Areani

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The areani or arcani were a force of the Roman Empire, based in Roman Britain during the later part of the Roman occupation of the island. They had played some part in the campaign of Constans in Britain in 343; later they helped to instigate the Great Conspiracy in 367-368. Due to their participation in the Conspiracy, Count Theodosius disbanded them.[1]

The term areani is a hapax legomenon, occurring once only, in a passage in Ammianus:

Ammianus Marcellinus Liber XXVIII III VIII; A.D. 368 28, 3, 8. English translation
...haec etiam praecipua. Areanos genus hominum a veteribus institutum, super quibus aliqua in actibus Constantis rettulimus, paulatim prolapsos in vitia a stationibus suis removit: aperte convictos, acceptarum promissarumque magnitudine praedarum allectos, quae apud nos agebantur, aliquotiens barbaris prodidisse. id enim illis erat officium, ut ultro citroque [per longa spatia] discurrentes, vicinarum gentium strepitus nostris ducibus intimarent ... "During these outstanding events the areani, who had gradually become corrupt, were removed by him [Theodosius] from their positions. This was an organization founded in early times, of which I have already said something in the history of Constans. It was clearly proved against them that they had been bribed with quantities of plunder, or promises of it, to reveal to the enemy from time to time what was happening on our side. Their official duty was to range backwards and forwards over long distances with information for our generals about disturbances among neighbouring nations."

The duties that Ammianus describes, traveling and reporting the news of the tribes to Roman leaders, are appropriate to military scouts.[2] They may have lived in the paramilitary zone between the Antonine Wall and the Vallum to the south.[3] The term "areani" means "people of the sheep-folds",[4] and many of the homesteads in their frontier region were indeed sheep-folds.[5]

It has been suggested that the term is a misreading of "arcani", the secret ones.[6] The term "arcanus" is known from Hadrian's Wall; Vindolanda tablet 162 bears the text "miles arcanu...", written in a good capital hand.[7]

In Popular Culture[edit]

In the game, Rome: Total War, a special unit available to the Roman factions is called the Arcani. They are a fantasy unit with no basis in history beyond their name. They are armoured and cloaked in black, wear face-concealing masks, and wield two gladii.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ammianus Marcellinus Liber XXVIII III VIII
  2. ^ I. A. Richmond. Roman and Native in the Fourth Century. Chapter V in Roman and Native in North Britain. Ed. I.A. Richmond. Nelson, 1958. Page 115.
  3. ^ J.F.C. Hind, "Who Betrayed Britain?" Cf. Frere, Britannia, 337, 340-41, 350 n.28.
  4. ^ Stevens, C. E. “Hadrian and Hadrian's Wall.” Latomus, vol. 14, no. 3, 1955, pp. 384–403. www.jstor.org/stable/41518029. Page 395. As referenced in: I. A. Richmond. Roman and Native in the Fourth Century. Chapter V in Roman and Native in North Britain. Ed. I.A. Richmond. Nelson, 1958. Page 115.
  5. ^ I. A. Richmond. Roman and Native in the Fourth Century. Chapter V in Roman and Native in North Britain. Ed. I.A. Richmond. Nelson, 1958. Page 115.
  6. ^ I. A. Richmond. Roman and Native in the Fourth Century. Chapter V in Roman and Native in North Britain. Ed. I.A. Richmond. Nelson, 1958. Page 115.
  7. ^ Vindolanda Inventory No. 85.244 Vindolanda tablets online.