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The Roman Legion, The Grandest Military Unit Of The Ancient Roman Army, Born In The Beginnings Of The Small But Stalwart Early Roman Republic (509 BC-27 BC) To Become The World's Preeminent War Machine During The Reign Of The Roman Empire (27 BC - AD 476), As Recounted In Two Classic Documentaries Of The Cable Television Age: 1) THE LOST LEGIONS OF ROME, Narrated By Leonard Nimoy (Color, 1996, 48 Minutes), and 2) ANCIENT WARRIORS: THE LEGIONS OF ROME (Color, 1993, 23 Minutes), All Presented In The Highest DVD Quality MPG Video Format Of 9.1 MBPS As An MP4 Video Download Or Archival Quality All Regions Format DVD!
The Roman Legion (Latin: Legio), the largest military unit of the Roman army, comprised 5,200 infantry and 300 equites (Latin: cavalry) in the period of the Roman Republic (509 BC-27 BC) and 5,600 infantry and 200 auxilia (Latin: auxiliaries) in the period of the Roman Empire (27 BC - AD 476). The size of a typical legion varied throughout the history of ancient Rome. In the Republican period of Rome, a legion consisted of 4,200 legionaries and 300 equites, the second of the property-based, wealthier classes of ancient Rome, ranking below the senatorial class; in early Rome, all troops provided their own equipment, so only the wealthier classes could afford to outfit horses. The infantry was split into 10 cohorts, the standard tactical military unit of a Roman legion generally composed of 480 soldiers, the equivalent of a modern military battalion. Each cohort consisted of four maniples (Latin: manipulus, "a handful [of soldiers]") of 120 legionaries. During the age of the Caesars, a legion consisted of 4,800 legionaries, divided into 10 cohorts of 6 centuries per cohort, with 80 legionaries per century (despite the word "century" meaning "one hundred"). During Rome's Imperial period, a legion comprised 5,280 men plus 120 auxiliaries, divided into 10 cohorts, with nine cohorts consisting of of 480 men each, and the first cohort being double-strength at 960 men. It should be noted that all these numbers signify the actual number of troops fielded at any time, as distinguished from its higher, ideal official strength. In the early Roman Kingdom legion may have meant the entire Roman army, but sources on this period are few and unreliable. The subsequent organisation of legions varied greatly over time but legions were typically composed of around five thousand soldiers. During much of the republican era, a legion was divided into three lines, each of ten maniples. In the late republic and much of the imperial period (from about 100 BC), a legion was divided into ten cohorts, each of six (or five) centuries. Legions also included a small ala, or cavalry unit. By the third century AD, the legion was a much smaller unit of about 1,000 to 1,500 men, and there were more of them. In the fourth century AD, East Roman border guard legions (limitanei) may have become even smaller. In terms of organization and function, the Republican era legion may have been influenced by the ancient Greek and Macedonian phalanx. For most of the Roman Imperial period, the legions formed the Roman army's elite heavy infantry, recruited exclusively from Roman citizens, while the remainder of the army consisted of auxiliaries, who provided additional infantry and the vast majority of the Roman army's cavalry. (Provincials who aspired to citizenship gained it when honourably discharged from the auxiliaries.) The Roman army, for most of the Imperial period, consisted mostly of auxiliaries rather than legions. Many of the legions founded before 40 BC were still active until at least the fifth century, notably Legio V Macedonica, which was founded by Augustus in 43 BC and was in Egypt in the seventh century during the Islamic conquest of Egypt. On the other hand, Legio XVII ("Seventeenth Legion"), Legio XVIII ("Eighteenth Legion") and Legio XIX ("Nineteenth Legion"), founded by Augustus around 41 BC, were destroyed by a Germanic alliance led by Arminius in the Varian Disaster (September 9, AD 9) and never raised again by the Romans thereafter.