The Roman Legions

The Roman armies developed many of their warfare techniques from the Etruscans and they improved upon them. They also used the tactics of Alexander the Great and the Greeks, including the Greek phalanx warfare. But Roman commanders knew that the phalanxes were too large and too slow to be useful in the many wars they were encountering.


The Legion

The generals devised innovative new plans for the organization of their armies for war. They reorganized their troops into legions of 6,000 men. They divided these into smaller more mobile units of 120 soldiers that would route the slow moving phalanxes of their attackers.

The Legionaries

Roman soldiers known as legionaries were very well trained and disciplined. Deserting was met by punishment of death. The discipline within the legions was so strict and their methods so brutal that they eventually brought fear into the entire known world.

The legionaries built a massive network of roads up and down the Italian Peninsula which soon became major trade routes. They also set up military cities known as coloniae.

Once the Roman army had conquered an enemy they would treat them remarkably well by giving them partial rights and maybe even citizenship especially if the conquered enemy would contribute anything to help fight in Rome's wars such as soldiers or ships.

Military Organization and Development

Looking back upon history no people have been more affected by their military institutions than that of Rome. The Roman military system rested upon the responsibility of the male citizen to render military service. Early organization of the army probably followed the Homeric method with nobles in chariots and an army of common people. As Rome developed under the Etruscan's, a long, closed phalanx had been developed as the basic formation.

Definite improvements in the military organization were made in the fourth century BC. At that time soldiers pay was introduced and the legionary formation developed. The legion originally contained about 4,000 men divided into smaller units for flexibility of movement in a country. The throwing of the javelin also was adopted and the cavalry was strengthened. The many Roman wars forced them to develop a universal military training system and Roman army discipline was vastly superior to that of nearly all peoples she met on the battlefield. The Roman military was well organized and their insistence upon fortified camps was another definite advantage which Roman military training included. In military matters at least, Rome could face the future with confidence.

The History of Rome - Part One. 743 - 136 B.C. Glossary

Also see Roman Emperors - Photos, information , coins and more to come.

© Bible History Online (

 The History of Rome - Table of Contents