Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 September 2013
No re-enactor can ever come anywhere near to the experience of being a Roman soldier, in much the same way as neither Laurence olivier nor Kenneth Branagh could ever be Henry V. Each could and can think themselves into the part, assuming the mantle of the persona, but it will always (and can only) be mimesis, an impression of the desired model, perhaps coloured by the experiences and imagination of the individual playing the part and informed by research into the subject, but it is never the thing itself. Re-enactors (despite some extreme examples) cannot really eat, think, walk, drink, talk or live like a roman. Thus, we must acknowledge from the very beginning that the only truly authentic Roman soldiers were those in the service of rome many years ago.
It is no accident that a re-enactor will talk of their impression of a particular character from the past, for they too are acknowledging the gap between what they can achieve and the reality of life in the roman period. They adopt a roman name and this helps give them a focus for their character. The character is a fabrication based on many different sources, as is the appearance of the re-enactor, since a similarly disparate range of information will have helped shape the clothing they wear (sumner 2009) and equipment they carry (Bishop and Coulston 2006).