Why was the Roman army so successful?

The Roman legionaries

The enormous expansion of the Roman Empire was due to the many successful campaigns and conquests of the Roman army.

The success of this Roman army was due to the fact that it was a well-trained professional army. Emperor Augustus (31 BC - 14 AD) had come to believe that it was necessary for the Roman Empire to have a standing army. He was the founder of the Roman Professional armywhose soldiers were Roman citizens. This means that a man who wanted to serve as a soldier in the Roman army had to be a Roman citizen. So his family had to be a citizen. Within the Roman army, the largest association was a legion. At the time of Augustus, the nominal strength of a legion was 5,000 to 6,000 men. A legion was divided into 10 cohorts of about 480 men. In a cohort were also the officer corps, the legion riders, craftsmen, the hospital staff and the members of the entourage. The train of a Roman legion had the task of supplying the legionaries on a campaign.

A cohort, in turn, was divided into six centuries, with 80 legionnaires belonging to one centurie.

Eight legionaries each formed a community within the Centurie. They shared a tent or a room in a barracks. Here they prepared their food together. They also marched and fought together. Anyone who wanted to become a Roman soldier had to endure tough and strenuous training. Only those who passed this training were accepted into the Roman Legion. A man who wanted to become a Roman legionnaire not only had to be over 1.75 meters tall, but also had to be strong, lean and athletic. After a medical examination, in which the fitness was determined, he had to swear an oath of allegiance and undertake to obey his commanding officer.


Service in the Roman Legion lasted 25 years. A successful legionnaire also had the opportunity to make a career in the military. The Roman legionaries were armed with helmets, shields, chain mail or scaled armor and a long lance with an iron tip. They also carried a dagger and a sword on their belts. In every centuria there was also a signifer. He was the bearer of the standard and at the same time the money manager of his unit. Since the legionaries set up their own camps, they had to have good manual skills. And in order to survive the long marches with baggage weighing around 30 kilograms, they also had to be very physically fit. A centurion was commanded by the centurion. Having fought on the front lines in the fights and battles, he was the main officer in the Legion. In order to be able to recognize him in battle, he wore a diagonally positioned helmet bush.

The success of the Roman army in its many campaigns was not only due to the good training of the legionnaires, but was also due to the well-thought-out way of fighting and war tactics.

The Roman army is particularly known for its turtle formation (photo). The Roman legionaries moved so closely together that they formed a "tank" with their shields. As a result, the individual soldiers were particularly well protected from attackers.


Photos: Copyright © 2006 Medienwerkstatt Mühlacker