Legion 1 Contubernium - 8 Men 10 Contubernia 1 Century 80 Men 2 Centuries 1 Maniple 160 Men 6 Centuries 1 Cohort 480 Men 10 Cohorts + 120 Horsemen 1 Legion 5240 Men * *1 Legion = 9 normal cohorts (9 x 480 Men) + 1 "First Cohort" of 5 centuries (but each century a
LEGATUS The Legatus was typically a senator in his 30s who had been a senatorial tribune and then gone through the civilian government posts in Rome. He was appointed by the emperor and held command for 3 or 4 years, although some became very good generals and served much longer. In a province with only one legion, the legatus also serves as governor; in provinces with multiple legions, each legion has a legatus and th e provincial governor has command of all of them.
Centurions Then come the centurions, 59 or 60 to a legion. They have their own very confusing hierarchy : There are six distinct steps of seniority in each cohort, from lowest to highest: hastatus posterior, hastatus prior, princeps posterior, princeps prior, pilus posterior, pilus prior. (Note that "pilus" means "file", NOT the same word as "pilum". In the Republic the triarii were sometimes referred to as "pilani".) The cohorts themselve s are ranked from the First (highest) to the Tenth (lowest). In theory a centurion would start in the lowest spot in the Tenth cohort, rise to the top of that, then move to the lowest spot in the Ninth cohort, etc. Probably it never really happened that slowly. The centurions of the first cohort were called the primi ordines, and were headed by the primus pilus ("first FILE"!), the senior centurion in the whole legion. From there a man could rise to praefectus castrorum, third in command of the whole legion, and after a year in that post he'd retire in fabulous wealth and glory.
Tribunus Laticlivus Second in command of the legion was the tribunus laticlavus or senatorial tribune, a fresh-faced young man on his first job away from home. He probably relied heavily on the next man down, the praefectus castrorum or camp prefect, a grizzled veteran who had been promoted up through the centurionate. Then came the five tribuni angusticlavi or equestrian tribunes, appointed from the wealthy class (just below senators). These men actually had more experience than the higher-ranking senatorial tribune, having just served about three years as independent commanders of auxiliary cohorts. (Auxiliaries were enlisted from the provinces, and some of them were pretty barbaric. I wonder if they ever ate their commanders?) It used to be said that the tribunes just held administrative posts and did not actually lead troops, but now we think that each equestrian tribune commanded tw cohorts of legionaries. This would be a logical step up in status from commanding one cohort of auxili aries. After a term as legionary tribune, an equestrian tribune could be promoted to command of an auxiliary cavalry ala ("wing", 24 turmae totalling c. 512 men).
Auxiliary Infantryman An auxiliary infantryman of the first century AD. His armour and equipment is decidedly inferior to that of the legionary. He wears a light mail shirt and a Gallic helmet. Instead of the sophisticated pilum, the throwing spear of the legionary, he carries the hasta, a more basic stabbing spear. His light shield is flat and oval, offering no corners to snag. It hence is a shield enabling a soldier to fight individually or in loose formation. This is equipment suited to a light mobile fighter, rather than the to the disciplined heavy infantrymen of the legions.
Republican Legionary A legionary of the late Roman republic. His armour is light chain mail, and his shield, though curved, is not yet the famous square shield of later days. early-legionary.jpg - 29512 Bytes
Vexillarius 1st century AD A first century vexillarius. His armour and helmet are covered in a bear skin, and he would usually also carry a small circular shield. The vexillarius takes his name from the type of standard he carries, the vexillum. The vexillum was used as the typical standard for cavalry or, as in this case, in the infantry for detachments of varying sizes. Such a detachment could be of any number of men and is known as a 'vexillation'. Their standard would signify which larger unit they would belong to, in this case the 8th legion.
Signifer 1st century AD A first century signifer. His armour and helmet are covered in a wolf skin, and he also carries a small circular shield. The signifer takes his name from the type of standard he carries, the signum. The signum was used as the typical standard for each maniple in the legion (a maniple consisted of two centuries).
Aquilifer 1st century AD A first century aqulifer. His armour and helmet are covered in a lion skin, and he also carries a small circular shield. The aquilifer takes his name from the type of standard he carries, the aquila (the 'eagle'). The aquila was the standard of the legion. It was the item which had to be defended at all cost, as it represented the legion's honour. Bearing the legion's most prized possession the aquilifer's position was of high standing. In fact, part of the aquilifer's was to be in charge of the legion's pay chest. He would therefore also be the man to whom the legionaries and officers would entrust their savings.
Cornicen 1st century AD A first century cornicen. His armour and helmet are covered in a wolf skin, and he would usually also carry a small circular shield. The cornicen is one of the trumpeters of the legion. In battle he would use his horn, called the cornu, to draw the attention of the soldiers to any new order being signalled.
Imperial Legionary 1st century AD in lorica segmentata A legionary wearing the famous banded armour, the lorica segmentata, and the typical imperial 'Gallic' helmet. Also he has with him the famous large square shield.
Imperial Legionary 1st century AD in lorica hamata (chain A first century legionary wearing chain mail armour, the lorica hamata, and the typical imperial 'Gallic' helmet. Also he has with him the famous large square shield.
Centurion The centurion's armour varied widely, perhaps it was even a matter of individual choice. The centurion depicted wears leather. The rings (torques) and circular plaques (phalerae) on his torso are awards he has won in battle, comparable to medals in modern day armies. The horsehair crest across his helmet made him easily recognizable by everyone, even in the chaos of batte, as a officer of considerable rank. The greaves he wears to protect his shins are also a sign of his being a centurion. A cape was usually also seen as a mark of a centurion. Although, given that their style of dress may well have been down to their own choice, this centurion may not be at all out of place without such a cape. Note also the vine rod he holds in his hand. A further insignia of his rank and one he would happily use to beat unruly soldiers with to enforce discipline.
Legatus 1st century AD The legatus was the commaner of a legion. He would be of senatorial rank. He wears a bronze chest plate and the purple on his tunic points to his being of the senatorial order.
Imperator The term imperator strictly speaking only befitted a victorious Roman commander. Republican commanders such as Julius Caesar were hailed imperator by their troops after victories. However, it was a title which the emperors chose for themselves as commander in chief of the Roman imperial army. In this case, you see a suggested recreation of emperor Hadrian's appearance.
Legionary in Practice The soldiers of the Roman army would daily practice their combat skills. For this they would use shields made from wickerwork and wooden swords in order not to injure each othe
'Marius Mule' The soldiers of the Roman army would carry with them a considerable abmount of kit. When on the march they carried over their shoulder a contraption (sometimes described as a forked stick) which would help them to carry some of their equipment. Here is an of an legionary bearing this item over his shoulder together with his pilum. So weighed down were the soldiers by all their stuff, that they were nicknamed 'Marius' mules' (after the famous Roman general to whom the invention of the very forked stick is ascribed).
Late Cavalryman An example of a late Roman cavalryman, perhaps 5th century AD. His helmet and chainmail already look very much like the armour of later medieval knights. He bears a light, round shield and a lance for stabbing. The sword of the Roman cavalryman was the spatha, a long-bladed weapon, granting the rider a much greater reach than the legionary's short gladius. Much of the precise armoury and weaponry of late Roman cavalry is guesswork. In this case, spot the quiver carried behind the saddle, holding arrows for use with the bow. The prefered mode of battle for the Roman cavalry (ala) was fall into the rear or the flanks of an enemy already deployed against Roman infantry. It proved at its most devastating when it rode down fleeing troops, lancing the fleeing soldiers in their backs. In fact most of the slaughter in ancient battles is thought to have occured, when the opposing army broke and fell into disorder and the cavalry fell upon the panicked and fleeing enemy. Note that the Roman cavalry rode without stirrups.
The Tortoise The 'testudo' The tortoise formation was one of the prime examples of Roman ingenuity at warfare. When deployed in such a way, the legionaries became virtually invulnerable to arrows or objects dropped from defensive walls.
The Wedge The wedge was an aggressive formation used to 'crack open' enemy lines. Relatively small groups of legionaries could form such a triangle and then drive their way into the enemy ranks. As more Roman soldiers reinforced the wedge from behind, the enemy line could be forced apart. As breaking the enemy's formation was very often the key to winning a battle, the wedge formation was vitally important battlefield tactic of the Roman army.
The Skirmishing Formation The skirmishing formation is essentially the opposite to the closely packed line of battle used by legionaries. It is a widely spaced line. Every second man of the line has stepped forward a few paces, effectively doubling the amount of ranks. However, the gaps created by this formation are always overlapped by the next line to follow. The roots of this formation are more than likely to be found with the velites, the lightly armed skirmishers who operated ahead of the main force in the early Roman army. The wide spaces allow each soldier great mobility. Its possible uses were manyfold. It would make an advance over difficult terrain much easier. It could allow for swift attacks with subsequent quick withdrawals. It would allow for any friendly units falling back to pass through the formation. It also could be used by a victorious army sweeping over the battle field, killing all that was left in its way.
Repel Cavalry ! The order to repel cavalry by Roman army officers brought about a defensive formation, in which the front rank formed a tight wall of shields with their pila protruding to form a line of spearheads ahead of the wall. Undoubtedly it would be very hard to bring a horse to break into that formation. The most likely occurrence would be that it would come to a halt of its own will ahead of the spearheads. It was at that moment that horse and rider would be at their most vulnerable against the ranks behind the first line of infantry which would then hurl their spears at them. Given the short distance and the training legionaries received, it is likely such halted cavalry, frantically trying to turn their horses around to retreat, whilst colliding with horses following in the charge, would prove very easy targets. If one further considers the likely possibility of archers being present, as is the case on the photo above, the effect of this formation could indeed be devastating.
The Orb orb-01.jpg - 43235 Bytes The orb was a defensive formation in the shape of a complete circle which could be taken by a unit which had either become detached from the army's main body and had become encircled by the enemy, or a formation which might be taken by any number of units if the greater army had fallen into disorder during a battle. It can hence be seen as a formation representing a desperate 'last stand' by units of a collapsing army. But also it can be seen as a disciplined holding position by a unit which has been divided from the army's main body in battle and which is waiting for the main force to rejoin them. In either case, it is not a formation one would like to find oneself in, as it obviously indicates that they are surrounded by the enemy. Naturally any officers or archers would be positioned in the centre of the orb, as can be seen in the example above.
The Siege Tower A model of a Roman siege tower at the Museo della Civilta in Rome. This collossal tower on wheels would mainly be used to provide height for archers and ballista catapults. From this vantage point they would be able to fire their arrows and bolts at the men atop a city's walls and turrets, thus allowing the Roman soldiers to work on creating a hole in the wall, without being attacked from above. This particular model even has the ram built into its base, so that the soldiers operating it can work within the safety of the tower.
The Scorpio-Ballista A photo of a recreated Roman ballista-type 'Scorpion' catapult. In essence it's much the same, but smaller than a basic 'ballista'.
The Onager A model of an onager catapult at the Museo della Civilta in Rome. This machine would be the heavy artillery to the ancient world. The handles to the left (rear of the catapult) are in fact levers by which the soldiers would wind the throwing arm back. On the right you see a cushion at the front of the catapult. No doubt it was there to soften the blow of the throwing arm and so help to prevent the machine from tearing itself apart.