A Soldier of Rome

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Vindolanda Inventory No. Of the maniples, the standard formation of the maniples was triplex acies , with troops drawn up three lines deep, the hastati at the front, the principes in the middle, and the triarii at the back. Each soldier would take up a space around 6 foot square, enabling him to throw his pilum and effectively wield his sword Pol. The multiple maniples were often spaced a distance equal to their own width away from the next maniple, in a staggered chess board like formation, which has been termed quincunx. Once battles had started it was often up to junior commanders, rather than the general himself, to oversee the motivation of the troops; Plutarch records a unique situation:.

The Romans, when they attacked the Macedonian phalanx, were unable to force a passage, and Salvius, the commander of the Pelignians, snatched the standard of his company and hurled it in among the enemy. Then the Pelignians, since among the Italians it is an unnatural and flagrant thing to abandon a standard, rushed on towards the place where it was, and dreadful losses were inflicted and suffered on both sides.

The Romans also developed many military tactics and methods which would be used for centuries to come, as well as tactics unique to a given situation. When the cavalry squadrons arrived… he withdrew his line of battle.

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The cavalry pursued him closely, fell into the ditches, and in this way were defeated. There were also formations against cavalry, Cassius Dio Roman History, This semi-legendary battle took place at Lake Regillius between Tusculum and Rome and happened at the very beginning of the Roman Republic. It was fought between Rome and the Latins. The Romans were led by the Dictator Postumius. After much uncertainty on the battlefield, there were three measures which Postumius had to put in place to ensure his victory.

Firstly, he ordered his own cohort to treat any fleeing Romans as they would the enemy in order to rally them; then he had to order the cavalry to fight on foot since the infantry were so exhausted; thirdly he provided further incentive to his troops by promising rewards to those who entered the enemy camp first and second. This resulted in such a rush of Roman troops that Tarquinius and the Latins fled the field of battle, and Postumius returned to Rome to celebrate a triumph. Livy, Ab Urbe Condita , 2. Zama was the last battle in the Second Punic War and ended 17 years of war between the two states of Rome and Carthage.

The Roman legionaries and Italian cavalry with a supporting body of Numidian cavalry were led by Publius Cornelius Scipio. The Carthaginians were led by Hannibal, who fielded an army of mercenaries, local citizens, veterans from his battles in Italy, and war elephants. The Roman victory saw an end to Carthaginian resistance, with the Carthaginian senate pressing for peace again. The Romans granted peace, but only at a high price for Carthage. Livy, Ab Urbe Condita , Both of these battles saw incredibly fierce fighting. At Lake Trasimene the Romans had been ambushed by Hannibal, and this led to such fierce fighting:.

At the battle of Teutoburg Forest three legions were ambushed and slaughtered by a gathering of Germanic tribes, commanded by Arminius , chief of the Cherusci. The Romans were led by Publius Quinctilius Varus. Tacitus Annals ,1. Upon receiving intelligence of this disaster, he gave orders for keeping a strict watch over the city , to prevent any public disturbance, and prolonged the appointments of the prefects in the provinces, that the allies might be kept in order by experience of persons to whom they were used.

He made a vow to celebrate the great games in honour of Jupiter , Optimus, Maximus, "if he would be pleased to restore the state to more prosperous circumstances. In short, we are informed that he was in such consternation at this event, that he let the hair of his head and beard grow for several months, and sometimes knocked his head against the door-post, crying out, " Varus! Give me back my legions! For the best part of half a millennium, the Roman army acted as the long arm of Roman imperialism over an area of land that encompassed the lands touched and influenced by the Mediterranean.

It united Italy, divided Roman allegiances, acting both as the State's enforcer and the enforcer of individuals of power; it was able to subdue German tribes, Carthaginians, Greeks, Macedonians, and many other peoples. It was a force to be reckoned with, and it still is because to understand how the Roman army operated is no easy task, and this definition has only brushed the topsoil off the vast wealth of details on the Roman army that has been buried in time.

Editorial Review This Article has been reviewed for accuracy, reliability and adherence to academic standards prior to publication. We're a small non-profit organisation run by a handful of volunteers. Become a Member. Lloyd, J. Roman Army. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Lloyd, James.

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We publish the digital edition of Timeless Travels , the unique magazine for lovers of history, culture, and travel. Overview The Roman army, arguably one of the longest surviving and most effective fighting forces in military history, has a rather obscure beginning. Remove Ads Advertisement. About the Author James Lloyd. A self-confessed philhellene, James keeps at least one eye on the Roman pie. Related Content Filters: All. Articles It is said that Chester is the richest city in Britain in terms It has been said that the greatest enemy of Rome was Rome itself No city on earth has preserved its past quite like Rome.

Roman artillery weapons were instrumental in the successes of the Help us write more We're a small non-profit organisation run by a handful of volunteers. When plainclothes officers swooped on a clutch of them this week, they fought back, with one centurion charged with punching a police officer. In , Berlin barred street performers from the area around the Brandenburg Gate, successfully making what is an imposing but still dull space even duller. A tiny minority of these performers are indeed a bad lot. In , a living statue performer in London was given four and a half years in prison for hitting a rival with a bagful of bricks.

Most, however, do little harm, and even help spread a little visitor money away from major chains and institutions and toward individuals.


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His writing focuses on housing, gentrification and social change, infrastructure, urban policy, and national cultures. This began to happen more during the later years of the Roman Empire, known as ' vexillaio ', small groups of soldiers would be re-deployed from one region to another. Once they had completed their objective, they would return to their original post.

The daily life of a soldier was pretty intense with long marches carrying heavy equipment; this was enough to keep them in good physical condition. Roman soldiers would also participate in several specialised training exercises each month. If a legion had many new recruits, a general would often take them into minor conflicts to give them an experience of battle before starting on the army's main campaign objective.

The training of horses was also very important. Horses were used not only in combat but also for supplying the front lines with necessary supplies and sending messages. It was vital that horses were able to: withstand the weight of an armoured cavalryman, remain calm in battle, to swim across shallow rivers, jump over obstacles and small defences. After recruitment, each soldier would have to take an oath, known as the ' sacramentum militare '.

By taking the oath a soldier denounced his civilian rights, and if he broke it, he would be at the hands of his commander and whatever punishment he saw fit. By taking the oath, he swore to follow all orders he was given, including that:. The Roman army consisted of the legions, auxiliaries, and other allied forces.

The Roman legions were exclusively made up of full Roman citizens. The auxiliaries, on the other hand, consisted of men from the provinces. The Roman legion was the main body of the Roman army. Following the Marian reforms in BCE, each legion would consist of 4, infantrymen. Before the Marian reforms, the Roman 'legion' looked somewhat different.

The history of the legion can be split into three eras: the early period, the manipular period and the cohortal era. Click here to read more about the Roman Legions. It only took fifty years for the number of soldiers in the auxiliary ranks to surpass the legions. The Roman auxiliaries were made up of men who did not have full Roman citizenship. Most auxilia units were paid less than legionaries, receiving sestertii per year a sixth less than legionaries.

Once a soldier completed his 25 years of service, he would receive full Roman citizenship for him and his family. The auxilia were essential to the Roman army as they provided specialist units, including cavalry and ranged units. They received a similar level of training as the legionaries and were well equipped to deal with the hardships of Roman military life. Click here to read more about the Roman Auxilia. Alliances were an important part of Rome's territorial growth. Early alliances with other cities and towns in Italy allowed Rome to gain dominance over the Italian peninsula.

During the late Roman Empire alliances grew even more important. The Senate signed treaties with more and more 'barbarian' tribes in an attempt to protect Rome's vast borders. A foederati was a treaty between Rome and a tribe requiring them to fight with Rome. Unlike the auxiliaries, these units would fight under their own commander. An example of this came after the battle of Adrianople in CE, where the Romans were unable to beat the Goths in battle and instead offered them land in Thrace if they would fight with Rome against future enemies.

The Romans were reluctant to recruit mercenary forces. However, these mercenaries quickly betrayed Rome and joined the enemy. This didn't do much to encourage Rome to employ more mercenary forces anytime soon. It wasn't until the third century CE that Germanic tribes would be hired to protect the Roman Empire's borders. The Roman army was a highly organised force with a well-defined hierarchy. Officers had total command of their underlings and soldiers knew exactly what was required of them on a daily basis.

As stated above the Roman army had a very rigid and well set out hirearchy. This meant that each man knew who he reported to and who reported to him. These two men had total control over Rome's armies. However, as time passed and Rome's territories grew, more soldiers and legions were required.

Thus there was a need more generals. To take command of a legion a man would have to hold the position of praetorian rank or higher in the Senate.

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The man in charge of a legion was called a legatus. This position afforded the man an enormous amount of power: they would receive large amounts of booty won on campaign. Additionally, they had absolute authority over their men and civilians, being able to issue any punishment they saw fit. As a result of all this power, Augustus restricted the time a man could serve as legatus to two years. This was later extended to four years and in many cases, the legatus would serve indefinitely.

Below the legatus there were seven senior officers. These officers were often appointed by the legatus based off recommendations from other high ranking Romans. The tibunus laticlavius was the son of a senator. This position was one of the first steps in his political career which would more often than not take him back to a life in Rome. Next in command were the five tribuni angusticlavii. These men were from the equestrian class and were each in charge of two cohorts.

The praefectus castrorum was the camp-prefect. He was in charge of discipline and overseeing construction projects.


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This was the highest position a normal Roman citizen could reach. He would often be promoted from the position of primus pilus the most senior centurion of a legion. For each legion, there were sixty centurions, who were each in control of 80 men. Each centurion was responsible for training, discipline and other daily activities. The centurion fought on the front lines alongside his men and was critical in maintaining the order and formation of soldiers. Centurions earned considerably more than the standard foot soldier, they had their own separate quarters on camp and could also take their own slaves with them on campaign.

Below the centurion was the optio , the second in command of a century. He would take control if for some reason the centurion was incapacitated. The optio was also responsible for ensuring the centurion's orders were carried out. His pay was double that of a standard legionary. He would also likely be promoted to centurion later on in his career. The non-commissioned officers were legionaries who held specialised tasks which allowed the legion to function normally. A soldier in this position would be known as an ' immunes '.

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They would have performed any number of jobs, for example, carpenters, stone masons, musicians, etc. While these soldiers did not receive higher pay, they were exempt from performing the more mundane tasks other soldiers had to do. To be eligible for this role a soldier would either have to be promoted by their centurion after several years of service. Alternatively, if when a soldier enlisted, they had a letter of recommendation from a highly respected Roman citizen they would often be immediately appointed to one of these positions.

Once a soldier had served as an ' immunes ' for several years and had shown potential and ambition they would be promoted to become a ' principales '. A soldier of this rank would often take control of training and other positions of responsibility, as well as a nice pay rise. The infantry was the backbone of the Roman army. However, during the Samnite Wars, this formation had to be abandoned as the terrain was rough and not suited to the phalanx formation.

Instead the ' maniple ' was adopted. In this new system, the Roman infantry consisted of velites, hastati, princeps and triarii. In BCE, under the Marian reforms the 'maniple' was abandoned in favor of cohorts. This was the modern Roman army which most people are familiar with. The infantry was standardized with identical equipment and training. Each legion now consisted of 4, infantrymen. The legion was also supported by auxiliary infantry, they were equally capable on the battlefield as the legionary infantry. However, they were often deployed on the more vulnerable wings in battle.

The Roman army heavily relied on its infantry for military success.

Roman Army Overview

However, the infantry was also supported by a small contingent of cavalrymen. During the Roman Kingdom and the early Roman Republic, only the wealthiest Roman citizens were eligible to serve as cavalrymen. There would usually be lightly armored cavalrymen equites accompanying an infantry force of around 4, men. After the Marian Reforms BCE , the army was organised into legions which were accompanied by a similar amount of legionary cavalry. In roughly 30 BCE, Augustus founded the auxilia.

It would be from here that much of the Roman army's cavalry forces would be raised. Specialised cavalry units such as horse archers would be raised from the eastern provinces Armenia and Anatolia. Click here to read more about Roman Cavalry. A wide variety of ranged units were utilised by almost all armies of the ancient world.

Whether they were archers, slingers, javelin throwers or artillery units they were all integral parts of ancient warfare.

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Before the battle commenced, ranged units would fire volleys at the enemy to soften up the opposition's infantry. Between BCE and BCE maniple era , the front line of heavy infantry, the Hastati, would carry pila to launch at the enemy before engaging in hand to hand infantry combat.

This tradition also continued after the establishment of the auxilia infantry. These units would carry projectiles to launch at the enemy. During the Roman Empire, many of Rome's ranged units were recruited from the provinces. Rome's auxiliary ranks also boasted mounted horse archers recruited from the eastern provinces, Armenia and Anatolia. These units would ride into range of the enemy and fire a volley of arrows at the enemy and then retreat before they could be hit.

A common tactic used by these units was the 'Cantabrian circle'. The ranged horse units would make a single file rotating circle in front of the enemy. The cavalrymen nearest the enemy would launch their projectiles resulting in a continuous fire on the enemy. The horsemen would be difficult to hit due to their constant movement. This tactic would often frustrate the enemy and disrupt their formation. Artillery was commonplace in the Roman army, whether it was used against besieged cities or soldiers on the open battlefield.

Much of Rome's knowledge of artillery came from the Greeks. These machines were too bulky to transport fully assembled. They would be dismantled and then be re-built at the battlefield. The range of some of Rome's larger artillery machinery was? However, it was only accurate when within a range of meters or less. Each Roman legion would be equipped with roughly seventy units of artillery. Vegetius wrote that each cohort would carry an ' onager ' while each century would be equipped with a ' scorpio '. In some instances, Roman artillery would not be able to break through well-fortified stone defenses.

In this case, onagers would be used to destroy towers which the defenders were using to rain down projectiles on the advancing Roman forces. This would provide enough cover to mount ladders onto the walls allowing the breach of the settlement. On the open battlefield, it was the ballista and scorpio which were used to gain an advantage.

These would be utilised to achieve the following objectives:. Naval fleets would often be equipped with artillery that would be used to damage enemy ships before close quarters combat.

The Roman army used a wide variety of weapons and armour over the entirety of its existence. The auxilia had a diverse selection of units whom each used their own specialised weaponry and armour. This all goes to say that this subject is a little more complex than what one would first think. The weapon of choice of the Roman legions was the gladius , a short sword that was around half a metre in length.

This weapon was very good for thrusting into the enemy as it was double sided.

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It was used during the later Roman Republic and throughout most of the Roman Empire. A pilum was a javelin which was carried by many of the frontline infantry units. They would launch it at the enemy before engaging in hand to hand combat. A pugio dagger was carried by all legionary infantry. It was around twenty centimetres in length and would be used in very close quarters when a soldier was for whatever reason unable to use his gladius. Click here to read more about Roman weapons. What armour a Roman soldier wore would depend largely on his function.

Roman legionary infantry would be equipped with a helmet, body armour, shield and greaves. Clothing varied based on where a soldier was located. Wool was commonly used in all clothing used by Roman soldiers. Clothing would include a tunic, cloak, padding, scarf, shoes and accessories. Click here to read more about Roman armour and clothing. There are three levels of military strategy: Grand strategy which is the overall objective of a campaign. Strategy proper which is concerned with how the army funtions in order to achieve the grand strategy. Finally, operational strategy, which is how smaller groups within the army i.

A stratagem was a trick which aimed to outwit the enemy to gain an advantage.



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