Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Roman Legion on the March

When a legion was on the march it took up a standard formation and routine that was followed as rigidly as the circumstances allowed no matter where the legion was. A legion on the march filled about 2 km of road.

At dawn the trumpets sounded to instruct the men to fold their tents and pack away their belongings. A group of eight men shared a tent, cooking pot and campfire. These were loaded on to a mule and one man had the task of caring for it.

A second trumpet call gave the order to start marching. First to leave camp were small groups of cavalry who rode ahead of the column to look for ambushes, broken bridges or other other obstructions.

One cohort of infantry was chosen to lead the way each day by throwing dice. These men marched fully prepared for battle and ready to deal with any emergency that might arise.

Next came a group of engineers and carpenters. They were expected to clear aside any rocks or fallen trees and to repair bridges. The road had to be clear for the rest of the legion.

Behind the engineers came the men with the mules. They had the task of pitching tents and starting camp fires when the legion stopped for the night.

The legatus and his staff rode behind the mules accompanied by a small troop of riders ready to take messages along the column or to other legions or towns as the commander thought necessary.

Mules and carts carrying supplies, dismantled catapaults and other material came next. Inside the empire carts were used as they could travel easily along the roads (see page 158), but in enemy territory mules were preferred.

The main body of the legion marched next. These men had all their armour and weapons with them, but were allowed to sling their helmets and shields from comfortable straps.

The rearguard was made up of a final cohort marching fully prepared for battle and accompanied by a few horsemen.

From "1000 Facts on Ancient Rome" by Rupert Matthews

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