Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Roman Legion

Marching from their fortified camps, the Roman Army Legions battled the enemies of the Empire for more than six centuries.

The basic fighting unit of the Roman Army, the legion held from 5000 to 6000 legionnaires. The standing army normally had between 28 and 33 legions for a strength of around 150,000 legionnaires and up to an additional 300,000 auxiliary troops. At its greatest height the entire Roman Army numbered over half a million soldiers. 
In addition to fighting, Legionnaires were expected to assist in the construction of both temporary daily fortified camps and more permanent govenrment projects such as roads, walls and aqueducts.  Besides these traditional infantry soldiers, every legion included trained specialists, such as surgeons, engineers, surveyors, and craftsmen (blacksmiths, carpenters, farriers and the like). Due to their specialized duties these men were exempt from normal camp and hard labor duties.

Centurions(leader of a century-eighty legionnaires) were the officers that ran the fighting machine that was the legion. Each legion would have sixty of these indispensable officers.

Every legion was numbered and given a name such as Legion XIII-Gemini.

The Aquilifer carried the legions Eagle-the sacred symbol of the Roman Legion.

The Gladius Hispaniensis, or Sword of Spain, was the true killing weapon of the soldier. Each legionnaire was brutally trained to ruthlessly plunge the 60cm blade into the vitals of the enemies of Rome.

The pilum was a heavy throwing javelin that Roman soldiers would throw into the enemy at point blank range. Specially designed to bend upon impact, the pilum could not be reused against the Romans by an enemy.

Every legion was equipped with an artillery unit armed with catapults and the deadly Scorpion ballista. The latter could kill individual targets at ranges up to 300m.

The legionnaires of the Roman Legions were the world's first true professional soldiers, each serving twenty years before retirement. While the legions remained strong the Empire was secure.

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