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The Roman Army in Lycia and Pamphylia
A central area of research with regard to the archaeology and history of the Roman Empire concerns the military forces stationed within Rome’s various provinces. Our knowledge on this matter is significantly greater for the provinces in Europe and North Africa than it is for those of the east. The reasons for this imbalance in research and knowledge are varied, but a key factor is the lack of any systematic study of the epigraphic evidence for the Roman military in the eastern territories. This is especially the case with those provinces located in Asia Minor, and this paper seeks to correct matters to some extent by using the available epigraphic material to identify those units of the Roman army based in Lycia and Pamphylia between the Julio-Claudian era and the beginnings of the “Third-century Crisis” (i.e., A.D. 14-235/238). However, as most readers of this journal may not be entirely familiar with the subject matter of this article, a summary account of the types of epigraphic evidence used in this analysis is supplied, along with a review of how the Roman state provided for internal security in the so-called “inermes provinciae”, or “undefended provinces”, those territories such as Lycia-Pamphylia that were far from the heavily garrisoned frontiers of the Roman Empire. In addition, a brief synopsis explains the nature of the Roman auxilia, those non-citizen units that were used to provide the garrison in the inermes provinciae.

A primary conclusion of this review is that there were at least four and perhaps five auxiliary quingenary cohortes assigned in succession to the regions of Lycia and Pamphylia between the 1st and 3rd centuries A.D. The earliest of these garrisons was probably the cohors I Hispanorum equitata, which is recorded at Perge probably in the middle years of the 1st century A.D., i.e., when Pamphylia was perhaps still a part of Galatia. This unit was apparently succeeded early in Vespasian’s reign by the I Apula civium Romanorum, a unit that is attested at Side, and which could have remained in the joint province of Lycia-Pamphylia until c. 114, when it was probably transferred east as part of the preparations for Trajan’s Parthian War. The next garrison of Lycia-Pamphylia may have been the IIII Raetorum equitata, named on a funerary text from Side, but by 123, the I Musulamiorum equitata constituted the garrison of the joint province, one of its members being recorded at Patara. This unit probably remained in the province until 162/3, when it apparently left for service in connection with Verus’ Parthian War, and it was replaced by the I Flavia Numidarum equitata, a unit which is attested at both Perge and Side, and which was still in Lycia-Pamphylia as late as 238.  

The limited evidence that is available suggests that there was no single permanent base repeatedly used by the units stationed in Lycia and Pamphylia during the period we are concerned with. Instead it seems possible that each unit may have been equally divided between Perge and Side, but with sub-units and even individual soldiers operating at other urban centres, such as Patara and Olympus, and in the rural areas, notably in the mountainous inner regions of Lycia-Pamphylia. While there is almost no factual data relevant to the duties and functions of these units and their men, what we do have conforms to what is known concerning such activities in the other “undefended provinces” of the Roman Empire. In other words, they supervised local matters on behalf of the Roman administration, and provided an effective urban and rural gendarmerie. However, it is clear that by third quarter of the 3rd century, at the height of the “Third Century Crisis”, the increased unrest and an overall lack of security in the inner regions of Lycia-Pamphylia prompted the creation of a more aggressive and a more localised form of policing corps. Consequently, these local militias, colloquially known as “bandit-chasers”, began to assume the security function originally provided by province’s auxiliary garrison.

*Asst. Prof. Dr. Julian Bennett
Department of Archaeology and Art History, Bilkent University, 06800 Bilkent, Ankara.
E-mail: bennett@bilkent.edu.tr

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