Roman army of the late Republic

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The Roman army of the late Republic refers to the armed forces deployed by the late Roman Republic from the end of the Social War (91-88 BC) to the establishment of the Roman Empire by Augustus in 30 BC.

The main sources for the army's organisation and practices in this period are the publications De Bello Gallico and De Bello Civili, begun by the Roman general Julius Caesar and finished by his subordinates.

The army of the late Republic constitutes the transition from the Roman army of the mid-Republic (ca. 300-80 BC), which was a temporary levy based on adult male conscription of citizens, to the Imperial Roman army of the Principate, which was a standing, professional force based mainly on volunteer recruitment.

After the end of the Social War in 88 BC, all of Rome's Italian socii ("allies") were granted full Roman citizenship, ending the dual structure of legions alongside non-citizen alae. The latter were abolished, and the Italian allies were henceforth recruited into the legions. The non-Italian allies that had long fought for Rome (e.g. Gallic and Numidian cavalry) continued to serve alongside the legions but remained irregular units under their own leaders.


The Roman army of the late Republic was made up of legions consisting, on paper, of 6,000 men each (actual legion numbers would be much reduced due to the adverse effects of campaigning). Unlike the Imperial Roman legion, the late Republican legion consisted of ten cohorts of 600 men each (as opposed to one cohort of 800 and nine cohorts of 480). Legions were freely raised, and during the period of the Roman civil wars at the end of the Republic competing generals often raised private armies consisting of dozens of legions; Caesar is known to have raised at least forty himself, and the number of legions in existence in 30 BC, following the Battle of Actium, is estimated to have been anywhere between 50 and 100, a number whittled down by Augustus to the Imperial Roman army's 28.

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