Legion – Roman war machine
Legion was the largest unit in the Roman army that had the strength of 3000 personnel in the early times up to 6000 personnel in later periods of Roman empire. It was the most advanced military unit in the Ancient world (well, in Europe at least) that played a major role in Roman expansion throughout Western and Southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
Legion was an army of conscripts (the Latin term legio means conscription) and professional soldiers that had a strict organizational structure. This feature made it into a frightening weapon at the disposal of Ancient Roman generals. The structure was truly remarkable at that time as it is today (Modern theories of management rely somewhat on Legion’s organizational structure). In this article, you will get an insight of the 1st century BC Roman organisational structure.
Each legion was broken down into 10 cohorts – Cohort was a unit consisted of 480 fighting men (minus the officers and auxiliary servants). This unit was supervised and led by a Tribunus Militum. (later we will discuss each unit in more detail)
Cohort was broken down into centuriae – Centuria is a unit made of 80 fighting men and circa 20 auxiliary servants commanded by a Centurion. The name gives a clue of unit’s size as Latin centum stands for a hundred. Cohort, again, was broken up into contuberniums.
Contubernium was the smallest organized unit of soldiers in the Roman legion. It consisted of eight legionaries led by a Decanus. This unit can be compared to the modern military unit – squad where the Decanus would be a today’s NCO (non-commissioned officer).
This article gives a rough insight on the ancient Rome’s prime military unit – the legion. Legion owes its power and its legacy to the strict structure and high level of discipline, which combined with trained soldiers and skilled generals gave us almost undefeatable Roman war machine.