Roman Legions

Roman Legions - The Evolution of the Roman Legions The use...

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The Evolution of the Roman Legions The use of violence as a means of achieving political, economic, and social goals, among other things, is a big part of why the Roman Empire was so successful and dominant for so long. Just as we can document the evolution of warfare throughout world history, we are able to document the evolution of warfare within the Roman Empire throughout its period of dominance. The Roman Legion is a reference to the heavy infantry that was the basic military unit of the ancient Roman Army during the later stages of the Roman Republic and Roman Empire. What follows is a closer look at how the Roman legion evolved beginning in the fourth century B.C.E. through Marius’ reforms of the army, ending with the Army of the Augustus, also known as the “Classic Legion.” The first sign of the Roman Legion was in the early fourth century B.C.E. following the sack of Rome by the Gauls. “The Gallic invasion of 390 B.C.E., which swept into the city, was associated with a reform of the military structure,” (Holmes, 20). In order for Rome to reestablish its authority throughout central Italy, a major reorganization of the military structure was necessary. Dropping the utilization of the Greek Phalanx was one of the more important steps taken towards this restructuring. Fluvius Camillus was credited with the creation of the legion, which was seen as a much more flexible battlefield structure than the phalanx (Holmes, 20). Each of these newly created legions consisted of anywhere between 3,000 and 6,000 infantry troops, often accompanied by cavalry and other support personnel. Eight
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legions existed during the early and middle Republic, with each consul and praetor controlling two of them. These legions were divided into smaller units, known as cohorts, consisting of 300 to 500 men. These cohorts were then divided into even smaller groups, known as maniples. A maniple consisted of roughly 120 men, with three existing within each legion. The age and experience of the troops is what determined these divisions ( Depending on your age and level of experience you were assigned to one of three sections within a legion, and issued certain types of weapons according to your section. The first in this three-layered line of defense was the Hastati. The Hastati were the youngest soldiers, between the ages of 18 and 35, and formed the front line of the legion. Each Hastati contained 10 maniples, for a total of roughly 1200 men (Roisman, 4/19). These soldiers were javelin throwers, equipped with multiple spears and a long, cylindrical body shield. The quality of weapons and armor varied among these soldiers, as they had to pay for it themselves. The wealthier soldiers were able to provide themselves with higher quality weapons and protection. The duty of the Hastati was to create the initial surge of battle, holding off the enemy long enough for the next line of defense to step up and hopefully win the battle ( The second section of defense within a legion was the Principes.
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Roman Legions - The Evolution of the Roman Legions The use...

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