The Frumentarii had been a department hooked up to the Roman army, whose function has been the topic of a lot hypothesis.
Frumentarii is the Latin phrase for grain (frumentum), resulting in the interpretation that the Frumentarii had been merely grain collectors concerned within the army commissariat.
That is based mostly on textual content by Aulus Hirtius, a politician and author throughout the 1st century BC, who referred to troopers engaged in transporting grain as Frumentarii, discovered within the eighth ebook of Caesar’s De Bello Gallico.
Additional proof might be present in an Ostian inscription from AD 210, which exhibits a centurio frumentarius erecting a dedication to Praefectus Annonae, the official in command of Rome’s grain provide.
Supplying grain for the military was an vital function in itself, nevertheless, historians have proposed that their duties prolonged over time right into a secret police power of spies, couriers, assassins, and an intelligence company for the Roman Empire someday throughout the late 1st or 2nd century AD.
It’s potential that the Frumentarii inherited these duties from the Speculatores, often known as the Speculatores Augusti or the Exploratores, who had been a Roman reconnaissance company first talked about within the Samnite Wars and the Roman warfare with the Aequi.
Any point out of the Frumentarii serving as army police is missing within the literary sources and as an alternative primarily seems in epigraphic proof. Inscriptions present in Anatolia describe them arresting villagers and confiscating their belongings, whereas inscriptions in Italy, Raetia and Egypt observe them serving as a army guard at vital websites equivalent to mines.
Whereas nonetheless sustaining the function of grain provide brokers, this is able to deliver them into shut contact with governors, commanders of the military, and vital officers. This gave them unprecedented entry, so it was a relationship of comfort that additionally they served as couriers and assassins.
It was not unusual for these couriers to commit espionage companies, the place emperors would use them to assemble data on associates, household and officers. An instance of this may be discovered within the Historia Augusta, a late Roman assortment of biographies of the Roman emperors.
Within the biography on the lifetime of Hadrian, the Historia Augusta describes: “[Hadrian’s] vigilance was not confined to his personal family however prolonged to these of his associates, and by way of his non-public brokers (frumentarios) he even pried into all their secrets and techniques, and so skilfully that they had been by no means conscious that the Emperor was acquainted with their non-public lives till he revealed it himself.”
The Frumentarii had been abolished throughout the reign of Diocletian (reigned AD 284 to 305) when a reorganisation of the taxation system and a choice for a civilian infrastructure made them redundant.
It has additionally been argued that their abolishment was the results of their disfavour among the many Roman folks, for false and arbitrary arrests, killings and an abuse of their place.
As a part of Diocletian’s reforms, a brand new courier unit known as the “agentes in rebus” was created, serving because the official Roman imperial courier service and common brokers of the central authorities.
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