Imperial Roman Army Reforms

Probably the best-known and greatest reform of the army was the total restructuring of the soldiers, the command structure, the battle formations and the equipment of the legionnaires. This only pushed the army’s power further. By the time of Augustus, when the “classical” legion most associated with the Roman army was in full force, the Imperial Army of Rome became the most powerful military force in the ancient world.

This can be attributed to the numerous improvements the army underwent during the time of Marius to the reign of Augustus and beyond. Previously, the velites, hastati, principes, and triarii each served different purposes in battle and had to provide their own weapons, armor, and Roman helmets, which varied in quality and appearance. In the first century AD they were made into a unified force by Marius and Augustus, with unified arms and armor, equipped with wealth provided by the state. After the reforms, the pre-Marius soldiers were reorganized into two main groups: legionnaires and auxilia. Citizens of the Roman Empire were recruited into the legions (backbone-heavy infantry), while non-citizens formed the auxilia (support and specialized troops such as archers, cavalry, and inferiorly equipped troops).

This had further implications for Roman society, as all people living in the empire’s territories could now join the army, citizens and non-citizens alike. However, allowing a significant number of non-citizens to fight in the army would have a significant impact on the Roman state during the late Empire. The command structure was also significantly redesigned. After the reforms, not only the Roman armor and clothing were modified, but it was even more evident how much the excellent organization and leadership of the army contributed to the success of the legion. Nobody felt lost in the army because every soldier knew an officer and each other personally.

This also contributed to a more loyal and organized army. The smallest unit of the army was the tent group or contuberniun, which consisted of eight men. They shared and were responsible for their own tent, supplies and equipment. Next came the Century, which consisted of ten groups of contuberniun, forming eighty men. A centurion was responsible for each century. A maniple consisted of two centuries and a cohort of three maniples, giving a standard of 480 men per cohort.

However, it is believed that over time, up to the Age of Augustus, the maniple was dropped entirely and the cohort remained the main standard unit in the army, being divided into six centuries instead of three maniples. Eventually the legion consisted of ten cohorts together with 120 cavalry, bringing the strength of a legion to about 5000 men excluding non-combatants. A legate commanded a legion, and a consul or praetor (as Marius became) was in charge of the entire army or a specific campaign.

Thanks to John R Hilde | #Imperial #Roman #Army #Reforms

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