The Roman Army was vital to the development of the Roman Empire and the Romans’ success. Ancient Rome’s legions of soldiers rose to power and conquered modern day England and Wales, Spain, France, most of Germany, northern Africa, the Middle East and Greece. Though to the Romans, each of these countries would have been known by a different name:
Historians widely recognise that the Roman Army was one of the best military forces the world has ever seen. However, although it was a great success, this also eventually led to the Roman Empire’s downfall.
The Romans introduced the grading of classes amongst the soldier legions, according to wealth and status. The first class had the most armour with a helmet, round shield, greaves and breastplate - all bronze, along with a spear and sword. Lower classes carried less armour and weapons, while the fifth (known as legionnaires) were only armed with slings. Between approximately 5,000 and 6,000 legionaries formed a legion commanded by a legatus. Disciplined and co-ordinated fighting approaches were encouraged for all legionnaires. A whole legionnaire could risk punishment for failure to fight - even if they were the winners! Roman army training was generally tough but the soldiers and the empire benefitted financially.
Upon entering into battle, a soldier would be equipped with a pilum, which was similar to a javelin and used for throwing at the enemy whilst running; a gladius, the main weapon for a soldier when he fought at close quarters; and a pugio, which was simply a small dagger that could be used as a last resort. A curved shield known as a scutum was also carried for protection and curved around the soldier’s body. The Roman army used the scutum to achieve a ‘tortoise formation’, where they lifted the shield above their heads as a group to interlock and protect one another from the opposing army’s weapons.
See also: The Roman Army and Warfare
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