Stefanie Hoss

Small Finds Archaeology

Roman soldiers (re-enactment, Rome) wearing a military belt

Studies on the belt of the Roman soldier in the 1st - 3rd c. AD.

The Roman military belt was a distinctive piece of the personal equipment of a Roman soldier which characterized him as such. This hypothesis is corroborated by both ancient literature and the frequency and accuracy of the depictions of the military belt on the gravestones of the soldiers. The ideological value invested in this is surely connected to its function as a sword belt, but may also have other psychological components.

The quality of the historical, pictorial and archaeological sources allow us to form a fairly accurate picture of the changes which occurred from the 1st to the 3rd century; changes that not only completely altered the look of the belt (several times), but also transformed the meaning from the sword-belt of the 1st century that was also an indicator of the soldier´s profession to the status symbol of both the civil servant and the soldier, whose swords were hanging from a shoulder strap by then.
The aim of the project is to get as comprehensive a picture as possible of the production, distribution, manner of wearing and the material and non-material value of this piece of equipment for the Roman soldier. This will be attempted by combining the historical and epigraphical sources, and the pictorial representations of belts with the archaeological finds of the separate components of the belts.
The basis for the research are two catalogues comprising the published monuments with representations of military belts and the published archaeological finds of belt pieces from excavation reports from the whole Roman empire.

In addition to discussing typological features and analyzing the distribution and dating of the different types, questions on the production, distribution and social significance of this distinct piece of equipment will be discussed in the project. A comparison of components and semi-finished products of the military belt might answer questions on the local production and the formation of local variants. The question of the uniformity of the equipment of the units will also be addressed, as will be the differences between the belts of legionary and auxiliary infantrymen and cavalrymen.