What is Roman Cohort Organization and special cohorts

Roman Cohort

This is how the infantry group of the ancient Roman Empire was called , which arose from the military reforms implemented by Cayo Mario around 107 BC, better known as “Mario’s reforms”. It was with these changes that the Roman military structure would prevail as the prevailing one in the Western world for years, in addition to considerably improving Roman military prowess and, furthermore, avoiding the desire to gather an army and train it when the nation was threatened . Time after its inclusion, the term would develop in terms of its meaning, going on to refer to a war unit . In this article we will provide you the information about the Roman Cohort.

The Roman legions, one of the basic units of military infantry, were made up of ten cohorts, numbered from I to X. The cohorts, for their part, were made up of three maniples and these, in turn, made up of two centuries, groups of 60 to 80 men. Cohort I differed from the rest because it was made up of five double centuries. At the time of the Roman Republic, the cohorts were organized in three main lines: the hastati or the asteros, made up of 120 men, who represented the poorest percentage of the army and could only afford cheap war equipment, such as spears; then, there were the princes, of around 120 men, who enjoyed seniority and were located behind the asteros; Finally, there were the triarii or the triarios, with 60 men, and who distinguished themselves as the veterans of the legion.

For civil security, two cohorts were arranged : the urban ones, of around 1000 men, whose main mission was to secure the cities during the day; the vigilum, also called firefighters, who were in charge of night security and made up of between 70 and 80 men.

Organization of the cohorts

The exact structure of the cohorts varied not only over the centuries, but also varied from legion to legion. However, the prototype of a Roman legion organized in cohorts could be defined as follows:

  • Cohort I: Composed of the elite troops and under the order of Primus Pilus -the most experienced centurion of the legion- .
  • The Prima Cohort was usually made up of 800 men (this varied greatly) . This legion also protected the Aquila , the banner of the entire legion.
  • Cohort II: Composed of weak troops.
  • Cohort III: Composed of troops of mixed performance.
  • Cohort IV: Composed of weak troops.
  • Cohort V: This cohort did not have a special designation.
  • Cohort VI: Composed of the best young men.
  • Cohort VII: Composed of weak troops.
  • Cohort VIII: Composed of selected troops.
  • Cohort IX: Composed of weak troops.
  • Cohort X: Composed of good troops.

Special cohorts

After the introduction of the regular cohorts, made up of the legionaries that made up the bulk of the Roman army, different types of specialized cohorts were introduced. Among the most important of this type of cohorts we find the following:

Praetorian Cohorts (praetoriae) – Nine cohorts made up of the Praetorian Guard , Rome’s elite.

Urban cohorts (urbanae) – Men who officiated as police forces in the city.

Vigilum cohorts (vigilum) : were used to fight fire in the city.

Cohors classica composed of navigators and sailors.

Cohors sagittaria made up of auxiliary skirmishers.

Cohors fabrorum composed of builders who manufactured the facilities that would serve to besiege a city or fort.

The cohorts of the Roman Empire

During the times of Imperial Rome, the cohort system introduced by Mario was maintained. However, its structure, organization and especially its numbers and divisions changed to a great extent. For example, there were auxiliary cohorts such as the quingenarian cohors of 500 men (although historical sources indicate that the number actually ranged from the aforementioned 480 men) or the milliaria cohors of 1,000 men (usually ranging from 800 to 900 men). ) .

In the Empire it was common for the type of cohort to be specified. For example, a peditata cohort was an exclusively infantry cohort while an equitata cohort was a mixed infantry cohort that also possessed a cavalry group. These qualifications were implemented in the times of the Republic. However, it was during imperial times that it became very common to regularly specify it next to the cohort number. The latter mainly due to the importance that the use of cavalry gained during the Empire compared to the Republic.

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