Full Version: Question on the Composition of Roman Legions & Equipment
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An issue has recently occurred to me regarding the roman equipment and the composition of an Imperial Roman Legion Dating around 100 AD and how it was supposed so uniformity distributed across the empire. I raise this because while the typical roman legion made up of mainly foot soilders fought well against Barbarian armies to the West eg Britions considering the Britain’s like the Romans engaged mainly in hand to hand combat, where the harsh discipline, vigorous training & Superior Arms of the Romans normally prevailed.

Although I cannot see the legions mass use of heavy infantry and a legionaries standard equipment proving so useful in the Eastern ends of the empire, considering nations like Prathia preferring to use mass amounts of light and heavy Calvary and relatively few foot soilders often using hit and run tactics.

Surely the Roman Legions in the East would be fighting in completely different ways and using different equipment to the roman legions in the West to compromise with the different tactics used by their enemies in the east. I’m sure many of you know something about this and if you would be able to enlighten my young ignorant mind I’d be most appreciative. It’s just from what I’ve read from the very limited sources around here was that most Roman Legions were identically armed and equipped and followed the same basic composition.

Thanks for reading.
I think you're forgetting tactics, and the inherent flexibility of a legion. IIRC, Crassus was strongly advised to deploy his army in such a way as to deny the Parthians the ability to surround it, but he ignored the advice and formed an orbis expecting the Parthians to run out of arrows, which was disastrous as they had a massive supply hidden from view. Again IIRC, even the legionaries didn't bother with the testudo.

I don't think the equipment need be different, but I imagine tactics were the main difference, and perhaps the type of allies and auxiliaries deployed with the legions? Much is made of the extras added to armour for the Dacian campaigns, but the same bits and bobs have been found all over elsewhere, and I think from even earlier time frames.
Well the legions just formed the basic body of an army and (like in many of the examples from the Judean war and others) didn't do most of thefighting or devastation during a campaign but most of the engineering and such things, as well as forming the centre of the line in battle.

One of the most important things is the attachment of different auxiliary units which carry out the actions the legions can't (archers, cavalry, light infantry and other things).

Think of the legion as the equivalent of the basic modern infantry bataillon and according to circumstances they are supported by tanks, transports, artillary and so on.

There was a thread about Roman cavalry here.

I posted some numbers for (mainly) cavalry units there but as you can see in this example:

"For example the army under Cestius Gallus in 66CE consisted of 16 legionary cohorts. 6 auxiliary cohorts, 4 Alae quingeniariae (around 2.000 heavy horsemen) PLUS
2000 horsearchers from Commagene
1.500 horsearchers from Judaea
1.200 horsearchers from Emesa "

"What I want to say is that while in 66CE between 10 to 18 percent of the regular army was cavalry. this specific army here for example had:

8.000 legionary infantry
4.800 auxiliary infantry
2.000 heavy Roman cavalry
4.700 allied horsearchers
7.500 allied archers
1.000 allied skirmishers "

As you can see, this army has a quite big contingent of archers and horse to support the legions. No real need therefore to change the legions too much as they are the basic part which can storm cities and form a basic line of heavy infantry in the field to support the lighter troops. Something the Parthians lacked for example.
Good stuff, thanks for that! In any case, even in a western army, half of all known auxiliary units are cavalry, and half the infantry cohorts are actually mixed infantry and cavalry. That gives a very good ratio of cavalry in any Roman army, even without all the allied contingents.

It should be remembered that Crassus' cavalry was able to drive off the Parthians. But they pursued too far (maybe by Parthian design?), got cut off, surrounded, and shot to pieces. Other campaigns that stayed off the flat open terrain that was perfect for horse archers had better results.

Also remember that Marius defeated largely mounted opponents in North Africa with a mostly legionary force. Infantry can out-march cavalry, simply because men are more durable in harsh conditions than horses. Starve and beat a legionary during a few days of forced marches, and he'll grumble and keep marching, whereas a horse will just die out of spite. Plus many of those mobile nomadic armies were loaded with women and children, not to mention lots of carts and wagons, all of which are slower than a legionary. So if one morning a Roman force appears on the horizon, you don't have time to load up all your people and supplies and get out of there before you are attacked. Basically, a campaign is more than just mobility on an optimal battlefield.