Roman Soldier Facts

Here are some facts about Roman soldiers:

  • Only men over the age of twenty could become a soldier and join one of the legions of the Roman Army.
  • All regular Roman soldiers (legionaries) were Roman citizens, but this didn’t mean that they had to live in Rome. Soldiers came from all over the Roman Empire, from places such as: Africa, Spain, Germany, Britain and France.

  • Non-Roman citizens were still able to fight for Rome as auxiliaries. However, auxiliary troops did not earn as much as the legionaries and they didn’t have such high-quality armour, weapons and equipment.
  • Roman soldiers had to serve in the army for twenty-five years before they were permitted to retire. They received a pension or a gift of land when they left the army.
  • Roman legionaries were not allowed to get married.

Roman Soldier Facts

The Training of Roman Soldiers

The Roman Army was incredibly well-organised and well-drilled. Individual soldiers had to be incredibly fit and strong, and willing to follow orders without questioning them.

  • Roman soldiers were able to march more then twenty miles a day wearing full armour and carrying weapons and equipment.
  • They were trained to swim, build bridges, set up camp and fight as a unit.
  • Roman soldiers were famous for their discipline in battle. They always followed orders and knew that if an army of soldiers worked together they would often be successful. In battle, the Romans fought in lines and formations.
  • Some soldiers were specifically trained to fulfill certain roles. Some were expert archers, some were trained to use giant catapults (onagers) or large crossbows called ballistas, and some were trained to fight on horseback.

This video clip gives a good summary of the life of a Roman soldier, and includes details about their equipment, weapons and army discipline.

 

Roman Weapons, Armour and Equipment

  • Roman legionaries wore armour made from iron and leather strips.
  • They wore a metal helmet called a galea.
  • Roman shields were curved so that they would fit round the soldier’s body and wide enough so that it could be butted-up to the shields of other soldiers when they were fighting in formation.
  • The gladius sword was used by Roman soldiers when they were fighting in close combat. It was particularly good for stabbing.
  • Soldiers also carried a javelin (a throwing spear).
  • When marching, the soldiers carried food rations and camping equipment (including a cooking pot and a spade).

This video goes into lots of detail about the clothing, equipment, armour and weapons which would have been worn and used by a Roman soldier.


 

What next? Discover some Roman Army facts or visit our Romans reources page.

Roman Army Facts

The Roman Army was incredibly well-organised, well-trained and highly disciplined.

Only men were allowed to be Roman soldiers and they had to be Roman citizens and at least twenty years old.

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How was the Roman Army structured and organised?

The Roman Army was divided up into about 30 legions. Each legion was made up of between 4000 to 6000 soldiers. The soldiers were known as legionaries. Each legion was made up of 10 cohorts. A normal cohort contained 480 soldiers. These soldiers were divided into six groups of 80, and these were called centuries and were led by a centurion. Within each century, the men were further divided into groups of 8 called a contubernium. These 8 men would share a tent when the legion camped.

The first cohort in every legion was larger than the other cohorts. It was made up of five double centuries.

The Roman soldier who had command of the whole legion was known as a legate.

Each legion also had a group of 120 horsemen attached to it. They were used as scouts and to send messages.

This video gives a really good picture of how the a Roman legion was organised and how it would look on the battlefied from the perspective of an opposing army.


 

What were Roman auxiliaries?

Although the legionaries made up the bulk of the Roman Army, they were not the only troops used by the Romans. Non-Roman citizens could also fight for Rome as a Roman auxiliary. Auxiliaries were paid only a fraction of the wages givenb to the legionaries and they did not have use of the best armour and weapons. They were used to defend the frontiers of the Roman Empire and they were sent to the front line in battles where the fighting was most fierce.

Roman Army
Roman Legionaries (Credit)

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Facts About Ancient Roman Clothes and Costume

What did the Romans wear?

The Romans mainly wore clothes made of wool (and linen was also imported from across the Roman Empire). The style of clothing was influenced by the clothing worn by the Ancient Greeks, but it also evolved over time, incorporating fashions from all over the Empire.

The Clothes of Roman Men

Roman men usually wore a chilton (a type of tunic which came down to the knees). This could be sleeveless or have short-sleeves. A cloak was often worn over the chilton. When the weather was cold, Roman men often wore more than one tunic.

Only free Roman citizens were allowed to wear a toga. Originally, togas were worn without tunics underneath, but it soon became normal to wear a toga over the top of a simple tunic. The toga was a large (sometimes 3.5 metres wide) semi-circular piece of woolen material designed to be draped over one shoulder and then folded to fit the body. Sometimes lead weights were sewn into the hem of the toga to help it to hang properly. By law, standard togas had to be white.

Roman Toga

The Clothes of Roman Women

The stola was a long tunic. It commonly reached to the ground and could be sleeveless, have short-sleeves or long-sleeves. It was usually worn over another long tunic. A palla (a smaller and simpler version of the toga) was often worn over the stola.

Women’s clothing could be quite colourful. The most sought after colour was Tyrian purple, created from a dye extracted from the glands of murex sea snails.

Roman Clothes

The Clothes of Roman Children

Most Roman children wore a simple tunic, belted at the waist.

Children would wear a bulla (a type of amulet or charm) which was given to them when they were very small. Boys would wear it until they reached the age of sixteen and girls would keep it on until they were married.

Rich boys wore a toga with a purple edging.

Roman Underwear

Romans wore a simple loin cloth, kept in place by knots at either side of the body. Instead of bras, women wore a band of material tightly tied across the body.

Undergarments were usually made of linen, but women also used silk when if they could afford it.

Roman Cloaks

There were several different types of cloaks, and the styles changed over the history of the Roman Empire. Cloaks were basically the jackets and winter coats of the Romans. They were worn over tunics and togas (although they sometimes replaced the toga) and they often had a hood sewn into them. Cloaks could be brightly coloured and sometimes made of leather or felt.

Roman Footwear

Roman men and women often wore the same types of shoes. There were lots of different options available to the Romans and the style they went for would have been affected by the weather and whether or not they were inside or outside.

The calcei was an outdoor shoe made from soft leather. It was worn by most Romans.

Sandals were thought of as indoor shoes. Rich Romans would employ a slave to carry his sandals for him so that he could change into them when he stepped inside a building. The Romans also wore a type of slippers when they were indoors.

Roman soldiers wore the caliga – a type of military boot / sandal. It had hobnails and was very hard-wearing.

A Roman military sandal (Credit)
A Roman military sandal (Credit)

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What language did the Romans speak?

The Romans spoke Latin, but it wasn’t the Classical Latin language that it taught in schools and universities today. The Romans would have spoken Vulgar Latin, and used Classical Latin for their writing and official events and ceremonies. Vulgar Latin was not standard and is sometimes known as Common Latin or Colloquial Latin.

The Romance Languages (such as Spanish, French, Portuguese, Romanian and Italian) all evolved from the same starting point following the fall of the Western Roman Empire – Vulgar Latin. Over time they developed into completely separate languages.

In the Eastern Roman Empire, based around Constantinople, by the 4th century, the official language was Greek and not Latin.

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