10 Fun Facts You Need To Know About The Roman Army
Updated: Feb 12
Here we go, welcome to our list of 10 super-fast Roman Army-flavoured facts! What does the Roman Army taste of you ask? Probably sweaty sandals, armpits, and blood I reckon. So, not likely to be the new fragrance from Chanel!
1 ) A Roman Army was called a Legion, and the Roman Empire had 30 of these Legions hanging around the place, loitering next to bathhouses, to call upon at any one time.
Each Legion had 6000 soldiers in it. Those same soldiers were then plonked into one of ten Cohorts. Some Cohorts consisted of the very best soldiers, and others were crammed with confused-looking noobs.
Each Cohort was then made up of a selection of Centuries. We think of a Century as being the number 100, yet the Romans only had 80 Legionaries in a Century - confusing, huh? Finally, each Century was made up of ten Contuberniums, or squads, of eight men. That's far too many numbers. Just best to remember that, unlike most ancient armies, the Romans were insanely well organised.
2 ) Soldiers in the Roman Army were either Legionaries or Auxiliaries. Legionaries were Roman Citizens, whilst Auxiliaries were men from other kingdoms that the Romans had conquered.
3 ) Legionaries had all the best weapons. They were armed with a short sword, ideal for a spot of unfriendly stabbing, called a Gladius. They also enjoyed lobbing javelins, dubbed Pilum, at any poor fool who decided to charge at them.
4 ) Legionaries also had the most technologically advanced armour in the ancient world. To a Barbarian from Gaul, they probably looked like Space Marines from the far future. This was thanks to the Legionnaire's shiny helmet (called a Cassis or Galea), body armour (with the easy-to-remember name of lorica segmentata), and enormous rectangular shield (named Scutum). It would be hard work to kill a Legionnaire clad in all this protective clobber.
5 ) Roman Legionaries loved marching, they did it all the time! The average Legion would march a sandal-scuffing distance of twelve miles a day.
6 ) Back to those Centuries, they actually used to consist of the sensible number of 100 soldiers. But a dude called Gaius Marius shrank Centuries down to 80 soldiers during the Marian Reforms. Clearly, he just did this to confuse people thousands of years later. Bravo Gaius Marius, well played!
7 ) Roman Legions brought enormous siege engines to war with them, like the Onager and Ballista. The Onager could launch enormous rocks some 130 metres, whilst the Ballista could shoot deadly-sharp arrows with unerring accuracy up to 400 metres.
8 ) Thanks to their supreme training, Legions could move into different formations at the drop of a helmet. Thousands of soldiers could shift into the shape of a square, triangle, circle, or - erm - tortoise? That's a shape, right? These formations would offer different advantages in battle and enable the Legion to take on any foe.
9 ) Roman Soldiers would have likely worshipped Mars, the Roman God of War. Before marching to battle Legionnaires would hold aloft their spears and shout out 'Mars vigalia!', which means 'Mars wake up'. They wanted to make sure that Mars was dressed, pressed, and ready to commit atrocities in the name of the Roman Empire.
10 ) After 20 years of service and duty, Legionnaires were finally allowed to retire. They got a pretty sweet deal; they were given a plot of land to have as all their own. Here they could build a house, grow crops, and put their feet up.
And any of their mates from the Legion who had also been lucky enough to have survived would probably be their neighbours. Ex-Legionnaires would all end up living together in neighbourhoods called Colonia.