The Romans were considered an empire of iron, because their society was stable but also because they had a highly trained army that used effective military tactics, which they managed to conquer and dominate everything in their path. We will see the Roman army and the legionaries with their characteristics. In this article we will make you known that What were Roman soldiers called?
Who were the legionaries?
The legionaries represented the military troops made up solely of Roman citizens, who represented the solid base of the army of the Roman Empire, on which other non-Roman warriors were annexed . They were commanded by a consul and numbered about 3,000 infantrymen and 300 horsemen. However, this was not always the case, the legions always evolved over time, in the 3rd and 4th centuries BC it was made up of only two centuries of about 60 men each, organized in three lines.
The first line corresponded to the heavy infantry soldiers, who were well equipped and protected with a cuirass, helmet, shin guards and shield, as well as two javelins and the sword. The second line was exactly the same as the first, with well-equipped and armed foot soldiers representing the relief. Finally, the third line was made up of velites, reserve soldiers with light weapons but with the same strength. Additionally, about 300 riders who were organized into 10 groups of 30 men.
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Legionnaires being the main warriors of the Roman empire and the base of the army, recruited warriors who were not Roman citizens were considered auxiliaries . These auxiliary warriors were generally recruited from barbarian peoples, who were already under the rule of the Roman Empire, but who did not receive citizenship. They were useful because they represented the largest number of soldiers and had different abilities. After serving 25 years in the Roman army, they and their families could opt for Roman citizenship.
Most of the auxiliaries specialized in some war tactic according to the region where they lived. For example, it speaks of the Syrian archers, the Balearic slingers and also the famous horsemen of the regions of Pannonia, Batavia and Thrace, who were extremely skilled as horsemen and attacking with javelins, spears and the spatha, a kind of sword. long. The auxiliaries formed the cavalry of the Roman army, which was in charge of protecting the flanks, surrounding the enemy army and also going after the retreating enemy soldiers .
The life of the legionaries
The life of the legionnaire was simple and dedicated to the war , since the pay was humble, charging even less than a farmer, but it was worth it to have a secure job in a difficult society and periodic food, in addition to the opportunity to reach a political position of importance. They lasted twenty years on active duty, and finally five years as veteran soldiers , which included a decrease in responsibilities and tasks. The preparation and selection was fierce, with severe discipline and punishments. One of them was the tithe , which involved killing one in ten men at the hands of their own companions.
No matter what was the reason why a soldier enlisted in the Roman army, the truth is that he was expected to fulfill a bond of brotherhood and loyalty to the companions of his group, ties that accompanied them under any scope of his life.
Instruction and functions of legionaries
As legionaries were mostly sent to remote areas as part of protection work and to prevent rebellions on the empire’s borders, they spent a lot of time in barracks, so they needed to train well and frequently in order to maintain physical form. This training aimed to develop skill in the use of weapons and all equipment, keep soldiers in shape and teach them to be coordinated among all as part of a single body .
To meet these objectives, the soldiers made walks of about fifty kilometers with all their military equipment, they also carried out individual and group fights, practiced the different formations, among other things. In addition, apart from all these routines, the legionaries had to carry out surveillance in areas where there was a risk of attack or rebellion, at construction sites and other places.
Part of the functions of the legionaries was to carry out disciplinary campaigns in regions where some peoples rose up against the Roman Empire . In these campaigns the objective was to inflict great damage on the enemy so that fear would remain among them and the action would not be repeated. But it also sometimes aimed to punish the rebellious peoples by destroying the entire area they inhabited, including their livestock, their crops, and their homes.
On the other hand, legionaries were trained in such a way that they could perform engineering tasks very quickly and efficiently . To spend the night, they built huge camps with an embankment around it, a moat and a palisade, which provided protection. They also carried out construction work to cross natural obstacles such as bridges to cross rivers, which made them unstoppable.
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Legionnaires’ weapons and tactics
One of the tactics used by the Romans was siege, which first included a warning and an invitation to surrender, otherwise they would be mercilessly attacked and razed . The last resort of this tactic was hand-to-hand fighting after having taken the stronghold of the enemy city, which in turn included a code that had no limits or restrictions for soldiers, due to all the effort involved in taking a battle. fortified city. For this reason, the legionaries indulged in unbridled slaughter, pillage and rape, as a form of revenge for the death of their comrades during the siege and also as a reward for all the effort made.
The military armament of the Romans included bomber artillery used mostly in sieges, which was like a kind of giant crossbow . They also later included catapults that had only one arm , which although they did not collapse the walls, caused great damage to those who were within them. In order to undermine the walls of the fortified cities, they used the turtle technique to mobilize in groups , which implied that a group of legionaries advanced together, covering themselves with their shields from all angles until they reached the door and began to tear it down. or to dig a tunnel.
The legionnaires were very well armed but also very well protected with armor that mixed protection with mobility . They had a helmet and a cuirass that, together, protected the head and torso, although the arms and legs were left unprotected but with great mobility. The armor weighed about 30 pounds, and had an overlapping plate system.
Many legionaries had to carry their weapons, armor and shield, which achieved a weight of about 20 kilos, but additionally they carried tools and kitchen utensils that could weigh up to 15 kilos. However, some other soldiers did not carry that extra weight in order to be ready for attack or ambush.