Thursday, June 25, 2009

Legion Composition

We refer to the roman armies as legions, but in the original latin, they were called legio, meaning a levy. They were named as such because there was no standing army in the early Republic. Landed citizens were levied to form an army when the need arose and were later disbanded. Until the general, Marius, made reforms to this sytem (100s BC), the poorest section of the Roman population was not allowed to join except in grave emergencies.

Republican era Legion
At optimum strength the legion of the Republic had 4,200 men. Each legio was made up of ten subdivisions of 420 men, known as a cohors ("cohort" in English). Each cohors consisted of one maniple of 60 triari, one of 120 princips, one of 120 hastati, and one of 120 velites. Each maniple was divided into 2 centuriae ("centuries" in English). Each comanded by a centurio, (centurion). These may have been divided further into units of 6 men called contuburnia

Imperial Roman Legion
Commanded by the legatus, the Legio at full strength was comprised of 6,000 men. It was divided into 10 cohortes (cohorts). Each cohors was made up of 480 men, with the exception of the First Cohort which had 960. A cohors was probably under the command of the most senior centurion of its centuries. Cohortes were divided into six 6 centuriae (centuries). Each centuria held 80 men and was led by the centurio (centurion). The centuries of the First Cohort held 160 men. The centuriae were divided into 10 contubernium. These were groups of 8 men which shared a tent. In addition there was a 120 man cavalry unit attached to the legion and possibly as many as 60 artillery pieces.

1 Legio = 10 cohortes
1 Cohors = 6 centuriae
1 Centuria = 10 contubernia
1 Contubernia = 8 men


References:
1. The Legionary, by Peter Connolly
2. Roman Legionary 58 BC-AD 69, by Ross Cowan
3. Greece and Rome at War, by Peter Connolly

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