The Roman Army Essay

This essay has a total of 1771 words and 10 pages.

The Roman Army

The Roman Army
Chris Young
Mrs. Harris
April 23, 1999

The Roman Empire is considered by many as the basis of modern civilization. Today we use a
form of government that was started by them long before people even knew that the Earth
was round. Their reign of power began around 509 BC with the overthrow of the Etruscan
dynasty till 1453 with the fall of Constantinople to the Turks. Their land, at its peak,
contained such areas as Britain, Spain, Gaul, Mauretania, Egypt, Judea, Syria,
Mesopotamia, Armenia, Dacia, Illyria, Macedonia, Greece, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, Crete,
Cyprus and of course Italy.

The government of Rome had to first conquer these lands then later they would have to
protect them. So they formed what is considered the greatest army of ancient times, the
Roman Army. This army was a highly organized and efficient fighting force that would
strike fear to almost all who opposed them. The size of their army would reach sizes that
would rival even those of today. The Roman army brought about more effective tactics and
weapons that would forever change warfare.

The Roman Army used a system like today’s military to divide their troops. The largest
section was called a Legion which consisted from anywhere from 4,000 to about 5,500 combat
ready troops. Each Legion was then divided into cohorts which contained about 600 men. The
first cohort consisted of men in charge of administrative and supply duty. The cohort was
then broken up into a century, this means unit in Latin, which consisted of about 80 to
100. A century was usually lead by a non-commissioned officer called a Centurion. Another
unit that was sometimes used was a maniple which consisted of two centuries.

Another division that was used divided the army into two parts which were called
Comitatensis, Limtanei and Praetorian guard. The first part, which is a mobile fighting
force, had to be ready to go anywhere in the empire at a moments notice. This was a highly
mobile field army that could be at a trouble spot within two to three weeks. This group
included lightly armed cavalry units, mounted archers (Sagittarii), lancers, and heavily
armored cavalry (Cataphractii). Julius Caesar also used skilled slingers from the
Balearic Islands who were strong swimmers and who could withstand cold weather.

The second group was a more permanent defensive group. This mainly consisted of troops
assigned to the frontier as border guards which was not a very well liked job. In order to
get more people to join this part the government decided to give a barbarian land in
return for serving in this group. The idea behind this was to relocate the barbarians from
one area to another so that they were not defending Rome against their own people. Towards
the end of the western empire there was an increasingly growing number of barbarians in
this group which would prove to be devastating. These troops were the first line of
defense and if attacked by a sizable force could easily be annihilated.

The third group were bodyguards for the emperor. This group was started by emperor
Augustus in order to stop assassinations like the one that killed Julius Caesar. The
leader of the Praetorian guard was called the Praetorian Prefect. Through the time of the
empire the Prefect was sometimes more powerful than the emperors they were protecting.
Septimius Severus got rid of his supposed bodyguards calling them unreliable and seditious
rebels and he in turn put his own hand-picked men in return. Constatine finally disband
this group for good calling them more of a dangerous nuisance than imperial protection. He
then started the Scholae Palatinae, or palace guard. The title Praetorian prefect did not
disappear however. Instead became a entirely civilian government office without any
military powers. The empire was divided into three large regions called prefectures, each
under the control of a praetorian prefect.

The Roman army also devised a an ingenues plan for their castras, camps. Their layout was
used both for permanent and mobile army camps. A camp for two 5,000 strong legions usually
covered 800 square meters. The camp had four exits which were designed to where you cannot
just walk in but would have to go around at least one wall. There were always three
streets, and two of them lead to the center of the camp where the headquarters was
located. These streets were always called the same name no matter where you were in the
empire, one was Via Principia and the other was Via Praetoria. There was always a seventy
meter distance from the walls to the closest tent in order to stay safe under attack by
projectiles such as arrows and catapults. Different parts of the camp were always assigned
to same people in order to keep everything organized and efficient.

The jobs to set camp were divided among all the men in order for everything to go fast and
smoothly. A tribune would be sent ahead of a marching group to find a suitable site to
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