13 Things You Should Know about the Roman Legionary

6. Siege warfare

Roman Empire

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Whenever the Roman legionary was dispatched to capture a town or fort, a special unit of the army would first surround the settlement from all sides to prevent any person from escaping. A heavily fortified camp would then be set up around the area, preferably on a high ground and beyond any possible missile range. Lastly, the army would attack the town, under covering fire from the earlier unit with bolt-firers, archers, and catapults.

7. The temptation of loot and plunder

Roman legionary

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The possible rewards from wartime plunders, particularly against prosperous and powerful neighbors, attracted men to join the Roman legionary. It was largely a custom in the Roman army to strip the dead, as the first act, after attaining victory. According to Roman philosopher Cicero, it was these exploits that motivated the largely disorganized troops under Marc Antony to fight battles. Barbarism too had its place. A popular practice was to display the severed heads of opponents on a spear-top. Roman emperor Julius Caesar himself endorsed such a practice by his troops after he defeated Pompeius Magnus in the Battle of Munda in 45BC.

8. More than the helmet

Roman legionary

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Helmets, according to several ancient historians, served other purposes than the usual protective function. The Roman legionary wore decorative helmets that had a psychological effect on its enemies. The soldiers looked taller and far more imposing in such helmets. Decorating helmets, as a tactic to intimidate opponents, was later picked up by other armies. Greek historian Polybius particularly mentioned the use of a “feather circle” that made Romans look taller. The observation makes sense because many of their enemies, like the Germans and Galle, were taller and better built than the Romans.

9. Centurions

Roman legionary

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Units in the Roman legionary were known as century. When a soldier was promoted to lead a century, he was called a Centurion with about 80 men under his command. A soldier would only be promoted to a Centurion if he was brave, clever, a good fighter and followed the chain of command of his superiors.

Also Read: 15 Famous Roman Emperors Of Ancient Times

10. The soldier engineers

Roman Army

Image Credit: Roma Invicta

The soldiers in the Roman legionary were engineers and construction workers. During the later years of the empire, they carried tools like axes, shovels, picks and similar other equipment while on the march. They set up defensive systems wherever they had to camp and constructed roads that connected to the empire. They also built public works like aqueducts.

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