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The Roman Army
The Early Roman army of the Roman kingdom and of the early republic (to c. 300 BC). During this period, when warfare chiefly consisted of small-scale plundering-raids, it has been suggested that the Roman army followed Etruscan or Greek models of organisation and equipment. The early Roman army was based on an annual levy.
The infantry ranks were filled with the lower classes while the cavalry, equites or celeres, were left to the patricians. This was done so because the wealthier could afford horses. Moreover, the commanding authority during the regal period was the high king. Until the establishment of the Republic, as well as the consuls, the king assumed the role of “commander-in-chief”. However, in 508 B.C. Rome no longer had a king. The commanding position of the army was given to the consuls; “who were charged both singly and jointly to take care to preserve the Republic from danger”.
The term legion is derived from the Latin word “legio”; which ultimately means draft or levy. At first there were only four legions. These legions were numbered “I to IIII”, with the fourth being written as such and not IV. The first legion was seen as the most prestigious. The latter being a recurring theme in many elements of the Roman Army. As mentioned before, the bulk of the army was made up of citizens. These citizens did not get to choose which legion they wanted to be in. Any man “from ages 16-46 were selected by ballot” and assigned to a legion.
Up until the Roman military disaster of 390 B.C. at the Battle of Allia, Rome’s army was organised in similarity to the Greek Phalanx. This was due to Greek influence in Italy “by way of their colonies”. Patricia Southern quotes ancient historians Livy and Dionysius in saying that the “phalanx consisted of 3,000 infantry and 300 cavalry”. Each man had to provide his equipment in battle. This determined which position he would be situated in the battle by the purchasing power of his military equipment. Politically they shared the same ranking system in the Comitia Centuriata; which ultimately vis-à-vis placed the men on the battlefield.
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