venerdì 1 marzo 2013


A talk of Eques Tarvos "The Bull", in our fort, in die tertio ante kalendas Martii

As unfortunately  only few people can be present to the talk, we post it on the blog, due to the interest of the content, with many thanks to the speaker. The text is the direct transcription of the talk, with few cuts of the interruptions.

T.- I am here for speaking about the astur and cantabric cavalry in the roman empire, and about the horses they used. Lets begin with the horses, usually the asturcon, which is in the picture
an asturcon

Thats a pony from the kind knowed as celtic poney, same than the connemare from ireland, the portugues garrano, the pottok from euskadi, and the faco from galicia.
All them can be found in the knowed as atlantic bow; it would include all the north of spain, the atlantic coast of france, where we have the Landais horse, ireland, england, scotland...

but this is only from the regions of Asturias and Cantabria.They have, as you can see, a small size, but they are strong. They can be found now mostly in the Sueve mountains, in the west of asturias. They are in danger of estinction.
The first words we can find in the roman texts about this animal are in the Retórica and Herennium from the 80 before our age.
In this last century they losts great part of the population, because they werent useful and rentable. In that roman text we can find that they say this horse were the most famous astur animal,  a strong animal, quick, and with a particular kind of walk, knowed as "ambladura" in spanish, in italian "ambio", ambling gait in english:  it means, they move at the same time the two legs of each side; it was called by plinio as Tolutum ire.  It was very apreciated for that, for riding as for moving chariots, and very useful for walking in mountain: well traineds they were good for walking in a line across mountain ways
Another kind of horse was knowed too by Plinio , that today doesnt exists anymore, they were called Thieldones It seems they were bigger than asturcon, also very haired and strong, but they disappeared during the spanish civil war but if we hear some autors, the thieldon were used more for chariots, also chariot races, than for riding.
Coming back to the astur, in the castrum of Campa Torres, in Gijon (my city), there were found the skeletons of 25 horses that were useds for riding and chariots, some of them lived many years, even with a hurted pat, we cant know if it were for religious reasons, or as stallions, but its knowed that werent sacrified for meat; they were old, the religious theory can be looked in the meaning for celts as psicopompo, something like a guide for deads.

 well, I think that now we know enough at the moment about the asturcon: lets begin with the cantabric wars

 this imagin shows the land knowed as Iberia (land of bunnies )or Hispania by the romans.
 The lands we can see at the north are the lands occuped by astures, cantabri, autrigones, caristii and vardulii but the lands that we have more interest in, now are the astures and the cantabric lands.
They are very well deffended by mountains that goes from gallaecia to the euskaldun lands euskadi.
 Those mountains, the cantabric mountains, they broke the astur lands in two ones, astures cismontanos, at the south of mountains, and transmontanos, at the north.
 those mountains hadnt big importance at the begining, for the romans, only as a deffensive position, to protect the lands of the south, from the tribes of north; but when they knowed that there were gold and other metals in that mountains, they had the absolute need of dominate all the north: that was when they suffered the skills of astur and cantabrian cavalry for fighting in mountains, because its too much difficult for a legion fight in that kind of places: legions need plane, open spaces,  but not these horses, and those tribes; thats why romans began to recruit that kind of cavalry even during the wars. They also suffered and adopted two tactics from cantabrians and astures: the cantabricus circulus and cantabricus impetus
 the cantabricus circulus were a tactic similar to the useds by american natives: runing in two lines, one at left and anothers at right, in different directions, that changed in laterals, while they shot their spears to the enemy
the other tactic was a direct charge, for breaking formations.
 Looking that kind of charges, the romans appreciated inmediately the quality of that cavalry, very used in the tribal armies, even being a 25% respect to the warriors, very different from the  roman proportions for cavalry.
 We know that there were many auxiliars from these lands in roman army, many of them in cavalry or mixed cohors. Two cohors equitata with astures are knowed: the cohors I asturum equitata and the cohors II asturum equitata. the two ones sent at the begining to germany, but the second one sent later to britain
another great idea of the roman army: to keep some strong unit with its name, uniform and usances
 they also used their own horses
W have also 5 alae composed by astures:
 The first ala that I will explain is the ala I astur, that was used first in germany, later in the dacian wars, and finally we can find it, in the II century, in gemisara,  in rumania

 the another one, the Ala I hispanorum asturum, was destinated to britain we can see here the way they probably followed for going:

 they finished in the adrian wall in condercum,  they appear registered in the roman empire from the II century to the final of IV century

 the Ala II asturum began to serve in panonia, but in the second century they were destinated to the adrian wall too, to the fort of cilurnum; it make reference to their tribe, the cilurnice, who lived in the Campa Torres castra, in Gijon (my city ) The name of cilurnici means "who make pots"
 here we can see the way that this ala II followed in their service
 from asturias to panonia, and from panonia to britania.
 this constructions that we can see here, are the fort of cilurnum in the adrian wall

 well, this is the Ala III Asturum civium romanorum's way mauretania, that lands are now knowed as morocco 
 We can know too the existence of a Ala V, but we only know the name of one of their prefects, Publio Cornelio Orestino. The existence of a IV ala is supposed, but not founded registers, at least I didnt found nothing about it,

 this is the most famous commemorative inscrription of an astur in the roman army, but not the most impressive career:  he died in the age of 30. This talks about Pintaius, astur tansmontano, from the castella of intercatia, served 7 years, signifer of the cohors V asturum
 You can see the legs of a fur on his shoulders, a bear fur and the furry head on his helmet.
 we have too another inscription, that I didnt found a pic: in that inscription talks about Gayo Sulpicio Ursulus
 prefect of astures symmachiarii during the dacian wars, centurio of Legio I Minerva Pia, centurio of XII urban cohors, centurio of IV cohors.