). Literally “a tortoise
The general designation for different kinds of sheds for the protection of soldiers engaged
in a siege.
The name testudo was also applied to the covering made by a close body of soldiers, who
placed their shields over their heads to secure themselves against the darts of the enemy.
The shields fitted so closely together as to present one
Testudo made of Shields. (Antonine Column.)
unbroken surface without any interstices between them, and were also so firm that
men could walk upon them, and even horses and chariots be driven over them. A testudo was
formed (testudinem facere
) either in battle to ward off the arrows and
other missiles of the enemy, or, which was more frequently the case, to form a protection to
the soldiers when they advanced to the walls or gates of a town for the purpose of attacking
them. Sometimes the shields were disposed in such a way as to make the testudo slope. The
soldiers in the first line stood upright, those in the second stooped a little, and each line
successively was a little lower than the preceding down to the last, where the soldiers
rested on one knee. Such a disposition of the shields was called fastigata
, on account of their sloping like the roof of a building. The advantages of
this plan were obvious: the stones and missiles thrown upon the shields rolled off them like
water from a roof; besides which, other soldiers frequently advanced upon them to attack the
enemy upon the walls. The Romans were accustomed to form this kind of testudo, as an
exercise, in the games of the Circus (Livy , xliv. 9).