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.
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.