Research- Roman Military

Roman Armour was something I had previously did some research into but with the inspiration from Ryan and his knowledge, I wanted to look into the military structure more.

The Structure and Tactics of the Legion.

The Roman military was highly organised and had a clear cut system of rank, with a number of different divisions of the legion (based units that made up the force). There were about 30 legions in total- each numbered, but these values often repeated themselves. For example, at one point, there were five legions numbers III. This is partly because if a legion was destroyed, the previous number could not be recycled of used to class it.

Each legion in total had around 5,500 men- these legions were then split further into sub units known as Cohorts. These cohorts were then divided into six centuries- each having around 80 men. Each century was commanded by a centurion and also had a tesserarius, a signifer, a cornicen, and an optio. Tesserarius were in charge of guard duty, the signifier was the standard-bearer (keeping track of expenses and pay), the cornicen was the horn blower and the optio acted as the back-up if the centurion fell. The legions also had around 120 calvary men.

The first cohort in the army, however, was different. It was very specialist- with 800 men and only five centuries. These men were mainly blacksmiths or builders. The centurion of the first cohort’s first century was the primus pilus , or “first spear,” and was the highest ranking centurion in the legion.

Furthermore, each legion had an aquifer and several ranking officers, along side legatus officers too. The aquilifer carried the eagle, the standard for the legion. There was a great superstition that if the eagle was lost- it would effect the rest of the army. The legion also carried other standards- for example- the imago (image of the emperor), the legionary symbol and flags known as the vexilla. (Cowan and Hook, 2007).

The basis of the tactics for this infantry was that having an order would allow a more effective fight. The Romans realised the they could not always rely on this tactic- instead they turned to strategy. Each situation was handled so to take everything into circumstance- the terrain, type and strength of opponents and the strength of the Roman troops.

The Default formation of the infantry.

Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 13.35.03

(Anon, 2016).

Formation while in transit, below.

Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 13.35.23

(Anon, 2016).

Influential Military Leaders. 

Julius Caesar– although I had mentioned Caesar before in research, I wanted to do so again to show his military tactics, particularly those used in the Conquest of Gaul. Caesar left Rome with his legions in 58 BCE, heading for Gaul. He defeated the tribes as he had done in Spain and when Germanic tribes threatened to invade, his built a bridge over the River Rhine. He marched them over, dismantling the bridge as they marched across. The Germans took the hint, choosing not to invade. After this he defeated the tribes of the North twice and invaded Britain. At the battle of Alesia in 52 BCE, Caesar defeated the Gallic leader Vercingetorix and completed the battle for Gaul. Caesar’s tactics worked in a way based on personal favour. He was well liked by his troops giving them wealthy shares of whatever they plundered. (Mark et al., 2016).

Marcus Licinius Crassus– The mentor of the young Julius Caesar, Crassus was regarded as one of the wealthiest men in Roman history, his greed ultimately leading to his death. Crassus was never much of a military leader- his main concerns being political. His campaign to overcome Pompey’s rule was full of mistakes- starting with the death of his own son in an attack. Crassus was said to have been killed by having molten gold poured down his throat, as a symbol of his lust for wealth. (Cartwright et al., 2016).


A bust of Crassus.(, 2016).

Pompey-Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus was a military leader during the fall of the Roman Republic. He is regarded by historians as one of the greatest military losers, over exaggerating what he achieved in his earlier career and what he was actually responsible for. Pompey’s downfall shortly came after a political marriage with the then Consul Julius Caesaur. He was weak and was soon attacked by  Publius Clodius Pulcher in 57/58 BCE. After various attempts to bring peace, Pulcher broke all ties of a political marriage in 54BCE. After building political tension, a civil war broke out in 49 BCE. Pompey then fled to Egypt, but was stabbed to death as he disembarked at Alexandria on the 28th September 48 BCE.


Bust of Pompey the Great. (Lloyd et al., 2016)

Scipio-Scipio Africanus was a member of a patrician Roman. Many of his previous family members (father, grandfather and great grandfather) had been consuls. Scipio took up the mantle of military leadership and proved himself to be a gifted general and tactician. In 202 B.C., Scipio defeated Hannibal in the Battle of Zama and ended the Second Punic War. He had the Roman soldiers blast horns which scared the Carthaginian elephants, causing them to run over Hannibals troops. (, 2016).


Bust of Scipio. (, 2016).


Cowan, R. and Hook, A. (2007). Roman battle tactics, 109 BC-AD 313. Oxford: Osprey.

Anon, (2016). [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Mar. 2016].

Mark, J., Mark, J., Mark, J., Mark, J., Sanderson, E., Cartwright, M., Wasson, D., Wasson, D., Mark, J. and Mark, J. (2016). Julius Caesar. [online] Ancient History Encyclopedia. Available at: [Accessed 19 Mar. 2016].

Cartwright, M., Cartwright, M., Lloyd, J. and Wasson, D. (2016). Marcus Licinius Crassus. [online] Ancient History Encyclopedia. Available at: [Accessed 19 Mar. 2016].

Lloyd, J., Lloyd, J., Wasson, D., Sanderson, E., Cartwright, M., Irving, J., Wasson, D., Cartwright, M., Wasson, D. and Wasson, D. (2016). Pompey. [online] Ancient History Encyclopedia. Available at: [Accessed 5 May 2016]. (2016). Armstrong Economics. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 May 2016]. (2016). Armstrong Economics. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 May 2016]. (2016). [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 May 2016].


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