The Legionary

During Caesar's time, each legionary's enlistment was for a minimum term of six years and a maximum of 16. Romans as young as 17 years of age could enlist. The ideal Roman Legionary stood about 5' 10" tall, had good eyesight; a strong physique, and good military bearing.The pay was approximately 225 denarii a year, excluding deductions made for food, clothing, arms and other equipment.


The Roman Legionary carried the following weapons with him onto the battlefield:

  • A gladius (Spanish short sword)–a double-edged sword about 50-55 centimeters (19.6 to 21.7 inches) long, with a blade about 4.8 to 6 centimeters (1.9 to 2.4 inches) wide. It was worn on the right side of the body in a wooden or leather sheath.
  • Pilum (a Roman spear)

  • A pugio (an iron or bronze dagger)–worn on the left side by legionaries, but on the right side by
    officers–was approximately 25 to 40 centimeters ( 9.8 to 15.7 inches) long
  • Two pila,one heavy, the other lighter. The lighter was used for longer distance throwing. The pilum was approximately 1.8 meters (5.9 feet) long. The metal head where itmet the wooden haft was approximately 3.8 centimeters (1.5 inches) thick. Two bolts fastened the metal head to the main shaft; onewas made of iron and the other was made of wood so that the second bolt would break on impact. As a result, the pilum tip would bend when it penetrated a target, consequently preventing the enemy from reusing it against the Romans.
  • The shield was the early scutum, a semi-circular shield which was approximately 1.2 meters (4 feet) tall, 0.6 meters (2 feet) wide, and 1.3 to 1.9 centimeters (1.5 to 2 inches) thick. It was constructed by criss-crossing and gluing layers of planks together, much like plywood. It was trimmed and bossed with metal to protect it from damage from heavy sword strokes.


Coolus Legionary Helmet

The Roman Legionary wore the following armor on the battlefield:

  • The galea (helmet) was probably of the Montefortino type, to which a horse-hair crest could be attached using a single pin inserted into the knob on the helmet crown; or it could have been a Coolus C type.
  • The Romans never used leather "armor" per se; leather was used aspteruges,hide strips appended to mail, scale, or plate armor to help reduce its drag and protect the shoulders and thighs.
  • Most often, legionaries wore the lorica hamata (mail shirt made with rings of iron or bronze); in rare cases, they wore the lorica squamata (shirt made with "scales" of iron or bronze).
  • Scutum Shield

  • The centurion wore a helmet of the Romano-Corinthian type, but fitted with cheek guards and topped with a transverse crest, the color of which indicated his cohort.
  • Officers wore a muscled cuirass


The Roman Legionary wore the following items:

  • A long sleeveless woolen tunic on top of a linen vest
  • Puttees (cloth or leather gaiters), if it was cold
  • Roman Montefortino Helmet

  • Woolen underwear, if it was cold
  • Caligulae (boots) were made of leather and were hobnailed [see caligula picture below].
  • A rough woolen cloak of an extremely dark brown color called a sagum, which may have also served as a blanket; or a paenula, a cloak with a peaked hood
  • Belted sheaths for both the gladius and the pugio, worn over the shoulder opposite the side each weapon was normally worn on
  • A legionary carried money in a leather or bronze "purse" which was worn like a bracelet.
  • Other Items Carried

    A Roman legionary typically carried around 27.2 to 36.3 kilograms (60-80 lbs.) of equipment on themarch. A t-shaped frame was used to carry the soldier's sarcinae (load, bundle, pack). Bundles of rations, clothing, tools, etc., were tied to or hung from this frame.

    When his gear couldn't be carried on mules or in wagons, the Roman legionary packed in addition to his weapons:

    • Shield and helmet covers
    • Kit bag, a leather bag for carrying various items
    • Cooking pots;
    • Two pilupe murale (stakes) for use in constructing palisades;
    • A patera (mess tin);
    • A dolabra (mattock or pick-axe);
    • A turf-cutter;
    • A sickle;
    • A basket;
    • A grinding mill, for grinding up "corn" (actually wheat, rye or oats, not corn as we in the U.S. know it)
    • Spare thongs,
    • Gear for cleaning and polishing armor;
    • Bathing and shaving paraphernalia, and
    • Rations (grain, bacon, cheese, etc.) for a fortnight

    The Auxiliary Soldier

    Auxiliary soldiers consisted of light infantry, archers, and slingers. Archers were typically recruited from Crete, Numidia, Syria, and Arabia. Slingers were typically recruited from places like the Balearic Islands (Majorca, Minorca), Numidia, Syria, and Rhodes.


    • The auxiliary sagittarii (archers) typically used composite bows.
    • Funditores (slingers) used slings to fire roundshot of various weights or fustibali (sling staffs) to fire pila or arrows. The sling used by a slinger was comprised of a piece of leather, which held the missile, and two thongs, one of which was attached to the throwing hand and the other held between the thumb and forefinger of the same hand. The sling was cast by whirling it around the head once and then releasing the second thong..


    • Most auxiliaries of the Late Roman Republic wore their native helmets.
    • Light infantry were armed like legionaries. They had a leather jerkin, but no armor, and carried the round shield (parma) instead of a scutum.
    • Slingers wore no armor at all.
    • Archers wore mail shirts that were longer than those worn by cavalry


    • Tended to be the traditional garb characteristic of the country they came from, or they paralleled what the legionaries wore.

    Other Items Carried

    • Archers carried quivers. Roman quivers were cylindrical and were hung from the right side behind the cavalryman. The quiver was worn on a balteus (shoulder strap) by the infantry.
    • Archers carried arrows with iron tips, bracings (if they used the "Mediterranean release"), or thumb rings (if they used the "Mongolian release").
    • Slingers might carry leaden shot, known as glandes, which were shaped like an acorns.

    The Cavalryman

    During Caesar's time, each cavalryman's enlistment was for a minimum term of six years and a maximum of ten.


    • A spatha, a somewhat longer and lighter sword than the gladius, was about 60 to 90 centimeters long with a blade about 3 to 8 centimeters in width (sources seem to disagree on this; one source says 3 to 4.5 cm, another says 4 to 8 cm).
    • A hasta (thrusting spear) approximately 1.8 meters (5.9 feet) long.
    • A contus (heavy lance) approximately 3.5 meters (11.5 feet.) (long held two-handed without a pompanum. [Note: this may have been from the Principate onward; the references I have aren't specific]
    • Composite bows–lighter ones than the non-mounted archers–were used by horse archers


    Roman Cavalry shield

    • The galea (helmet) was probably of the Attic type which covered the entire head, leaving only the eyes, nose, and mouth visible
    • The Romans never used leather "armor"; leather was used aspteruges,hide strips appended to mail, scale, or plate armor to help reduce its drag and protect the shoulders and thighs.
    • Bracae, leather chaps
    • The lorica hamata (mail shirt made with rings of iron or bronze) or the lorica squamata (shirt made with "scales" of iron or bronze), which was split at the hips so that the rider could sit on a horse
    • Parma equestris, a round shield. Celtic or Germanic cavalry units used a flat, oval Celtic shield with the top and bottom cut off. When it wasn't in use, the shield was carried by hanging it off the saddle or saddle cloth.


      Caligula-- Roman sandals

    • A woolen tunic on top of a linen vest
    • Caligulae (boots) were made of leather and were hobnailed

    Other Items Carried

    • Horse archers carried quivers and arrows
    • Saddles, which had pommels at each corner to give the rider stability since the stirrup was unknown to the Romans.
    • Saddle cloth
    • A bridle, either a snaffle or curb
    • Metal hackamore
    • Thumb rings if archers used Mongolian release method
    • Bracers if archers used Mediterranean release method
    • Leather bowcase

    Other Legionary Personnel

    Quite a few legionary soldiers were skilled tradesmen and were given the rank of immunis, which exempted them from duties normally expected of legionaries.

    It's unclear whether the legion of the Late Roman Republic had medics or medical units; however, in the early first century, each cohort had a physician and four medical attendants. Presumbly there were some provisions for medical care in the Late Republican army.

    Other Facts

    • As in today's armies, Roman soldiers were clean shaven and kept their hair cut short.
    • Roman generals dressed in scarlet with scarlet cloaks
    • Unbelted mail with a hauberk weighed around 6.8 kilograms (15 lbs.).
    • Loricae squamatae (scaled shirts) weren't as strong and flexible as lorica hamata (mail shirts).
    • The lorica hamata worn by legionaries was actually created by the Celts around 300 BCE.
    • During the Early Republic, the Legionary wore one greave on his left leg. By the middle of the first century BCE, the greave was no longer legionaries.
    • A legionary's clothing and food was charged against his pay; but added to his wage was any booty and gifts received.
    • Until 197 CE, the Roman soldier wasn't allowed to marry during his tour of duty. That, however, didn't stop a lot of soldiers from doing so.
    • Legionaries on the march typically carried rations for 15 days.
    • The legionary's ration is thought to have been 1-3 pecks of wheat or other grain a month, which was probably supplemented beef and such vegetables and fruit as the legion's foragers could find.
    • The main drink of the Roman Army was acetum (sour-wine), which–when watered down–was referred to as posca.
    • Legionaries liked to combine dough with honey–the Roman source of sugar–and then bake the result on hot stones surrounding their camp fires.[Anyone know the name of this? If so, e-mail me. Thanks]
    • Chariots were never used by the Romans in battle (despite what you may have seen in the cinema)
    • Up until the late first century CE. horses wore no armor, but they were decorated with tinned bronze phalerae (decorative disks) of Celtic origin.
    • Armbands, bracelets, laurels, and medals were given to soldiers who performed above and beyond the call of duty in battle.
    • When a courier was carrying good news, he'd wrap laurel leaves around the tip of his spear.