The first-ever image of a soldier in the Ancient Roman navy has surfaced at a major imperial naval base at Ravenna .
The armour-clad, weapon-bearing soldier was carved on a funeral stone, or stele, in a waterlogged necropolis at Classe (ancient Classis), the now silted-up Ravenna port area where Rome's Adriatic fleet was stationed .
Previous finds at the site have only shown people in civilian garb .
An inscription on the soldier's funeral slab says he was an officer on a small, fast oar-powered ship ('liburna') used to catch pirates .
Although the stele is small - about one metre (yard) long - the detail of the carving is intricate .
The soldier has the bowl haircut and delicate, child-like features typical of carvings from the 1st-century AD Julio-Claudian era .
He wears anatomically shaped body armour with shoulder strips and a leather-fringed military skirt, above the light but tough military sandals called 'caligae' (from which the notorious emperor Caligula got his name). He is carrying a heavy javelin ('pilum') and has a short stabbing sword called 'gladius' on his decorated belt .
Over his armour there is a band which experts think could be a military decoration .
Part of the inscription is missing. The soldier's name is thought to be Monus Capito. His ship was called 'Aurata' or 'Golden' and the man who put up the stele, probably a fellow soldier, was named Cocneus .
The stele was found in three metres of water by divers helping archaeologists trace a large tunnel from late Imperial times .
The stone had been taken from the burial ground and used to prop up a part of the tunnel that had collapsed .
Experts said the find would have pride of place in a Museum of Archaeology being set up at Classe .
'Classis' in Latin means 'fleet' but was also local shorthand for the fleet's base. Rome had two Mediterranean fleets, one based at Ravenna and the other near Naples. Piracy was a major problem for Roman merchant ships and the navy frequently launched punitive expeditions against raiders from Cilicia, now southern Turkey .
In one of these, Julius Caesar caught and killed pirates who had captured and held him for ransom .
Then Pompey the Great, Caesar's one-time partner and eventual rival, smashed the Cilician pirates in a famous whirlwind campaign .
The Roman navy was an extension of the army and used army fighting methods. Ships rammed and hooked enemy vessels so that soldiers could board and attack .
There's a small photo accompanying the original article. I wasn't aware that a sailor would have a pilum ... doesn't seem to be the sort of weapon which would be effective in a naval situation.