Talk:Roman legion

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I decided to rewrite this when I read the sentence that said that the roman cavalry was not very well considered by the rest of the army (or something like that). Their only problem was that they were few. The Italian Peninsula is not exactly a marvellous place to raise battle horses like the asian steppes and that, I think, is the only reason for only 300 heavy cavalry in a legion.
On the comment on the stirrups: perhaps it will not survive the next revision. It's a bit out of place I know. But I find extremely annoying whenever they appear in a roman scenario on screen.
Much more is needed on the history of the legion. I tried to collect as much as I could from the books cited (by the way, Roman Warfare is wonderful to read and a pearl of NPOV writing), but it's still incomplete, especially on the Marius reforms. What I know of the subject is by memory, I won't risk it in a wiki-article
In the late empire, the difference between "border" legions and "inside-the-empire" legions
The part about legionaries is now a separate article.
Future work: the influence of legions in roman politics, for instance the mutiny of the Danubian legions in 14 following Augustus death that almost made Germanicus emperor; the importance of controlled legions in the latest part of the empire

Muriel Gottrop 06:53, 5 Aug 2003 (UTC)

Quite a bit of information is missing, such as the changes to the legions made after the Marius Reforms (Which should probably also have an article). Oberiko 16:05, 13 Sep 2004 (UTC)

The terms "maniple" and "manipule" are both used but the difference is not explained. Please do so. Pdn 22:11, 18 Apr 2005 (UTC)

It would be usefull in the future to develop reference articles for each (many) of the particular numbered legions, which have a distinguished

history in their own right.

It has already been done. I refer you to the following- List of Roman legions A link to which is at the bottom of this article. The question is, should it be incorporated into this article as a separate section or kept as is?

--R.D.H. (Ghost In The Machine) 21:08, 28 July 2005 (UTC)

Not sure where this fits, but it bears mentioning. The legion's standard practise, when it halted for the night, was to dig in, a standard square camp fortification (castellum?). The name persists in -chester/cester, as in Winchester & Leicester. Trekphiler 18:16, 14 December 2005 (UTC)

Servants, slaves, and camp followers[edit]

I believe the article should make some mention of the various non-military support personnel who often accompanied legions when they travelled. I hesitate to add anything because I cannot find any satisfactory source for the approximate number or proportion of servants, slaves, and other assorted camp followers that would be considered normal. Most references seem to be to generals like Julius Caesar in Gaul or Vitellius who the author wants to portray as particularly dissolute, as evidenced by their excess of servants, slaves, gladiators, etc., but surely all but the most austere or remote legions had some support people. Worth mentioning? Any thoughts? Wachholder0 20:09, 25 February 2006 (UTC)

Its interesting that you bring this subject our attention, we have recently been discussing such numbers, albeit as a side note rather than the main topic, in the size of the Centuries. Its become evident that due to the extencive tenure of the Roman Empire, that the numbers varied greatly over the course of its history. At best we could deduce or quote numbers on a case by case basis. Like the legion size itself an absolute number is impossible but it is well worth mentionning.Dryzen 13:27, 27 February 2006 (UTC)

Pilus or pilum[edit]

Pilum is spear, pilus spearman or file. "Primus Pilus" is correct. Rl 10:17, 3 August 2005 (UTC)

Acknowledged. Thanks for clarification:)--R.D.H. (Ghost In The Machine) 11:16, 3 August 2005 (UTC)

External links[edit]

I don't like the current external links. One is plastered with Google ads (, the other one opens a pop-up ad everytime a link is clicked ( Neither seems a great resource for people looking for information on Roman legions. I removed the one that seemed to provide less information (, but was reverted. I don't insist on removing them, but I hope this article grows to a point where no one will consider these external links necessary. Rl 16:47, 20 August 2005 (UTC)

Both links contain information this article currently lacks. makes the distinction between Manipular and Marian legions which this article needs to explicate better. It also has an entire section on Roman siege weapons which this article currently lacks. As my old military history Prof. used to say "With the Romans the important thing is chronology". Their military system evolved and devolved over the course of over a millenia (this is not even counting the Byzantines). So not only was their military organization complex but changing. Granted, ads are annoying but with the e-mercialization of the web they are everywhere. If we were to delete every external link for having ads, there would be virtually none left. One is compelled to use some form of pop-up blocker or an alternative browser to Explorer (such as Firefox which has pop up blocking built in). --R.D.H. (Ghost In The Machine) 19:29, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
Nothing you said is wrong. I have a few remarks, though:
  • Roman siege weapons (which I also noticed when visiting that site) should go into a separate article. This one is already quite long and doesn't even cover all of the Roman legion adequately.
  • We cannot link every external site that has some relevant information just because it is not in the article. If the link is not a must-have, it should go.
  • Yes, many sites display ads. But many are not nearly as bad as the links on Roman legion. I checked a random related article, Ancient Rome. After I removed to game related links that shouldn't have been there, the three remaining links show an acceptable level of ads: [1] [2] [3]. It's quite a difference, don't you think? Rl 20:41, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
The first site you gave I like. The other two not so much. Please feel free to add it to external links for this article should you wish. Granted, we cannot link every site merely because it has the word "legion" on it. The two I gave, however, do provide some more detailed information and I was not put off by the ads. Forgive me, for seeming somewhat callous about the issue of ads. I have been using Firefox with Pop-up and ad blocks for over a year now, so I hardly noticed them anymore. Browsing the web has become fun once more..I only wish it was avalable for TV:). Regarding Roman siege weapons, I must beg to differ. They were an inherient part of the legions, as much as the cavalry and auxillaria, both of which get just attention in the article. --R.D.H. (Ghost In The Machine) 22:34, 20 August 2005 (UTC)
Heh, I didn't say I like any of them. I was only talking about the level of ads. And most links should be added only to one article (where they fit best), so I'm not going to add them here. – I may be more sensitive to ads because there are people who keep adding links to their own sites. In some cases, these sites are clearly built as Potemkin villages with the sole purpose of delivering ads – a few useless pages that look relevant at first glance, all filled with ads. Links from Wikipedia are as good as cash to the people who own them. Not removing them means encouraging them to add more. – As for the Roman siege weapons, I have no doubt it will turn out alright. A technical article about construction and evolution of the actual siege weapons would make a nice, separate article, but I'm not going to write one, so you have nothing to worry about :-). Rl 09:45, 21 August 2005 (UTC)
Oh I'm in full agreement with you on the matter of Potemkin village sites. Detestable practices such as this are fast turning the web into a vast commercial sesspool. About the two links in question, is tempting to scavenge their best material, which Wikipedia doesnt have yet, and incorporate them into this and other articles, such as the one we are discussing on siege machinery. Still think it would be nice, however, to create a small section in this article mentioning the basic types, numbers and uses of Roman siege weapons. Perhaps later, this could be expanded into a separate article...which, if it does come about, I would be more than happy to collaborate with you on :) --R.D.H. (Ghost In The Machine) 20:30, 21 August 2005 (UTC)
Heh, perfect :-) See you around. Rl 20:40, 21 August 2005 (UTC)

Jobless denizens[edit]

How quaint! I suppose this is a bit of cut-and-paste from some classist Edwardian or U.S. encyclopedia: Google Proventus 1 - 8 inter 147 circiter pro "jobless denizens to make something of themselves". GdlR 22:28, 29 September 2005 (UTC)

Sigh, this is one reason why I believe IPs should be kept in the Sandbox until they login with a named account and emerge as real Wikipedians. IPs account for the vast majority of vandalism and crap edits. (grumble) I'll make that sentence eat the delete key now (grumble) Ignoramus delenda est!--R.D.H. (Ghost In The Machine) 05:04, 30 September 2005 (UTC)

Roman infantry tactics,strategy and formations[edit]

Philx started this interesting but problematic section. He obviously knows a lot about the subject but English is not one of his primary languages. While I would like to help him with wording and translation, I don't see how this section can be easily integrated into the rest of the article. At the sametime, I cannot bring myself to delete it. I don't want to discourage a newcomer to this project, especially one with knowledge to contribute and a good attitude. I thought about cutting and pasting it onto his talkpage so we can work on it. This is the best option I can come up with so far. Any other ideas? Suggestions? --R.D.H. (Ghost In The Machine) 04:03, 16 October 2005 (UTC)

Yes that is correct, Im italian can anyone help me cleaning up? Well and i agree with you roman tactics are a too big article to be put in with roman legio, I have more information to write like roman infantry training , roman seige tactics and roman espionage system but because of my poor english i can't write them without many and many errors, can anyone help me?Philx 06:45, 16 October 2005 (UTC)PhilxPhilx 06:45, 16 October 2005 (UTC)

Hey Phil, Sure! I'd be happy to help you! Why don't you start a separate article on Roman infantry tactics,strategy and formations, and move your section there. Let me know when you are ready then I can come in and do the English wording for you. By the way, your English is far better than my Italian, ciao amici :> --R.D.H. (Ghost In The Machine) 04:33, 17 October 2005 (UTC)

Ok I ll create a seaprate article, thank you for the help! Ciao a tutti . Philx 11:49, 17 October 2005 (UTC) Philx Philx 11:49, 17 October 2005 (UTC)

I wrote finally the article, it is called Roman infantry tactics and battle formations go check it, 18:10, 17 October 2005 (UTC) Philx 18:10, 17 October 2005 (UTC)

Good! I'll move the rest of the section here to it, and put a link under Related Articles. Ciao for now :>--R.D.H. (Ghost In The Machine) 01:15, 18 October 2005 (UTC)
Great, but I think this "Related articles" thing is very small, and almost noone will ever find it, not to mention click to it. Any ideas how to integrate it more into the article (and into wikipedia as a whole)? I myself added a link to it from 1-2 other articles(see also section) --Msoos 08:16, 18 October 2005 (UTC)

The best way to integrate it into Wikipedia as a whole is to spin it off into a separate article, as we have done. PhilX agrees. In fact he, himself, suggested it. The Related articles section should lead people to it, better than having a link hidden away in the Legion article. Plus if anyone starts any other spinoff artcile, such as Roman training and siege tactics, then these can be listed there as well.--R.D.H. (Ghost In The Machine) 22:11, 18 October 2005 (UTC)

Republican Roman Century Size[edit]

The current text states that

Centuries were nominally 80 soldiers each (not 100, as is popularly believed), but in practice might be as few as 60, especially in the less numerous triarii maniples.

According to the Osprey book 'Republican Roman Army 200 - 104 BC' and also this wesite, the size of a Republican century was 60 men. 80 appears to be accurate for post Marian legions. -- Wgsimon 01:44, 26 October 2005 (UTC)

Definitely some debate on the strength of the legion. Dupuy (I think, in EoW&W) puts it at 8 units of 10 each. What period he meant, I don't recall; I seem to recall he was talking about the manipular legion, not the phalangic (if I can call it that...i.e., the original, based on Philip 2's Macedonian phalanx). Trekphiler 18:01, 14 December 2005 (UTC)

I wonder if the term centuries (wich we all know to be the root of century for a hundred) might not be from the fact they a century did indeed have 100 people in it. I'm an avid reader of Byzantium lore and know hat the base unit of this roman evolution was the Dekad (greek version of Contubernium), it is rather evidend that this term meant 10, yet like the Roman unit it had only 8 soldiers. Via Mavrikios'Strategikon one can comme ot the conclusion that the soldiers would march with slave/servants to help with the camp duities and maintenance of the soldier's gear. Therefore by combining 2 servants with the Dekad of 8 combatants, we get 10 men. Could the centuries then have 80 fighting men and 20 salves/servants? I have yet to find quotable evidence on this being the case for the roman army, perhaps one of us will land on such a passage now that we are looking for one.Dryzen 14:22, 23 February 2006 (UTC)

As I stated in the edit notes, Centuries originally were 100 strong. As Roman organization became more sophisticated, however, and they came into contact with other military systems, most notably the Greeks as you astutely observe, the Centuria became smaller, but the named remained, even though no longer entirely descriptive. Your theory sounds highly plausable. The manipular legions had a large number of support personnel and camp followers, perhaps as much as a third of their strength (see Battle of Arausio ). So a Manipular "century" may well have had 60 swords and 40 supports. Marius greatly reduced their numbers in his reforms, so 80/20 seems very reasonable. We also need to take account of semi-combatants, the Centurions, junior officers and standard bearers who often would mix it up as well. --R.D.H. (Ghost In The Machine) 04:30, 24 February 2006 (UTC)

Indeed, but before the Marian reforms Polybius puts the strength of each maniple at 120 men, with the exception of the Triarii, who are put at 60 men. [i.e. 1,200 Hastati, 1,200 Principes and 600 Triarii, each of which is divided into 10 units of 120, 120 and 60 respectively]. The 1,000-1,200 (my translations don't seem to agree on their number, but the latter seems more likely for purposes of distribution) Velites were then dispersed amongst them, at least that is what Polybius appears to be saying, to me:*.html

Also, it is indicated in the same section of this article that these Republican troops were state equipped and then that only those that could afford it were in the Heavy Infantry. Which is intended to be correct, I wonder? --M.J.Stanham 23:01, 31 August 2006 (UTC)

The state produced the armament to be regulate its quality and dispersion amongst the populace. From there the soldier had ot equipe themselves from these state armouries at there own expence.--Dryzen 13:43, 1 September 2006 (UTC)

Then the indicated passage in the article seems somewhat misleading to me, as it seems to indictate that the troops were state equipped without reference to age or wealth. What is the source for this information? --M.J.Stanham 15:11, 1 September 2006 (UTC)

My explination was teaken from several passages on the Early roman republic of An Encyclopedia of World History, Compiled and Edited by William l. Langer, Houghton-Mifflin Company Boston, 1948. --Dryzen 12:38, 6 September 2006 (UTC)

Go go go guys![edit]

You should see the article when it started (look at the history). It's just evolving great. I am happy to have contributed a tiny bit to it, it looks great now!

PS: It is also funny that it is so good that it attracted some vandalism, too  :I --Msoos 10:26, 25 November 2005 (UTC)

Manipular legion[edit]

I'm no expert on it, but I'd guess the name is less from the fact the maniple was the main tac unit than from the resemblence to a hand, hence maniple to begin with. (Recall the "finger-four" formation used by fighter pilots.) Trekphiler 18:12, 14 December 2005 (UTC)

Does Edward Gibbons description carry any weight?[edit]

Hi. I like the article, it's actually a bit much as far as tactics, etc. but I'm glad it's all there. I am just wondering if anyone would care to reconcile Edward Gibbon's description of a Roman legion consisting of: "...ten cohorts and 55 companies. The first cohort was formed of 1,105 soldiers. The remaining nine cohorts consisted each of 555, and the whole body of legionary infantry amounted to 6,100 men... The calvary...was divided into ten troops or squadrons; the first consisted 132 men, whilst each of the other nine amounted only to 66. The entire establishment formed a regiment of 726 horse, naturally connected with its respective legion, but occasionally separated to act in the line." Gibbon goes on to reckon the legion at 6,831 Romans, with the addition of auxilliaries to be a total of 12,500 men. He says the peacetime establishment of Hadrian consisted of 30 legions, or 375,000 men. His source was Polybius, writing of the time of the Punic Wars, when the legions differed from Caesar's time. Am I missing something? This all comes from pp 5-7 of the University of Chicago's Great Books edition, published 1952, by Encyclopedia Brittanica. Has Gibbon been discredited or superceeded? I hope someone can reconcile his information with what is in the article. Thanks, Haze

Here is the passage you are reffering to. At the start of the section entitled The legions under the emperors. Gibbon begins by noting- The legions, as they are described by Polybius, (41) in the time of the Punic wars, differed very materially from those which achieved the victories of Caesar, or defended the monarchy of Hadrian and the Antonines. It would seem you misread Sir Edward. His numbers are consistent with other sources, and in keeping with what is generally believed to be the establishment of a legion from the late 1st/early 2nd century. His main sources, in this case, was Vegetius' De Re Militari and Arrian's Tactics. Both of which I highly recommend to anyone interested in the subject.:>--R.D.H. (Ghost In The Machine) 09:38, 12 January 2006 (UTC)

Forgot to mention, Gibbon concludes his discussion of the Imperial military establishment circa Hardrian thusly:If we review (the) Amount of the whole establishment, this general state of the Imperial forces; of the cavalry as well as infantry; of the legions, the auxiliaries, the guards, and the navy; the most liberal computation will not allow us to fix the entire establishment by sea and by land at more than four hundred and fifty thousand men- a military power, which, however, formidable it may seem, was equalled by a monarch of the last century, whose kingdom was confined within a single province of the Roman empire. But if you exclude the navy, which had about 30,000 men and take into account the slight reductions in the army made by Hadrian, then the army was around 400 K strong. A bit more than 375,000, but not by much. Sapere aude!--R.D.H. (Ghost In The Machine) 09:55, 12 January 2006 (UTC)


Didn't the Roman legion evolve out of the Greek phalanx? My understanding was that it was a Roman improvement on the phalanx.

Depends on what you mean by "phalanx". If you mean heavy infantry hoplite-style, then yes - the triarii were more like hoplites than anything else, both in how they were equipped and how they were deployed tactically. The early roman armies, before Camillus' reform, were almost certainly armies of predominantly heavy infantry in dense formations, much like the hoplite phalanxes of greek warfare in the time before Alexander the Great. baetterdoe 15:47, 7 February 2007 (UTC)

Good point, we could add that in

A source for rotating the front line[edit]

From the trivia section of Rome the TV-series article

"Battle scenes in Rome depict authentic Roman infantry fighting techniques including the tightly-packed "Roman Wall" of shields, gladius thrusting techniques above and below the "shield wall", and the rotation of troops on the front lines every 30–45 seconds. "

The rotation part makes perfect sense. Having a soldier in the first line fight until he dies and his fellows do almost nothing until it is their turn in the first line seems at best to be a waste of human life. Yet, this is how ancient fighting is generally perceived. Taking turn makes much more sense. Close combat will exhaust you quickly and no matter how skilled you are, when you are exhausted you rapidly become much slower. If you are not rotated away by when, you are pretty much dead meat. I read a piece of historical fiction where the legion was described as fighting in this way, but when the author, Vibeke Olsson, kindly referred me to the original source, Livius, it seemed to talk more about the entire centurias rotating from hastati, to princeps, to triarii. Is there anyone who can find us an ancient source that claims indivídual roman soldiers actually took turns being in the front row the way it is depicted in the TV-series Rome? Is there someone who knows of a scholars' debate on the subject? Some SCA try-outs to see if it actually works? Please write and tell me at so I can present this source/debate/whatever in wikipedia (or you could write it yourself in the article about Rome the TV series, the article on Roman infantry tactics or the article on Roman Legion).


I'm not in SCA but I have been part of a medieval combat group. During one shield wall excercise we did engage in a 2 men deep formation. Switching a soldier in the front line while left a large gap in the line wich our opponents rapidly took advantage to form an ad hoc wedge. Of course we are par-time trainers and have mostly concentrated on single combat. Perhaps the romans did develope a techinque. On the other hand our lines where dead locked, a rotation of front lines would be simpler if one's army was slowly moving back or forward. Where then the fighting line would either move back and the second line became the first or where the first line stayed and the second moved up front. Either way keeping hte fighters fresh would definitly have been an advantage.Dryzen 14:32, 17 July 2006 (UTC)
I think you'll find that this is one of those things that the television series speculates about. Even though there are descriptions of the three line falling back one a time allowing each fresh line a chance to fight, this "rotating front line" technique is not explicitly described in ancient texts.
Unfortunately, much of what is described about the battlefield deployment of the Roman army is either incomplete, or disputed. Livy's (or is it Polybius'? I can't remember just now) depictions of battlefield deployment of the Legions - especially the Quincunx deployment of the front lines, doesn't make a great deal of tactical sense. In fact, there are cases of Renaissance commanders in Europe attempting to use the ancient Roman battlefield deployment strategy as described, with disastrous results.
The short answer is "we don't know for sure. No historical reference explicitly described this, and the television series Rome is merely speculating". - Vedexent 20:49, 17 July 2006 (UTC)
Vedexent, do you have a source to the Renaissance attempts to use Roman battlefield deployments as described?
Hmm - not primary sources, no - or at least give me some time to try and find some :) That little nugget of information comes from a series of popular lectures by Professor Garrett G. Fagan (Pennsylvania State University). But I've been asked that question enough, that I'm damn well going to find out where he gets that information from :D
The depictions of the Roman battlefield deployment is pretty sketchy until Polybius, who gives us descriptions of the Roman Legions, and the Roman Army's "marching camp". He is apparently describing the maniple based legions, not the cohort based legions that existed after the marian reforms. He doesn't seem to give battlefield deployment or tactics however.
Livy on the other hand is the one that gives us the detailed depiction of the battlefield deployment of the legions, and it is from him, and the writings of Julius Caesar that we get the descriptions of the Acies Tiplex (triple battle lines). Livy adds two more lines following these though - "skirmishers" and "attendants". This is where some people seem to think Livy starts to go wrong. Why are the skirmishers in the back since there are already skirmishers in the front? What are non-combatants doing in the battlefield deployment? Livy is the also the one who gives us the quincunx deployment. Other writers also describe this as well - but it is possible (as happened a lot with Roman historians) that these writers are basing their work on Livy's.
According to Fagan, Livy and Polybius both mention "line relief" - but the mechanism how this is carried out is problematic.
It's not clear whether the Romans were just amazingly competent soldiers who managed to deploy in the face of an enemy with huge gaps in their front line and still make it work, whether the descriptions are that of marching formations which may "close up" just prior to contact with the enemy, or whether Livy is just plain wrong.
Livy, it should be noted, was an academic who, as far as we know, never witnessed a battle. Polybius did witness battle, but as noted, his descriptions are incomplete.
As far as I know, this is all open to debate, and no one can be said to know how the Roman legions were deployed, or how they fought, at any given point in history - and the organization of the Roman Legion was something that changed over its history. - Vedexent 14:47, 18 July 2006 (UTC)

Roman legion was organized in subunits and it is known that some units stayed back while others did the fighting.

Later they joined. What hindrace is there for the first unit to go back and switch? Besides Polybius mentions officers in Cannae who came from the cavalry flanks and continued fighting in the center of infantry where they were seriously wounded. Somehow they must have made their way to the frontline. Here is an a modern source on the topic:

The mentioned possibility for change in moving the whole unit back and forth is mentioned in the Battle of Thermopylae article for the Greek phalanx. They had a rotation system (of units). So far. Wandalstouring 11:17, 7 August 2006 (UTC)

There melee must not have been as tight as our own then, at spera and pike length I could see a rotation working, but at axe and sword length with a determined ennemy having a gap for a few second is enought from a wedge formation to form and break on through the first lines. Of course the ennemy must equaly be disaplined or knowledgable enough to see this weakness and intiate an attack in the same seconds as the rotation engages.--Dryzen 14:50, 8 August 2006 (UTC)

There exists a very interesting discussion regarding the rotation of the ranks - read "The fall of Carthage" by Adrian Goldsworthy (Cassell 2000). He has a few views on the matter that certainly makes sense when seen in relation to the information in the primary sources. baetterdoe 15:57, 7 February 2007 (UTC)

Military history of ancient Rome[edit]

Currently we work on refleshing the Military history of ancient Rome. For detailed information on the Roman military are links to this articles. Both articles could be aligned in cooperation as far as there are some main editors to this article. Wandalstouring 22:52, 4 August 2006 (UTC)

Rank equivalents[edit]

I changed the rank equivalents to appointment equivalents instead, as the ones in the article made little sense. A 2nd Lieutenant and 1st Lieutenant are considered almost equals in current militaries (in terms of actual responsibilities and duties), and yet the two Roman ranks being compared to them are quite different. As well, the rank of colonel in the Commonwealth armies is a staff rank only - yet the Roman appointment being compared to it was not a staff position. Ditto the use of "sergeant" despite the fact a sergeant in the US Army will command 10 men or so, but will be a platoon 2nd in command (with 30 or so men under command) in the British Army. Rank "equivalents" are thus rather sticky and I think clear meaning is better served comparing appointments - brigade commander, platoon commander, etc. - to their Roman counterparts. The point is to illustrate their respective duties and responsibilities in any event, and the use of modern day ranks is a poor way to do that, since there is such a wide divergence between current armies in, say, what a "sergeant" would do (even if we can agree on what a "sergeant" is in non-English speaking armies.) A sergeant might be in charge of 10 men or second-in-charge of 35 men depending on which military he serves in, but a "platoon commander" is much more universal across the board.Michael Dorosh 20:11, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

Furthermore different armies in the world give different responsibilities to equal ranks (NATO has some material on who equals whom in rank etc.). The low level officers listed here are more like non-commissioned officer in terms of the Roman military. We should point out that the tactical battleunits were not as small as nowadays. Wandalstouring 11:34, 12 August 2006 (UTC)

At the time of writing, the text on Middle-Level Officers still equates the British rank sequence 2nd Lieutenant - Major to the US sequence 2nd-1st Lieutenant. Pace Michael Durosh 11 Aug 06, any supposed equivalence of the British Major and the US 1st LT is unreal, if only because the NATO table of equivalence is so generally accepted. I suggest the writer is deceived by the way British forces are perhaps more ready than the US forces to "misemploy" time-promoted Majors in posts below their formal rank and also to be perhaps more flexible in the make-up and deployment of Company and other junior formations.

In the search for complete equivalence of modern western rank structure with the Roman pattern, may I suggest that contributors more competent than me look at how the normal western structure was adapted to the leadership of native troops in the old British Empire. Reference has been made in previous comments to the special status of the British Warrant Officer, whose royal warrant distinguishes him both from the NCOs and private ranks below him and from the commissioned officers above him. In the Indian Empire, native regiments would have very few white British officers (holding the King's or Queen's commission) and would have a large cadre of VCOs (officers commissioned in the name of the Viceroy of the Indian Empire); a British Lieutenant would effectively outrank a Major VCO. These VCOs seem to me to be closely equivalent to the Centurion and Pilus ranks of the Roman legion. While I am not sure the VCO structure extended beyond Major, I suggest the Roman Praefectus Castrorum could be easily be a sort of Lt Col VCO. Actually the modern British forces commission Warrant Officers and NCOs in large numbers, usually to command support rather than operational units as the Praefectus Castrorum did.

So I suggest that, in the commentary on Rank Equivalents, Tkinias (31 Aug 07) has too easily envisaged an army almost entirely run by NCOs; for instance he overlooks the status of the centurion as measured by his salary, between 10 and 30 times that of the private soldier. I think he is so seduced by the semantics of the word Lieutenant as to undervalue completely the status of the tribune ranks. If we can agree that the cost, size and importance of the Roman army were as great in relation to the Roman civil economy and polity as our armed forces are to modern western societies, then Dux would be 3-star, Legatus Legionis at least 2-star (remembering, if nothing else, his recurrent role as provincial governor) and Tribunus Laticlavius 1-star or full colonel. Effectively then I support the comments by (20 Aug 07), although I would pitch each post about one rank lower than he does. Roop1940 (talk) 14:36, 17 November 2007 (UTC)

Politicization of the Legions[edit]

With regards to the Marian Reforms, I have a question.

We often hear about how the practice of a land grant to discharged veterans - typically voted in the Senate by the Legion's patrician/senator commander - tended to focus the common soldier's loyalty on the general who was responsible for granting him his "pension", rather on the "state".

This is undeniably true, given the legions of Marius and especially those of Caesar, but how did this change in the Imperial period?

It seems that even in Caesar's time that whole legions were eventually demobilized and settled at a time (Caesar settled several of his legions after the Battle of Pharsalus, I believe), but what happened in the Imperial period where legions were standing armies? They wouldn't be retiring whole legions, but individual soldiers would be fulfilling their "terms of service" and being pensioned off.

Surely these couldn't be voted through the Senate on a man-by-man basis. How was this handled? Did the Senate (or Augustus) set aside whole "blocks" of land at a time to be doled out piecemeal by some bureaucrat's an estate at a time? Thoughts anyone? - Vedexent 23:09, 21 August 2006 (UTC)

Mayhaps it was done similarly to the Byzantine's Thematic demobilization: The empire'S new lands would be controlled by the state and then the bureaucrats would divide it up to be sold to private owners and its military colonists. In essence,a size was regulated and each soldier would receive that amount of land from a section of newly acquired or imperial (public) lands. i hope this helps. --Dryzen 12:45, 6 September 2006 (UTC)


Does anyone have a source for: "Decurion: Led a Contubernium, or "Tent Group", of 8 to 10 men. Each Century had 8 to 10 of these. Paid one and a quarter times basic wage. This rank is similar to the modern day squad leader."

As far as I can see this is wholly incorrect as a Decurion was an officer's rank held in an Alae, or cavalry auxiliary unit (or possibly within the horse detachment of each legion). We have no evidence for a Decurion in the other context.

The Decurion is briefly mentionned in Treadgold's Byzantium and Its Armies, 284-1081 as the Contubernium grade officer without distinction between Infantry, auxiliary and cavalry. Later to be changed to Decarch, where there is ample evidance as an infantry rank as well as cavalry.--Dryzen 14:18, 1 November 2006 (UTC)

Byzantium's armies are significantly different than those of Rome. Keppie, L "The Making of the Roman Army" (1998) p. 35. Decurions were commanders of Turmae of cavalry both in terms of Alae and in terms of the 120 cavalry detachment for individual legions (Josephus BJ, III, 6, 2). Without making a disction between early and late Roman Empire (i.e. the division of the Tetrarchy) you can't even have those two in the same article as there are significant changes involved. We have absolutely no evidence what so ever (primary source) from the Republic or the High Empire for a decurion being the commander of the "ten man" contubernium of the legion. It is true that the 8 man unit (contubernium) was the basic of the Roman army, but it did not require an officer. Cf. Hyginus de mun. castr., 16; Webster 1998 "The Roman Imperial Army" p145-147; Goldsworthy 2003, "The Complete Roman Army" p73; Polybius 6.19-42. All these sources confirm (those include primary sources) that the Decurion was a cavalry commander of Turmae and had nothing to do with the legionary command ranks and process internally though it was a direction of promotion, which would make no sense if it was the "squad commander"

Anonymous, my own source differs from yours it would seem:
When Diocletian divided up the old Roman Legion of 5 500 men, he kept most of their command structure as it had been. Legions, Cohorts, and Alae contignued to have officers called tribunes, centurions, and decurions as late as teh sixth century. In the early empire every cohort of the infantry, wheter part of a legion or independent, had been commanded by a tribune. The tribune's subordinae officers where 6 centurions, each commanding a century of 80 infantry, and 60 decurions, each commanding 8 infantry including the decurion himself. (Originally, as the names imply, centurions had commanded 100 men and decuriosn 10, but the numbers had been changed during the earlyReoublic.) Every Alae of the cavalry had also been commanded by a tribune, but his subordinate officers where 16 decurions, each commanding a turma of 30 cavalry including himself, with no centurions or centuries. -Byzantium and Its Armies, 284-1081 p. 87-88 (with source as : See watson, Roman Soldier 22(for cohorts) and 24-25 (for Alae). On many points of military organization up to the seventh century, Grosse, Römische Militärgeschichte, though partly outdated still sepplies useful references to the sources.)--Dryzen 14:35, 7 November 2006 (UTC)
Dryzen, I apologize for my long absence, but I had to delete the section on the Decurion as it was wholly inaccurate. The sources cited above I feel far and out-weigh the work you cited "Byzantium and Its Armies". In addition one of the works you cited "Roman Soldier" by Watson I am very familiar with, and he also agrees with my assertion in my work that the Decurion was a cavalry officer and had nothing to do with the infantry command structure. I feel it is self evident that the best sources for the command structure of the Roman army are both inscriptions and the ancient sources. Having personally reviewed much of the textual evidence both in english and often in the original latin and greek, it seems clear to me (and fairly much the entirety if scholarship in the last 60 years) that the Decurion was the commander within the Alae, horse detachments in the Auxilia, and the horse detachment in the Legions themselves. The primary sources cited above such as Polybius have to take precidence over secondary sources, and the primary sources leave little question that the Decurion was a cavalry officer. I have no doubt that the work you cited primarily is authoritative on the subject of Byazntium's armies, but that does not make it so for the army of the Roman Principate. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Breag (talkcontribs) 15:04, 13 January 2007 (UTC).

Totally disagree with redirect of "Roman Army" to "Roman legion"[edit]

I searched on "Roman Army" and couldn't believe the redirect to Roman Legion. I would propose a Roman Army page be started separate of the Roman legion page for the following reasons:

  • The term "legion" doesn't strictly relate to the attached auxiliary troops, which were also a part of the Romana rmy
  • The roman army in some places consisted entirely of foederati etc, who were not based on the legionary model.
  • The late Roman army did not consist of legions at all but rather cavalry units on a different model

The legions were an important part of Rome's military power, but they were not the entirety of it!! Anyone else think this is a little bit mad? - PocklingtonDan 17:35, 2 November 2006 (UTC)

I agree with you completely, and also feel that a rewrite of the Auxilia section needs to be done desperately as it just isn't accurate.

100% correct and we need some restructuring of the connection and content of several articles concerning the Roman military. Wandalstouring 21:10, 4 November 2006 (UTC)
Right, I've removed the redirect and set up a basic [{Roman army]] stub for the time being. It will need expanding. However, in looking into this I noticed that Roman military also redirects to Roman legion, which is even more absurd than Roman army redirecting here, because in doing so it completely ignores the naval arm of the roman military, the Roman navy. This is completely open-and-shut case of an illogical redirect. I will remove the redirect and create a Roman military stub, linking to Roman army, Roman navy and Roman legion. - PocklingtonDan 11:24, 5 November 2006 (UTC)
Stop, first we need a clear superstructure. Wandalstouring 14:26, 5 November 2006 (UTC)
Absolutely, I will make no further changes to structure on this or several linked articles. I think the main problem stems from roman legion being a catch-all to cover the entire Roman military. - PocklingtonDan 17:09, 5 November 2006 (UTC)

The manipulary system - additions/changes[edit]

It is worth noting with regard to the deployment of forces in the manipulary system (especially given the diagram pictured) that the formation as pictured and described was not set in stone. The number of ranks would vary depending on what force was being opposed. Also, in certain engagements the chequerbard pattern was ignored entirely -(the Zama formation is already mentioned) examples would include also Scipio's "striation" deployment to channel elephants down passages running clear from front to back of the army. It is also not correct to think of each corner meeting the opposing corner of the rank in front or behind, there normally being a distance of some yards between each to allow for reinforcement and manouvering of the maniples. Also, I believe it should be noted tat the number of trirarii was half that of either the hastati or principes Cheers - PocklingtonDan 18:43, 2 November 2006 (UTC)

Sounds reasonable. We have been discussion the rotation and reinforcement problem elsewhere. at least there must have been a possibility for light troops to cover the movements. The number of triarii was small compared to the overall number of troops, 10,000 of 80,000 infantry engaged on the Roman side in the fightings at Cannae. This picture is mostly here because it exists in wikicommons. Possibly we can create better examples of Roman formations. Wandalstouring 21:16, 4 November 2006 (UTC)
I've added two new images that better show the deployment of the maniples. Haven't tackled the rest of this yet though - PocklingtonDan 13:36, 5 November 2006 (UTC)


There is military history of ancient Rome and the short history section here. Both want to deal with the same topic. Could we please make clear what is the difference or whether this should be just a shortenend version? Wandalstouring 21:09, 4 November 2006 (UTC)

Couple more things missing from article[edit]

It just occurred to me that there are a few more things apparently absent from the article at the moment, which focuses largely on the legionary structural changes throughout its history. Most notably, there is no mention whatsoever that I can see of its engineering prowess, despite the fact that this is what separated it from other armies of the period. For examples: each imperial legionary caried a shovel, a piece of equipment almost as important as their gladius - they would throw up an entire fortified camp in one evening, complete with ramparts and ditch, and then take it down again the next morning before marching. How about the huge pallisades they constructed in besieging cities? How about the huge ramps they constructed to top city walls in conquering Gaul and in the Jewish revolts. How about another offshoot of this - their prowess in siege and battlefield equipment such as ballistae, onagers, repeating ballistae, etc, in which area they completely outclassed all contemporary adversaries. Last but not least, how about the roads the legions constructed in order to breach enemy territory (eg Germania). Their engineering skills aren't even mentioned in their "factors in the roman army's success" section, which is crazy. I note there is a separate Roman engineering article but this covers largely civilian engineering. I would definitely propose a new Roman military engineering article, with a substantial summary section in this article.

I've set up a Roman military engineering stub, but I think we need a section on military engineering in this article too, with a summary and link to the main article. Anyone agree? - PocklingtonDan 13:38, 5 November 2006 (UTC)
I agree that we should mention the Roman military engineering, although I'm inclined not to overestimate them in comparison to other troops such as Parthia, Aksum or Nubia. Perhaps we should first think about a major structure for the whole Roman military topic and afterwards write many different articles, otherwise we get a chaotic splitup and a long list of see alsos. Wandalstouring 14:23, 5 November 2006 (UTC)
Stop, first we need to define a clear superstructure, afterwards we write stubs and link around. Wandalstouring 14:25, 5 November 2006 (UTC)
Absolutely, I will make no further changes to structure on this or several linked articles. I think the main problem stems from roman legion being a catch-all to cover the entire Roman military. - PocklingtonDan 17:09, 5 November 2006 (UTC)
Wandalstouring This is chaotic. What we currently have would lead one to believe the legion was the total of the Roman Military, and this totally ignores the engineering units, or the navy. What is needed first is a structure of the Roman military in toto, then we can begin dividing into the various units, such as legions, et al, that comprised the Roman Military. old windy bear 20:50, 5 November 2006 (UTC)
I have already remved the redirects from Roman military and Roman army to Roman legion and replaced them with stub articles - I did this before Wandalstouring requested the halt for sorting out the superstructure. Both these new articles mentioned however are going to need major work. - PocklingtonDan 21:05, 5 November 2006 (UTC)
PocklingtonDan next time changes need to be made the first solution isn't to make stub articles everywhere and on every subject. Sometimes well designed articles will hold more than one subject and do so most adaquitely. But it does look like you've been busy in the last few days. I finish reading and further post.--Dryzen 14:52, 7 November 2006 (UTC)
Thanks, but I did post first int he talk section as can be seen and no-one argues against it. The existing situation of having Roman military redirect to Roman legion was ludicrous. - PocklingtonDan 15:17, 7 November 2006 (UTC)

Superstructure for the Roman military[edit]

As the header suggests the top article would be Roman military. It divides into several subjugate articles:

  • Roman military
  • Roman army
  • Roman legion
  • Roman army of the Late Antiquity
  • Roman navy
  • Roman military engineering
  • Roman military history


There was some shifting of content about all the Roman military to this page, which isn't here any more, etc. So Kirill Lokshin and me did edit articles to redirect here. I did some research, so well, OK, I'm to blame for not maintaining the redirects. Wandalstouring 21:30, 5 November 2006 (UTC)

Hi, your breakdown ties in very tightly with my attempt to create a superstructure (see Roman military) on this topic. I note that you have proposed Roman military engineering (existing article) and Roman military history (redirects to Military history of ancient Rome, but that's fine) also - I think these two are essential and are in the correct place in the superstructure proposed. The only two possible points of contention I can see are: 1) I'm not sure how padded/pedantic the superstructure is intended to be, but it is missing elements such as auxilia under the "roman army" category etc and 2) there is curently no Roman army of the Late Antiquity page and I'm not sure that I agree with the creation of one, since it seems like more of a section header from Roman military history. It also seems to perpetuate the error by comparison that the Roman legion equals "Roman army of the early antiquity". I'm still not happy with the lead paragraph in Roman legion, which seems to equate "Roman legion" with "Roman army" and states that auxiliary troops were part of the legions: they were not. They may have been attached to a legion but they were a separate and parallel structure. I would propose alteration to superstructure as follows (drawn from Roman military article:
  • Roman military
  • Roman army
  • Roman legion
  • Roman auxilia
  • Roman allied troops
  • (misc entries for anachronistic elements such as Praetorians, Palitii, Vigiles, etc etc)
  • Roman navy
  • Roman military engineering
  • Roman military history

Cheers - PocklingtonDan 23:36, 5 November 2006 (UTC)


Comitatensis? Foederati? Limitanei? where would they fit? Wandalstouring 15:40, 6 November 2006 (UTC)

Hi. The foederati I would class as a somewhere between allies and mercenaries, separate from the legions. The comaitatensi and limitanei were not a seperate troop type and could be made up of both legionary and auxiliary vexillations etc (don't think they were ever made up of foederati or similar). The current Roman military system article is a mess - it redirects from Roman Infantry Tactics and whereas it is a passable article on that second topic the contents definitely do not match the title of Roman military system, focusing exclusively on the legions. I also think there is a problem here that "legion" has two uses - it can refer to the legionary heavy infantry units of the mid to late Roman Empire, but can also be a straight transliteration of legio, in which case it covers the entire Roman army, including foederati etc. I think there should be some disambiguation between the two and the former, narrower, meaning should be enforced where possible. With that in mind(I've gone a bit mad on this one!):
  • Roman military - equivalent to title "Roman military system" (note, not equivalent to current contents of Roman military system article, which do not fit title. An overview of the entire military system, focusing on types of unit.
  • Roman army tactics - new article, and the correct place for the formation diagrams I have been workingon, I believe. There is an existing Roman infantry tactics article but I don't think it makes sense to talk of infantry tactics in isolation from cavalry support etc.
  • Roman army units:
  • Roman army field units
  • Units of the Roman Republican Army (based on five classes of citizens):
  • Units of the early to mid Roman Imperial army:
  • Roman Auxiliary Cavalry:
  • Roman Auxiliary Infantry:
  • Units of the late Roman Imperial army:
  • limitanei - effectively lower quality border guards
  • Roman army special and non-field units:
  • Major Fleets:
  • Minor Fleets:

Cheers - PocklingtonDan 17:18, 6 November 2006 (UTC)

Are these all to be article level texts? I disagree that this would be the most optimum of planification. Such a structure as many of these have too little information to warrent their own article as well, so many new articles woudl produce a heavy linking structure where keeping track of it all could pose a problem. Divided, the information could be lost on the wanderign readeri nterested in learning of the roman military. one must also be careful not to produce articles that heavily overlap information, in such casesa compromise and merger are the better solution in my mind. But with little itme left I must leave my post as such.--Dryzen 15:42, 7 November 2006 (UTC)
some of the titles here can link to chapters of articles, rather than articles, but I think giving an overview is not a bad idea. Wandalstouring 15:57, 7 November 2006 (UTC)
A lot of the titles link to non-existent articles - this is purely to show that there is no article in that name at the minute and either something needs writing or else a link needs ideally to be found to a section within another article - as you say, for most of these, the latter is going to be the best course of action. Feel free to edit to link to article sections where they exist, etc - PocklingtonDan 16:06, 7 November 2006 (UTC)
Dryzen wanted to point out that we don't need a vast amount of new articles. While Roman military is designed to be an overview with very little text, just enough so the editor can easier navigate. Where the specific information from the links there can be found is open, in chapters within articles or articles of its own. This depends on what is the best approach. I personally argue for chapters within larger articles to show the topics more connected. Wandalstouring 21:06, 7 November 2006 (UTC)
OK, I appreciate that - but as I say I've only created I think 2 or 3 new articles based upon the entire superstructure, and the rest I have pointed to extant articles or article subsections - I was trying to respond to what I saw as a presumption that I was going to create a new article for each non-extant (red) link, which wasn't the case - as I say, I made these links to highlight what needed links to something - whether that be a new article or existing article or article subsection :-) Cheers - PocklingtonDan 21:23, 7 November 2006 (UTC)


Besides legions and auxiliaries there was another troop type, levies called numerii (the only note in wikipedia I found about them Septimius_Severus#Emperor). Often they are considered different from the professional mercenary auxiliary units. Wandalstouring 20:48, 6 November 2006 (UTC)

I'm not familiar with the term numeri or numerii, I've not come across it before to the best of my memory. Scanning my texts here it does not appear in the indices of any of the primary or secondary sources I have to hand. The only mention I can find in a tertiary source is in Santosuosso's Soldiers, Emperors and Civilians in the Roman Empire. Unfortunately, his contribution is limited to "At times from the fourth century onward, another term (numeri) was used for both footmen and horsemen". The cite given is Jones, The Later Roman Empire, p94, which unfortunately I don't have. I'm not convinced from the above that this is in another troop type but rather another terminology for either auxiliary or foederati troops. As I say though, I haven't even heard of them before. - PocklingtonDan 21:25, 6 November 2006 (UTC)
I will try to source where I have the term from, well I know they were stationed mainly in castles such as along the Parthian/Persian border and had neither the highest pay nor the best living standards or training. Usually they are not mentioned in books on the Roman military as they did not partake in any important battles. Wandalstouring 21:43, 6 November 2006 (UTC)
At least it looks quite finished, so you can restructure if you want (otherwise I do it). Wandalstouring 21:44, 6 November 2006 (UTC)
Could the Numerii be somewhat relative of the Numera (Gr. Νουμηροι, "Bathhouse boys") of Byzantine times? I cannot find its meanign in latin, but given its resounding resemblance to numerus, the latin word for total, it could of simly be a semantic reference to the number of troops in a certian possition or duity rather than the title of troops in that status.--Dryzen 15:42, 7 November 2006 (UTC)
I suspect your supposition is correct - in any case we have left it out of the superstructure for now :-) - PocklingtonDan 21:24, 7 November 2006 (UTC)

The way I see it, legion is a piece of the army, just a military structure, not the military

Ψ→WikiDragon295 03:00, 31 May 2007 (UTC)

Proposing merger - discuss here[edit]

I'm proposing a merge with Legionary, these two articles cover identical ground, one from perspective of individual, one from perspective of army. One article with a redirect fromt he other would serve best.

Please discuss this merge at Talk:Legionary

- PocklingtonDan 16:25, 23 November 2006 (UTC)

This article is confused[edit]

It treats the roman legion as the entire army in its early history (ie as a transliteration of legion) but then starts using the narrower definition of legion as the heavy infantry of the later roman legions. I don't think this is a great idea. It suggests to unfamiliar readers who might have heard the term "roman legion" that the legion was the entirety of the army in the empire. I am going to try and edit such that this is much clearer - PocklingtonDan 15:47, 24 November 2006 (UTC)

You mean by shifting the perceived meaning of Legion as the Army to Legion as Regiments?--Dryzen 16:33, 24 November 2006 (UTC)
No, what I mean is the first half of the article equates legion to army, and the second half equates legion to regiments - its not consistent - PocklingtonDan 21:58, 24 November 2006 (UTC)
I'dd noticed the discrepency, if I may suggest concentrate on makign Legion equate to regiment over Legion to Army. In my opinion it would be the optimal choice, save every the troubel of having to delve into obcure terms for Legion equating to a regiment like structure and the re-editing of all the article eluding to the legions as military formations.--Dryzen 19:58, 27 November 2006 (UTC)

I say, make the roman legion a peice of the Roman Army, rather than it's own article. ¥→WikiDragon295 03:03, 31 May 2007 (UTC)

Rank equivalents[edit]

The statement that a Centurion is equivalent to a British Major or 2LT or US 2LT or 1LT makes no sense. In terms of how many men they command, a century is about half a company, so a centurion would be a UK Captain or US 1LT and the primi ordines would be UK Major or US Captain. A Legatus would be about a Brigadier General, as a Legion is like a large brigade.
However, a century played the tactical role of a company, which can be commanded by a Captain or Major, so I would think a normal centurion is equivalent to Captain and primi ordines to Major, with the optio as a Lieutenant. A cohort is about a Battalion, so a Pilus prior is equivalent to a LT Colonel. The Primus pilus might be full Colonel due to his other duties in the legion.
I like to think of the legion in terms of a medieval field army for purposes of organization above cohort. The legatus would be the General, with the tribunus laticlavius as LT General and the praefectus castrorum as Major General. The tribuni can lead detachments from the legion, like the medieval task forces or "brigadas," so they would be equivalent to Brigadier General. The Dux would be Generals of the Army / Field Marshals. 21:46, 20 August 2007 (UTC)

These rank equivalents are rather tricky. We run into two problems: (1) the officer/enlisted distinction is a bit different than in modern armies, and (2) the sizes and responsabilities aren't always comparable. I would argue that a legion is most equivalent to a regiment, because it is the unit to which a soldier has his primary affiliation; also, the legion's commander has similar authority to the regimental commander in an early modern army. Also, regiments have no particular fixed size; British regiments fielded single (albeit often rather large) battalions, other armies fielded regiments of two to five battalions each of 400-1000 men... One therefore cannot compare any legionary officer with a general, because a "general officer" is by definition "general" -- i.e., not affiliated to a regiment (or legion). Thus the late imperial dux could be considered to be the general. So the legatus legionis ought to be considered the colonel of the regiment. The tribuni don't translate very well, because AFAICT they do not have fixed commands but are rather more like staff officers. But as they are of senatorial or equestrian rank, they clearly correspond to commissioned officers. Probably the best is to translate them as 1st (laticlavius) and 2nd (angusticlavii) lieutenants, because that is their literal function: to be lieutenants (i.e., assistants) to the commander. That also preserves the fact that they are all considered tribuni, just differing in grade, rather than having substantively different ranks. There simply aren't as many commissioned ranks in the Roman legions as in a modern army, so we just don't have equivalents to captains and majors.

The centurions, even including primi pili, are not commissioned officers. These are very senior enlisted men, but they are enlisted, not given commissions (i.e., appointments by the senate or comitia). So the only proper way to translate centurion is as sergeant, which originally meant a senior soldier but not a nobleman. (This is why in the British Household Cavalry they call a sergeant "corporal of horse", because traditionally in the HCR even the troopers were nobles' sons.) And just as modern armies have a sometimes bewildering array of types and grades of sergeants, there were various grades of centurions. We just have to accept that in the Roman legion, permanent command of subunits was in the hands of senior NCOs, not junior officers. Pinning down exactly what the correspondences are is tough because things don't match up even in Anglophone armies (e.g., the US assigns much less authority to NCOs of the same rank than does the UK). Just call them grades of sergeant: something like first sergeant (primus pilus), senior sergeant (pilus prior), and sergeant (centurion). A decurion corresponds nicely to a corporal (especially in UK usage).

The praefectus castrorum is really something like the regimental sergeant major: the real second-in-command to the colonel, despite not being a commissioned officer. And his status as being not of senatorial or equestrian rank, yet not being an ordinary enlisted soldier (having already served his full enlistment) equates nicely to the Commonwealth warrant officer concept, where the RSM has a royal warrant which is not the same as a commission but also differentiates him from a common enlisted soldier. (The French major is, BTW, in a similar position; it is between an NCO and an officer, as what other armies call major the French call commandant.)


  • legatus legionis: colonel
  • tribunus laticlavius: 1st lieutenant
  • tribunus angusticlavius: 2nd lieutenant
  • praefectus castrorum: regimental sergeant major
  • primus pilus: first sergeant
  • pilus prior: senior sergeant
  • centurion: sergeant
  • decurion: corporal

Tkinias 20:36, 31 August 2007 (UTC)

It's interesting! Tkinas have you got any verifiable source for your ideas ? Magnifier 13:01, 30 October 2007 (UTC)

I do not agree with this. Your argument about class status is reasonable, but when the page says "Equivalent to a modern Lieutenant" that implies an operational role to me more than a class status. A Lieutenant commands a platoon. Though it has more men, a century is similar to a platoon, so a Centurion fills the same operational role as a Lieutenant. An Optio fills the role of a Platoon Sergeant. A cohort seems similar to a company, so a pilus prior seems about like a U.S. Captain or so. An entire legion is similar to a division or regiment at the very least--the Legate is a governor after all.

Besides, officers in modern armies are not typically drawn from the nobility anymore (if the country even has one), and enlisted men can become officers through promotion. I also dispute that the Centurions are of the same status (you say "enlisted") as his subordinates. Goldsworthy states that Caesar never mentions promoting a man to Centurion (elsewhere here it says it requires extreme valor), and speculates that men were appointed directly as Centurion rather than promoted from the ranks. It also says in the Wiki article that a Centurion got 10x the base wage, whereas the Optio only got double. That gulf suggests a status gulf similar to that between officers and enlisted men in modern armies. Even if the rulers did draw Centurions from non-aristocrats, they clearly intended them to have a much higher status than the common soldier. (talk) 21:55, 4 May 2011 (UTC)Chaz

Latin words in Roman Legion?[edit]

Hi, English Wikipedian. I'm currently translating and rewriting Roman Legion to vi:Lê Dương La Mã. Because i need some improvements in this Vietnamese version of the article, i have something to ask you:

  • Roman Legion (English) --> latin? ( romanium legio ?? )
  • Legionary (English) --> latin?.
  • Auxiliary (English) --> latin?.
  • Marian Reform (English) --> latin?.
  • Cohort (English) --> latin?.
  • Which is formal way a Roman Legionary greeting his fellow sodiers, his officer?
  • When a Roman Legionary doesn't wear Armour. What will they wear? ( a red pallium?)
  • Julius Caesar, in his early life, is a Legiondary. If i meet him at this time and need to talk to him i will speak: "Legiondary Caesar!" . Is it right? If right "Legiondary Caesar!" --> latin?

Magnifier 12:58, 30 October 2007 (UTC)

  • Roman legion: legio Romana (although a Roman would probably just say legio)
  • Legionary: legionarius (or miles, soldier)
  • Auxiliary: auxilium
  • "Marian Reforms" is an English phrase, not a Latin one. It means the changes made to to the composition and tactics of the Roman army by Gaius Marius. You'll need to find an equivalent Vietnamese phrase.
  • Cohort: cohors
  • I don't know much about Roman forms of address. I get the impression that the Romans rarely addressed each other by their rank, but perhaps that's because the Roman histories were written by the officers, who could address their inferiors by name, rather than the soldiers, who might need to address their superiors in a more polite fashion. Legionaries are supposed to have addressed each other as fratri (brothers), and their commanders sometimes addressed the men as pueri (boys).
  • This link gives a pretty good account of what a legionary would wear under his armour. The basic garment was a thigh-length woolen tunic (Latin tunica).
  • "Legionary" is an English word, the Latin being legionarius. If you are addressing someone you need to use the vocative case, which in this case would be "legionari Caesar!", although I don't know if legionarius was used as a form of address in this way. Also, I don't think Caesar was a legionary. Given the responsibility he had - being sent to Bithynia to secure the assistance of king Nicomedes - I think he is more likely to have been a military tribune of the non-senatorial variety - a tribunus angusticlavius or "narrow-stripe tribune". When he was later elected as military tribune, he would have been a tribunus laticlavius or "broad-stripe tribune". --Nicknack009 (talk) 15:22, 17 November 2007 (UTC)

Subtle Vandalism in Section History - Roman Kings?[edit]

The first class was armed in the fashion of the hoplite with spear, sword, helmet, breast plate and round shield (called clipeus in Latin; similar to the Greek aspis, also called hoplon) there were 82 of these however two of these centuries were simply first class soldiers whose job was to blow on the trumpet;

I very much doubt that the two entire centuries of first class citizens, with the best personal equipment in the early legions, were simply used as cornicen. Somebody probably vandalized this sentence. Anyone with knowledge of the original text is asked to correct it. Textor (talk) 05:35, 23 January 2008 (UTC)

The statement was introduced in its entirety on December 9th by among what appear to be good faith edits. Could it mean "two members of each of these centuries", perhaps? -- Ian Dalziel (talk) 10:29, 23 January 2008 (UTC)

... 82 of these however two of these centuries were simply first class soldiers whose job was to blow on the trumpet;

That phrase doesn't make sense from the military point of view, and furthermore looks like it has been tacked-on to the preseding sentence. Would you really describe military musicians used for signalling in such terms as blow on the trumpet? Textor (talk) 16:59, 24 January 2008 (UTC)

No I would not - it isn't my edit! Here's the edit : [4] If you can see what to correct, correct away. -- Ian Dalziel (talk) 18:01, 24 January 2008 (UTC)
Looks like it's been there an awful long time, too, 'cause I went back oh, 6mo in the edit summaries & couldn't find where it went in. Trekphiler (talk) 03:14, 28 January 2008 (UTC)
The diff I posted above promoted the trumpeters from fifth to first class - there was previously a reference for the two centuries of trumpeters. [5] -- Ian Dalziel (talk) 13:06, 28 January 2008 (UTC)

Roman Kings: confusing and contradictory text[edit]

The text includes: "The fifth and final class was composed only of slingers. The army officers as well as the cavalry were drawn from leading citizens who enrolled as equestrians (equites). (The equites were later put in smaller groups of 30 and were commanded by decurions (which strangely means commander of ten). 32 of the fifth class were foot soldiers of which 2 were engineers and 18 centuries of equites." The first sentence contradicts the last, as far as I can tell (the fifth class can't be exclusively slingers and also a mix of foot soldiers, engineers, and cavalry). I'll correct the parenthesis misbalancing, of which there is too much. However, I cannot contribute further, as I'm neither sure what was intended nor knowledgeable in what is known. Stifynsemons (talk) 05:05, 22 March 2008 (UTC)

limits ro leigons conquests[edit]

this article makes it seem that the entire world war conquered by rome i think there should be a section about areas the romans never fullt conqured —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:42, 11 October 2008 (UTC)

can you list any?

okty (talk) 17:43, 22 September 2009 (UTC)


In Battle of the Teutoburg Forest (and also the articles about each specific legion), it states that legions XVII, XVIII, and XIX were destroyed in AD 9, and these legion numbers were never used again. The map on this page shows "Legion camps" in AD 80, including these three numbers. What gives? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:07, 31 January 2009 (UTC)

Contradictory Statements in Senior Officer Ranks[edit]

In the senior officer ranks section it says that the tribunus laticlavius were less experienced than the tribuni angusticlavii. It then goes on to say in the description of the tribuni angusticlavii, that they were supervised by the more experienced tribunus laticlavius. If someone knows the truth of it, this should probably be clarified and corrected. BlearySpecs (talk) 05:41, 19 April 2009 (UTC)


Perhaps someone, better in english than me, could quote the origin of the word salary from salarium, e.g [6]. (talk) 01:25, 20 June 2009 (UTC)

Time Of Service[edit]

For some reason the time of service of legionaries is not included in the article. Maybe we should include some information about that?

okty (talk) 17:42, 22 September 2009 (UTC)

The Tribuni[edit]

I can see a clear contradiction in the explanation of the Tribunes (Section: Legionary ranks). I'm afraid I don't know enough to be able to correct this, although I can hazard a guess. The 'Tribunus laticlavius' is described as being 'less experienced than the tribuni angusticlavii' Meanwhile, in the 'Tribuni Angusticlavii' section it says 'The more senior tribunus laticlavius rank existed to provide a more senior tribune to supervise these other tribunes.'

This doesn't appear to make sense, so it probably needs clarification. My suspicion is that the Tribunus laticlavius section should say that he was less experienced than the Praefectus castrorum, but MORE than the Tribuni Angusticlavii. Can anyone clarify? -- (talk) 17:20, 6 November 2009 (UTC)

BC or BCE?[edit]

There's some controversy surrounding the conventions of BC or BCE. How did the writers of this article decide to use BC? Maybe there could be more discussion about that decision.Ifmicecouldfly (talk) 16:33, 14 January 2011 (UTC)

As far as I know, there was no formal decision or discussion to decide whether BC or BCE should be used in this article; BC was the style that was originally used when the article was created, and it basically stayed that way. Either way is fine, however. Wikipedia gives no preference as to whether BC or BCE should be used in articles, so unless there is a substantial reason to switch the article's style to BCE, there is no need for a discussion regarding it. See WP:ERA. ~SuperHamster Talk Contribs 04:57, 28 January 2011 (UTC)

Graphic showing shift of front line going to the back[edit]

As we all know, the legionaires in the front line would fight in the front, for about two minutes or so, and then go to the back. Some sort of graphic should be created to show this.SteveMooreSmith3 (talk) 05:18, 8 July 2011 (UTC)

Rank insignia[edit]

How did soldiers in a legion display their rank status? I couldn't find the section in this article which describes the rank insignia of the legion. Was it by the color and style of their tunics? Was it by an insignia they wore on their helmet or armor? Cla68 (talk) 01:21, 11 July 2011 (UTC)

The "typical" Roman legionaire image[edit]

In general this article is quite good, but I have always hated the Hollywoodian image of how a shield in the Roman professional legionaire era was held. The area behind the boss of the shield held a vertical handle which was the grip for the shield. The shield was carried with the arm held pretty much straight allowing a minimal use of effort when pushing against the opponent, which was the Caesaren era method of warfare. When everyone else fought as single men with long swords and no cohesion, the Romans fought as units that intentionally tried to squeeze their opponents so tight that the longer swords, axes etc. became useless. This squeezing was done by pushing with your shoulder against the shield. Then they would stab with their short swords through the gaps in their shield wall to wound or kill their enemies. This is why they used the short sword, not a long one, in that era. Looking at images from movies like Gladiator really makes any one with some knowledge of the tactics and weapons of the time weep, but what can one do? And back to the image: the handle for carrying the shield is in the picture, but the one having made the picture doesn't seem to know it is a handle. Who could've carried a 10+kg shield that way for more than a few minutes without being exhausted by the weight?

One can look at a pretty good "diy" Scutum guide from: — Preceding unsigned comment added by Vessis (talkcontribs) 22:44, 15 December 2013 (UTC)

Fully agreed. I've made a Legio XII scutum myself, and the gif there is incorrect. Plus its a very low-poly model. If need be, I can make a new one. I've got roots in CGI, and it won't be hard making a turntable of a legionary. Should he have lorica segmentata, hamata, or squamata, and which shield design? -- Smeagol630 (talk) 19:48, 20 April 2014 (UTC) --

Origins of the Legionaire image[edit]

Is it just me or is this gif copied directly from the video game Rome: Total War? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:47, 3 April 2014 (UTC)

Centurion seniority conflicts[edit]

This article says that the Pilus Prior centurions of Cohorts 2 through 10 are more senior than the Pimi Ordines of the First Cohort. This is directly conflicting with the Centurion article which states that the Primi Ordines of the First Cohort outranked all centurions from all other Cohorts.

I'm inclined to believe what's listed in the Roman Legion article since it makes sense that the centurion in charge of a whole cohort would outrank a centurion in charge of a century (even a double sized century). Then again, the First Cohort would probably be a position of honor so who knows? Anyway, I thought the conflict should be pointed and corrected either here or at the Centurion article in order to make this consistent. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:04, 22 August 2014 (UTC)

Map of Roman Legions by AD 14 Image[edit]

In the "Early Empire" section, the "Map of Roman Legions by AD 14" image's source is improperly cited.-- (talk) 22:36, 19 March 2015 (UTC)

What's wrong with List of Roman legions???[edit]

I want to explain that Nero never raised a new Legion XVIII for a campaign in Egypt, but the discussion page seems to be protected (against me????????????? Why????????). Stephen Dando-Collins's new XVIII rebuilt under Nero for a campaign in Egypt is in fact the XXII Deioteriana in Egypt and the XXII Primigenia in Germania. When Tacitus says that the duoetvicensimani and tertiani were based in Alexandria in c.66 AD (Jewish uprising in Judaea), he's referring to the XXII Deioteriana and the III Cyrenaica. "Douetvicensimani" means "soldies of the 22nd", not "soldiers of the 18th". — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:30, 17 November 2015 (UTC)