Roman Legions



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Roman Legions
For law and language to extend throughout the Roman Empire, control first had to be maintained. Order and rule had to be unequivocally established and the responsibility for this fell to the legions of Rome.
The legion was a new type of military designed by the Romans and far superior to the previous, more rigid military formations of other civilized people. A legion consisted of 3,000 to 5,000 fighting men, divided into centuries because their number was usually about 100. A leader who was called a centurion headed each century.
Regular troops or legionnaires were at first recruited from the most Romanized provinces, as well as from Roman citizen-farmers. They served for twenty years and received regular pay and a bonus upon retirement. Auxiliary troops were drawn from the less Romanized provinces, served for the first twenty-five years and were given Roman citizenship upon retirement.
Strength of body and character made Romans good soldiers. Strict discipline enabled them to march for days, subsisting on little food and water, and trained them to obey orders to the death without thought of retreat or surrender.
A regular soldier was recruited early. A father stressed the qualities of a good soldier to his son as he trained him for the obligations of citizenship and usually for the management of the farm, for the soldiers of the early republic were often drawn from the farming communities. Every early Republican Roman male was required to serve in the army. Carrying a sixty-pound pack, providing his own equipment of helmet, shield, sword, and iron-tipped javelin, he brought also a commitment of unquestioning loyalty to his service.
A soldier could be punished severely if he lost his equipment in battle, breached any morality such as lying or stealing, or boasted of deeds performed in battle. He knew that he brought honor to his family when he was rewarded for his honorable service, and so a soldier tried never to bring disgrace to example fell asleep during guard duty would be beaten or stoned by his fellow soldiers. Beyond that, he would be so disgraced that he could never return home. The high standard of the Roman regular soldier was matched by that of capable generals, and so the Romans soon became the world’s best fighting force.
The legionnaires were well bathed, well-fed, well trained, and when not fighting, were employed to build roads, camps, aqueducts, and fortifications. All individual Roman soldiers maintained a high sense of pride, In particular for their legionary service records.
Because of their duties other than fighting, the legions served as agents spreading the Roman culture and language to the outlying provinces from their garrisons.
If the legion had a weakness, it might have been said to be water. Romans were superb fighters, but poor sailors. Though they improved the design of fighting ships by adding boarding bridges, enabling them to board an enemy ship and fight hand-to-hand on its decks, many never made it across the bridges. More Roman soldiers drowned during the First Punic War than were killed in any naval war.
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  1. What was a centurion? A legion?



  1. How did auxiliary troops differ from the regular troops? What were the qualifications for and benefits of being a legionnaire?



  1. What three main characteristics was a regular member of the legion expected to have?



  1. How was soldiering related to regular roman family life?


  1. What did each soldier have to provide?



  1. For what offenses could a legionnaire be punished? What must a legionnaire always uphold?



  1. What three “wells” applied to how a legionnaire was always treated?



  1. What other duties did a Roman soldier have when he was not fighting?


  1. What was the one weakness of the Roman military? How did the Romans try to remedy this?


  1. From your text reading, recall the Roman soldier who became emperor after his expeditionary force to a barbarian country, Gaul. Who was this great general who became the target for conspirators on the Ides of March?


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