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A complete history of every Imperial Roman legion and what it achieved as a fighting force.
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Stephen Dando-Collins is a novelist and historian. He is the author of several highly acclaimed works on ancient history including Cleopatra's Kidnappers, Nero's Killing Machine, Mark Antony's Heroes, Caesar's Legion and, most recently, Blood of the Caesars. He lives in Australia.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Legions of Rome
I THE MEN
'Every country produces both brave men and cowards, but it is equally certain that some nations are naturally more warlike than others.' VEGETIUS, De Re Militari, FOURTH CENTURY
Down through the centuries, millions of men served with the army of imperial Rome; half a million during the reign of Augustus alone. The history of the legions is the collective story of those individuals, not just of Rome's famous generals. Men such as Titus Flavius Virilis, still serving as a centurion at the age of 70. And Titus Calidius, a cavalry decurion who missed military life so much after retiring he re-enlisted, at the reduced rank of optio. And Novantius, the British auxiliary from today's city of Leicester, who was granted his discharge thirteen years early for valiant service in the second century conquest of Dacia. Any analysis of the legions must begin with the men, their organization, their equipment, and their service conditions. I. WHERE IT ALL BEGAN The origins of the legions of Pompey, Caesar, Augustus, Vespasian, Trajan and Marcus Aurelius go back to the Roman Republic of the fifth century BC. Originally, there were just four Roman legions - Legios I to IIII (the legion number 4 was written as IIII, not IV). Each of the two consuls, 'who were charged both singly and jointly to take care to preserve the Republic from danger', commanded two of these legions. [Vege., III] All legionaries were then property-owning citizens of Rome, conscripted in the spring of each year into the armies of the two consuls. Legio, the origin of the word 'legion', meant 'levy', or draft. Service ordinarily ended with the Festival of the October Horse on 19 October, which signalled the termination of the campaigning season. Men of 'military age' - 16 to 46 - were selected by ballot for each legion, with the 1st Legion considered to be the most prestigious. Rome's field army was bolstered by legions from allied Italian tribes. Legionaries of the early Republic were appointed to one of four divisions within their legion, based on age and property qualifications. The youngest men were assigned to the velites, the next oldest to the hastati, men in the prime of life to the principes and the oldest to the triarii, with the role and equipment of each group differing. By Julius Caesar's day, the conscripted infantry soldier of the Republic was required to serve in the legions for up to sixteen years, and could be recalled in emergencies for a further four years. Originally, republican legions had a strength of 4,200 men, which in times of special danger could be brought up to 5,000. [Poly., VI, 21] By 218 BC and the war between Rome and Carthage, the consuls' legions consisted of 5,200 infantry and 300 cavalry, which approached the form they would take in imperial times. From 104 BC, the Roman army of the Republic underwent a major overhaul by the consuls Publius Rutilius Rufus and Gaius Marius. Rutilius introduced arms drill and reformed the process of appointment for senior officers. Marius simplified the requirements for enrolment, so that it was not only property owners who were required to serve. Failure to report for military service would result in the conscript being declared a deserter, a crime subject to the death penalty. A legionary would be paid for the days he served - for many years, this amounted to ten asses a day. He was also entitled to the proceeds from any arms, equipment or clothing he stripped from the enemy dead, and was entitled to a share of the booty acquired by his legion. If a legion stormed a town, its legionaries received the proceeds from its contents - human and otherwise - which were sold to traders who trailed the legions. If a town surrendered, however, the Roman army's commander could elect to spare it. Consequently, legionaries had no interest in encouraging besieged cities to surrender. Marius focused on making the legions independent mobile units of heavy infantry. Supporting roles were left to allied forces. To increase mobility, Marius took most of the legionaries' personal equipment off the huge baggage trains which until then had trailed the legions, and put it on the backs of the soldiers, greatly reducing the size of the baggage train. With the items hanging from their baggage poles weighing up to 100 pounds (45 kilos), legionaries of the era were nicknamed 'Marius' mules'. Until that time, the maniple of 160 - 200 men had been the principal tactical unit of the legion, but under Marius' influence the 600-man cohort became the new tactical unit of the Roman army, so that the legion of the first century BC comprised ten cohorts, with a total of 6,000 men. Half a century later, Julius Caesar fashioned his legions around his own personality and dynamic style. Of the twenty-eight legions of Augustus' new standing army in 30 BC, some had been founded by Caesar, others moulded by him. The civil war, between the rebel Caesar and the forces of the republican Senate led by their commander Pompey the Great, created an insatiable demand for military manpower. At the Battle of Pharsalus in 48 BC, Caesar led elements of nine legions; Pompey, twelve. For the 42 BC Battle of Philippi, two years after Caesar's murder, when Mark Antony, Marcus Lepidus and Octavian took on the so-called Liberators, Brutus and Cassius, more than forty legions were involved. II. SOLDIERING FOR AUGUSTUS The emperor Augustus, as Octavian became known from 27 BC, totally reformed the Roman army after he finally defeated Antony and Cleopatra in 30 BC. In the professional army of Augustus, the legionary was a full-time soldier, sometimes a volunteer but more often a conscript, who signed on, initially for sixteen and later twenty years. Towards the end of his forty-three-year reign, Augustus was to boast: 'The number of Roman citizens who bound themselves to me by military oath was about 500,000. Of these I settled in colonies or sent back into their own towns more than 300,000, and to all I assigned lands or gave money as a reward for military service.' [ Res Gest., I, 3] That retirement payment was standardized by Augustus at 12,000 sesterces for legionaries, 20,000 for men of the Praetorian Guard. After the completion of his enlistment, an imperial legionary could be recalled in an emergency to the Evocati, a militia of retired legionaries. On Antony's death, Augustus controlled approximately sixty legions. Many of these were promptly disbanded. 'Others,' said Cassius Dio, 'were merged with various legions by Augustus', and as a result 'such legions have come to bear the name Gemina', meaning 'twin'. [Dio, LV, 23] By this process, Augustus created a standing army of 150,000 legionaries in twenty-eight legions, supported by 180,000 auxiliary infantry and cavalry, stationed throughout the empire. He also created a navy with two main battle fleets equipped with marines, and several smaller fleets. In addition, Augustus employed specialist troops at Rome - the elite Praetorian Guard, theCity Guard, the Vigiles or Night Watch, and the imperial bodyguard, the German Guard. In AD 6, Augustus set up a military treasury in Rome, initially using his own funds, which were given in his name and that of Tiberius, his ultimate successor. To administer the military treasury he appointed three former praetors, allocating two secretaries to each. The ongoing shortfall in the military treasury's funds was covered by a death duty of 5 per cent on all inheritances, except where the recipient was immediate family or demonstrably poor. III. ENLISTING AND RETIRING Some volunteers served in Rome's imperial legions - 'the needy and the homeless, who adopt by their own choice a soldier's life', according to Tacitus. [Tac., A, IV, 4] But most legionaries were conscripted. The selection criteria established by Augustus required men in their physical prime. A recruit's civilian skills would be put to use by the legion, so that blacksmiths became armourers, and tailors and cobblers made and repaired legionaries' uniforms and footwear. Unskilled recruits found themselves assigned to duties such as the surveyor's party or the artillery. When it was time for battle, however, all took their places in the ranks. A slave attempting to join the legions could expect to be executed if discovered, as happened in a case raised with the emperor Trajan by Pliny the Younger when he was governor of Bithynia-Pontus. Conversely, during the early part of Augustus' reign it was not uncommon for free men to pose as slaves to avoid being drafted into the legions or the Praetorian Guard when the conquisitors, or recruitment officers, periodically did the rounds of the recruitment grounds. This became such a problem that Augustus' stepson Tiberius was given the task of conducting an inquiry into slave barracks throughout Italy, whose owners were accepting bribes from free men to harbour them in the barracks when the conquisitors sought to fill their quotas. [Suet., III, 8] Once Tiberius became emperor the task of filling empty places in the legions became even more difficult. Velleius Paterculus, who served under Tiberius, made a sycophantic yet revealing statement about legion recruitment in around AD 30: 'As for the recruiting of the army, a thing ordinarily looked upon with great and constant dread, with what calm on the part of the people does he [Tiberius] provide for it, without any of the usual panic attending conscription!' [Velle., II, CXXX] Tiberius, who followed Augustus' policy of recruiting no legionaries in Italy south of the River Po, broadly extended the draft throughout the provinces. Legionaries were not permitted to marry. Recruits who were married at the time of enrolment had their marriages annulled and had to wait until their enlistment expired to take a wife officially, although in practice there were many camp followers and many de facto relationships. The emperor Septimius Severus repealed the marriage regulation, so that from AD 197 serving legionaries could marry. For many decades, each imperial legion had its own dedicated recruitment ground. The 3rd Gallica Legion, for example, was for many years recruited in Syria, despite its name, while both 7th legions were recruited in eastern Spain. By the second half of the first century, for the sake of expediency, recruiting grounds began to shift; the 20th Legion, for instance, which had up to that time been recruited in northern Italy, received an increasing number of its men from the East. When a legion was initially raised, its enlistment took place en masse, which meant that a legion's men who survived battle wounds and sickness were later discharged together. As a result, as Scottish historian Dr Ross Cowan has observed, Rome 'had to replenish much of a legion's strength at a single stroke'. [Cow., RL 58 - 69] When a legion's discharge and re-enlistment fell due, all its recruits were enrolled at the same time. Although the official minimum age was 17, the average age of recruits tended to be around 20. Some old hands stayed on with the legions after their discharge was due, and were often promoted to optio or centurion. There are numerous gravestone examples of soldiers who served well past their original twenty-year enlistment. Based on such gravestone evidence, many historians believe that all legionaries' enlistments were universally extended from twenty to twenty-five years in the second half of the first century, although there is no firm evidence of this. Legions rarely received replacements to fill declining ranks as the enlistments of their men neared the end of their twenty years. Tacitus records replacements being brought into legions on only two occasions, in AD 54 and AD 61, in both cases in exceptional circumstances. Accordingly, legions frequently operated well under optimum strength. [Ibid.] By AD 218, mass discharges would be almost a thing of the past. The heavy losses suffered by the legions during the wars of Marcus Aurelius, Septimius Severus and Caracalla meant that the legions needed to be regularly brought up to strength again or they would have ceased to be effective fighting units. The short-lived emperor Macrinus (AD 217 - 218) deliberately staggered legion recruitment, for 'he hoped that these new recruits, entering the army a few at a time, would refrain from rebellion'. [Dio, LXXIX, 30] In 216 BC, two previous oaths of allegiance were combined into one, the ius iurandum, administered to legion recruits by their tribunes. From the reign of Augustus, initially on 1 January, later on 3 January, the men of every legion annually renewed the oath of allegiance at mass assemblies: 'The soldiers swear that they will obey the emperor willingly and implicitly in all his commands, that they will never desert, and will always be ready to sacrifice their lives for the Roman Empire.' [Vege., II] On joining his legion, the legionary was exempt from taxes and was no longer subject to civil law. Once in the military, his life was governed by military law, which in many ways was more severe than the civil code. IV. SPECIAL DUTIES Legions' headquarters staff included an adjutant, clerks and orderlies who were members of the legion. The latter, called benificiari, were excused normal legion duties and were frequently older men who had served their full enlistment but who had stayed on in the army. V. DISCIPLINE AND PUNISHMENT 'I want obedience and self-restraint from my soldiers just as much as courage in the face of the enemy.' JULIUS CAESAR, The Gallic War, VII, 52
Tight discipline, unquestioning obedience and rigid training made the Roman legionary a formidable soldier. Roman military training aimed not only to teach men how to use their weapons, it quite deliberately set out to make legionaries physically and mentally tough fighting machines who would obey commands without hesitation. As one of the indications of his rank, every centurion carried a vine stick, the forerunner of the swagger stick of some modern armies. Centurions were at liberty to use their sticks to thrash any legionary mercilessly for minor infringements. A centurion named Lucilius, who was killed in the AD 14 Pannonian mutiny, had a habit of brutally breaking a vine stick across the back of a legionary, then calling 'Bring another!', a phrase that became his nickname. [Tac., A, I, 23] For more serious infringements, legionaries found guilty by a court martial conducted by the legion's tribunes could be sentenced to death. Polybius described the crimes for which the death penalty was prescribed in 150 BC - stealing goods incamp, giving false evidence, homosexual offences committed by those in full manhood, and for lesser crimes where the offender had previously been punished for the same offence three times. The death penalty was later additionally prescribed for falling asleep while on sentry duty. Execution also awaited men who made a false report to their commanding officer about their courage in the field in order to gain a distinction, men who deserted their post in a covering force, and those who through fear threw away weapons on the battlefield. [Poly., VI, 37] If whole units were involved in desertion or cowardice, they could be sentenced to decimation: literally, reduction by one tenth. Guilty legionaries had to draw lots. One in ten would die, with the other nine having to perform the execution. Decimation sentences were carried out with clubs or swords or by flogging, depending on the whim of the commanding officer. Survivors of a decimated unit could be put on barley rations and made to sleep outside the legion camp's walls, where there was no protection against attack. Altho...
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Book Description Quercus Books 10/1/2010, 2010. Hardback or Cased Book. Condition: New. Legions of Rome: The Definitive History of Every Imperial Roman Legion. Book. Seller Inventory # BBS-9781849162302
Book Description Quercus, 2010. Hardcover. Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st Edition. The Definitive History of Every Imperial Roman Legion. First UK Edition and First Printing, 2010. Amazing photographs throughout. New!. book. Seller Inventory # TSB3005
Book Description Hardcover. Condition: New. Hardcover. No book on Roman history has attempted to do what Stephen Dando-Collins does in Legions of Rome: to provide a complete history of every Imperial Roman legion and what it achieved as a figh.Shipping may be from multiple locations in the US or from the UK, depending on stock availability. 624 pages. 1.300. Seller Inventory # 9781849162302
Book Description Quercus Books. Hardcover. Condition: New. 1849162301 New Condition. Seller Inventory # NEW7.0779206
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Book Description Quercus Books. Hardcover. Condition: New. 608 pages. Dimensions: 9.2in. x 7.7in. x 1.9in.No book on Roman history has attempted to do what Stephen Dando-Collins does in Legions of Rome: to provide a complete history of every Imperial Roman legion and what it achieved as a fighting force. The author has spent the last thirty years collecting every scrap of available evidence from numerous sources: stone and bronze inscriptions, coins, papyrus and literary accounts in a remarkable feat of historical detective work. The book is divided into three parts: Part 1 provides a detailed account of what the legionaries wore and ate, what camp life was like, what they were paid and how they were motivated and punished. The section also contains numerous personal histories of individual soldiers. Part 2 offers brief unit histories of all the legions that served Rome for 300 years from 30BC. Part 3 is a sweeping chronological survey of the campaigns in which the armies were involved, told from the point of view of particular legions. Lavish, authoritative and beautifully produced, Legions of Rome will appeal to ancient history enthusiasts and military history buffs alike. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Hardcover. Seller Inventory # 9781849162302
Book Description Sort Of Books, 2010. Hardcover. Condition: Brand New. 612 pages. 9.41x7.80x1.65 inches. In Stock. Seller Inventory # xr1849162301