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Old October 27th, 2012, 06:47 AM   #1

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some questions on the running of the Roman army


recently finished Micheal Grant's book on the history of Rome and i just have a few questions on the Roman army.

1. its said that it was a volunteer army yet conscription was of course used a lot of the time, is it known exactly how men were chosen from each area, was a census kept of local population that they could be sure everyone contributed or was an average to be drawn at random from each area.

2. how standardized was their equipment really, i was talking once with a reenacter and he said that a lot of the time there would have been a lot of divergences in what each soldier carried making the uniform look of roman legions in most movies and documentary a bit of a myth.

3. did recruits mostly only come from italy or did they draw a lot from other territories as well, in which case would there not have been language difficulties?

4. can anyone give me the brake up of a legion, i know that each was divided into sections for easier control, sort of like how a modern army is broken down into division, regiment, company, platoon and squad.

5. i'm not sure on this part and may be misunderstood but was a legion disbanded after its original leader left as their loyalty was always more to him then to Rome itself.

6. can anyone give me an overview to their usual tactics in battle, i know they changed overtime along with the army but i am taking of when they were at their hight like under Trajan and Marcus Aurelius.
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Old October 27th, 2012, 07:08 AM   #2

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Don't have much time at the moment, but will answer a few of these for you briefly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by irishcrusader95 View Post
3. did recruits mostly only come from italy or did they draw a lot from other territories as well, in which case would there not have been language difficulties?
Recruits were drawn from all over the Empire. By the 2nd Century CE the most common recruiting grounds were the Balkans provinces (Pannonia, Moesia, Illyricum, Thrace), along with Gaul. To my knowledge not much evidence has been preserved concerning language difficulties or lack thereof, though Cassius Dio complained that the Pannonian legionaries in Rome in 193 CE could barely speak Latin.

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Originally Posted by irishcrusader95 View Post
4. can anyone give me the brake up of a legion, i know that each was divided into sections for easier control, sort of like how a modern army is broken down into division, regiment, company, platoon and squad.
At the time of the Empire's peak, every legion consisted of 10 cohorts. The first cohort (which consisted of middle-aged veterans) numbered 800 men. The other nine cohorts consisted of six centuries of 80 men each, each commanded by a centurion. An element of legionary cavalry was also attached, probably numbering a little over 100 men.

In the 3rd Century the cohorts may have been enlarged in size, and the cavalry element probably became more formidable. Past the Severan period legions operated in smaller units (vexillations) consisting of one or several cohorts; full legions were no longer used.

Quote:
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5. i'm not sure on this part and may be misunderstood but was a legion disbanded after its original leader left as their loyalty was always more to him then to Rome itself.
Many Repulican-era legions were created and financed by one man, but by the Imperial period this was not the case. That said the loyalty of a legion to its province and governor, rather than the emperor, was a cause of constant concern from the 3rd Century onwards.
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Old October 27th, 2012, 07:30 AM   #3

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my thanks for your rely
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Recruits were drawn from all over the Empire. By the 2nd Century CE the most common recruiting grounds were the Balkans provinces (Pannonia, Moesia, Illyricum, Thrace), along with Gaul. To my knowledge not much evidence has been preserved concerning language difficulties or lack thereof, though Cassius Dio complained that the Pannonian legionaries in Rome in 193 CE could barely speak Latin.
would most legions so that were formed be mostly made of men of the same ethnicity and was there much a change in its makeup and fighting style depending on where they came from, i remember reading that the legions along the borders with Parthia were more mobile employing horse archers and their own form of cataphracts.

Quote:
At the time of the Empire's peak, every legion consisted of 10 cohorts. The first cohort (which consisted of middle-aged veterans) numbered 800 men. The other nine cohorts consisted of six centuries of 80 men each, each commanded by a centurion. An element of legionary cavalry was also attached, probably numbering a little over 100 men.

In the 3rd Century the cohorts may have been enlarged in size, and the cavalry element probably became more formidable. Past the Severan period legions operated in smaller units (vexillations) consisting of one or several cohorts; full legions were no longer used.
did they make much use of archers and war machines such as the Balista or was there difference small compared to the main work being down by the rest of the army.

Quote:
Many Repulican-era legions were created and financed by one man, but by the Imperial period this was not the case. That said the loyalty of a legion to its province and governor, rather than the emperor, was a cause of constant concern from the 3rd Century onwards.
and could a legion be disbanded or its members spread among others if the senate/emperor feared for its loyalty. and on the topic of civil wars when they ended what became of the legions on the losing side, were they pardoned or exterminated?
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Old October 27th, 2012, 09:01 AM   #4

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Quote:
Originally Posted by irishcrusader95 View Post
recently finished Micheal Grant's book on the history of Rome and i just have a few questions on the Roman army.

1. its said that it was a volunteer army yet conscription was of course used a lot of the time, is it known exactly how men were chosen from each area, was a census kept of local population that they could be sure everyone contributed or was an average to be drawn at random from each area.

Yes, I've read on mobilization numbers for respective areas, some like: allies in Etruria 90,000 infantry, 10,000 cavalry, Romans 100,000 infantry, 6,000 cavalry, and so. I don't find the numbers in the internet but on monday I will be able to read the book where I found them.
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Old October 27th, 2012, 10:46 AM   #5

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Quote:
Originally Posted by irishcrusader95 View Post
2. how standardized was their equipment really, i was talking once with a reenacter and he said that a lot of the time there would have been a lot of divergences in what each soldier carried making the uniform look of roman legions in most movies and documentary a bit of a myth.
Depends what period you're looking at. I think that in Republican Roman armies (up until the 1st Century BC) there was a relatively wide divergence in equipment. Once the legions became professional, with the state supplying arms, that divergence would have decreased significantly. That's speaking of legionaries mind you; the auxilia forces would have continued with a wide variety of regional weapons, not standardized at all.
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Old October 27th, 2012, 02:02 PM   #6

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Quote:
Originally Posted by irishcrusader95 View Post
recently finished Micheal Grant's book on the history of Rome and i just have a few questions on the Roman army.

3. did recruits mostly only come from italy or did they draw a lot from other territories as well, in which case would there not have been language difficulties?

...

4. can anyone give me the brake up of a legion, i know that each was divided into sections for easier control, sort of like how a modern army is broken down into division, regiment, company, platoon and squad.

...

6. can anyone give me an overview to their usual tactics in battle, i know they changed overtime along with the army but i am taking of when they were at their hight like under Trajan and Marcus Aurelius.
*3. Until the 1st century AC, the majority of soldiers were Italians. The recruitment of foreign troops began with the Punic wars, specially during the second one, when large non-Roman armies were fielded elsewhere, Iberian and Numidians were the most remarkable. They could fight as mercenaries, but they were usually "allieds". These foreign troops were disbanded when conflicts finished.

By the late Republic, a growing number of foreign auxilliars were recruited, the Germanic cavalry of Caesar for example. They became an integral part of the late Republican army. In regard to legionnaries, in those days, the most important area of recruitment in Italy were old Samnite territories and Cisalpine Gaul. During the Civil Wars, native citizen legions were movilized in Hispania.

During the 1st century AD, Italians declined into the army, being more and more restricted to high positions. During the 2nd century AC, the Hispanic legionnaries were the most numerous together with Gauls, with Italians on high ranks. However, soon the army began to recruit the most men in the frontiers that they were defending. From the 3rd to 5th centuries the most important area of legionnary recruitment were the Balkans.

When the Empire began and the army was professionalized, the auxiliars were officialy integrated in the structure of the army. They can't be considered foreign, but neither were them citizens. Romans used to integrate invading and defeated enemies into their ranks, for example, the Sarmatians that Adrian enlisted and were then sent to Britain. Because they got the citizen after serving, this was the most useful tool of romanization.

During the Late Empire, the differences among citizen legionnaries and non citizen auxilliars dissapeared. A new group of troups rose: the Foederati. Barbarian peoples, not always foreign to the Empire, that had to fight for the Empire, in spite of not being directly commanded by Roman officials.


---------------------------------------------------


*4. There were four phases on the Legion development:

A. The Servian Legion, from the 6th to late 4th century: is badly known, the Legion was not an unit, but the entire army of Rome. It was divided in five different ranks, corresponding to social classes. Most of infantrymen were hoplites, with support of light infantry and cavalrymen. High class men fought on horse.

B. The Manipular Legion: this cover from late 4th century or early 3th century to around 100 BC. The legion was based on the Maniple. A single maniple was 120 men strong, combining two 60 men centuriae. The centuria stopped being the basic unit of the army, the maniple was. A general, in order to maneuver, would take one, two or three maniples, not centuriae.

The army deployed in three lines, the famous "Triplex Acies": the first line were the Hastati, men among 20-25 years old, equiped with shield, sword, two javelins and little armour. The second were the Principes, men among 25-35 years old, equiped in the same way than Hastati but with more armour. The third line were the Triarii, the veterans, who fought with spears instead of swords. The lines had ten maniples each, but the Triarii maniples were 60 men strong instead of 120, something that has lead to some authors to speculate if this distribution was correct. The Triarii acted as reserve, while Hastati and Principes alternated the frontline position.

1200 men fought as velites, with shield and javelins only. They were the poorer men and also the younger.

The cavalry was 300 men strong, but their most important contingents fought in Alae, independent of Legion. They were deployed in 10 turmae of 30 cavalrymen.

There you have: Legion=4500, Maniple=120, Centuria=60, Contubernium=6 men.



C1. The "Marian Legion": this was the dominant legion from 100 BC to 300 AC. The Legion was reorganized in the next way: first, the men equipment was standarized in the way that Principes fought. So the new Legion had 4800 infantrymen plus 120 cavalrymen, 4920 men in total.

The Centuria was increased to 80 men and got tactical importance, the Maniples were effectively disbanded though they remained in a honorific way. Marius, or whoever, took one maniple from each line and combined them: 160+160+160 = 480 men. The Centurions were two, two for each centuria of the old maniples, for example 1st Centurion of the Hastati and 2nd Centurion of the Hastati, though as I said the maniple was not used anymore.

With this men, he formed the Cohort, the most important tactical unit. A robust and flexible unit. The Legion had now 10 Cohorts, each 6 centuria strong, deployed in Triplex Acies: 4 cohorts in front, 3 in second, 3 in third line, usually. Each centuria was usually deployed 8 men deep, 10 in front.


In this case you have: Legion=4920, Cohort=480, Maniple=160 (honorific), Centuria=80, Contubernium= 8 men.

The basic chain of command was: Legatus, commander of the Legion; Centurio, commander of the centuriae; Decanus, commander of the contubernium. There were also a lot of intermediate ranks, but the most important one was the Centurio. There were six centurions on each cohort, by order of precedence: hastatus posterior, hastatus prior, princeps posterior, princeps prior, pilus posterior and pilus prior. The pilus prior was the centurio in charge of the Cohort. The pilus prior of the first centuria of the first cohort was called Primus Pilus, and hade precedence over the rest.



C2. The Imperial Legion: they fought in the same way that Marian Legion, with some differences. In order to put a bigger pressure on the right flank, the most important one for the Romans, the first Cohort, that on the front, right side, was nearly doubled. So it had 800 men in 5 centuria only, 160 men each centuria, a formidable shock unit. Most experienced troops were usually deployed on the flanks and the rear of each unit.

So the Imperial Legion had 5240 men.

Probably the Triple Aciex was replaced by a simple two lines deployment. But this is uncertain, because regarding tactical issues historians know more on the army of the Late Republic than on Principate army.


It looked like this:

Click the image to open in full size.




D. The late Imperial Legion: the legion was reduced to 1000 men, but its internal structure is poorly known. We know that Cohorts still existed.



-------------------------------------------


On the way that the army fought during the 2nd century.

Consider what I told before on Imperial Legion. Then some things should be cleared: Romans made an extensive use of auxilliars, usually they were as much as legionnaries on the battlefield.

Auxilliars were organized in Cohorts: infantry cohorts were quingenarias of 480 men in six centuriae, or miliarias of 800 men in 10 centuriae. Auxilliar cavalry was organized in Allae: quingenaria of 512 men, or miliaria of 768 men.

Romans also introduced mixed units of infantry and cavalry, they were the Cohorts Equitatae. If this cohort was quingenaria, it deployed 480 infantrymen and 120 cavalrymen. If the cohort was miliaria, 800 infantrymen and 240 cavalrymen.

These auxiliaries were as varied as the Empire: Syrian archers, Germanic spearmen, Numidian cavalrymen... ad infinitum.

The usual way of fighting was deploying the legions backed and flanked by auxilliars, the best known deployment is that of Arrian agains the Alans in Asia Minor: Arrian’s Array Against the Alans

Last edited by Frank81; October 27th, 2012 at 02:10 PM.
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Old October 27th, 2012, 02:47 PM   #7

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Quote:
Originally Posted by irishcrusader95 View Post
2. how standardized was their equipment really, i was talking once with a reenacter and he said that a lot of the time there would have been a lot of divergences in what each soldier carried making the uniform look of roman legions in most movies and documentary a bit of a myth.
Depending on the period. Roman soldier had to provide his own equipment. It might have not been as diverse as one might think as culture, customs and moda applied. Types of weapons and dress were probably highly standard at last originally when legions were recruited mostly from Italy. Later equipment was produced in large workshops and every soldier was provided with a kit. He then had to pay for it back from his salary. So he was basically still providing his equipment but it must have been fairly standardised.

Rome of course was wast at its height and when local legions begun to be raised in provinces their equipment would to some degree reflect local customs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by irishcrusader95 View Post
3. did recruits mostly only come from italy or did they draw a lot from other territories as well, in which case would there not have been language difficulties?
Soldiers recruited from non Latin regions were serving in auxiliary units under their own leaders. Commonly there was 1:1 ration between Roman and auxiliary forces. Later as provinces were Romanised men were recruited in to Roman units.

Quote:
Originally Posted by irishcrusader95 View Post
5. i'm not sure on this part and may be misunderstood but was a legion disbanded after its original leader left as their loyalty was always more to him then to Rome itself.
No. Legions had their numbers and were more or less permanent. Their number increased steadily until later in empire when Roman army abandoned legionary system. Legion could be destroyed however.

Quote:
Originally Posted by irishcrusader95 View Post
6. can anyone give me an overview to their usual tactics in battle, i know they changed overtime along with the army but i am taking of when they were at their hight like under Trajan and Marcus Aurelius.
Generally infantry would have been arranged in several lines. It would be cowered by cavalry on the wings and screened by light infantry -skirmishers in the front. Those would start battle by harassing enemy line with missiles. Main line would advance in closed ranks while skirmishers would retreat to the sides or back. They would release their pilums (there is actually dispute how they did it, some argue that back ranks would not be able to throw them and they would perhaps pass their pilums to the soldiers in the front ranks). Missiles could be exchanged for a while (with enemy projectiles been picked and reused if possible) then soldiers would engage in close fighting. Cavalry would charge on the wings and if it would manage to drove enemy away (usually composed of enemy cavalry) it would try to circle enemy line and attack it from the side or back.

But that is VERY generalised description.
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Old October 27th, 2012, 03:46 PM   #8

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awesome posts there Frank81 and Arras, especially thanks for that link Frank which will perhaps provide all i'll ever need to know on the roman army.
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No. Legions had their numbers and were more or less permanent. Their number increased steadily until later in empire when Roman army abandoned legionary system. Legion could be destroyed however.
but wasnt Caesar after the conquest of Gaul ordered to disband his legions and return to rome. or did that just mean not disband in the real sense but just give up control of them?
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Old October 27th, 2012, 04:42 PM   #9

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I forgot to say: it is important to know that previously to Social War, on early 1st century, there were Roman Legions and Italic Allied Legions, roughly similar to those of Rome, but they were different on the field, as their cavalry. Each Roman legion fought with an Italic one beside. Italic people had to suffer a lot during Roman wars, but they couldn't enjoy the same privileges that Romans had. This led to a devastating war, the so called Socii War, where Italics put Rome on the verge of collapse. But Rome finally acepted to grant Italics the same rights that Romans had, something that demovilized most of them. After the war, there were no more Roman and Italic legions, but only Roman legions.

What I said on foreign troops during the Republican age is in regard to non-Italic peoples.

--------------


Republican legions were effectivelly demovilized after campaigns. It was Augustus the first that made them permanent... might some Caesar's legions continued, but I should check.

Last edited by Frank81; October 27th, 2012 at 06:38 PM.
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Old October 27th, 2012, 06:50 PM   #10

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I forgot to mention that the picture I posted before is a general overview of the legion, NOT a combat formation.
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