Legiona military organization, originally the largest permanent organization in the armies of ancient Rome. The term legion also denotes the military system by which imperial Rome conquered and ruled the ancient world. The expanding early Roman Republic found the Greek phalanx formation too unwieldy for fragmented fighting in the hills and valleys of central Italy.
Accordingly, the Romans evolved a new tactical system based on small and supple infantry units called maniples. Each maniple numbered men in 12 files and 10 ranks. Maniples drew up for battle in three lines, each line made up of 10 maniples and the whole arranged in a checkerboard pattern. Conversely, the second line could merge with the first to form a solid front 10 ranks deep and m 1, feet wide. In the third line, 10 maniples of light infantry were supplemented by smaller units of reserves.
The three lines were 75 m feet apart, and from front to rear one maniple of each line formed a cohort of men; this was the Roman equivalent of a battalion. Ten cohorts made up the heavy-infantry strength of a legion, but 20 cohorts were usually combined with a small cavalry force and other supporting units into a little self-supporting army of about 10, men.
10 Brutal Facts About the Roman Legions
Two infantry weapons gave the legion its famous flexibility and force; the piluma 2-metre 7-foot javelin used for both throwing and thrusting; and the gladiusa centimetre inch cut-and-thrust sword with a broad, heavy blade. For protecton each legionary had a metal helmet, cuirass, and convex shield. In battle, the first line of maniples attacked on the double, hurling javelins and then diving in with swords before the enemy had time to recover. Then came the maniples of the second line, and only a resolute foe could rally from the two successive shocks.
As Roman armies of the late Republic and Empire became larger and more professional, the cohort, with an average field strength of men, replaced the maniple as the chief tactical unit within legions. In the military operations of Lucius Cornelius Sulla and Julius Caesar, a legion was composed of 10 cohorts, with 4 cohorts in the first line and 3 each in the second and third lines. Seven legions in three lines, comprising about 25, heavy infantry, occupied a mile and a half of front.
As Rome evolved from a conquering to a defending power, the cohort was increased to a field strength of — men. These still depended on the shock tactics of pilum and gladius, but the 5,—6, heavy infantry in a legion were now combined with an equal number of supporting cavalry troops and light infantry made up of archers, slingers, and javelin men. In order to deal with mounted barbarian raiders, the proportion of cavalry rose from one-seventh to one-fourth.
By the 4th century adwith the empire defending its many fortified border outposts, as many as 10 catapults and 60 ballistae were assigned to each legion.
In modern times the term legion has been applied to a corps of foreign volunteers or mercenaries, such as the French provincial legions of Francis I and the second-line formations of Napoleon. Info Print Cite. Submit Feedback.
Thank you for your feedback. Legion military unit.A couple of millennia ago, ancient Rome ruled over much of Europe, Africa, and western Asia. The formidable might and efficiency of the ancient Roman military played a pivotal role in the rapid expansion of ancient Roman civilization. Roman legions formed the largest units in the Roman army.
In the early days of the republic, each legion consisted of around 3, well-trained men. This number was later expanded to up to 5, men in each legion during the imperial era.Why Did the Roman Legions Abandon the Gladius?
A typical Roman legion would have 10 cohorts about 5, men. This changed around the second half of the first century when the number was kept at nine cohorts of standard size.
The first cohort had the most skilled soldiers in it. Throughout ancient Roman history, a number of such legions were formed, took part in conflicts and wars, and then were ultimately disbanded.
Here is a list of the top 10 Roman legions:. He formed this legion specifically to get much needed offensive assistance in the civil war he perpetrated against the conservative republican leader Pompey. The legion had a bull as its symbol as did pretty much every legion formed under Julius Caesar. The Gallica helped Caesar carry out major campaigns against the republic, the highlights being the battles of Pharsalus and Munda.
Historians also state that later, the Roman holders of power might have decided to send part of the legion to the vassal king Herod of Judaea. The force that was sent was to assist the king in reclaiming the kingdom of Judaea. After the fall of Caesar, almost the entire Third Gallica was handed over to Mark Antony to assist him in the battles against the Parthians.
It is said that the brave men of the Gallica fought gallantly against the far stronger might of the Parthians. They eventually had to retreat but not before saving the rest of the Roman army already engaged in the battle. This legion is famous in the history of the imperial Roman army and was considered to be a twin of the much revered Legio VI Ferrata. The Victrix played a crucial role in bringing Antony and Cleopatra to their knees by running through their opponents during the Pannonian campaigns of 39 to 36 BC.
Perhaps the biggest blow to any chances of Antony and Cleopatra claiming the empire came when Legio VI Victrix, along with other legions, defeated the enemy in the Battle of Actium. The Victrix then went on to assist Augustus in his war against the Cantabrians that continued for almost 10 years starting in 29 BC.
The legion was then stationed in freshly conquered contemporary Spain where it stayed for nearly a century. During this time, the city of Legio was founded known as Leon in the present day. Legio Duodevigesima, or simply the 18th, was also founded in 41 BC, again by soon-to-be Emperor Augustus.
But Augustus never delivered on his promise. Around the time when Caesar started his governing duties at Hispania, he realized he was one legion short in order to kick off his carefully planned campaign.
That is when he formed the Equestris Legion, the first legion Caesar levied personally, and one that proved to be the most trustworthy. That is how the 10th Legion got its new cognomen and went on to be known as Legio X Equestris. The Equestris Legion was in the thick of the action when the Gallic Wars broke out. In fact, it was involved in pretty much every war Caesar declared upon his enemies.
It was the composure and bravery of the soldiers of the 10th Equestris Legion that brought about the defeat of the Helvetii tribes. Because of victories on this front, the Romans were able to blockade any Helvetii moving into contemporary western France.
Legio Duodecima Fulminata, or simply the Thunderbolt 12th Legion, was a famous legion from the days of imperial Rome. The legion was enlisted by Caesar in 58 BC with his sights set on scoring a thumping victory in the Gallic Wars. The 12th Fulminata had a thunderbolt as its emblem. Once the majority of conflicts were over and the legion had helped Caesar achieve an all-round victory in grabbing power over imperial Rome, the legionaries were pensioned off and given lands in Parma.Note the Lion's head and pelt over his helmet and body.
The Legion's Aquila would be defended to the death. At Right - A model of a aquilifer carrying the Aquila Standard. Both displays are at the Museum in Dover, England. The Century, Cohort and Auxiliary units of a Roman Legion, carried several different styles of Vexilla bannersSignums and other types of "Standards" to identify themselves.
They were decorated with garlands and sacred oils on special days and occasions. The honor of carrying these "Standards" was entrusted to veteran legionaries who generally were serving their extended enlistments after 20 years of service. Each Century and Cohort unit would have a "Signifer" to carry its Signum and a "Vexillarius" to bear the unit's Vexillum banner. These standard bearers wore maile hamata armor instead of segmentata plate armor and generally are depicted wearing the heads and hides of Wolves "Lupae", Bears "Ursae", and in the case of a legion, maybe a Lion "Leo", over their helmets and armor.
This is thought to have been a demonstration of the dominance of Rome over the forces of nature. They generally carried a round "Parma" style shield in deference to the usual rectangular "Scutum". In the Castra fort or other unit encampment, the standards of the Legion and its Units were housed in the Shrine or Treasury portion of the Principia headquarters building; where they were guarded day and night.
The poles for the various standards would have a butt spike to allow them to be stuck in the ground and many had a handle or "grab" to extract them from the ground and to more easily carry them while on the march.
Ludwig Lindenschmidt, who was an early authority on the history and activities of the Roman Legions in Germanic Europe. Note that the Vexillarius is wearing maile hamata body armor and a very impressive lion pelt over his helmet.
Bear ursus and Wolf lupus pelts were frequently worn by the standard bearers of century and cohort units. Note the Wolf Lupus skin worn over his helmet and ring-maile armor, and the round Parma style shield. The cinnamon colored omnivorous mammal's staring eyes seem to follow you as if looking for a meal. The most famous "Standard" was the "Aquila" Eaglethe symbol of a Legion, which was carried at the head of the Legion formation when on the march by the "Aquilifer" and was staunchly protected on and off the field of battle.
A legion which lost its Aquila or had it fall in battle was disgraced. The Aquila emblem generally had up-raised wings surrounded by a laurel wreath. It was mounted on a narrow trapezoidal base, which had horizontal stylized unicorns and lightening bolts extending from the sides.
Rome Army Mus. A Signum Standard, is maybe more widely recognized as an icon of Ancient Rome than the Aquila; and is thought to have been carried by the individual legionary and auxiliary Century units of the Legion. The "massed" signums were generally carried at the head of the Legion while on the march. The Manus is believed to have designated the "Prior" first Century of a two-century "Maniple" formation; while the spear top would indicate the "Posterior" or second century of the "Maniple".
The Manus however continued to be displayed within Imperial Legions. One to six phalerae were displayed on a signum and the number of disks is thought to represent the number of the Century unit within the Cohort, as six century's composed a cohort and not more than six phalerae have been found in representations of signums from Roman times.
The wreath sometimes surrounded the Manus or spear head surmounting the standard pole. Mounted below the phalerae or within the phalerae group, could be a crescent, possibly relating to Syria or the god Mithras a favorite deity of legionary soldiers ; a Capricorn emblem Leg XIIII below or zodiac image indicating the "birth sign" of the Legion during the year or other effigy relating to the origin of the unit.
A fringed inverted bowl was placed below the other elements and its purpose or meaning is not known.
A hand grab was affixed low on the staff for ease of carrying the signum while on the march. Saalburg Fort, nr Frankfurt Ger.
A vertical hung banner identifying the Legion and the individual Legionary or Auxiliary units serving away from the main body of the Legion or Cohort.He will lift up an ensign to the nations from far When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. A banner hung from the crosspiece of imperial Tyrian purple and gold cloth.
Constantine had this Labarum carried before his legions as he defeated a much larger pagan Roman force outside of Rome. He directed some of his men to place the chi-rho on their shields and he wore it on his helmet. Constantine selected 50 men, called the Praepositi Laberorum, to form a color guard to protect the Labarum. Constantine later recognized these men and organized them into the Golden Chivalry - Torquati so named for their gold collars and Perfectissimi Most Perfect Knights.
See service mark policy. The Crown above the Roman arms symbolizes our Lord's sovereignty over Centurions. It's boat shape relates to the idea of the early church in a boat from whence we get the word Nave for the place of the congregation with imperial Roman Purple" trim on a white background. The other side of the medal shows the chi-rho inside a wreath.
It may be worn with a chain or "Imperial Roman Purple" cord or ribbon. This was used as a creed by early Christians, first in Alexandria and by sailors it spread through the Empire. When early Christians met along the way, the fish could be used as a sign of recognition. One Christian would, with his foot, make and arc in the dirt as a challenge-sign, the other would make the other arc to complete the figure of the fish as the counter-sign.
The fish represents the feeding of the 5, and communion. The fish was used on houses, in the catacombs, and elsewhere to identify safe places for Christians. It is recognized as such in the Order of Centurions.
Another design that many think was used for a Christian acrostic is the Rotas Square. Quo Vadis— "When Vinitius first met Ligia, she drew something on the sand—and ran away. A fish!
It was Tertullian who wrote in "De Baptismo" "But we, being little fishes, as Jesus Christ is our great Fish, begin our life in the water, and only while we abide in the water are we safe and sound. The Aquilae has come to stand for the word of God, and the Aquilea shown above has done so for a very long time in the Chapel of the Centurion. See more about the Legio Aqiulae. They may be used by members on personal items and correspondence for their own personal use.
They may be used by chartered Cohorts for the exclusive use of their membership. They may not be used on items sold for excess above cost except to members and persons associated with the Order. Whenever used, they should be displayed with the motto and may use the words "Centurion", "Optio", "Legionary", "Axuillia", "Order of Centurions", or similar words used by the Order.A Roman legion from Latin legio "military levy, conscription ", from legere "to choose" normally indicates the basic ancient Roman army unit recruited specifically from Roman citizens.
The organization of legions varied greatly over time but they were typically composed of up to 5, soldiers, originally divided into 10 maniples and later into cohorts each with soldiers. Maniples or cohorts were divided into 6 centuries of 80 men each. In reference to the early Roman Kingdom as opposed to the Roman Republic or empire"the legion" means the entire Roman army.
For most of the Roman Imperial period, the legions were a part of the Imperial army and formed its elite heavy infantry, recruited exclusively from Roman citizens provincials who aspired to citizenship gained it when honorably discharged from the auxilia. Each legion always included a small cavalry attachment. The Roman army for most of the Imperial period consisted mostly of "auxiliary" cohorts,  who provided additional infantry, and the vast majority of the Roman army's cavalry.
Because of the enormous military successes of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, the legion has long been regarded as the prime ancient model for military efficiency and ability. See List of Roman legions for a catalogue of known late republic, early Empire and late Empire legions, with dates in existence, emblem and locations of deployment.
Because legions were not standing units until the Marian reforms c. To date, about 50 have been identified. In the time of the Early Roman Empire, there were usually about 25—35 permanent standing legions. A legion consisted of several cohorts of heavy infantry known as legionaries.
It was almost always accompanied by one or more attached units of auxiliarieswho were not Roman citizens and provided cavalryranged troops and skirmishers to complement the legion's heavy infantry. The recruitment of non-citizens was rare but appears to have occurred in times of great need; For example Caesar appears to have recruited the Legio V Alaudae mostly from non-citizen Gauls. The size of a typical legion varied throughout the history of ancient Rome, with complements of 4, legionaries and equites drawn from the wealthier classes - in early Rome all troops provided their own equipment in the republican period of Rome, the infantry were split into 10 cohorts each of 4 maniples of legionariesto 5, men plus auxiliaries in the imperial period split into 10 cohorts, 9 of men each, plus the first cohort holding men.
In the period before the raising of the legio and the early years of the Roman Kingdom and the Republic, forces are described as being organized into centuries of roughly one hundred men. These centuries were grouped together as required and answered to the leader who had hired or raised them. Such independent organization persisted until the 2nd century BC amongst light infantry and cavalry, but was discarded completely in later periods with the supporting role taken instead by allied troops.
The roles of century leader later formalised as a centurionsecond in command and standard bearer are referenced in this early period.
With this all Roman able-bodied, property-owning male citizens were divided into five classes for military service based on their wealth and then organised into centuries as sub-units of the greater Roman army or legio multitude. Joining the army was both a duty and a distinguishing mark of Roman citizenship; during the entire pre-Marian period the wealthiest land owners performed the most years of military service.
These individuals would have had the most to lose should the state have fallen.X Fretensis is then recorded to have existed at least until the s.
Top Three Great Roman Legions
The symbol of Taurus may also mean that it was organized between 20 April and 20 May. Octavian, later known as Augustuslevied a legion and gave it the number ten, as a reference to Julius Caesar 's famous Tenth Legion. The name refers to the fact that the battle took place near the sea Strait of Messina Fretum Siculum. Although Actium was a battle at sea, the legion was able to board enemy ships that had been hooked close by means of an iron grapnel known as the Corvus.
Actium marked the end of the civil war and the rise to power of Octavian, who was proclaimed Augustus some years later. Tiles found in Caesarea Maritimabuilt in the second decade BC, suggest that the legion was at that time based in Iudaea.
Later X Fretensis moved to Syria. In the same year, Publius Sulpicius Quirinusgovernor of Syria, led these legions in the suppression of the revolt that sprung out after the deposition of Herod Archelaus. Ruins of the city of Gamlaconquered by X Fretensis in However, the two legions were needed in Judaea to suppress a revolt. This was due to the large number of legions being mobilized in Ptolemais, under Marcus Ulpius Traianusfuture governor of Syria and father of the emperor Trajan.
During that same winter, the Caesarea camp of Xth and Vth hosted Vespasian, who was forced to go to Rome the following yearwhere he seized power. Vespasian's son, Titus finished the suppression of the revolt. In the summer of 68, X Fretensis destroyed the monastery of Qumranwhere the Dead Sea Scrolls are believed to have originated.
Its winter camp was at Jericho. Herodium one of the fortresses of the Jewish revolt conquered by the X Fretensis. By 70, the rebellion in all of Judaea had been crushed, except for Jerusalem and a few fortresses, including Masada. The Xth camped on the Mount of Olives. During the siege, Legio X gained fame in the effective use of their various war machines. The projectiles of their ballistae caused heavy damage to the ramparts. According to Josephus vol.
The siege of Jerusalem lasted five months and the besieged population experienced all the terrible rigors of starvation. Finally, the combined assaults of the legions succeeded in taking the city, which was then subjected to destruction.
Remnants of one of several legionary camps of X Fretensis at Masada in Israel, just outside the circumvallation wall which can be seen at the bottom of the image. During the spring of 71, Titus set sail for Rome.
A new military governor was then appointed from Rome, Lucilius Bassuswhose assigned task was to undertake the "mopping-up" operations in Iudaea. Naturally, he used X Fretensis to oppose the few remaining fortresses that still resisted.
Top 10 Ancient Roman Legions
As part of this, X Fretensis took Herodiumand then crossed the Jordan to capture the fortress of Machaerus on the shore of the Dead Sea. Due to illness, Bassus did not live to complete his mission. Lucius Flavius Silva replaced him, and moved against the last Jewish stronghold, Masadain the autumn of He used Legio X, auxiliary troops, and thousands of Jewish prisoners. After his orders for surrender were rejected, Silva established several base camps and a wall of circumvallation completely around the fortress.
When the Romans finally broke through the walls of this citadel, they discovered that the Jewish defenders had chosen death with a mass suicide. After the conclusion of the Jewish revolt, Legio X was garrisoned at Jerusalem. Their main camp was positioned on the Western Hill, located in the southern half of the old city, now leveled of all former buildings.
The camp of the Tenth was built using the surviving portions of the walls of Herod the Great 's palace, demolished by order of Titus.On this page can be found a list of the legions of the Roman Empire.
Raised in Italia. The emblem was likely the bull as this was the emblem of all the Caesarian legions. Permanent Bases: I. Events: 48 BC: Possible campaigns with Caesar in the civil war include the battles of Dyrrachium and Pharsulus, but there is no solid complete evidence for this. At some point between the Pompeius and the Cantabrian campaigns it earned the cognoment Augusta but was stripped of it due to disloyal and minor mutinous behavior. During its time in Germania it earned the cognoment Germania under either Drusus or Germanicus.
The legion was disbanded and never reconstituted at this point. Formally established by Galba in 69 AD. Its standard was the Capricorn. Foundation: Recruited by Nero in 66 AD for his planned expedition against the Albani tribe along the Caspian Sea, which never took place. Its standard was the boar. Events: 69 AD: Galba, distrustful of Macer and his new legion, ordered the death of the Legions commander and for it to be disbanded.
Its standard was either the likeness of Minerva or a Ram, her zodiac sign. Subunits served various stations all over Germania. Flavia, the family name of Domitian was dropped after his death in 96 AD.
AD: Nsibis, Mesopotamia. Foundation: Possible recruitment as early as 67 by Nero, but formally accepted by Vespasian in 70 AD. Recruited from marines stationed in Ravenna. Its standard was the capricorn and the pegasus.
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