Much confusion surrounds the organisation of the Roman Army and in my opinion that is mainly down to the fact that it is so advanced and there are so many roles to play on the battlefield, and while on the march. Not to mention that the army would have undoubtedly evolved over time, relative to the advance of the Roman domain and the periods of time when Rome was a monarchy, republic and empire. But I think we can all agree that there is one trait that the soldiers of the city possessed for a considerably long stretch of time – and that is their fiercesomeness and discipline.
And what ensured that the legions always stayed so strong and dominant was certainly how well thought out the organisation of the army was. Their formations, tactics and ranks well outstanded other tribes and civilisations at the time – so it was the key advantage. I’ve decided to simplify the organisation of the Roman Army so that the basics are clear. This is a blog post on the system of the army, not the weapons and strategy and whatnot. The organisation I am displaying in this article is typical of how it was in the dawn of the Roman Empire. I hope you enjoy.
One last thing – I’ve only learnt a bit about this recently, so it’s a new for me too. If you have some knowledge about this subject, I would highly appreciate it if you left if in the comments below, even if it’s just feedback. Thanks.
“The Roman Army’s formations and tactics outstood other tribes of the time”
Seperate legions were usually sent to battles, and often a couple would pair up to encounter an enemy. In total there were about 30 legions. When one legion was destroyed, it’s name could never be used again. Each legion had about 5.5K men, and was divided into ten ways into parts called cohorts.
A cohort was comprised of six centuries, all led by a centurion who had worked his way up the ranks in his military career. He was backed by an ‘optio’, who would take the centurion’s place if he wound up lost or killed in battle. Although the name suggests there would be 100 men in a century, there was actually only 80, made of up of ten camps of eight legionaries. The legionaries were the basic unit of the legion, the backbone of the army. If there were six groups of eighty men, then a cohort would number 480 troops.
“A camp would have a tent when marching and a specific place to stay in the barrels “
Note that the first cohort of a legion was double the size. Totalling 5,280 men, this legion would be supported by a unit of 120 cavalry, making them a strength of 5,400.
It’s in incorrect belief that all soldiers in the ranks were native Italians. Rather, residents of towns and captured fighters from other armies that had been defeated were included into the army.
So you can see that the Roman Army was actually quite large, and efficiently ordered. One of the factors that might increase the moral of Roman troops is their trust in the stability of operation within battle.