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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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This term occurs in Acts 23:27, Revelation 9:16; Revelation 19:14; Revelation 19:19 (in the last three instances referring to armies [στρατεύματα] of apocalyptic vision). On the outbreak of a tumult in the Temple at Jerusalem, the chief captain of the band came on the scene, as he afterwards reported, σύν τῷ στρατεύματι (Authorized Version ‘with an army,’ Revised Version ‘with the soldiers’). The little force thus described (Acts 23:27) was a fraction of the vast army which maintained law and order throughout the Roman Empire. In the first month of 29 b.c., a year after the battle of Actium, the gates of the temple of Janus at Rome were closed for the first time in 200 years. That significant act was the beginning of the Pax Romana. The Civil War was ended, and the State had no more foreign foes to fear. Augustus found himself master of three standing armies, his own and those of Lepidus and Antony, amounting to 45 legions. He at once undertook that task of military reorganization which was perhaps his greatest and most original achievement. By ruthlessly eliminating inferior elements he obtained a thoroughly efficient force of 25 legions. The time for great field forces, such as Scipio and Caesar had wielded, was now past. An army that could be swiftly mobilized was no longer a necessity, and might easily become a menace, to the Empire. Augustus initiated the policy, which was respected by his successors down to the time of the Antonines, of ‘maintaining the dignity of the Empire, without attempting to enlarge its limits’ (Gibbon, Hist., ch. 1). His conservative policy determined his use of the army. Distributing the legions in the frontier provinces of the Empire-which had the Atlantic as its boundary on the west, the Rhine and the Danube on the north, the Euphrates on the east, and the deserts of Arabia and Africa on the south-he charged them to guard the borders which were exposed to the attacks of restless barbarians. Italy itself was garrisoned by the Praetorian cohorts (see Praetorium).

The legions were recruited from the Roman citizens of Italy and the provinces. Each consisted of 6000 heavy infantry divided into ten cohorts, with a troop of 120 horsemen to act as dispatch riders. The legion was no longer under six tribunes commanding by turns. The supreme authority was now entrusted to a legatus legionis, who was the deputy of the Emperor as commander-in-chief of the whole army. The efficiency of the soldiers depended largely upon the 60 centurions, who formed the backbone of the legion. The term of service was 20 years, and on discharge the legionary received a bounty or land. Many coloniœ were formed for the purpose of providing homes for veterans. Each legion bore a title and a number, e.g., ‘VI. Victrix’ stationed at York, ‘III. Gallica’ at Antioch.

But the legions were not the only guardians of the peace of the Empire. Augustus developed a new order of auxilia. Regiments of infantry (cohortes) or cavalry (alœ), 500 to 1000 strong, were recruited from the subjects, not the citizens, of the provinces, and formed a second force equal in numbers if not in importance to the first. It is estimated that the two forces together made up a regular, long-service army of 400,000 men. The auxiliaries were more lightly armed than the legionaries (see Armour); they were not so well paid; and on their discharge they received a bounty or the Roman franchise.

As Judaea was a province of the second rank, governed by a procurator, it was not (like Syria) garrisoned by legionaries, but by auxiliaries, who had their headquarters in Caesarea. The cohortes and alœ were recruited from the Greek cities of Palestine, from which they derived their names, such as ‘Cohors Sebastenorum,’ or ‘Tyriorum.’ The Jews were expressly exempted from military service under the Roman banners and eagles, which they regarded as idolatrous. Julius Caesar’s edict granting this privilege is preserved by Josephus (Ant. xiv. x. 6).

At the time of the death of Herod Agrippa (a.d. 44), an ala of cavalry and five cohorts were stationed at Caesarea (Jos. Ant. xix. ix. 1-2). Probably they had once belonged to the army of Herod the Great, and had been taken over by the Romans after the deposition of his son Archelaus in a.d. 6 (Schürer, History of the Jewish People (Eng. tr. of GJV).] i. ii. 51). They are often mentioned in the period a.d. 44-66 (Ant. xx. vi. 1, viii. 7), and they were finally drafted into Vespasian’s army in a.d. 67. The relation of the Italian and Augustan cohorts (see Augustan Band and Italian Band) to these auxiliaries is a difficult question. The cohort (σπεῖρα), military tribune (χιλίαρχος), and centurions (ἐκατοντάρχαι) mentioned in the story of St. Paul’s arrest at Jerusalem and transference to Caesarea (Acts 21-23) certainly belonged to the Judaea n auxilia. A single cohort formed the normal garrison of the Holy City (Jos. Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) v. v. 8, where τάγμα is used instead of the more correct σπεῖρα). The barracks (παρεμβολή, used six times in the same narrative) adjoined the fortress of Antonio, close to the N.E. corner of the Temple area (see Castle). At the Jewish festivals a stronger body of troops was drafted from Caesarea for the purpose of keeping order among the pilgrims in the crowded Temple precincts, as the Turkish soldiers now do at Easter among the Christian sects in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. St. Paul was escorted from Jerusalem to Antipatris by 200 foot-soldiers, 70 horsemen (ἱππεῖς), and 200 spearmen (δεξιολάβοι), and thence to Caesarea by the horsemen alone. The precise function of the δεξιολάβοι (an exceedingly rare word, meaning apparently ‘those who grasped their weapons with the right hand’) is very doubtful; see Schürer, i. ii. 56, and Meyer, in loco.

Literature.-Article ‘Exercitus’ in Smith’s Dict. of Gr. and Rom. Ant. 3, London, 1891 (by W. Ramsay), and in Pauly-Wissowa [Note: auly-Wissowa Pauly-Wissowa’s Realencyklopädie.] , (by Liebenam); E. Schürer, History of the Jewish People (Eng. tr. of GJV).] 1. ii. 49ff.; E. G. Hardy, Studies in Roman History, London, 1906-09; and article ‘Army’ (A. R. S. Kennedy) in Hastings’ Single-vol. Dictionary of the Bible .

James Strahan.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Army'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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