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ROMAN LEGION
If you want peace, prepare for war!
Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus's tract De Re Militari
THE LEGION
The legion in Rome consisted of 2 to 10 thousand foot soldiers and several hundred horsemen. Each legion had its own number and name. The subsequent organization of legions varied greatly over time but legions were typically composed of around five thousand soldiers.
28
In the total number of the Roman army consisted 28 legions.
200
Most of them lasted more than 200 years.
400
More than half legions lasted more than 400 years
FUNCTION & CONSTITUTION
For most of the Roman Imperial period, the legions formed the Roman army's elite heavy infantry, recruited exclusively from Roman citizens, while the remainder of the army consisted of auxiliaries, who provided additional infantry and the vast majority of the Roman army's cavalry.
Light infantry
quantity 1200 men
Heavy infantry
quantity 3000 men
The velites
Armed with darts and swords, did not have a strictly defined place and destination in battle order. They were used where necessary.
The hastati
Hastati appear to have been remnants of the old third class of the army under the Etruscan kings when it was reformed by Marcus Furius Camillus.
The principes
They were men in the prime of their lives who were fairly wealthy, and could afford decent equipment. They were the heavier infantry of the legion who carried large shields and wore good quality armor.
The triarii
Veterans — in the last row; they were used in battle only in the most desperate and difficult situations.
The equites
The cavalry was originally the most prestigious unit, where wealthy young Roman men displayed their skill and prowess, laying the foundation for an eventual political career.
Cavalry
quantity 300 men
LEGIONARY RANKS
Aside from the rank and file legionary the following list describes the system of officers which developed within the legions from the Marian reforms (104 BC) until the military reforms of Diocletian.
Imperial Legate
The commander of two or more legions
Broad Band Tribune
This tribune was appointed by the emperor or the Senate
Camp Prefect
The Camp Prefect was third in command of the legion
Centurions
Centurions had very good prospects for promotion
I
II
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IV
VALOR IS SUPERIOR TO NUMBER
The size of a typical legion varied throughout the history of ancient Rome, with complements of 4,200 legionaries and 300 equites.
– Flavius Vegetius Renatus
ROMAN LEGIONS: SYMBOLS & FLAGS
Many of the legions founded before 40 BC were still active until at least the fifth century, notably Legio V Macedonica, which was founded by Augustus in 43 BC and was in Egypt in the seventh century during the Islamic conquest of Egypt.
From 104 BC onwards, each legion used an aquila (eagle) as it's standard symbol. The symbol was carried by an officer known as aquilifer, and its loss was considered to be a very serious embarrassment, and often led to the disbanding of the legion itself.
Aquila
The main banner and the most revered shrine of the legion.
Signum
Military badge of maniple, cohort, centurium or turma.
Imago
The imago was a three-dimensional image of the emperor, embossed on a sheet of metal.
Vexillum
A military badge of veteran and auxiliary units. Woven cloth suspended on a horizontal bar fixed on a spear shaft.
Labarum
Late version of vexillum, on which, instead of old military symbols, a Christogram or cross was depicted.
Draco
Cavalry standard.
DISCIPLINE
The military discipline of the legions was quite harsh. Regulations were strictly enforced, and a broad array of punishments could be inflicted upon a legionary who broke them. Many legionaries became devotees in the cult of the minor goddess Disciplina, whose virtues of frugality, severity and loyalty were central to their code of conduct and way of life.
MINOR PUNISHMENTS
Polybius divides the punishments inflicted by a commander on one or more troops into punishments for military crimes, and punishments for "unmanly acts", although there seems to be little difference in the harsh nature of the punishment between the two classes.
Fustuarium supplicium
"The punishment of cudgeling" was a severe form of military discipline in which a soldier was cudgeled to death.
Missio ignominiosa
A dishonourable discharge and forfeiture of all pay and allowances if convicted.
Gradus deiectio
Reduction in rank (Latin gradus deiectio meaning position degradation).
Reduction of rations
Reduction of rations or to be forced to eat barley instead of the usual grain ration.
Flagellation or flagellum
Act of beating the human body with special implements – a much more brutal punishment than simple flogging.
Decimation or decimatio
Punishment of large groups guilty of capital offences, such as cowardice, mutiny, desertion, and insubordination.
Poena furti et adulterii
the punishment would most probably be being placed in a sack of snakes and thrown into a nearby river or lake.
Pecuniaria mulcta
Reduction in pay, fines or deductions from the pay allowance.
I CAME, I SAW, I CONQUERED
– Julius Caesar
FACTORS IN THE LEGION'S SUCCESS
Montesquieu wrote that "the main reason for the Romans becoming masters of the world was that, having fought successively against all peoples, they always gave up their own practices as soon as they found better ones."
Roman organization was more flexible than those of many opponents. Over time, the legions effectively handled challenges ranging from cavalry, to guerrillas, and to siege warfare. Roman discipline (cf. decimation (Roman army)), organization and systematization sustained combat effectiveness over a longer period. These elements appear throughout the legion in training, logistics, field fortification etc.
ROMAN LEADERSHIP WAS MIXED, BUT OVER TIME IT WAS OFTEN EFFECTIVE IN SECURING ROMAN MILITARY SUCCESS.
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