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As outlined in the other pages about the Ancient Roman army, Roman soldiers came from a variety of backgrounds and social classes, not to mention ethnic backgrounds: by the second century BC over half of the soldiers fighting on the roman side were provided by their allies - Soci.
Within ancient Rome itself everyone had the duty and honour to serve their country and the position they would and could take within the army was largely driven by their personal wealth as recorded in the census. All roman soldiers could receive prizes, given a share of booty, be invited to join in the triumphal marches and recognition for their valour or for having saved a comrade’s life (civic crown).
The highest ranks were held by high ranking civilian magistrates who had served many years of military service but were magistrates nonetheless.
Soldiers were broken down into 5 distinct classes – driven by the civilian census of personal status and wealth (ability to pay your own armament). A legion of men was therefore split into:
"Et galea hirsuta compta lupina juba" (propertius iv, xi, 20)
When Roman dominions began to expand, and when the Roman empire began to stretch overseas, Ancient Roman soldiers could count on having to spend considerable time away from home. They could also count on having to travel considerable distances along the famous Roman roads. All of this implies that each individual would have to carry a broad range of possessions, not only armour and weapons but also items of day to day use which all together could weigh up to a considerable weight.
It is estimated that the legionaries of Gaius Marius, popularly known as "Marius’ Mules", carried something in the region of 35-45kg – a very significant weight if you were going to have to march large distances in a day! Clearly much of this weight consisted in their Roman armor and Roman weapons: the shield alone could weigh as much as 10kg but a good deal more was being carried as part of a Roman soldier’s basic survival kit ("sarcinae"), usually by way of a "T" shaped post. Basic items might include….
The tunic of roman legionaries was frequently sleevless, it extended down to the knees and was white or red colour. The cloac was woollen called "sagum" or a poncho type affair called "paenula". Trousers only entered daily attire toward the end of the empire, probably a Gallic introduction. The shoes were called Calligae – rather like the nickname of Emperor Caligula, acquired by way of the shoes he often wore as a boy in the military camps.
Have a look at the many images of roman soldiers we have collected for you.
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"roman soldiers" was written by Giovanni Milani-Santarpia for www.mariamilani.com - Rome apartments