What would be an idiomatic Latin way to refer to reserve military? I mean troops that have previously served and have returned to civilian life but can be called back on duty.

I would much prefer attested use from any era, but also educated suggestions are welcome. If you can give examples from the literature, please describe briefly what it means to be a soldier in reserve in that context; I believe there have been many different systems that could be described in English as "reserve military".

For concreteness, please give a translation to these example sentences:

Finland has a reserve military of 900 000 men.
Many Finns are soldiers in reserve.

My best guess is to use the participle reservatus (partly because it looks like the word used in English and Finnish):

Finlandia exercitum reservatum nongentorum milium militum habet.
Complures Finni milites reservati sunt.

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    For the record, I don't think your definition ("served, returned to civilian life, can be called back") fits the typical American idea of a military reserve force. – brianpck Aug 22 '16 at 12:09
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    @brianpck, my starting point was in the Finnish military reserve force. I can imagine there are and have been various ways to organize reserve forces, and therefore I asked for a description with a translation. I want to find a Latin expression for troops that have been trained but are not in active duty but can be called back to it, whatever the details may be. – Joonas Ilmavirta Aug 22 '16 at 17:31

Veteran soldiers were simply veteri milites. Military service was militia, and veteranus militiae a retired soldier.

During republican times retired soldiers were enrolled into special legions, etc., but not necessarily in expectation of recall. This was probably the nearest thing to what you are looking for.

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    Can you provide some sources? veteranus militiae returns almost no hits (mostly false positives) and, to the best of my knowledge, veteranus is an adjective... – brianpck Aug 22 '16 at 12:03
  • There is a difference between veterans and reservists. Anyone who has served (especially in wartime) can be called a veteran. A reservist is someone who has been trained, is not in active duty and can be called to arms. It is the training (whatever it may mean in practice) that differentiates a reservist from a potential conscript. – Joonas Ilmavirta Aug 22 '16 at 17:35
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    @TomCotton, that source is for veteranus miles, which isn't in your answer...was veteranus militiae a typo? Either way, this answer would be great if you provide examples/sources for your different suggestions in the body of the answer. – brianpck Aug 23 '16 at 13:01
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    @TomCotton, veteranus miles =/= veteranus militiae: that is the typo I was referring to. – brianpck Aug 23 '16 at 14:32
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    @JoonasIlmavirta The veterans were the ones that were trained and could be called back. There were no special reserve forces in ancient Rome, but veterans often fought in multiple wars and during a threat, any citizen could be called to fight. You go back early enough, and the concept of "citizen-soldier" was the standard. – C. M. Weimer May 22 '17 at 12:28

Before answering, I'd like to clarify the exact definition of a reserve military force, which I'll use in my answer. A reserve military force is once which is composed of soldiers who undergo a training period, then return to their civilian lives, spending some amount of time each month or year staying brushed up on their military skills, so that in the event of war, they might be assembled into their units and sent into combat. While some reservists have prior active duty service, in most national reserve forces this isn't the case as far as I'm aware, and even in reserve forces like the US which often have ex-professional service soldiers and even hold themselves to a professional quality, many members do not have that active duty background.

Now, my Latin isn't the best, so correct me if I am wrong, but a phrase is idiomatic if it corresponds with something existent in Roman society, and is what a Roman likely would have called something. As such, let's ask what elements of the Roman military resembled our definition of reserve forces throughout its history.

The best comparison has to be with the pre-Marian Roman military, being composed as it was of citizen soldiers. This was, quite literally, an entirely reservist force. The length of time deployed for manipular legions does not necessarily mean that they could not have been considered "reservists," as modern reservists (I'm thinking of the US National Guard here) occasionally spend longer amounts of time deployed than regular troops. Here is where my flimsy Latin skills come into play. I'm not sure if there was an exact word for "citizen soldier," and a few preliminary searches aren't turning up anything. As such, I'll say that if the Romans had an explicit term for soldiers in the manipular army, those citizen soldiers, that would be the best idiomatic word for a modern Reservist.

However, if that isn't satisfactory, and you want an exact word, probably the best I can come up with is actually the noun "auxilia," or the adjective "auxiliaris." While this isn't the best word, it sort of works. It actually might be a better word for employees of PMCs, but the idea of "back-up" troops deployed to a combat zone to fill in the "gaps in the line" so to say, makes some sense, especially if you correlate modern reservists with, say, state volunteer Union army regiments from the American Civil War. The best argument in favor of "auxilia" is that the historical auxilia were, simply put, not professional troops, but rather were employed to supplement weaknesses in the professional Roman legions, and modern reservist units are primarily used to augment the professional forces of nations, especially those with rather small regular armies, such as Finland.

  • I had considered auxilia, too, but only with your reasoning do I now buy it as the best translation. That said, it can't be emphasized enough that neither auxilia nor veterani adequately capture what reservist means, and that to my knowledge there isn't a term for reservist in antiquity. – C. M. Weimer May 22 '17 at 21:06
  • The problem with auxilia is that they were often contrasted to legiones as being composed of non-Roman citizens (even if, in some eras, they came to have mostly the same equipment as the citizen legions). – Wtrmute May 24 '17 at 2:47

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