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Decursio, Decursus, Decurrere


These words were used to signify the manœuvres of the Roman army, by which the soldiers were taught to make long marches in a given time, under arms and without quitting their ranks. They are frequently mentioned by Livy , and sometimes consisted of a sham fight between two divisions of the army (Liv. xl. 6, 5). With the standing armies under the Empire these manœuvres assumed a more regular form, and were constantly practised. Augustus and subsequently Hadrian ordered that the infantry and cavalry were to march out three times a month ten miles from the camp and ten miles back, fully armed and equipped. This is called by Vegetius campicursio (Veget. i. 27, iii. 4), and by Suetonius campestris decursio ( Galb. 6).


The same words were used to signify the military honours paid by soldiers at the funerals

Decursio on Coin of Nero. (British Museum.)

of distinguished generals or emperors. Such a decursio is first mentioned in connection with the funeral of Sempronius Gracchus, killed in the Second Punic War (Liv. xxv. 17, 4, 5). The soldiers marched three times around the funeral pyre (Verg. Aen. xi. 188; Tac. Ann. ii. 7; Claud. 1).


The decursio, which occurs on the coins of Nero, probably refers to the military manœuvres or sham fights in the circus. The above cut represents a horseman with a spear, and another carrying a standard. These games date from the time of the Republic and were continued under the Empire (Liv. xliv. 9, 3).

hide References (6 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (6):
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 11.188
    • Tacitus, Annales, 2.7
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 25, 17
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 44, 9
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 40, 6.5
    • Plutarch, Galba, 6
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