13 Things You Should Know about the Roman Legionary

11. The donative

Roman legionary

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The Praetorian Guards from the Roman legionary were the Roman emperor’s personal bodyguards, and from the 1st century BC onwards, were sometimes involved in appointing new emperors. Over the years, they became more powerful and eventually started murdering emperors to appoint new ones. They were rewarded by the new emperor. The practice, called “donative”, was one of the major reasons why emperor succession became chaotic during the later years of the Roman Empire. The Praetorian Guards became one of the most corrupt and dangerous units of the Roman army.

12. Generals seldom fought

Roman Army

Image Credit: Ancient Roman Times

While they are usually depicted in popular media as heroic figures in full battle gear, Roman generals were mostly “battle managers” and not warriors. They fought hand-to-hand only in the rarest circumstances. If a general lost a battle, he would either draw the sword on himself, or seek an honorable death in the hands of his enemy. The first recorded history of a Roman emperor fighting in a battle was that of Maximius Thrax (235-238AD).

Also Read: 13 Facts About Ancient Roman Gladiators

13. Medical discharge

Roman legionary

Image Credit: romanmedicine

A soldier who became severely injured in a fight and was unable to serve his unit was honored with a honesta missio i.e. discharge on medical grounds. It was an honorable discharge recognizing his contribution to the Roman legionary. He was granted a higher societal status than ordinary civilians. He was also exempted from taxes and civic duties. But of course, considering the medical sciences at that time, the chances of survival was extremely low, even after treatment by professional medics.

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