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The Roman Legion of the Early Republic Period

In a certain period of time (perhaps in the early period of the Roman Republic, which was headed by two consuls), the legion (the Roman army) was divided into two separate legions, each of which was subordinate to one of the consuls.

In the early years of the Roman Republic, hostilities were mostly armed raids, and therefore it is not known whether the full combat power of the legion was involved in the course of hostilities.

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The wars that were led by the Roman Republic, became more frequent and took on the nature of planned military operations. In the IV century B.C. two more legions submitted to each consul, and their total number increased to four. If necessary, the conduct of a military campaign gained additional legions.

From 331 B.C. at the head of each legion stood the military stands. The internal structure of the legion became more complex, the order of battle from the classical phalanx was changed to manipulative, and at the same time the tactics of the combat use of the legions were improved.

Since the beginning of the IV century B.C. the soldiers received a small salary. The Legion began to number 3,000 heavy infantry. (principles, gastatas, triarii), 1,200 light infantry (Velita) and 300 cavalry.

Different categories were staffed by different property classes of Roman citizens and had different weapons.

Organization: Initially 4,200 infantry in 30 tactical units – maniples (consisting of 2 centuries of 60–120 soldiers), reduced to 10 cohorts , and 300 horsemen in 10 turmas.

Tactics: the transition from phalanx to manipulative construction (a clear division into 3 lines and units-maniples in a row at intervals). The legion’s order of battle consisted of 3 lines of 10 maniples each.

gastatas – 1,200 people = 10 maniples = 20 centuries of 60 people – 1 row;
principles – 1,200 people = 10 maniple = 20 centurias of 60 people — 2 row;
triarii – 600 people = 10 maniples = 20 centurias of 30 people – 3 rows;
light infantry – velity, out of action (1,200 people);
cavalry on the flanks.

By the beginning of the 2nd Punic War ( 218 B.C. E. – 201 B.C. E. ) The number of infantry was increased to 5000-5200 people by increasing the number of individual centuria.

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In addition, detachments of Allied forces ( aly , from alae — wings located on the flanks) under the command of prefects that function as tribunes of the legion were attached to the legion. As a rule, the number of allied units was somewhat larger than the number of the legion. Auxiliary units (also called auxiliaries ) later became part of the army.

In connection with the devastation of the free peasantry, military service was abolished, the salaries of the soldiers were increased, and the Roman army became a professional mercenary army.

The composition of the Legion

In the era of the Republic the Legion consisted of the following units:

Light infantry. Velites , armed with darts and swords, did not have a strictly defined place and destination in the battle formation. They were used where necessary.

Heavy infantry. The main combat unit of the Legion. It consisted of legionnaire citizens who could afford to buy equipment that included a bronze helmet, a shield, armor and a short spear — a pilum dart. The favorite weapon is the gladius (short sword). The heavy infantry was subdivided according to the combat experience of the legionaries (before the reforms when they canceled the division of the infantry into classes and turned the legions into a professional army) into three lines of battle order:

( hastatus ) – the youngest – 1 row
Principles ( princeps ) – warriors in their prime (25-35 years) – 2 row
Triarius ( triarius ) – veterans – in the last row; they were engaged in combat only in the most desperate and difficult situations.

Each of the three lines was divided into tactical units — handles of 60–120 warriors, comprising 2 centurions under the command of the eldest of two centurions (a centurion II rank). Nominally, the centuria consisted of 100 warriors, but in reality it could have up to 60 people, especially in the triarii handles.

Cavalry: The heavy cavalry ( equites ) was originally the most prestigious branch of the military, where the wealthy Roman youth could demonstrate their prowess and skill, laying the foundations for their future political career. The cavalryman himself bought weapons and equipment – a round shield, helmet, armor, sword and spears. The Legion numbered about 300 cavalrymen, divided into divisions (Turmas) with 30 people each under the command of the decurio. In addition to heavy cavalry, there was also light cavalry, which was recruited from less wealthy citizens and young wealthy citizens who were not suitable for gastatas or equites.

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In battle, the maniples were usually located in a staggered manner, which was called quincunx. Manipules of principles covered the gap between the gastata, and those covered the manipulations of the triarii. Chess order is an early structure for building a legion. After the II century BC. dominated by solid construction, without breaks.


Legion // Encyclopedic dictionary of Brockhaus and Efron
Dundo-Collins Steven. Legions of Rome. Full history of all the legions of the Roman Empire
Eliseev M. B. Rome-Macedonian Wars. Legion against the phalanx
Zelinsky F. F. Roman Empire
Mattesini Silvano. Roman legions. All about the most powerful army of the ancient world
Mattesini Silvano. Warriors of Rome. 1000 years of history
Makhlaiuk A.V., Negin A.E. Roman Legions. The most complete illustrated encyclopedia

Eksmo, 2018. – 416 pp., Ill. – (The best warriors in history)
Ritterling E. VI Iron Legion
George Watson. Roman warrior
Welch, George Patrick . The Legions of Rome

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