An aeneator (Latin: aēneātor or ahēneātor) refers to a classical Roman professional performer of a horn who was attached to a Roman military unit. The word comes from Latin aēneus or ahēneus, "brazen", from aes, "copper alloy".
Aeneators' role in war
While the size of individual Roman military units, or Alae, may have varied, any Ala would made extensive use of both acoustical and visual signaling in communications and had an assigned banner bearer (Vexillarius) and at least one Aeneator. A variety of instruments were used by aeneators, including the buccina, cornu, tuba, and lituus. In addition to their roles within battle, aeneators would also be used for processionals and games, particularly in marching home from war
Different categories of aeneators
Aeneators who blew a cornu (a G-shaped horn made of brass) were known as cornicines; those who blew a tuba (a straight bronze horn with a slight flare at the end) were known as tubicens; those who blew a buccina (a C-shaped horn made of bronze or silver or animal horn) were known as bucinators. Cornicens and tubicens mostly performed uncomplicated tactical signaling on the battlefield, and therefore were not accorded special status in the military unit. They had call duties in the barracks, just as other commonly conscripted soldiers had. By contrast, the bucinator was seen as a specially-skilled member of the unit who was capable of performing a wider repertoire and was used to perform a variety of ceremonial duties. Many units accorded bucinators immunis status, and there were equestrian bucinatores that served as cavalry buglers.
Other non-military uses for aerophones
Aeneators were not the only skilled or specialized players of wind instruments in Ancient Roman culture. For other Roman aerophones and their usage outside of military contexts, see also:
- Antcliffe, Herbert (1949), "What Music Meant to the Romans", Music & Letters 30 (30): 338, doi:10.1093/ml/30.4.337
- Meucci, Renato (1989), "Roman Military Instruments and the Lituus", The Galpin Society Journal 42: 86
- Donaldson, G.H. (1988), "Signalling Communications and the Roman Imperial Army", Britannia 19: 351–352, doi:10.2307/526204
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