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Before Augustus, healthy, male Roman Citizens were conscripted (forced!) into the army, where they had to stay for ten years.
But Augustus had a different idea. He got rid of conscription (except in emergencies) making the army voluntary.
This ensured the army consisted of very dedicated professional soldiers BUT they had to stay in the army for 25 years.
The Romans were able to build their huge empire because of the skills of their huge army. The Roman army was always feared by their enemies, but it became particularly terrifying when the first emperor, Augustus, took charge of it in 30 B.C.
In addition to these highly trained LEGIONARIES, Augustus introduced the AUXILIARY army.
The AUXILIARY army was made up of non-Roman citizens and were also volunteers. What made these men want to join up was that at the end of their 25 years they also got to be Roman Citizens!
The AUXILIARIES were made up of 250 units of 500 men (another very scary 125,000 men) This made the total number of men in the army 250,000!
The army was divided into 25 LEGIONS.
In each legion was about 5000 men making the legions number a ferocious 125,000 men!
The men who controlled these units in the LEGIONS were called CENTURIONS, and those that controlled them in the AUXILIARY were called PRAEFECTS (do you have any Prefects in your school?)
The LEGIONARIES and AUXILIARIES were very highly trained and equipped. They included units that specialised in different things such as INFANTRY (soldiers on foot,) CAVALRY (soldiers on horses,) SLING-SHOTS and ARCHERS.
Soldiers were responsible for fixing their own equipment.
A Roman soldier’s life was not all fighting though. A lot of the time they were used as builders!
The Roman army was in charge of building cities in new parts of the empire and so had to construct defences, roads, buildings, temples, baths, bridges and ports.
They were also allowed free-time where they might relax in the baths and taverns or play games such as dice.
HELMET/CASSIS (to protect your head)
COATS OF MAIL (to protect your body)
GREAVES (to protect your arms)
SHIELDS/SCUTUM (to protect yourself from swords and arrows)
SWORD/GLADIUS (short and light for quick stabbing)
DARTS (unlike modern darts we play with, these were heavy and kept in their shields)
JAVELINS/PILUM (2 of these that were sharp and could ruin an enemies' shield.)
You had to be extra-strong to be a Roman foot-soldier because of all the equipment you had to carry! They had:
Other soldiers also had Bows and Arrows, Slings (to shoot small stones at the enemy) and Cudgels (big clubs to beat their attackers!)
The Roman army was very nearly unstoppable for a long period of time.