The original name by which the soldiers composing the third line or division of the old
Roman legion were distinguished, because they alone at that time were armed with the heavy
javelin or pilum
, the other two using the spear or hasta.
But when the pilum
was adopted for all the three divisions,
the title of triarii
was substituted for that of pilani
, with which it becomes thenceforth synonymous (Varro, L. L.
89; Paulus ex
Fest. s. v.; Ovid,
Fast. iii. 129
). Subsequently, however, to this period, and towards the
close of the Republic, when the custom obtained of drawing up an army by lines in cohorts, the
distinctive character, as well as the name of pilani
was abandoned, because it no longer represented any real distinction. See Triarii