"Marius mule" representation of a Legionary in marching order in 103 BC.
Freshly landed from North Africa this Legionary is going to join his comrades to participate in the war against the Teutons and the Ambrones in the South of France. He carries his shield on its back, that is protected with a leather cover against the elements. This way of carrying the shield won him at the time the nickname”turtle”, and later mule when the rest of the pack was added. A rope is passed in rings fixed on the shield itself such as those found on the original from El Fayun. This rope allows the shield to fit on the shoulders like a modern back pack. With a fast knot at the belly level, he can in a couple of seconds remove the shield from its back and be ready for action. With its shield well in place on his back, we will pose the "furca" on top of it. The furca is literally a wooden fork that will serve as a support for bags and personal affairs that the soldiers must carry.
The furca sits naturally on the shield that will bear the weight and stabilize the load. Once well set, the wooden bar does not rest anymore on the shoulder which could make it uncomfortable over long marches. The paenula on the back has three advantages: it serves to avoid the shield from rubbing on the mail, and it gives extra thickness on the shoulders. It will help naturally to cushion the load weight. It’s also serves as an anchor for the helmet worn on the chest during the March, this way the helmet attachment does not repose on the back of the neck that could rapidly be quite painful. Once in place, experimentation have proved to us that we can remove the hands from both furca and the pilum while walking, convenient to catch a water canteen for example without losing time to stop, unload and especially reload thus disturbing the entire unit march.
En route for a fixed camp our legionary does carry its sudis nor entrenching tool he normally transport in the field at this historical period.
It was possible to understand all this system because the discovery of these rings attached on the shield itself, they allow for a natural and comfortable fit on the shoulders. It is not prohibited to think that a similar system has been used afterwards, but the rings would most probably be attached to the leather protection cover as there is no trace of their presence on later shields. One of the raisons could be that these rings could very well have other practical uses in combat techniques that will no longer be needed after the reforms of Marius. We propose to explain this point in a future chapter.
In conclusion this transport system is very ingenious, perfectly adapted to the military needs. It is full of this practical good sense so current among the Roman civilization.