Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2002.01.15

Eckhard Deschler-Erb, Ad Arma! Römisches Militär des 1. Jahrhunderts n.Chr. in Augusta Raurica. Forschungen in Augst, Band 28.   Augst:  Römermuseum Augst, 1999.  Pp. 189; 115 ills.; 46 pls.  ISBN 3-7151-0028-1.  

Reviewed by James P. Holoka, Foreign Language Department, Eastern Michigan University ( )
Word count: 587 words

Taken as a whole, the archaeological finds from the site of Augusta Raurica,1 near Basel, are among the most meticulously excavated, inventoried, preserved, displayed, and (now) published remains of the ancient Roman world. Eckhard Deschler-Erb [ED-E] conceived the idea for the present volume during his work at the Castrum Rauracense located in the lower town area (Kaiseraugst) of Augusta Raurica.2 In Ad Arma!, ED-E expands his review of military finds to the entire municipal area and a total of 872 objects.

The book's introduction (11-13) sketches the history of the research and states its aims and methodology. The next part, "Analysis of Finds" (14-73), is divided into sections and subsections as follows:

Offensive weapons: artillery, heavy javelins (pila), spears (iacula/hastae), arrows, swords, and daggers.
Defensive equipment: helmets, shields, greaves, and chain- and scale-mail.
Belt and apron parts.
Cavalry tack: pendants, bridle parts, saddle parts, and riders' equipment.
Additional equipment: clasps, "buttons," and a fragment of an unidentifiable metal fitting. Signaling instruments: (the mouthpieces of) various horns (tuba, lituus, cornu, bucina).

The descriptions in each category are enhanced by many photographs and detailed line drawings, charts showing distribution of finds by dates, and 327 footnotes mostly directing the reader to discussions of the same or similar items in the archaeological literature.

The book's next two sections (74-104) evaluate the finds in the context of the history of Augusta Raurica. In particular, ED-E draws on his carefully compiled time-distribution patterns to disclose periods of peak military presence (reigns of Tiberius, Nero, and to a lesser extent the Flavians). He also plots find concentrations spatially, with many maps and charts, insula by insula in the lower town and the central upper town (Augst) and certain of its suburbs. ED-E also makes interesting and judicious inferences about social and economic conditions of life as they evolved over time in this provincial city.

No less than nine concordances (111-123) enable users to (a) consult or cross-refer to other works3 treating a specific item, (b) identify the location of finds held in collections4 outside the Römermuseum Augst, (c) compare catalogue numbers in the present volume with their museum inventory numbers, (d) associate catalogue numbers with find-complex (assemblage) numbers and inventory years, (e) ascertain dates of objects by five termini ante quos (A.D. 30, 50, 70/75, 110, 150), and (f) position any item by date within an insula or region.

A bibliography and list of illustration credits (124-127) is followed by a catalogue of all the finds (128-189). For each item, the following are provided: inventory number; plate and/or illustration number in Ad Arma!; find-complex number; precise find spot by region and insula; (broadly and sometimes narrowly fixed) dates of any ceramics and coins in the same find-complex; dimensions and weight as well as type (spear point, buckle, etc.) and material; a short description; present repository; citation of any previous publication.

The book concludes with forty-five pages of plates showing excellent line drawings (by Stefan Bieri) of every object in either 1:2 or 2:3 scale. A forty-sixth plate is a topographical plan of the whole site with region and insula numbers indicated.

This is a worthy and handsome installment in the Forschungen in Augst series; its high production values extend to an attractive four-color cover illustrating a Roman legionary soldier in full battle gear. By his painstaking survey of archaeological finds, ED-E has fleshed out the military and in part even civil life in an important Roman outpost with extraordinary clarity and exactitude. His book will satisfy the needs of students and specialists alike.


1.   See The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites, s.v. Augusta Rauricorum (, and Alex R. Furger and Paula Zsidi (edd.), Out of Rome, Augusta Raurica / Aquincum: Das Leben in zwei römischen Provinzstädten (Basel 1997), with review at
2.   See Eckhard Deschler-Erb, et alii, Das frühkaiserzeitliche Militärlager in der Kaiseraugster Unterstadt, Forschungen in Augst, Band 12 (Augst 1991).
3.   E. Deschler-Erb (note 2 above); A. Kaufmann-Heinimann, Augst: Die römischen Bronzen der Schweiz 1 (Mainz 1977); id., Neufunde und Nachträge: Die römischen Bronzen der Schweiz 5 (Mainz 1994); S. Fünfschilling, "Römische Altfunde von Augst-Kastelen," Interne Augster Arbeitspap. 2 [unpublished] (Augst 1993); S. Deschler-Erb, Beinartefakte aus Augusta Raurica: Rohmaterial, Technologie, Typologie und Chronologie. Forschungen in Augst, Band 27 (Augst 1998).
4.   Historisches Museum Basel; Schweizerisches Landesmuseum Zürich; Sammlung Frey, Kaiseraugst.

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