What equipment did Roman soldiers have?
At the beginning of the imperial era, around the year zero, a Roman legion consisted of around 5,000 infantry and a small cavalry division of 120 horsemen. Mostly the Roman legions had about the same number of archers, cavalry or light infantry assigned as auxiliary troops, which were recruited from the peoples of the Roman provinces. Legionaries, on the other hand, had to be Roman citizens. In addition, a train with supplies and entrenchment tools accompanied the soldiers, so that a legion came to about 11,000 men.
The legionnaires' equipment consisted of a multitude of weapons and armor, but also tools and everyday implements. The soldiers carried two types of attack weapons: several spears, called “pilum”, and the “gladius”, a short sword.
The pilum of the imperial era was about 2.10 m long, the iron tip took up the front 90 centimeters. In battle, the pilum was hurled into the opponent's line of battle from a relatively short distance. Caesar described the effect as follows: “... a single spear often pierced two overlapping shields and connected them, (...). Since their arms were so strained that they could no longer fight properly, (...) they dropped their shields and preferred to fight unprotected. "
"The gladius, the Roman short sword (original find and replica)"
The legionnaires' sword, the gladius, was a double-edged weapon about 60 cm long and five cm wide. It was mainly used for short range bumping. The spathe, a long sword that was primarily used as a cutting weapon, did not establish itself in the legions until the late imperial era.
The Roman scutum in action
The scutum, a large shield that was bent to the side to better protect the body, served as a protective weapon. It was made of thin, glued wood, framed with iron or bronze and had a metal hump in the middle, on the back of which was the handle. The front was covered with leather and decorated with silver or bronze ornaments in the form of Jupiter's thunderbolts.
The shields of the cohorts were colored differently to make it easier to identify them in the turmoil of battle. The names of the bearer and the centurion were also noted on the shields. During the march the sign hung on a leather strap over his shoulder.
The soldiers wore linen undergarments on their skin and over them a short-sleeved, woolen tunic that came down to their knees. The men's legs remained bare, protection was sacrificed in favor of mobility. Wearing trousers (bracae) seemed strange and unmanly to the Romans, but in cold regions the legionnaires were allowed to wear wool or leather underpants that reached just below the knees.
They wore well-made military shoes on their feet: heavy sandals with multi-layered, nailed soles. The straps of the sandals were laced to the middle of the shins, and in cold weather you could wrap wool or fur in them.
The body armor changed over the years and the types of armor were often used in parallel. At the turn of the millennium, the legionaries mostly wore chain mail. Later they also protected themselves with the “lorica segmentata”, an elaborate armor made of several overlapping metal plates, which were connected inside with leather strips so as not to restrict freedom of movement. The shoulders were also protected by a series of curved plates, and there were larger armor plates for the chest and back. All armor could be pulled on and laced in front as one piece, but it was easy to disassemble for cleaning and repairing.
"Legionaries around 70 AD."
From around 100 AD. Scale armor was also used, first among the elite soldiers of the Praetorian Guard, the ordinary legionaries were only equipped with them later. All three types of armor were still in use during the reign of Constantine the Great.
The head was protected by a well-constructed helmet that consisted of a metal shell and attached neck and face shield. Large cheek tabs protected the sides of the head. The legionaries wore a scarf around their necks to prevent the metal plates from damaging their skin.
They wore a wide belt around their belly, which was partly decorated with metal plates. An apron made of leather strips with metal plates riveted to it hung on the front. It swung as you marched and was probably used primarily for decoration, although it might provide some protection for the lower abdomen and genitals. A dagger, the “pugio”, was stuck in the belt on the side.
"Entrenchment work on the Trajan Column"
Roman pioneer axes
In addition to weapons and armor, every man wore a pioneer ax on his belt, the sharp blades of which were often protected by a leather sheath. In addition, each legionnaire had a saw, a wicker basket for excavation, a piece of rope or leather and a sickle. These devices were carried on a pointed stick, the pilum murale. In the later years of the imperial era, part of the load was loaded onto a supply wagon that accompanied the troops. The legionnaires' largest and heaviest piece of luggage was the leather tent called “papilio”. It was transported on a mule along with a pair of millstones for the grain rations.
Equipment of the centurions
In general, the centurion was a splendid and prominent figure in order to properly distinguish him from common men. He wore a vest with leather, chain or scale armor and metal shoulder pieces, as well as an ornate belt. Around his waist he had a double-folded skirt similar to a kilt, and his shins were protected by metal greaves. A precious cloak hung elegantly draped from his left shoulder, and his sword hung on his left side.
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