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Night Watches

Next as to the keeping guard at night. The Consul's tent is guarded by the maniple on duty: those of the Tribuni and praefects of the cavalry by the pickets formed as described above from the several maniples. And in the same way each maniple and squadron posts guards of their own men. The other pickets are posted by the Consul. Generally speaking there are three pickets at the Quaestorium, and two at the tent of each of the legati or members of council. The vallum is lined by the velites, who are on guard all along it from day to day. That is their special duty; while they also guard all the entrances to the camp, telling off ten sentinels to take their turn at each of them. Of the men told off for duty at the several stationes, the man who in each maniple is to take the first watch is brought by the rear-rank man of his company to the Tribune at eventide. The latter hands over to them severally small wooden tablets (tesserae), one for each watch, inscribed with small marks; on receiving which they go off to the places indicated.

The duty of going the rounds is intrusted to the cavalry.

Visiting rounds.
The first Praefect of cavalry in each legion, early in the morning, orders one of his rear-rank men to give notice before breakfast to four young men of his squadron who are to go the rounds. At evening this same man's duty is to give notice to the Praefect of the next squadron that it is his turn to provide for going the rounds until next morning. This officer thereupon takes measures similar to the preceding one until the next day; and so on throughout the cavalry squadrons. The four men thus selected by the rear-rank men from the first squadron, after drawing lots for the watch they are to take, proceed to the tent of the Tribune on duty, and receive from him a writing stating the order1 and the number of the watches they are to visit. The four then take up their quarters for the night alongside of the first maniple of Triarii; for it is the duty of the centurion of this maniple to see that a bugle is blown at the beginning of every watch. When the time has arrived, the man to whose lot the first watch has fallen goes his rounds, taking some of his friends as witnesses. He walks through the posts assigned, which are not only those along the vallum and gates, but also the pickets set by the several maniples and squadrons. If he find the men of the first watch awake he takes from them their tessera; but if he find any one of them asleep or absent from his post, he calls those with him to witness the fact and passes on. The same process is repeated by those who go the rounds during the other watches. The charge of seeing that the bugle is blown at the beginning of each watch, so that the right man might visit the right pickets, is as I have said, laid upon the centurions of the first maniple of Triarii, each one taking the duty for a day.

Each of these men who have gone the rounds (tessarii) at daybreak conveys the tesserae to the Tribune on duty. If the whole number are given in they are dismissed without question; but if any of them brings a number less than that of the pickets, an investigation is made by means of the mark on the tessera, as to which picket he has omitted. Upon this being ascertained the centurion is summoned; he brings the men who were on duty, and they are confronted with the patrol. If the fault is with the men on guard, the patrol clears himself by producing the witnesses whom he took with him; for he cannot do so without. If nothing of that sort happened, the blame recoils upon the patrol.

1 That is, whether in first, second, or other watch in the night.

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  • Cross-references to this page (1):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), LEGA´TUS
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