Bold as brass: 'brass instruments' in the Roman army

R. Cross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


‘Brass instruments’ played an important role in the Roman army; their use enabled greater communication and organisation on the battlefield. These instruments served a range of tactical and strategic purposes, which provided an advantage to the ancient Roman army. The tubiliustrium festival displayed the military and spiritual significance of these instruments through the symbolic purification of tubae sacrorum (sacred trumpets), and as such will be presented as a brief case study. Despite the considerable amount of primary literary evidence, discrepancies within definitions and terminology in the ancient source material provide boundaries to thorough analyses of the use of musical instruments in Roman warfare. These discrepancies have limited the amount of contemporary Anglophone scholarship on this topic. By placing emphasis on the examination of primary sources, including archaeological and visual evidence, this article will: suggest clarifications of terminology, and attempt to provide an evaluation of the use of ‘brass instruments’ in the Roman army.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalMacquarie Matrix: undergraduate research journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Ancient Rome
  • brass instruments
  • music
  • tuba
  • bucina
  • cornu
  • lituus
  • army
  • communication
  • warfare
  • strategy
  • funerary inscription


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