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Order of March
An ordinary day's march for the Roman army consisted of 15-18 miles done in 7 of our hours (or 5 of the Roman summer hours).
The order of march followed is likely to have been some variation of that reported for legions in by Polybius (100-118 BCE), by Josephus (37-94 CE), and by Vegetius (4th century CE):
- Cavalry, light infantry, and archers running point
- A vanguard consisting of auxiliary troops, cavalry, heavy infantry, standard bearers, engineers, and the color party.
- The command group consisting of the commander, a bodyguard of picked troops, mules carrying artillery and battering rams, legion commanders, standards, and trumpeters
- The main body consisting of the legions, six men abreast
- The baggage trains, consisting of wagons carts and pack animals, and slaves
- The rear guard consisting of auxiliary troops and cavalry
- Cavalry also guarded the flanks of the column.
However, the order of march for legions within the army was changed daily, to equalize the labor of the legionaries.
If a retreat were necessary, the order of march was somewhat reversed: the baggage train went first--with the vanguard--to remove it from danger soonest, followed by the main army, then the rearguard.
After marching all day, the army would pitch camp, which involved digging ditches; raising a palisade to surround the camp; pitching their tents and those of their officers; and digging latrines. A day of rest was customary after every three or four days of marches.
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- For an army of six legions, the baggage train alone--if the animals were to march in pairs and the carts were to move singly--would have been approximately twelve and a half miles long. The head of the army would almost be pitching camp for the day as the tail of the same army would have just left their previous camp.
- It's been estimated that there were 1250 pack animals/legion plus 250 pack animals for staff officers' gear. For an army of six legions that would imply about 7500 pack animals to handle all the army's gear.
- The soldier's step (gradus) was two and a half Roman feet long (the Roman foot, during the Late Roman Republic, was .97 of ours). The Romans marched about as quickly as our modern day armies: their route step has been estimated at 100/minute; their quick step has been estimated at 120/minute. The pace (passus) was two steps from right heel to right heel.
- Roman armies were often followed by a rather sizable contingent of camp followers, suttlers, and slaves.
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