Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Gladiators at Beltain!

On Saturday 3rd May, Butser Ancient Farm will be holding its biggest event of the year, Beltain.
The weather is set to be spectacular and the event even more so. We have many things planned, but this blog is about what I have been involved in.

For 9 months, three of us have undergone intense Gladiator combat training. It has been much harder than any of us expected. Constant bruises and many cuts were not in the game plan, but with the hard work done and the blood spilt, we are ready for our first public event. On the 3rd of May, we would love you to be part of our most ambitious undergoing as a re-enactment group and support our three Gladiators in their opening games!


A Sicilian con-man who tried his luck a little too far. He conned a wealthy merchant who had powerful friends; the merchant gave him an ultimatum, repay the debt or die. Heinacus had already spent the money living the life of the wealthy, and too much drink and too many women had left him unable to repay. The merchant was a sponsor of a Ludus. Heinacus was offered the chance to sell his freedom and wipe away the debt.
Now renowned as one of the finest gladiators to grace the sands — many have fallen to his spear. A favourite with the ladies, he only fights with honour. 


A tribal king from Carthage, he was Hannibal’s best commanders during the Punic war. Feared by the citizens of Rome, he defeated 11000 legionaries in one day. Eventually the Romans prevailed and Lupus was captured.
His unrivalled skills made him perfect for Gladiatorial combat and he soon became a champion of the arena. He strikes fear into the heart of all opponents. His fighting ability has made him a favourite for some, and his arrogance has made him hated by others.


This Spaniard was once a soldier with the IX Legion. His hot headed ways often got him into trouble as he took on situations beyond him, but often coming out unscathed. His fortunes dramatically changed when he fell in love with his commander’s daughter, Amelia. When Amelia was caught in his embrace, Cassus was condemned to life in the arena.

His modest style undermines his greatness. He lacks the showmanship of past champions, but not the skill. He fights for one thing, freedom. He dreams of reuniting with his sweet Amelia. 

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Marcus Valerius Corvus Calenus!

Ancient Rome is full of stories of grand men, great warriors and outstanding leaders. Marcus Valerius Corvus Calenus is one of these such men and is one of our members favourite Romans! So we thought we would share a little bit about him with you! Where did we get the information?....... good old Wikipedia but sources have been checked and it all seems cosha!

Born c.370 BC, Marcus Valerius Corvus Calenus was an important military commander and politician during the early-to-middle Republic. His career saw him elected Roman consul six times (his first at the tender age of 22!). He was also appointed Dictator three times, and led the armies of the Republic in the First Samnite War (343-341BC). He occupied the curule chair a total of twenty-one times throughout his career, and according to tradition he lived to be one hundred.

A member of the Patrician gens Valeria, Valerius first came to prominence in 349 BC when he served as a Military tribune under the consul Lucius Furius Camillus who was on campaign against the Gauls of northern Italy.

According to legend, prior to one battle a gigantic Gallic warrior challenged any Roman to single combat, and Valerius, who asked for and gained the consul’s permission, accepted. As they approached each other, a raven settled on Valerius’ helmet and it distracted the enemy's attention by flying at his face, allowing Valerius to kill the enemy Gaul. The two armies then fought, resulting in the Gallic forces being comprehensively routed, and ending in a decisive Roman victory. As a reward for his courage, Valerius was apparently given a gift of ten oxen and a golden crown, and he was eventually given the agnomen Corvus, which is the Latin term for a raven.

Regardless of the legend’s veracity, after this victory Corvus’ popularity soared. He was elected Roman consul in absentia in 348 BC, at the unusually young age of 22. During his first consulship, a treaty was made between Rome and Carthage. In the following year (347 BC) Corvus was probably elected to the office of Praetor. This was followed by his second consulship in 346 BC, where he took to the field to against the Antiates and the Volsci, defeating them and sacking the town of Satricum, destroying it completely apart from the temple of Mater Matuta. For these victories, the Senate awarded Corvus his first triumph.
In 345 BC, it is believed that Corvus served as Curule aedile, before his outstanding military abilities again saw him being elected to the consulship for the third time in 343 BC. This year saw the outbreak of the First Samnite War, and Corvus was dispatched to the warfront, where he won a bruising and bloody victory over the Samnites at the Battle of Mount Gaurus. He followed this up with another victory at the Battle of Suessula, where he crushed the remnants of the Samnite army after their defeat at Mount Gaurus. After the second victory, he had some 40,000 shields of the abandoned and killed and 170 enemy standards piled up before him on the battlefield. After these victories Corvus returned to Rome to celebrate his second triumph, reportedly the most impressive that the Romans had yet witnessed up to that time. After this he returned to the southern warfront in the winter to protect Campania from Samnite incursions.
The year 342 BC was one of crisis for the Roman state, with the Roman legions stationed around Capua, as well as the surrounding Campanian towns, rebelling and marching on Rome. In this crisis, Corvus was appointed Dictator to deal with the mutineers. He met them at the head of an army some eight miles outside of Rome, but decided to negotiate with the rebels instead of fighting a battle. Using his past association with the army to gain their trust, he was able to reach an agreement with the rebels. He agreed and pushed through laws (the ne cui militum fraudi secessio fuit) which granted the mutinous soldiers immunity from prosecution, prevented the removal of a soldier’s name from the roll of service without his consent, and prohibited any Military Tribune being demoted down to the rank of centurion. He however refused to agree to the lowering of the rate of pay for the cavalrymen, and to the immediate execution of the Decemviri. It was also alleged that, during the troubles brought about the passage of the Leges Genuciae, Corvus suggested that the Senate agree to the plebeian demands for the abolition of all debts, but this was rejected out of hand. Some historians, such as Gary Forsythe and S. P. Oakley consider the alleged events of the mutiny to be later literary inventions, although the laws passed in this year are accurate.

In 335 BC, Corvus was elected consul for a fourth time, once again in response to an escalation in the military situation in Italy. The Sidicini had formed an alliance with the Ausones of Cales, and the Senate was keen to send out someone with a proven military record. In a break with tradition, the consuls did not cast lots for their provinces, but the Senate instead assigned the area around Cales directly to Corvus. He besieged and successfully stormed the town; after its capture, the Romans established a colony there of 2,500 men. For this victory, Corvus was granted a second triumph, and the honor of carrying the agnomen Calenus.
In 332 BC, Corvus was appointed as Interrex, a function he again fulfilled in 320 BC. He was also possibly a legate under the Dictator Lucius Papirius Cursor in 325 BC during the Second Samnite War. In 313 BC he was appointed as one of the Triumviri coloniae deducendae, who were given the authority to establish a Latin colony at Saticula. Then in 310 BC he was again appointed as a legate under Lucius Papirius Cursor, and fought in a major battle at Longulae against the Samnites. Then in 308 BC he was elected Praetor for the fourth time, as a reward for his services at Longulae.

In 302 BC, Corvus was appointed Dictator for the second time. This appointment was brought about by the revolt of the Marsi at Arretium and Carseoli, and Corvus was able not only to defeat them in battle, but to take the fortified towns of Milionia, Plestina and Fresilia. The Marsi sued for peace, and for his victories over them he was awarded his third Triumph. For the following year (301 BC), he was again appointed Dictator, this time to engage in operations against the Etruscans.[29][30] While Corvus was in Rome taking the auspices, his Magister equitum (probably Marcus Aemilius Paullus) was ambushed by the enemy, and forced to retreat to his camp, in the process of which Paullus lost a portion of his army. Corvus, coming quickly to his rescue, engaged and defeated the Etruscans in battle, earning Corvus an additional Triumph.

300 BC saw Corvus elected consul for the fifth time. During his year in office he defeated some rebel Aequians. He also was involved in the passage of two laws; the first was his support for the Lex Ogulnia, which resulted in the opening up of the College of Pontifices and the College of Augurs to the Plebeians. The second, which he legislated himself, was the expansion of the provocatio, or right of appeal to the people, which now made illegal the use of severe force, specifically killing or lashing by the higher magistrates, within the city of Rome. Then in the following year (299 BC), after the Senate considered appointing him dictator for the fourth time, he was elected suffect consul after the death of Titus Manlius Torquatus, who was in command of the Etruscan war. Corvus replaced him, and with his arrival the Etruscans refused to give battle, but remained closed up within their fortified towns. Although Corvus set entire villages on fire to draw them out, the Etruscans refused to engage the Romans under Corvus.
After his sixth consulship Corvus retired from public life, and he died at the age of 100, around the year 270 BC.

A man with considerable military talents, apparently Corvus also possessed a very kind and amicable nature. Very popular with the soldiers he led into battle, and in the camps he shared with his soldiers, he reportedly competed with them in the athletic games which they played during their leisure time. He was also an enthusiastic supporter of reform, siding with the Plebeians during the ongoing Conflict of the Orders. His position was that the changing needs on an expanding Roman state required a necessary readjustment of the opportunities provided to Plebeians to serve the state, for the good of Rome.
To later Roman writers, he was a memorable example of the favours bestowed by Fortuna, and Augustus erected a statue of Corvus in the Forum of Augustus, alongside the statues of other Roman heroes. Nevertheless, his list of accomplishments is suspiciously long; Valerius Antias is considered to have been responsible for some of the exaggeration.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The introduction of the "men with nothing" into the Roman army during the Marian reforms, ca. 107 BC

During a heavy period of reforms, headed by Marius, a new, “more numerous kind of volunteer [was enrolled]: the men with nothing.”1 These men could not provide the means of sustenance for themselves, so often went without the necessities in life. Life in the Roman army was seen as ideal – payment and provisions of weaponry, armour, food and company 
were secured via state funding through legislative measures.

In general, these reforms came under heavy scrutiny from opponents and ancient writers, who often claimed Marius “stands accused of paving the way for the so-called lawless, greedy soldiers whose activities were thought to have contributed largely to the fall of the Republic a few generations later.”1 However, conflicting information suggests that the fall of the Republic was escalated through years of raising taxes and the aggressive repercussions of such measures, although after Julius Caesar came to power, the official fall of the Republic came, which was also, notably, after a civil war.2

The introduction of the “men with nothing” into the Roman army, which were listed officially under the Capite Censi, is often torn ideologically between supporters and opponents. However, in general, it should be regarded as a logical move towards expanding the Roman army and giving hope to those who were previously without; it meant that people could receive payments, provisions, and company. Not only that, but it provided the Roman army with extra power which was previously required.

1 ‘The Roman Army: the greatest war machine of the ancient world’, p.85; edited by Chris McNab, published in Great Britain in 2010 by Osprey Publishing

2Heritage History: “Ancient Rome – decline of a Republic” (website)

Wednesday, 12 February 2014


Films portray the Romans in various ways. Some fair whilst others can be very inaccurate. Being around Children that are learning about the Romans, I get to see the many reactions. Often an expression of nervousness is displayed. For many, the Romans mean fear.

For many under Roman rule, occupation was a good thing. People went from bathing in lakes to bathing in spectacular bath houses. The intricate design of these buildings defined excellence and superiority. Some people went from living in simple round houses, to beautifully decorated villas. Some British kings even ended up living in palaces, as suspected at Fishbourne Palace.  

Initially, Roman invasions were exceedingly brutal. But once a country was conquered, occupation was fair, unlike the Normans. One effective technique was to keep native kings in their position. Let them rule, but rule for the Romans. The Romans weren’t interested in inhabiting countries to rule. What country could be more enticing than Rome? What they wanted were resources and taxes. Ruling could be left to the people that had always ruled, under various conditions (native Britons were no longer permitted to have weapons under Roman Rule. The explanation was that Rome would now defend them. The actual reason was to prevent uprisings).

In a nutshell, the Romans made people want to become Roman. In most countries they conquered, it didn’t take long for the inhabitants to start acting and dressing like Romans. Far from pillaging and plundering, Rome divided the people, conquered, and Romanized

A reconstruction of the Sparsholt villa at Butser Ancient Farm

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

'We who are about to die.....'

With the bad weather outside training moves inside!
It isn’t just Roman Legion drills and education that is our focus. This summer we plan on putting on shows of Gladiatorial combat. Of course there are many obstacles that have been put in front of us. The main one being that we are not Gladiators. We have to learn everything in a relatively short amount of time (in fact, we only started last Summer!).

My main concern was always footwork. How did a Gladiator move around? An educated guess can be made my observing any, or all combat sports. Their footwork is different but they don’t casually walk due to lack of agility and balance. We decided to move similar to a boxer but with slight variations on the footwork.

Working on our foot work while sparring.
Of course we have an abundance of Legion kit. But we had nothing for Gladiator shows, aside from gladius (sword). Clothes, helmets, armour and weapons are not cheap; but we are slowly getting there!

Improvising safety kit to stop too many accidents too soon!
The training can be hard work and frustrating – it certainly is painful. We have all had injuries; however it makes the experience feel even more authentic. What is a Gladiator without a few cuts and bruises?

We hope to see you this summer for the games! Keep posted for more information!

A key element to becoming a gladiator was learning how to die well!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

A new year and hard at it!

It is the first Legion meeting of the year and the lads are busy checking out all the gear from over winter storage and carrying out any necessary repair work!

  Sorting all of the kit out from storage including chain mail (lorica hamata), shields (scutum) and shoes (caligae).

  Mark polishing his pilum! A few of our metal parts were showing early signs of rust, a must to get rid off!!

We are hoping to have another successful year this year, building on our d├ębut year last year so making sure all of our equipment is in good order is a must! We will also spend our 'down time' in January refreshing our drill, manoeuvres and skills (both military and non).

If you would like to book us for an event you are holding, for an educational school visit, party or team building days then please contact our Centurion on 07969673236!