Bodies on the Battlefield: the spectacle of Rome's fallen soldiers

Hope, Valerie (2015). Bodies on the Battlefield: the spectacle of Rome's fallen soldiers. In: Hope, Valerie and Bakogiannia, Anastasia eds. War as Spectacle. Ancient and Modern Perspectives on the Display of Armed Conflict. London: Bloomsbury, pp. 157–178.



War is fundamentally an embodied experience, "war occupies innumerable bodies in a multitude of ways, profoundly shaping lives and ways of being human" (McSorely 2013: 1). In particular, the soldier's body is formed by societal expectations of militarism. In the Roman world, soldiers' bodies were altered to fit their role - trained, nourished, groomed, equipped and armoured - to embody a soldier's identity. Military prowess, strength and bravery were much admired, and viewed as a central tenet of masculinity (Walters 1997: 40; McDonnell 2006). Simultaneously, the over-militarized body, one made old, scarred and rugged, and under the authority of others, was regarded as lowly and even dangerous; and by the early Imperial period solders were often far removed from civilian life (Tac. Ann. 1.16-49; Dio Cass. 75.2.6). Roman solders were both admired and despised, and this chapter will explore how this continued if the solder fell. A military corpse could be prized or ignored, be a spectacle or a non-spectacle, depending on the status and value of the individual. En masse, military corpses could also become, generally in exceptional circumstances, highly significant.

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