Author Topic: Ala Ulpia dromedarium millaria  (Read 363 times)

dwkay57

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Ala Ulpia dromedarium millaria
« on: May 13, 2018, 06:15:18 PM »
Does anyone know anything about this unit?

I've just come across a reference to it in Philip Parker's book "The Empire Stops Here" where he describes it as "truly unique detachment". His footnote for the unit references Karen Dixon and Pat Southern's  book "The Roman Cavalry from the First to the Third Century AD" (London 1992)

Also be interested if the Dixon/Southern book is worth reading.

Thanks.
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Andreas Johansson

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Re: Ala Ulpia dromedarium millaria
« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2018, 06:53:47 PM »
Nothing helpful to add, I'm afraid, but I had to read "Philip Parker" a couple of times to realize it didn't say "Phil Barker".
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Patrick Waterson

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Re: Ala Ulpia dromedarium millaria
« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2018, 07:46:38 PM »
Beyond it being Rome's only double-strength camel cohort and stationed somewhere in Syria Coele, Syria Phoenice, Syria Palestina (former Iudea) or Arabia Petraea during the reign of Hadrian, no.  Sorry.
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Jim Webster

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Re: Ala Ulpia dromedarium millaria
« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2018, 08:44:51 PM »
Nothing helpful to add, I'm afraid, but I had to read "Philip Parker" a couple of times to realize it didn't say "Phil Barker".

until you pointed it out, I hadn't realised  :-[
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Duncan Head

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Re: Ala Ulpia dromedarium millaria
« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2018, 03:08:18 PM »
This short article by Dabrowa suggests in a footnote that Ala I Ulpia Dromedariorum milliaria was the same unit as Ala I Ulpia Dromedariorum Palmyrenorum.

This thesis is about Roman desert operations, deals with dromedarii, and does not as far as I can see disagree with Dabrowa's identification except in arguing by comparison with cohors XX Palmyernorum that calling  a unit "Palmyrene" does not mean that its men were from Palmyra.
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dwkay57

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Re: Ala Ulpia dromedarium millaria
« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2018, 08:59:18 AM »
Thanks Duncan,

Parker's book does mention Palmyra as the location of the unit so it could be his source is working off the same sources as you've provided. I've downloaded the thesis and will have a read through in a quiet moment or two.
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dwkay57

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Re: Ala Ulpia dromedarium millaria
« Reply #6 on: May 23, 2018, 08:33:30 PM »
I've now read the thesis identified by Duncan and it does mention the use of camels by Romans and some of the units. Unfortunately, it is very general in terms of likely organisation, numbers and purpose or function, but maybe there wasn't much precision anyway.

The paper focusses on how the Romans set up for and dealt with some of the problems of winning and keeping desert regions and given some of the problems I wondered at times why they bothered. The emphasis on logistics and planning comes through, including some references to earlier Persian operations (which may have influenced how they could support massive armies). So interesting from those perspectives.

There are a number of references to books by Southern and Dixon. Has anyone read any of these and do they add any detail to potential unit structures? Reviews on Amazon tend to suggest not.
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dwkay57

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Re: Ala Ulpia dromedarium millaria
« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2018, 09:38:45 AM »
I've now purchased and read a copy of the Dixon and Southern book.

In a brief section on camel units it mentions both the Ala I Ulpia dromedarium miliaria and Cohors XX Palmyrenorum millaria equitata.

It doesn't say much else about the ala except that it was raised by Trajan to serve in Syria and was probably wholly camel mounted. There is a reference to an article by Paul Holder in Archaeology Today (1987 Vol 8:5 pages 12-16 Roman auxiliary cavalry in the second century AD) which may say more about it but I can't find anywhere to download a copy. Any suggestions?

For Cohors XX there is reference to duty rosters from Dura-Europos which lists 20 and 35 camels on two separate rosters. The book suggests that these might have been assigned to infantry centuries and that enlisted pedites may have attained camel rider status after a number of years of service.

There is no mention of armour or weapons associated with the camel troopers so it sounds as if tabletop generals have a wide range of options to choose from.
I'm currently hunting for suitable camel riders for my own 6mm Romans and may use the Irregulars Palymran figure with a bit of a heavy paint job.
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Dangun

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Re: Ala Ulpia dromedarium millaria
« Reply #8 on: September 18, 2018, 12:40:20 PM »
For Cohors XX there is reference to duty rosters from Dura-Europos which lists 20 and 35 camels on two separate rosters. The book suggests that these might have been assigned to infantry centuries and that enlisted pedites may have attained camel rider status after a number of years of service.

There are actually 3 rosters, but two complete.

You can find a copy of the rosters in Fink's, "Roman Military Records on Papyrus."

The rosters, the graffiti in Dura, and the papyrus orders make the Cohors XX Palmyrenorum the most richly described Roman unit of any period.
The rosters are, in my opinion, awesome. You get amazing minutae - the names of the individual soldiers, the colour of the horses they rode, the date of their joining the army. And because we have multiple rosters throughout time you can actually see individuals getting promoted! Papyrus orders have survived that describe: the unit's collection and purchase of supplies, the stationing of detachments at minor forts, and the units role as local law enforcement.

For a book that's about the relevant area and discusses this unit, you could try Edwell's, "Between Rome and Persia: The Middle Euphrates, Mesopotamia and Palmyra under Roman control." Its helpfully in print and available on Kindle.

My first attempt at a Slingshot submission also mentions them - A Siege in the Desert, in Slingshot 295.

And possibly just to inflame those who might prefer literary sources  :) .... it is interesting that the one and only unit roster we have for any unit in the Roman Army (Cohors XX) gives a unit headcount that contradicts the supposed unit size for auxiliaries taken from literary sources.
« Last Edit: September 18, 2018, 02:41:16 PM by Dangun »
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