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As part of the Marian reforms, the legions' internal organization was standardized. Each legion was divided into cohorts. Prior to this, cohorts had been temporary administrative units or tactical task forces of several maniples, even more transitory than the legions themselves.
Now the cohorts were ten permanent units, composed of 6 centuries and in the case of the first cohort 12 centuries each led by a centurion assisted by an optio.
The cohorts came to form the basic tactical unit of the legions. Ranking within the legion was based on length of service, with the senior Centurion commanding the first century of the first cohort; he was called the primus pilus First File , and reported directly to the superior officers legates and tribuni.
All career soldiers could be promoted to the higher ranks in recognition of exceptional acts of bravery or valour. A newly promoted junior Centurion would be assigned to the sixth century of the tenth cohort and slowly progressed through the ranks from there.
Every legion had a large baggage train which included mules 1 mule for every 8 legionaries only for the soldiers' equipment. To make this easier, he issued each legionary a cross stick to carry their loads on their shoulders.
The soldiers were nicknamed Marius' Mules because of the amount of gear they had to carry themselves. This arrangement allowed for the possibility for the supply train to become temporarily detached from the main body of the legion, thus greatly increasing the army's speed when needed.
A typical legion of this period had 5, legionaries as well as a large number of camp followers, servants and slaves.
Legions could contain as many as 6, fighting men when including the auxiliaries, although much later in Roman history the number was reduced to 1, to allow for greater mobility.
Numbers would also vary depending on casualties suffered during a campaign; Julius Caesar 's legions during his campaign in Gaul often only had around 3, men.
Tactics were not very different from the past, but their effectiveness was largely improved because of the professional training of the soldiers.
A re-enactor, showing a Roman miles , 2nd century. After the Marian reforms, and throughout the history of Rome's Late Republic, the legions played an important political role.
By the 1st century BC the threat of the legions under a demagogue was recognized. Governors were not allowed to leave their provinces with their legions.
When Julius Caesar broke this rule, leaving his province of Gaul and crossing the Rubicon into Italy, he precipitated a constitutional crisis.
This crisis and the civil wars which followed brought an end to the Republic and led to the foundation of the Empire under Augustus in 27 BC. The Roman empire under Hadrian ruled —38 , showing the legions deployed in Generals, during the recent Republican civil wars, had formed their own legions and numbered them as they wished.
During this time, there was a high incidence of Gemina twin legions, where two legions were consolidated into a single organization and was later made official and put under a legatus and six duces.
At the end of the civil war against Mark Antony , Augustus was left with around fifty legions, with several double counts multiple Legio Xs for instance.
For political and economic reasons, Augustus reduced the number of legions to 28 which diminished to 25 after the Battle of Teutoburg Forest , in which 3 legions were completely destroyed by the Germanics.
Beside streamlining the army Augustus also regulated the soldiers' pay. At the same time, he greatly increased the number of auxiliaries to the point where they were equal in number to the legionaries.
He also created the Praetorian Guard along with a permanent navy where served the liberti , or freed slaves. Augustus' military policies proved sound and cost effective, and were generally followed by his successors.
These emperors would carefully add new legions, as circumstances required or permitted, until the strength of the standing army stood at around 30 legions hence the wry remark of the philosopher Favorinus that It is ill arguing with the master of 30 legions.
With each legion having 5, legionaries usually supported by an equal number of auxiliary troops, the total force available to a legion commander during the Pax Romana probably ranged from 11, downwards, with the more prestigious legions and those stationed on hostile borders or in restive provinces tending to have more auxiliaries.
At the same time, he greatly increased the number of auxiliaries to the point where they were equal in number to the legionaries. He also created the Praetorian Guard along with a permanent navy where served the liberti , or freed slaves.
The legions also became permanent at this time, and not recruited for particular campaigns. They were also allocated to static bases with permanent castra legionaria legionary fortresses.
Augustus' military policies proved sound and cost effective, and were generally followed by his successors. These emperors would carefully add new legions, as circumstances required or permitted, until the strength of the standing army stood at around 30 legions hence the wry remark of the philosopher Favorinus that It is ill arguing with the master of 30 legions.
With each legion having 5, legionaries usually supported by an equal number of auxiliary troops according to Tacitus , the total force available to a legion commander during the Pax Romana probably ranged from 11, downwards, with the more prestigious legions and those stationed on hostile borders or in restive provinces tending to have more auxiliaries.
Some legions may have even been reinforced at times with units making the associated force near 15,—16, or about the size of a modern division.
Throughout the imperial era, the legions played an important political role. Their actions could secure the empire for a usurper or take it away.
For example, the defeat of Vitellius in the Year of the Four Emperors was decided when the Danubian legions chose to support Vespasian.
In the empire, the legion was standardized, with symbols and an individual history where men were proud to serve. The legion was commanded by a legatus or legate.
Aged around thirty, he would usually be a senator on a three-year appointment. Immediately subordinate to the legate would be six elected military tribunes — five would be staff officers and the remaining one would be a noble heading for the Senate originally this tribune commanded the legion.
There would also be a group of officers for the medical staff, the engineers, record-keepers, the praefectus castrorum commander of the camp and other specialists such as priests and musicians.
There is no evidence to suggest that legions changed in form before the Tetrarchy , although there is evidence that they were smaller than the paper strengths usually quoted.
The final form of the legion originated with the elite legiones palatinae created by Diocletian and the Tetrarchs.
These were infantry units of around 1, men rather than the 5,, including cavalry, of the old Legions. The earliest legiones palatinae were the Lanciarii , Joviani , Herculiani and Divitenses.
The 4th century saw a very large number of new, small legions created, a process which began under Constantine II. In addition to the elite palatini , other legions called comitatenses and pseudocomitatenses , along with the auxilia palatina , provided the infantry of late Roman armies.
The Notitia Dignitatum lists 25 legiones palatinae , 70 legiones comitatenses , 47 legiones pseudocomitatenses and auxilia palatina in the field armies, and a further 47 legiones in the frontier armies.
The names also suggest that many new legions were formed from vexillationes or from old legions. In addition, there were 24 vexillationes palatini, 73 vexillationes comitatenses; other units in the Eastern limitanei and in the Western limitanei.
According to the late Roman writer Vegetius ' De Re Militari , each century had a ballista and each cohort had an onager , giving the legion a formidable siege train of 59 Ballistae and 10 Onagers, each manned by 10 libritors artillerymen and mounted on wagons drawn by oxen or mules.
In addition to attacking cities and fortifications, these would be used to help defend Roman forts and fortified camps castra as well.
They would even be employed on occasion, especially in the later Empire, as field artillery during battles or in support of river crossings.
Despite a number of organisational changes, the Legion system survived the fall of the Western Roman Empire.
It was continued within the Eastern Roman Empire until the 7th century, when reforms begun by Emperor Heraclius to counter the increasing need for soldiers resulted in the Theme system.
The rank of centurion was an officer grade that included many ranks, meaning centurions had very good prospects for promotion.
The most senior centurion in a legion was known as the primus pilus first file or spear , who directly commanded the first century of the first cohort and commanded the whole first cohort when in battle.
Within the second to tenth cohorts, the commander of each cohort's first century was known as a pilus prior and was in command of his entire cohort when in battle.
The seniority of the pilus prior centurions was followed by the five other century commanders of the first cohort, who were known as primi ordines.
The centuries took their titles from the old use of the legion drawn up in three lines of battle using three classes of soldier. However, the legion must have been levied again sometimes later as this unit has been documented as guarding the crossing of the Euphrates River as late as the beginning of the fifth century.
The Cyrenaica Legion was active in different shapes and sizes from its formation in 31 BC all the way up to the early years of the fifth century.
From the Battle of Actium in 31 BC to one of the many Jewish revolts between and AD, the Cyrenaica Legion had an influential presence during many major events in ancient Roman history.
The name could also have been given to mark some of its notable achievements in that region. Regardless of the mystery shrouding its inception, Legio III Cyrenaica was definitely used by Emperor Augustus to maintain control over contemporary Egypt which he has annexed around 30 BC.
From then on, historians state that the legion was under the command of either Lepidus or Marc Antony, both being members of the Second Triumvirate.
The legion went on to stay in Egypt for more than a century and a half and became so adapted to Egyptian culture that many Cyrenaica legionaries started to worship the Egyptian god Ammon.
Many of the conservative Roman republicans had fled to Greece. The Legio IV got its first taste of action in the battles of Dyrrhachium and Pharsalus when Caesar scored a decisive victory over Pompey.
The legion then settled in the province of Macedonia whereupon it became known as the Macedonica Legion. Soon, Caesar enlisted the Macedonica Legion to fight in his campaign against the Parthians.
But right around this time, he was brutally murdered and plans for the Parthian invasion were called off. Mark Antony seized the opportunity to tap in the Macedonica force and actively involved it in his campaigns in eastern Italy.
It has been documented that the Roman commander was particularly impressed by the bravery and heroics of Legio IX in the battle against the Nervians.
In battle, the first line of maniples attacked on the double, hurling javelins and then diving in with swords before the enemy had time to recover.
Then came the maniples of the second line, and only a resolute foe could rally from the two successive shocks. As Roman armies of the late Republic and Empire became larger and more professional, the cohort, with an average field strength of men, replaced the maniple as the chief tactical unit within legions.
In the military operations of Lucius Cornelius Sulla and Julius Caesar, a legion was composed of 10 cohorts, with 4 cohorts in the first line and 3 each in the second and third lines.
Seven legions in three lines, comprising about 25, heavy infantry, occupied a mile and a half of front. As Rome evolved from a conquering to a defending power, the cohort was increased to a field strength of — men.
These still depended on the shock tactics of pilum and gladius, but the 5,—6, heavy infantry in a legion were now combined with an equal number of supporting cavalry troops and light infantry made up of archers, slingers, and javelin men.
In the imperial legion, beginning with Augustus, the organization is thought to have been:. Roth says the Historia Augusta , an unreliable historical source from the late 4th century A.
There is some evidence that in the first century the size of the first cohort was doubled:. Complicating questions of the size of the Roman legion were the inclusion of men other than the fighters in the numbers given for the centuries.
There were large numbers of enslaved and civilian non-combatants lixae , some armed, others not. Namespaces Article Talk.
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