Aquilifer : A single position within the Legion.
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The Aquilifer was the Legion's Standard or Eagle bearer and was an enormously important and prestigious position. The next step up would be a post as a Centurion. Signifer : Each Centuria had a Signifer He was responsible for the men's pay and savings, and the standard bearer for the Centurial Signum, a spear shaft decorated with medallions and often topped with an open hand to signify the oath of loyalty taken by the soldiers.
It was this banner that the men from each individual Centuria would rally around. A soldier could also gain the position of Discentes signiferorum, or standard bearer in training. Optio : One for each Centurion 59 , they were appointed by the Centurion from within the ranks to act as his second in command. Tesserarius : Guard Commander Again there were 59 of these, or one for each Centuria.
They acted in similar roles to the Optios. Cornicen : Horn blower They worked hand in hand with the Signifer drawing the attention of the men to the Centurial Signum and issuing the audible commands of the officers.
Roman Army Overview
Imaginifer : Carried the Standard bearing the image of the Emperor as a constant reminder of the troop's loyalty to him. Immunes : These were trained specialists, such as surgeons, engineers, surveyors, and architects, as well as craftsmen. They were exempt from camp and hard labor duties due to the nature of their work, and would generally earn slightly more pay than the Milites. Munifex or Miles Gregarius : The basic private level foot soldier.
Tirones : The basic new recruit. A Tirones could take up to 6 months before becoming a full Milites.
Who Were the Roman Legionaries and How Were Roman Legions Organised?
Enjoyed UNRV. Every monthly subscription or any one-off donation will help cover the costs of running and maintaining the site. In this landmark publication, Stephen Dando-Collins does what no other author has ever attempted to do: provide a complete history of every Imperial Roman legion. Based on thirty years of meticulous research, he covers every legion of Rome in rich detail. Featuring more than maps, photographs, diagrams and battle plans, Legions of Rome is an essential read for ancient history enthusiasts, military history experts and general readers alike.
Visit the sections below to find out more information regarding the legions of Ancient Rome. Organization of the Roman Imperial Legion A full strength legion was officially made up of 6, men, but typically all legions were organized at under strength and generally consisted of approximately 5, fighting men including officers. The basic structure of the army is as follows: Contubernium : tent group consisted of 8 men.
Legio : Legion consisted of 10 cohorts. Conversely, the second line could merge with the first to form a solid front 10 ranks deep and m 1, feet wide. In the third line, 10 maniples of light infantry were supplemented by smaller units of reserves. The three lines were 75 m feet apart, and from front to rear one maniple of each line formed a cohort of men; this was the Roman equivalent of a battalion.
The Roman Imperial Legion
Ten cohorts made up the heavy-infantry strength of a legion, but 20 cohorts were usually combined with a small cavalry force and other supporting units into a little self-supporting army of about 10, men. Two infantry weapons gave the legion its famous flexibility and force; the pilum , a 2-metre 7-foot javelin used for both throwing and thrusting; and the gladius , a centimetre inch cut-and-thrust sword with a broad, heavy blade.
For protecton each legionary had a metal helmet, cuirass, and convex shield. In battle, the first line of maniples attacked on the double, hurling javelins and then diving in with swords before the enemy had time to recover. Then came the maniples of the second line, and only a resolute foe could rally from the two successive shocks.
As Roman armies of the late Republic and Empire became larger and more professional, the cohort, with an average field strength of men, replaced the maniple as the chief tactical unit within legions. In the military operations of Lucius Cornelius Sulla and Julius Caesar , a legion was composed of 10 cohorts, with 4 cohorts in the first line and 3 each in the second and third lines.
Seven legions in three lines, comprising about 25, heavy infantry, occupied a mile and a half of front. As Rome evolved from a conquering to a defending power, the cohort was increased to a field strength of — men. These still depended on the shock tactics of pilum and gladius, but the 5,—6, heavy infantry in a legion were now combined with an equal number of supporting cavalry troops and light infantry made up of archers, slingers, and javelin men.
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In order to deal with mounted barbarian raiders, the proportion of cavalry rose from one-seventh to one-fourth. By the 4th century ad , with the empire defending its many fortified border outposts, as many as 10 catapults and 60 ballistae were assigned to each legion.
In modern times the term legion has been applied to a corps of foreign volunteers or mercenaries, such as the French provincial legions of Francis I and the second-line formations of Napoleon. We welcome suggested improvements to any of our articles.
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See Article History. Read More on This Topic. During this time, both his character and medical condition was heavily scrutinized by enlisting officers. This law-bending scope was a practical outcome of the civil wars that plagued the Roman realm during the end of the Republic era. For example, Julius Caesar raised the legio V Alaudae from the native Gauls and later naturalized their citizenship. As a desperate solution, he started filling his army ranks consisting of around 23 legions from the native population of the eastern provinces Syria and Egypt.
So simply put, oftentimes Roman citizenship was not a requirement, but rather a status that was conferred upon the Roman legionary during his time of enlistment. However free birth was still a requirement, with slaves being barred from the career of soldiery — though they might have been inducted as supporting units inside a legion used for menial works see entry 9. Moreover, while the legionaries were supposed to be volunteers who joined the army, many of them were simply conscripted into the legions — due to the requirement of higher manpower during the civil wars and the later Augustan period.
There was one particular instance according to Tacitus when Emperor Tiberius wanted to tour the entire Roman countryside in a bid to conscript new recruits to fill up the positions of the discharged veterans. The ruler was keen on taking this drastic step due to lack of volunteers who would join the legions. The green recruits who were successfully enlisted as legionaries had to go through a training period of 4 months. During this training ambit, each soldier was given the unenviable task of marching 29 km 18 miles in five hours with regular steps, and then 35 km In any case, after the strenuous marching scope was perfected by the legionaries, they were then drilled in battlefield maneuvers including the hollow square, wedge, and the famed testudo formations and signaling.
Finally, they were trained in weapons handling and in some cases also swimming. Interestingly, the faux swords and shields used in practices were made of wood and wicker, but they weighed twice the mass of their actual counterparts — so as to acclimatize the Roman legionary with fatigue and weariness that could happen in the heat of the battle. In consideration of this incredibly rigorous ambit, the words of Vegetius ring true —.
We see no explanation of the conquest of the word by Roman people than their military training, camp discipline and practice in warfare. Illustration by Peter Dennis. Credit: Warlord Games Ltd. During the latter part of 1st century BC, Augustus followed the guidelines of the preceding centuries and officially formalized the length of service of a Roman legionary to 16 years in 13 BC.
But it should be noted that even after 16 years of service, he was expected to join the vexillum veteranorum or unit of veterans for four more years — see entry 9. However, by 6 AD, the initial length of service was increased to 20 years, and it was complemented by the praemia militare or discharge bonus , a lump sum that was increased to 12, sesterces or 3, denarii. And by the middle of 1st century AD, the service was further extended to 25 years. Now beyond official service lengths, the protocols were rarely followed at times marked by wars.
This resulted in retaining of the legionaries well beyond their service periods, with some men fighting under their legions for over three to four decades. Suffice it to say, such chaotic measures frequently resulted in mutinies. However, the pay differed for the various units in a legion, with under-officers and specialists being paid one-and-a-half or twice the basic pay grade. And furthermore, this pay figure was only a nominal value from which various deductions were made in accordance with the goods like food, equipment, attire and even burial fees consumed by the legionary.
Related Soldier of Rome: The Legionary
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