapons items:

Additional elements:

Archers on Trajan's column, Rome. Early 2nd century AD
Archers on Trajan's column, Rome. Early 2nd century AD


It is best to start reconstructing the sagittarius naturally with an innate love of shooting. The minimum set is the same as that of legionnaire and auvilarius-hastatus - a wool tunic of green, blue, gray, red or unpainted shades, cingulum (and it can be either without suspensions, or with them) and shoes. After that, you should take care of the main subject of any sagittarius - a short compound bow. It makes sense to have two sets of arrows - for training in the archery range and a set for fighting with humanizers. After the bow, you need to purchase other archery equipment: a protective brace on the hand holding the bow, a quiver, and when using a ring grip - an archer ring. Only then should you take care of things like a helmet, armor, and sword. It should also be remembered that the main point in the reconstruction of sagittarius is archery, and is advised primarily to those who enjoy shooting or the aesthetics of archers themselves. We recommend that you read the article on archery techniques.

Sagittarium, reconstruction
Sagittarius in light gear, reconstruction

Related topics

Legion, Onion, The Quiver, Auxiliaries, Auxilary-hastat, Sagittarius-Gladiator, Arrows


Auxilia Moesiae Superioris.pdf

The composite bow - Mike Loades.pdf

Arrows of Ancient and Medieval Cultures of Eurasia-Kishchenko In pdf

Armament of the nomads of Gorny Altai of the Xiongnu period Khudyakov Yu S pdf

Composite bows from the UCH Kurbu monument in Kyrgyzstan-Khudyakov Yu. S. pdf


Tiberius Julius Abdes Pantera-archer from Cohors I Sagittarius. The burial site was found in Bingerbruck, Germany. Second half of the 1st century AD
Helmet type Auxiliary Infantry D. Karagacha, Bulgaria. It is kept in the Sofia Archaeological Museum. Late 1st century AD
Helmet type Auxiliary Infantry D. Karagacha, Bulgaria. It is kept in the Sofia Archaeological Museum. Late 1st century AD
An archer from the Syrian province. Nancy Museum. France. 1st century BC-3rd century AD