Josephus, Jewish War, 6. Even suicide stimulated by shame, for example that of the apparently cowardly soldier recalled by Suetonius Otho, 10 , could be viewed as redemptive and as the ultimate expression of comradeship. He recalled an episode when a messenger reported to the Emperor Otho the defeat of his forces near Cremona: When the garrison [at Brixellum] called him a liar and a cowardly deserter, the man fell on his sword at Otho's feet.
At this sight, Otho, my father reported, cried out that he would never again risk the lives of such courageous men, who had deserved so well. Otho, 10 Otho himself went on to commit suicide. In times of war the concept of fraternity was extended and soldiers fought in support of other units as well as their immediate comrades. A notable example occurred in AD 28 when during a disastrous battle fought mainly by auxiliary units against the Frisii, legio V mounted a counter-attack and extricated a large number of the auxiliaries.
However, auxiliaries could not escape and fought to the end Tacitus, Annals, 4. The oath had religious significance and bound the soldier to the emperor and the state. It was repeated annually on New Year's Day. Vegetius summarises the Christianised version of the 4th century AD: They swear by God, Christ and the Holy Spirit, and by the Majesty of the Emperor which second to God is to be loved and 19 worshipped by the human race.
The soldiers swear that they will strenuously do all that the Emperor may command, will never desert the service, nor refuse to die for the Roman State Vegetius, Epitome, 2. Until the institution of a formal and legally binding oath in BC, legionaries had sworn two voluntary oaths. The first was to obey the consul; the second they swore to one another within the maniple: never to desert comrades in order to save yourself, never to abandon your place in the battle line unless to recover a weapon, attack an enemy or to save a comrade Livy, Despite later forms of the oath directing the loyalty of legionaries to the commander and state, the sentiments of the earlier oath were adhered to in the centuries of the late Republic and early Empire.
Caesar emphasises that the centurions Pullo and Vorenus, bitter rivals for rank and honours, 'despite their enmity each helped to save the other [in battle]' Caesar, Gallic War, 5. Rewards and decorations The highest decoration available to the legionary, irrespective of rank, was the corona civica - the civic crown of oak leaves awarded for saving the life of a fellow-citizen in battle. No act of bravery in battle was viewed as so important or so selfless as forcing back the enemy to save a fallen comrade.
It was the epitome of comradeship, illustrating for whom the legionaries really fought: each other. This was the essence of the effectiveness of the army. Marcus Helvius Rufus was famously awarded the corona civica by the Emperor Tiberius for saving the life of a fellow veteran legionary in a battle against Tacfarinas in AD When During the battle a common soldier, Helvius Rufus, earned the distinction of saving a fellow citizen, and was presented by [governor] Apronius with a torque and spear. The chic crown was added by the emperor [Tiberius], who regretted, more in sorrow than anger, that [Apronius] had not exercised his power to award this further honour.
Such acts of pride were not uncommon. Legionaries who had fought for Octavian at Actium added the appellation Actiacus, 'Actium-fighter', to their names: Marcus Billienus Actiacus, son of Marcus, of the voting tribe Romula, served in legio XI, fought in the naval battle [Actium]. Museo Civico, Vicenza. Redrawn by Steven D. Richardson from Keppie , fig. The awarding of other crowns, spears and flags were increasingly restricted to centurions and higher officers Maxfield Titus distributed such rewards in a ceremony following the capture and destruction of Jerusalem in AD [He] gave orders to the appointed officers to read out the names of all who had performed any courageous act during the war.
Calling forvard each by name he applauded them as they came forward, no less exultant over their exploits than if they were his own. He then placed gold crowns on their heads, presented them with golden torques, little golden spears and standards made of silver, and promoted each man to a higher rank. He further assigned to them out of the spoils of silver and gold and fine clothing and other booty in abundance.
Josephus, Jewish War, 7. Decorations feature prominently in Tacitus' description of the entry of Vitellius' victorious army into Rome in July AD 21 The eagles of four legions were at the head of the column, while the flags vexilla of the detachments of four other legions were on either side. Before the eagles marched the camp prefects, tribunes and chief centurions dressed in white. The other centurions, with polished arms and decorations gleaming, marched with their centuries. The ordinary soldiers' phalerae and torques were likewise bright and shining.
It was an imposing sight and an army that deserved a better emperor than Vitellius. Tacitus, Histories, 2. One of Caesar's continuators describes how the decorations of a brave centurion were taken during the fighting against the Pompeians at Munda 45 BC : When it was observed that our men were giving more ground than was usual, two centurions from legio V crossed the river [Salsum] and restored the battle line.
As they drove the superior numbers of enemy back displaying exceptional courage His fellow centurion now began an unequal battle, and when he found himself completely surrounded he retreated but lost his footing. As the brave centurion fell many of the enemy rushed forward to strip him of his decorations 'Caesar', Spanish War, Punishments Discipline was enforced with severity.
Cowardice in battle and other derelictions of duty, such as falling asleep on guard duty, were punished by fustuarium being beaten to death by comrades whose lives had been endangered , floggings and demotions see Polybius, 6. If a complete unit displayed cowardice in battle it might suffer decimation, when every tenth man was selected by lot and executed. This was a rare and extreme punishment but occurred as late as AD 18 Tacitus, Annals, 3. Other punishments were more symbolic, intended to shame offenders, such as putting soldiers on rations of detested barley or ostracising them from military life by making them camp outside the ramparts Plutarch, Antony, 39; Frontinus, Stratagems, 4.
They might be stripped of their military belts i. Only when soldiers had redeemed themselves in battle might these punishments be revoked. Bravado and initiative 22 In a perverse way, despite the emphasis placed on discipline and maintaining the cohesion of the battle line, the Roman Army tolerated, and in some ways encouraged, acts of dangerous bravado and allowed its soldiers a surprising degree of personal initiative. When Quintus Cicero's legion was besieged by the Nervii in 54 BC, Caesar indicates that the bravery of the centurions Pullo and Vorenus was an inspiration to all: There were two courageous centurions Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenus.
They quarrelled continually about who came first [in rank] and every year fiercely contested the most important posts. When the fighting by the ramparts was intense, Pullo said, 'Why hesitate, Vorenus? What chance of proving your bravery are you waiting for? This day will decide our contest. Neither did Vorenus remain within the rampart, following Pullo for fear of what men would think. Then, at close range, Pullo threw his pilum at the enemy, skewering one Gaul who had run forward from the multitude. Pullo's shield was pierced and a javelin was lodged in his belt.
Vorenus, his rival, ran to him and helped him out of trouble. Vorenus fought with his gladius at close-quarters, killing one and drove the others back a little. But he pressed on too eagerly and fell into a hollow. He was surrounded in turn, but Pullo came to his aid. They killed several men and retired to the ramparts with the utmost glory.
In the eagerness of their rivalry Fortune so handled them that, despite their hostility, each helped and saved the other, and it was impossible to decide which should be considered the braver man. Caesar, Gallic War, 5. Yet it is clear that independent actions could have important effects on the outcome of engagements. During the siege of Gamala in AD 67, three soldiers of legio XV Apollinaris, acting without orders, managed one night to prise five key supporting stones from the base of a corner tower causing it to collapse and securing the Roman capture of the city Josephus, Jewish War, 4.
At the second battle of Cremona two Flavian legionaries took up the shields of casualties of the Vitellian legion XV Primigenia, and thus disguised they advanced on the Vitellian line and disabled a massive ballista torsion catapult which had stopped the Flavians' advance.
The soldiers were killed in this act Tacitus, Histories, 3. Such acts served to bolster morale and unit pride, and the general Suetonius Paulinus noted that the outcome of battles might indeed hinge on the deeds of a few legionaries Tacitus, Annals, The balteus took the form of either a single waist belt decorated with silvered, sometimes embossed, bronze plates, or two crossed belts slung from the hips. The date of the introduction of the cross belts is not certain; they may have appeared during the close of the reign of 23 Detail of Lorarius' belt-fittings.
The suspension of the dagger over the abdomen is unique. The arrangement of the belt ends anticipates the 'apron'.
Museo Civico, Padova. Drawn by Steven D. Richardson after Franzoni , tav.
It was probably during the reign of Tiberius that niello, a black alloy of sulphur and silver. Such belts identified a man as a soldier; Juvenal characterised soldiers as 'armed and belted men' Satires, The removal of the balteus stripped a soldier of his military identity; it was confiscated if a soldier was dishonourably discharged Herodian, 2.
In Rome in AD 69 civilian pranksters used razor-sharp knives to slice through the belts of unassuming soldiers in a crowd. The soldiers went on the rampage when they realised what had happened and numerous civilians were killed, including the father of one legionary Tacitus, Histories, 2. Military boots, caligae, were the other key item of identification. The date of their introduction is uncertain, but they were certainly the standard footwear for the Roman soldier from the reign of Augustus until the early 2nd century AD.
Really a heavy-duty sandal, the crunch of the iron-nailed sole identified the presence of a soldier as much as his jingling belts Josephus, Jewish War, 6. Archaeological finds from across the Empire indicate that there was a major degree of standardisation in the form of caligae and the nailing pattern of soles, suggesting that pattern books for this, and perhaps other items of military equipment, were issued by the emperors. The nailing patterns, giving support to the ball, arch and heel of the foot, are viewed as the precursors of the sole patterns on modern training shoes.
The colour of military tunics is much disputed. Evidence for centurions parading in white could refer to the wearing of fine linen tunics, or perhaps to the colour of crests and pteruges fabric-strip defences for the upper arms, abdomen and thighs Tacitus, Histories, 2. Otherwise, the suggestion that centurions normally wore woollen tunics dyed red, and lower ranks wore off-white tunics is plausible Fuentes ; contra Sumner However, only the soldiers in the front rank would have been able to use their swords in battle, and battles were often characterised by lengthy missile duels.
Pilum The pilum is the defining weapon of the Roman legionary. Unlike the gladius, which was a number of distinct and successive sword types, the pilum retained its two basic forms - tanged and socketed - for six centuries. A heavy javelin, up to r. The pilum was a short-range weapon designed to punch through shields, armour and into the man beyond.
It was essential to the Roman sword-fighting technique because the devastation caused by a volley of pila created the perfect conditions for the legionary to charge forward with his cut-and-thrust sword. Shorter, light pila, some with shanks only 15cm long, were probably used by legionary skirmishers. From left, light javelin, two spear heads, three catapult bolt heads, pilum collet and butt-spike. Landesmuseum, Mainz have weighed about 2kg 4. However, examples from the late Republic, e. Some pila were fitted with a bulbous weight, probably of lead, but no archaeological examples have been identified.
Such heavy pila are held by praetorians on a panel surviving from the lost Arch of Claudius in Rome, erected in celebration of the conquest of southern Britain. The heavy pila weighed at least 50 per cent more and resulted in a loss of range maximum 30m, but better penetration at shorter distances. Clearly this was acceptable if penetration was increased. The emperor Caligula addresses a group of soldiers equipped with scuta, either legionaries or praetorians.
Hunterian Museum, University of Glasgow Shield The traditional shield of the legionary was the curved, oval scutum. A 1st-century BC example from Fayum in Egypt measured cm long by The shield was slightly thicker in the centre 1. It was faced with felt and calf skin and weighed 10kg b. During the Augustan period the shield was modified, eventually becoming a curved rectangular board.
The only surviving example of this cylindrical type comes from Dura Europos in Syria, c. AD It was constructed in exactly the same manner as the Fayum shield, measuring cm long by 83cm wide 66cm across the curve , but was a far lighter piece, only 5mm thick and weighing about 5. Peter Connolly has suggested that earlier examples were thicker in the middle and weighed 7.
The weight of the scutum meant that it was held by the horizontal grip with a straight arm. It was primarily used offensively, legionaries barging into opponents and using the prominent boss to unbalance or topple them Tacitus, Annals, At Mons Graupius the Batavian and Tungrian cohorts appear to have used their umbones bosses to punch at the Caledonians Tacitus, Agricola, The flat shields of the auxiliaries were not necessarily lighter than legionary models; the rectangular shield with a curved top from Hod Hill weighed about 9kg Speyer, Historisches Museum der Pfalz.
Richardson after Ulbert , abb. British Museum. Richardson after Ulbert , taf. For the Romans the word gladius simply meant 'sword', not specifically a short sword. Indeed, Tacitus used gladius to refer to the long slashing swords wielded by the Caledonians at Mons Graupius Agricola, The famous Spanish sword, the gladius Hispaniensis, often referred to by Polybius and Livy, was in fact a medium-length cut-and-thrust weapon, with blade lengths of between 64cm and 69cm and widths of 4—5. The blade could have parallel edges or be slightly waisted, the final fifth or so of its length tapering to a sharp Restored scabbard fittings from Kalkriese, AD 9.
The longer swords must have weighed 1. This weapon, probably adopted by the Romans shortly after the battle of Cannae in BC, was actually adapted by the Iberians from the Celtic long sword. The scabbard had a frame of sheet iron or bronze with wood or leather inserts, though bronze sheet is also known. This sword was a clear development of the gladius Hispanienis, but had a shorter and broader, waisted blade c.
Examples weigh between 1. The metal scabbards of these swords could be tinned or silvered and finely embossed with various motifs, often derived from Augustan propaganda. The short Pompeii-tvpe gladius was introduced at the close of our period. This sword weighed about lkg. Museo Nazionale di Napoli. All Roman swords in our period were attached to the belt or baldric via a four-ring suspension system. Being the predominant weapon on Trajan's Column, the Pompeii gladius has stuck in the imagination of many as the defining weapon of the legionary.
Yet in terms of longevity it was perhaps the shortest lived of Roman swords; introduced in the mid-1st century, probably as a standardised pattern, it was already going out of use by the second quarter of the 2nd century. Ordinary Roman soldiers wore their swords on the right; aquiliferi, centurions and more senior officers wore it on the left as a mark of their rank.
Dagger 30 Another adoption from the Spanish was the dagger pugio. Like a miniature gladius with a waisted blade at least 20cm and up to 35cm in length, it was worn on the left hip by ordinary legionaries , and its iron-frame scabbard employed the same method of ring suspension. From the Augustan period, dagger hilts and scabbards now completely of metal were decorated with increasingly fine silver and niello inlays. The basic form of this dagger was still in use in the 3rd century AD. Caesar made use of such legionaries to fight as antesignani, that is lightly equipped legionaries expediti who probably skirmished with light missiles in front of the standards of the main battle line or reinforced the cavalry e.
A relief from the legionary headquarters building principia at Mainz shows two legionaries fighting in close order, equipped with scula and pila, but apparently without body armour, suggesting that even the 'heavy' legionaries could fight expediti. Two other reliefs from Mainz reveal the regular armours employed by legionaries.
In one scene a legionarius marching behind a signifer wears a cuirass of lorica segmentata the term is modern , an articulated armour of iron plates and hoops. This is the armour worn exclusively by citizen troops on Trajan's Column but its use was never as total as that monument would suggest. Recent discoveries from Kalkriese. Pre-AD Mid-later 1st century AD. Other fragments are now known from the Augustan bases at Haltern and Dangstetten in German. The cuirass offered substantial protection, especially to the shoulders and upper back, but necessarily terminated at the hips, leaving the abdomen and upper legs exposed.
It is probable that some kind of padded garment was worn underneath to absorb the impact of blows, protect the skin from chafing and ensure that the armour was properly settled, so that the chest and other plates lined up correctly. Reconstructions of this armour suggest it weighed about 9kg b. Another relief from Mainz portrays a centurion his sword is worn on the left in what at first sight appears to be a tunic. However, the splits at the arms and thighs indicate that this was a ring mail shirt lorica hamata , the splits necessary to facilitate movement.
On many such monuments the actual details of the rings were originally painted in. Mail was probably the armour most widely used by the Romans. In our period shirts were sleeveless or short-sleeved and could extend far down the thighs, though lengths varied. Most legionaries wore shirts with a doubling over the shoulders of leather faced with mail, modelled after the shoulder guards of the Greek linen cuirass. Such shirts weighed kg Other shirts had full shoulder capes and might weigh 16kg The weight placed on the shoulders was clearly substantial, but some of this could be transferred to the hips by the use of belts.
Mail was normally made out of iron but bronze rings are also known, often used for decorative trims. Occasionally shirts were faced with fine scales. Scale was another common armour lorica squamata , being cheaper and easier to produce than mail but inferior in defensive qualities and flexibility. This helped absorb the shock of blows and prevented the metal of the armour being driven into the body De Rebus Bellicis, Pteruges, overlapping linen or leather strip defences for the upper legs and arms, were often attached to such garments, but could not prevent serious injuries to the limbs to which Roman soldiers were particularly susceptible e.
Greaves were regularly worn by centurions but not by lower ranks until the end of the 1st century AD and perhaps only against particular opponents such as the Dacians. Articulated arm defences manicae were certainly employed by gladiators in our period Tacitus, Annals, 3. At the beginning of our period bronze, occasionally iron, Montefortino helmets were common, the traditional legionary helmet since the 4th century BC. These had a single bowl with a very slight rear peak, and cheek pieces that covered the ears and protected the sides of the face.
Later versions of the helmet, including the so-called Coolus-type, were in use until the later 1st century AD, and had substantial neck guards and cheek pieces with flanges to protect the throat and cut-aways to facilitate hearing. Rijksmuseum, Nijmegen. Richardson after Robinson , pl. Museo Stibbert, Florence. An early example of a helmet widely used by Augustan legionaries.
These so-called Imperial Gallic helmets were high-quality, single bowled pieces, with embossed 'eyebrows' at the front of the bowl and ridges at the nape of the neck to break the force of downward sword blows. The Romans added a substantial neck guard really a rear peak , a brow peak, increased the size and curvature of the cheek pieces and also added throat flanges. Towards the middle of the 1st century AD a variant of this helmet was produced in Italian workshops, using both iron and bronze a progression from the Italic Montefortino-type , and known as the Imperial Italic type Robinson Legionary helmets were substantial pieces with bowls 1.
Helmets and cheek pieces were lined with woollen felt, and the fitting of some helmets may have allowed an air space between the skull and the bowl to dissipate the shock of blows. Montefortino-type helmets had broad cheek pieces that covered the ears, but the new Imperial Gallic helmets were soon made to incorporate ear holes. However, unless a soldier had a helmet specially made or adapted, the cheek pieces might still partially cover his ears. While cheek pieces gave good protection to the sides of the face they could obscure peripheral vision, and the exposed centre of the face made a tempting target for opponents.
The Batavian and Tungrian auxiliaries fighting at Mons Graupius stabbed at the faces of their British opponents Tacitus, Agricola, 36 and Caesar records how the centurion Crastinus was killed at Pharsalus by a sword thrust to the mouth Caesar, Civil War, 3. The burden of equipment The mental strain of battle cannot have been helped by the immense total weight of the fighting equipment borne by an Augustan legionary: Wearing lorica segmentata and carrying a curved rectangular scutum could reduce the burden by about 23kg On the march the legionary's burden was increased by his pack, which included his cooking utensils, mess kit, rations and spare clothing, carried in leather and string bags over the shoulder on a T-shaped pole, and weighing up to Josephus indicates that the legionary would also carry all of his entrenching equipment if necessary.
This included a pick, axe, saw, chain, leather strap, bill hook and a basket for shifting earth Josephus, Jewish War, 3. It is no wonder that Julius Caesar ensured that a Montefortino number of his legionaries were unencumbered by packs Mail shirt when on the march so that they could react rapidly to any Cross belts attacks on the marching column Caesar, Gallic War, 2. We must marvel at the ability of the legionary to march long distances, with or without his pack, and then fight a battle.
The ridges broke the force of downward sword blows, deflecting them onto the broad neck guard. The ear holes allowed the legionary to hear commands; later models had curved guards above the ear holes. Tacitus remarks that the battle would have gone their way if they had fed, warmed and rested themselves before falling upon the Flavian Army Histories, 3.
Exhaustion regularly figures in accounts of Roman battles which, as second Cremona illustrates, could go on for a considerable length of time. The burden of armour and the energy expended in wielding pilum, sword and shield put a limit on actual periods of combat and it is clear that battles were punctuated with regular lulls. Pioneers, selected workmen from each century and military slaves, went ahead of the marching column clearing the way and making preparations for the construction of camp. Uneven ground was levelled and each unit knew its place, so construction proceeded in an orderly and swift manner.
In peacetime, immunes 'immune' from the dirty jobs and principales junior officers enjoyed exemption from onerous building and cleaning details, but on campaign everyone had a function, whether as builder or guarding the construction from the enemy. Normally rectangular, the camp rampart was constructed from the turf and debris dug out from the perimeter ditch. Each wall had a gate large enough for draught animals to pass and from which emergency sallies could be made, and were protected by projecting sections of ditch and rampart.
Tribuli, massive wooden caltrops, were placed along the ramparts and before the ditch. The interior of the camp was arranged around two main intersecting streets, with the headquarters and parade ground at the junction. Particular care was taken to provide adequate latrine trenches and a field hospital. Soldiers were quartered in rows of leather tents by unit and century. Twenty per cent of the army was always on guard duty. The remainder had numerous duties to keep it busy: foraging, water collection the proximity of water was essential for the route of the march and selection of the camp site , care of baggage animals, repair of equipment, cleaning duties, drill and administration.
Sleeping and meals breakfast and dinner were at set times, and the regular routine of morning parade was maintained, when the daily watchword and duties were given. Meals and entertainment The main meal was taken in the evening, the only time when ordinary soldiers had free time. On campaign they carried rations for at least three days. However, soldiers such as sesquiplicarii and duplicarii, those on pay-and-a-half and double pay, could afford to supplement their diet with good wine, beer and other foodstuffs, e.
These could be bought from 'vendors' lixae following the army, really paramilitary plunderers licensed to raid enemy territory for the supply of the army and their own profit. Meat might become available to ordinary soldiers as a result of animal sacrifices for religious purposes on the march. When passing through provincial territory whole field armies might be freely fed and entertained by ultra-wealthy individuals seeking imperial favour, but generally this function was imposed on unfortunate communities. Back at base, soldiers had access to bathhouses, where they could bathe, exercise, eat, drink and gamble.
Settlements grew up around forts, providing shops, taverns and brothels. Legionary fortresses might also have amphitheatres for sporting and dramatic displays. It was not unknown for the suppliers of these entertainments to follow the army on campaign. Hunting was a favourite pastime for many soldiers and was permitted on campaign, but mainly for mounted officers and cavalry who justified it as training.
Download Roman Legionary 58 Bc Ad 69
Camp followers Many women accompanied marching armies, including the common-law wives of soldiers Augustus banned soldiers from marrying and prostitutes following individual units from base. Soldiers fathered children on campaign, but whether they or their mothers were accommodated in the camp is uncertain. Annexes built on to temporary camps could have been for their protection. In the 3rd century AD legionaries often rebelled when their families were put in danger.
The number of women, children, lixae and servants following field armies normally exceeded the number of soldiers. Striking camp In the early morning, camp was struck as quickly and in as orderly a way as it had been constucted. The first trumpet call signalled the striking of 45 the tents; the second to ready the pack animals and destroy the camp; the third to fall into marching ranks.
The troops were then asked three times by the commander's herald if they were ready for war? Three times they replied 'We are ready! Such was the basic formation adopted in most battles e. Mons Graupius and is essentially that which Germanicus' marching column could have wheeled into at Idistaviso in AD 16 Tacitus, Annals, 2. Multiple lines and reserves were usual in Roman battles.
Caesar's regular use of the triplex acies triple line , a formation of cohorts Caesar, Civil War, 1. The first line of cohorts engaged the enemy while the second line would reinforce or replace it if able ; the third line could be used to build a camp, carry out flanking manoeuvres, reinforce the wings of the army or even split to form a fourth battle line. We have evidence of Roman armies deploying in one, two, three, and occasionally in four battle lines. There is even a possibility of six lines if the six centuries of a cohort formed up one behind the other. Only when a cohort was isolated or operating alone as a vexillatio combat detachment , might the centuries have formed into a number of lines and the cohort become a legion in miniature.
The depth of lines could be three, four, six, eight, ten or more ranks according to the circumstances, the effective strength of an army and its units and the experience of its men. In very close order the Roman Army probably fought in files, perhaps comprised of contubernia, but we have no explicit information about this.
When in 'open' order the legionaries formed a kind of chessboard formation. This seems to have been the regular fighting order of the centuries because they did not rely on weight of formation to break through the enemy. Polybius indicates that each legionary occupied a space 1.
Roman Legionary 58 BC-AD 69
The staggered formation and depth was necessary so that the pilum could be drawn back without injuring the man behind. Such staggered ranks are evident from representational evidence, for example the relief from the legionary principia at Mainz. Legionaries could adopt even looser formations appropriate to the enemy and terrain. Pompey's veteran legions fought in a particularly fluid open order after many years of fighting in Spain Caesar, Civil War, 1. Roman soldiers preferred to fight on open terrain, preferably dry and level, or on the crest of a slope because the enemy would have to advance up it and because it would offer momentum to charges Caesar, Gallic War, 1.
They did not like their formations to be too constricted by topography and preferred to have room in which to manoeuvre Caesar, Spanish War, If necessary, or if simply compelled, they would fight on narrower fronts, and deal with obstructions to the battle line, varying from trees to buildings as necessary, either reforming once around them or accepting that order would be lost Tacitus, Annals, 2.
Non-continuous battle lines Roman battle lines were not continuous. Gaps in the line were essential for the cohesion and manoeuvrability of its component units. This is clear from the manipular legion. For example, at the Trebbia the Roman light troops retired through the gaps in the lines of the heavy infantry, and there is no suggestion that the lines closed up once they had passed and the battle proper began Polybius, 3.
Caesar indicates the existence of gaps in the line for the cohortal legion, when he states that two cohorts formed up with a small gap between them. The implication is not that small gaps were the norm, but that this gap was smaller than usual because the legionaries were unsure of British tactics Caesar, Gallic War, 5. The sallies made by individual cohorts from a 'circular' orbis formation, suggests that there were gaps for the sake of cohesion even in such a defensive formation; the soldiers were aware that if they became a disorganised mass all would quickly be lost Caesar, Gallic War, 5.
The ready movement of officers through the battle lines also illustrates the existence of gaps e. The accounts of Polybius and Livy suggest that the gaps between the maniples were equal to the width of a maniple, to facilitate the rapid changing of the lines Livy, 8. Gaps equalling the frontage of a cohort seem too large, but might account for the rapid reinforcement or replacement of the first battle line by the third line as happened at Pharsalus Caesar, Civil War, 3. We should also recall that gaps were present within the cohort itself those between the centuries.
Worries about the potential problems of gaps in the line, namely that the enemy might 'pour through them', are negated when it is remembered that if an enemy army was to keep cohesion and not turn into a mass, it would also have gaps between its units. In any case, light troops covered the gaps in the lines and would attempt to catch the enemy in crossfire Livy, Centurions, standard-bearers and optiones in battle Centurions and standard-bearers The centurion fought at the front, at the right of his century Polybius, 6.
He may have formed the extreme right of the first rank, but could actually have stood somewhat apart from the line and as a consequence be particularly exposed. It was not uncommon for all the centurions of a cohort to be killed in a single engagement, as occurred at the Sambre or second Cremona Caesar, Gallic War, 2. The usual position of the standard-bearers was in front of the battle line. For example, when Suetonius Paulinus assaulted the Isle of Anglesey in AD 60, the Roman soldiers initially faltered at the sight of the Druids and 47 wild women ranged before them but were spurred to action when the standard-bearers charged and led them forward Tacitus, Annals, Similarly, in a battle against Jugurtha, the legionaries of Metellus followed the standards Sallust.
Jugurtha, Caesar ordered his legionaries not to advance more than four feet in front of the standards in a static formation at Ruspina in 47 BC, showing that his standard-bearers were in the front rank Caesar, African War, Signiferi also led the soldiers when on the march Tacitus, Annals, 3. Thus if a column had to turn and form a line of battle the soldiers would follow the standards.
However, the existence of legionaries called antesignani those who fought in front of the standards indicates that signiferi were not always positioned at the front. Antesignani are usually identified as skirmishers who fought in front of the main battle line with light javelins and oval shields, but in some situations it is likely that standard-bearers were positioned behind the leading rank s of heavy infantry. Signiferi may have been withdrawn from the front because of their vulnerability, especially during prolonged battles, or in circumstances when the loss of standards was considered possible.
Leading the centuries in battle put standard-bearers in considerable danger, not least because they became a focus of attack for the enemy. Their casualty rates were as high as the centurions Caesar, Gallic War, 2. The loss of standards was a particular disgrace to the Romans, and their recovery was considered of critical importance.
Augustus considered the return in 20 BC of the standards lost by Crassus and Antony to the Parthians as a particular diplomatic triumph Res Gestae, A primary objective of Germanicus in AD was to recover the standards taken from Varus' army. He recaptured two eagles; the third was recovered in AD 41 Tacitus, Annals, 1.
On Otho's side was the First Adiutrix [Helper], which had never been in a battle before, but daring and eager for its first success. The First cut down the front ranks of the Twenty-First and captured their eagle. The shame of this so fired the Twenty-first that they charged the First, killed their legate, Orfidius Benignus, and captured many standards and vexilla [flags]. Denarius of Augustus. Hunterian Museum, University of Glasgow Victories could be measured not only by the number of casualties inflicted on the enemy but by the number of standards captured.
Sulpicius Galba wrote to Cicero following the victory over Antony at Forum Gallorum in 43 BC, 'two eagles and sixty standards have been carried back - all Antony's! It has been a splendid achievement' Cicero, Ad Familiaria, Much of the legionary's morale was bound up in the standard of his century, for it was the totem that contained the genius or spirit of his sub-unit, and gave him a focus for direction in battle.
Standards were objects of veneration, particularly the aquila eagle Tertullian, Apologeticus, His helmet is notable for its face mask. Landesmuseum, Mainz 49 eagle-bearers, were soldiers of influence, and it is no coincidence that it was to the senior signiferi that Germanicus leaked news of his advance on Xanten in AD 14, spurring the murder of the ringleaders of the legionary mutiny Tacitus, Annals, 1. Optiones During Caesar's battle against the Belgae, frightened legionaries at the rear of the battle line peeled away from his hard-pressed centuries to avoid missiles Caesar, Gallic War, 2.
However, enough legionaries remained to hold the line. The containment of such a potentially disastrous disintegration of the century from the back was probably the primary duty of the optio. Polybius' description of the manipular legion notes that the two optiones of the maniple were normally found in the rear rank 6. Doubtless their function was the same as the rear-rankers of the hoplite phalanx. Xenophon recommended that the best fighters be positioned at the front and rear of the files in order that the less experienced hoplites would be led by the former and shoved along by the latter Xenophon, Memorabilia, 3.
During the late Republic or early Empire the optio seems actually to have stood a little behind the century. In numerous funerary sculptures he is represented with a long staff tipped with a ball-end. We know from the late Roman military handbook written by the Emperor Maurice that officers were positioned behind the battle line and used their spear-butts to prod soldiers back into line during combat Maurice, Strategikon, This was surely the function of the optio's staff. Tesserarii officers of the watchword are also represented with this type of staff and their function in battle should be considered similar to that of the optiones.
Vegetius emphasises that the first thing a recruit learned was to march in step at various speeds and maintain ranks, and that this became habitual through continuous practice Epitome, 1. Although training and experience allowed legionaries to function in battle without orders see Caesar, Gallic War, 2. At Zama the Roman and Carthaginian infantry advanced on each other at a slow step; only when the two sides were within striking distance did the fore rank s of the Romans charge at the run Polybius, At the battle of Pharsalus, Caesar's army halted its advance on the Pompeians in order to gather its breath and redress its line Caesar, Civil War, 3.
There is no evidence for the legions using their trumpeters to sound marching tunes. The major function of the trumpeters was to sound and relay commands in battle Vegetius, Epitome, 2. Some commands may have signalled a particular marching pace or formation. We can imagine the centurion or signifer maintaining the necessary pace with the Latin equivalent of 'Left!
From depictions of the army on the march and soldiers in battle it seems that the leading leg was the left. The importance of experience in battle 50 Experience in battle was crucial. When attacked on the River Sambre in 57 BC Caesar states that his soldiers, by their training and experience in previous battles, knew best what to do in response and were able to devise their own commands. What is more, the legionaries working on the camp did not waste time in trying to locate their particular cohorts or centuries but formed up behind the nearest standard Caesar, Gallic War, 2. Appian's account of the legio Martia and other veteran legions fighting at Forum Gallorum is also instructive.
The legio Martia ordered the five cohorts of recruits accompanying it not to join in the fighting in case their inexperience caused confusion. Appian asserts that the experience of each veteran legionary 'made him his own commander' Appian, Civil Wars, 3. At the battle fought outside Bonn between the Batavian cohorts and the remainder of legio I Germanica in AD 69, despite being outnumbered, the combat experience and skill of the Batavians prevailed Tacitus, Histories, 4.
The war cry If time allowed before battle, the legions might draw lots for positions in the battle line Tacitus, Histories, 2. The general would ride up and down the lines exhorting the individual units, and battle would begin when he ordered the army to advance. The trumpeters cornicines and bucinatores would then sound the signal and the soldiers would follow the standards forward. The war cry was normally raised just before the pila were thrown and the legionaries charged Caesar, Gallic War, 7.
The war cry served to fortify the men delivering it and to frighten the enemy Josephus, Jewish War, 3. However, Appian explains that the opposing veteran legions at Forum Gallorum raised no war cry because they knew it would not terrify their experienced opponents Appian, Civil War, 3. The charge and collision Legionaries charged at close distance to the enemy. Caesar's description of the opening of the battle of Pharsalus is instructive: Between the two lines there was only as much space left as was necessary for the charge of each army.
But Pompey had previously ordered his men to await Caesar's attack without moving from their position, and to allow his line to fall into disorder. He also hoped that the pila would fall with less effect if the men were kept in their place than if they themselves discharged pila and charged. Moreover, by having double the distance to run Caesar's soldiers would be breathless and exhausted But when our soldiers, once the signal was given, had run forward with pila levelled and saw that the Pompeians were not advancing to meet them, profiting from the experience they had 51 gained in previous battles, they spontaneously checked their charge and halted about half-way, so that they would not approach the enemy with their energy wasted.
After a short time, they renewed their rapid charge and threw their pila and quickly drew their swords.
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Caesar, Civil War, 3. Only the legionaries in the front were close enough to the enemy to use their swords Polybius, Charging at the run with drawn swords, they sought to take advantage of the casualties caused by the pila and hack their way into the enemy formation before it regained order.
Each legionary attempted to collide with an opponent, ramming his shield boss into belly or groin and pushing him over, while stabbing with the sword. Tacitus describes the hand-to-hand fighting between the Othonians and Vitellians at the first battle of Cremona: They struggled at close quarters, pressing with the weight of their bodies behind their shields. They threw no pila but crashed swords and axes through helmets and armour The line of legionaries would exploit the gaps and cut their way deeper into the formation, hopefully causing the rear ranks to panic and peel away, resulting in the collapse of the formation.
The legionaries raised their shields and tucked their chins onto their chests to protect their faces and eyes not only from sword and spear blows but also from the danger of missiles. Thousands of catapult stones and bolts, sling bullets, arrows and a huge variety of spears and javelins were continuously flying through the air during battles. The prospect of imminent death or injury, as well as the noise of missiles cutting through the air and impacting, placed immense strain on the combatants, especially those in the rear ranks who were unable to fight, even to see what was happening at the front of the engaged line.
When attacked by the Nervii in 57 BC, almost all the centurions and signiferi of legio XII were killed and Caesar describes how some of the rear-rankers were 'abandoning the fight, retiring to avoid the missiles' Caesar, Gallic War, 2. While the front rank was colliding with the enemy, the rear ranks followed up quickly and in orderly fashion, the legionaries banging their weapons against the back of their shields and yelling support to the swordsmen Polybius, They offered missile support, throwing their pila into the ranks of the enemy, and men in the second and third rank would take the place of any front-rank legionaries who fell.
The presence of the rear ranks gave great moral support to the front-rank fighters, and acted as a physical and mental deterrent to the enemy pressing forward against the thin line of swordsmen. Though the actual hand-to-hand fighting was limited to the first rank, if close enough the second rank might use their pila like thrusting spears Plutarch, Antony, The rear-rank legionaries were not supposed to press forward against the backs of their comrades Polybius Those in front had either to kill or be killed, there being no retreat.
Those in the rear in either army pressed their comrades forwards leaving no intervening space between combatants. These individual units made rapid charges and fought the enemy hand-to-hand for a short time before withdrawing, drawing breath and resuming the fight at a longer range with missiles or charging again, perhaps adopting a different formation. Sulpicius Galba, in a letter to Cicero, describes the fighting in one sector between the Caesarian factions at Forum Gallorum in 43 BC, and indicates the temporary nature of successful advances.
Mounted on horseback. Galba had a superior view of the battlefield, but it made him a conspicuous target: When Antony's cavalry came in sight, neither the legio Martia nor the [two] praetorian cohorts could be held in check, and we began to follow their lead, being forced to do so, since we failed to keep them back. We drew up a line of twelve cohorts. Suddenly Antony brought his forces out of the village into line, and immediately charged.
At first the battle could not have been more fiercely fought than it was on either side: although our right wing, where I was positioned with eight cohorts of the legio Martia, had at the first onset put to flight Antony's legio XXXV, so that our wing advanced more than paces from its original position.
Consequently, when the enemy's cavalry were attempting to outflank our wing, I began to retreat and sent my light-armed troops to oppose the Moorish cavalry, to prevent them attacking our soldiers in the rear. Meantime I became aware that I was surrounded by Antony's troops and that Antony himself was some distance behind me. In a moment I galloped up to the legion of recruits which was coining from the camp, slinging my shield behind me. The Antonians were close upon me, and our men were eager to hurl their pila.
I was only saved by chance when my own men recognised me. Cicero, Ad familiares, Retiring to his own camp he was surprised by two veteran legions under Aulus Hirtius and heavily defeated and had lost two eagles. In this account of the second battle of Philippi 42 BC , between the forces of Brutus, assassin of Caesar, and 53 the reconciled armies of Octavian and Antony.
Appian describes the physical mechanics of such a defeat: There came a piercing shout [from the army of Antony and Octavian], the standards were raised on both sides, and the charge was violent and harsh. They had little need of volleys of arrows or stones or javelins The slaughter and groans were terrible.
The bodies of the fallen were carried back and others stepped into their places from the reserves. The generals riding about and visible everywhere, urged the soldiers on in their charges, exhorted the toilers to toil on, to endure yet greater pressure, and relieved those who were exhausted so that there was always fresh courage at the front. Finally the soldiers of Octavian [the army was actually commanded by Antony] pushed back the enemy's line as though they were turning around a very heavy machine.
The latter were driven back step by step, slowly at first and without loss of courage. Presently their ranks broke and they retreated more rapidly, and then the second and third lines in the rear [i. Richardson from Franzoni , tav. XIII larger enemy through superior tactics and morale, and highlights the terrible aftermath of combat: [The Batavi envoy approaching the camp at Bonn] said that they were not making war on the Romans, on whose behalf they had often fought, but that they were weary of their long and profitless service and longed for home and a life of peace.
If no one opposed them they would pass without doing any harm; but if armed resistance was offered, they would make a path with the sword. The legate hesitated but the soldiers pressed him to risk battle. He had 3, legionaries, some cohorts of Belgians which had been hastily raised, and a band of peasants and lixae, untrained but bold enough when they met actual danger.
They immediately burst out of the gates to surround the numerically inferior Batavi.
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But they being veterans in arms, formed up into columns [cuneos], with their ranks closed on every side, secure on front, flanks and rear, and they broke through the thin Roman line. When the Belgians gave way, the legionaries were driven back and in terror fled for the rampart and gates of the camp. Here were the greatest casualties, the ditches were heaped high with bodies and the Romans died not only by the sword and wounds, but as a result of the crush and many by their own weapons.
Tacitus, Histories, 4. Roman soldiers certainly sought to use speed and weight to topple their opponents, but normally on a one-to-one basis, taking advantage of the chaos caused to the enemy by a missile volley. The advance of the massed cuneos formation towards a single, narrow part of the line was unnerving, if not terrifying, for the limited number of soldiers having to meet its attack, especially if they were inexperienced.
It was also disconcerting for those watching from other parts of the line, who might worry what their chances of survival were if that section of the line was compromised. Bonn also illustrates that the real casualties in Roman battles were inflicted during the pursuit of broken troops, who, with their backs turned and often trying to rid themselves of cumbersome equipment, were unable to defend themselves.
My only complaint is the price. A bit high, in my opinion, but not to the point of irrationality. Trachta on Mar 07, I've recently become interested in the Roman Army of the early Imperial era; it probably has something to do with my picking up some figures and wanting to have more information on the Romans of that era and how to paint them properly. In this regard, Osprey's books have always been good for giving a thumb nail sketch of things with some excellent drawings to support gamers and modelers.
With this in mind, Roman Legionary fully meets the requirements, almost like a centurion would; up front and directly. Here one can get good background on what it was like as a legionnaire; what legions were like, the training, the punishment, their equipment, and how they fought and lived. Supporting the quick descriptions are pictures of different legionnaire artifacts and eight color prints showing legionnaires performing different functions. Rating wise this ones simple, a solid 4 stars. There's good information for gamers and modelers and it's quick and simple.
I'd love to have had a little more information or definition on the different legions, but that wasn't the focus of the book there is a nice table though that tells you the legions that were active for Augustus Caesar. Ueland on Aug 30, Great source for weapons, armour, tactics, and more! The color plates inside alone are worth the reason to buy this But it is also filled with great info and more!
By David R. Mizer on Oct 11, By Aurelio on Oct 31, Not a great purchase, looks and feels like a booklet Illustrations are few and content is very limited Not what I was expecting. By Dennis Latham on Nov 22, The book had great illustrations and was very informative on legion tactics and weapons. I was also amazed by how many times the legions fought each other and how the weapons and uniforms changed over the years.
I really enjoyed this book. By Jps on Nov 19, As other reviewers have mentioned, this is a good and up to date summary of the Roman legionary up to AD 69 and the accession of Vespasian. The book's structure is the standard one. First you have a short but interesting background piece on the establishment of the imperial legions by Augustus, with a nice table borrowed from Keppie the Making of the Roman Army, that traces the supposed origins of each of the legions.
This is followed by the now usual pieces on organization, size and command, enlistment, training, length of service, pay, leadership and morale, belief and belonging, sacramentum, decorations and punishments, dress and equipment, daily life on campaign and battle. The contents are much more focused on the legionary's morale and sense of belonging than what you could find in Osprey publications some 15 years ago with three sections leadership and morale, belief and belonging, sacramentum, decorations and punishments making up some 10 pages altogether.
This reflects Keegan's influence and a shift of emphasis on the rank and file's point of view and psychology rather than the traditional focus on the general or the army's organisation. It is, of course, perfectly apt for a little volume of the Warrior Series dealing with the "Roman Legionary", not the Roman Legion.
The section on equipment is also good with a nice description of the evolutions of swords the several types of so-called "gladius" , helmets and armour in particular. The emphasis put on the huge burden that the legionary had to carry around. It is not for nothing that the legionaries were called "Marius' Mules" after he reformed the army and cut down on baggage. As this book shows very well, this was still the case under the Julio-Claudians and continued well after them.
The section on battle also emphasizes the "human side" of combat, including the war cry to give yourself courage and demoralize the enemy and the importance that experience in battle could have when one side was mainly made up of veterans but not the other. Nice touch was to mention lulls during battle, because there are probably few activities as taxing as hand-to-hand fighting and such fighting probably could not last more than minutes before both sides got exhausted.
Another realistic element, which you also find in other Osprey publications on the Romans, is the mention of plundering and booty, which Roman legionaries indulged in just like any other warrior during Antiquity, the Middle Ages or well after. Finally, there are the superb plates from Angus McBride. Several are quite gorgeous, such as the legionary press gangs and the "warm welcome" which they receive from the population, or the conturbernium a mess tent of 8 on the march, suitably overburdened with all their equipment and followed by a couple of servants with pack mules.
My favourite of all, however, is that of centurion Marcus Caelius' last stand during the battle of the Teutoburg Forest. The grim determination that you can see on his face as he assaults the Cherusci warriors that are stabbing one of his men tells it all There are however two glitches that prevent this volume from being excellent. This is a pity because both glitches could have been easily avoided. One relates to the period covered by this volume. While there are in the text quite a few mentions and quotes from Caesar, there is almost nothing about his campaigns, presumably because they are covered in other Osprey volumes.
However, none of the plates show legionaries in the time of Caesar. The book itself starts after the victory of Octavius over Marc-Antony and Cleopatra, as the victor reorganizes the army and demobilizes more than half of the Civil War legions. Somehow, there is a bit of a disconnection between these contents, which mainly focus on the period after 31 BC, and this volume's title which is supposed to start in 58 BC. The second glitch has already been mentioned by a couple of other reviewers on Amazon. I was, just like them, very much surprised to find the author picking up Isaac's somewhat contentious view, first mentioned in , that the century, not the cohort, was the main tactical unit of the Roman legion.
This is explicitly contradicted by both Caesar and Tacitus, to mention just these two. While the second was perhaps a bit of an armchair general although even this is unfair because he did see some active service , Julius Caesar was certainly not. He could be somewhat expected to know what he was talking about and does not seem to have had any point to make when emphasizing the legion's cohorts rather than their centuries as the main tactical unit.
At a minimum, this somewhat controversial statement would have warranted a much more thorough discussion that simply mentioning that "the cohort could not function as a tactical unit because it had no commander or obvious standard of its own. Because of this, it is worth four stars, but not five By Stone Dog on Apr 20, Osprey Publishing has made a name for themselves by giving the reader a great deal of information in an enjoyable, well-illustrated and small package.
Most of the time they do it very well. Who was he? How did he become a legionary? How was he equipped? What did he eat, wear and how did he live? This is a good primer on the Roman army at the height of its power and strength when, often, the only worthy opponent was other Roman legions! Battle formations and tactics are covered well. Ross Cowan did a very good job of showing how Legionaries fought in battle - as opposed to in the movies. This volume is well illustrated with photos of memorials and statuary, showing how the Romans respresented themselves as well as photos of recovered artifacts showing the equipment they used that survived the centuries.
Color artwork and plates are excellent. This is a very good and informative short primer on the Roman soldier and I give it five stars for doing so many things well in such a short volume. By M Ziemann on Apr 09, Another well done book on a specific period of Roman legionary history. It is nice because they are able to concentrate only in this time frame. These boooks always have good text and is illustrated quite well.
(PDF) The Roman Army of the Principate, 27 BC - AD | Nic Fields - uhyvuqaxyw.ml
Good to use as a painting guide. I wish I had it when I was painting my Roman of this period. By Stuart Packard on Jul 21, By Bierhausser on Apr 17, By Thomas Jones on Jul 30, By Wesley T. Williams on Oct 27, Add a Book Review.