Soldiers of the Past: Roman Legionaries

Age: Iron Age-Dark Ages
Loyalty: Roman Kingdom/Roman Republic/Roman Empire

-Conscripted and regimented
-Supported by Auxiliary skirmishers
-Testudo formation
-Better equipped than almost all enemy infantry

-Weak to cavalry and archers
-Vulnerable to being flanked
-Too thinly spread over Empire
-Punishing regime

Soldiers of the Past: Roman Legionaries

As the Roman Empire emerged from the Italian Peninsula, with it came the best fighting force the ancient world had ever seen. Regimented and expertly trained, they swept away the Etruscans and Greeks and then continued into central Europe and North Africa. Even the great Empires of Carthage and Egypt were defeated by the Romans as were the majority of the Gauls and Celts. The greatest aspects of the legionaries were their flexibility and dedication to the job. Never before had the world seen such a well-trained army that was capable of rapid assaults, long pitched battles and sieges. In the main, the barbarian hordes of Europe were no match for the legionaries.The Roman Army was conscripted so a standing army was always available to fight. The logistics of the army were managed by the efficient Roman communication and transport systems. Driven by a harsh training regime, each soldier was tested to the limits but they were handsomely rewarded upon retirement. Just like the Roman civilisation as a whole, the legionaries of the Roman war machine were remarkable and a true one-off.

Soldiers of the Past: Roman Legionaries

Most famous battle:
Far too many to mention but the Battle of Pharsalus pitched over 60,000 legionnaires against each other in Civil War. The battle was in Greece and fought between the great rivals Pompey and Caesar. Despite being outnumbered, Caesar’s forces recorded a great victory and his power grew greatly, effectively ending the Republic and beginning the Empire.


Soldiers of the Past: Roman Legionaries

Soldiers of the Past: Roman Legionaries


Soldiers of the Past: Roman Legionaries
Attribution Luis García

lorica segmentata Iron strips (early)
Chain mail (late)
Rectangle Scutum shield (early)
Round Parma shield (late)
Cassis/coolus/montefortino helmet

Soldiers of the Past: Roman Legionaries

Soldiers of the Past: Roman Legionaries

Main image is Flickr Creative Commons Licence. Courtesy of yeowatzup

For more on the legionaries of the Empire, check out our huge feature on the Roman war machine in issue 10 of History of War

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For more on soldiers of the past click here