We recently talked about the training of the ancient Greeks . Now we will find out how the legendary Roman legionaries trained.
It’s no secret that the Roman Empire once belonged to almost all of modern Europe, part of Asia and Africa. It would be impossible to conquer such territories without a modern and well-trained army. Today we will open the veil of secrecy and find out about the training of the Roman legionnaires. Perhaps one of the following you will take on board.
This article is based on works Falafia Vegezia Renata – Roman military historian and theorist, who wrote the famous treatise “De re militari”, where he talked about both the military art of the Roman army and the training of legionaries. In Russian, his treatise can be found in the journal “Bulletin of Ancient History” (Soviet and then Russian journal dedicated to the history of the Ancient World.) I recommend that everyone who is interested in the history of ancient Rome get acquainted.
How did the Roman legionaries train?
Men in their 20s were conscripted into the Roman army. By this age, the men were already accustomed to hard work and mentally prepared for military service.
At the beginning of their training, future legionnaires studied order of battle. Each soldier had to know his place in the ranks, both on a solemn march and on the battlefield. After studying the battle formations, the soldiers were trained for endurance. In the summer, they marched 29 km daily in formation. or 20 Roman miles. The legionnaires were obliged to cover such a distance in no more than 5 hours. At the same time, the soldiers were, as they say, in “full gear”, and the “gear” of the legionnaire weighed about 20 kg. Often the command ordered to run this distance, but already in 3 hours.
the program included physical exercises. Future Roman legionnaires jumped in length, ran with a load on their shoulders and swam at speed. Moreover, special attention was paid to swimming, so Roman barracks were very often located in the area of water bodies. Whenever possible, the soldiers were taught horseback riding, but this was not a priority, since the Romans had a special type of mounted troops – cavalry.
If, after all of the above torments, the soldier remained in the army (it was possible to leave the Roman army at any time), then the following stages of preparation awaited him. Further, the fighters studied hand-to-hand combat and combat with weapons, and they were trained by real gladiators. Also, the training program included training in throwing javelins (pilums). This is a very important skill that all legionnaires had to be trained in, since any battle of the Roman army began with throwing a pilum.
“Construction sites” also contributed to the physical development of the fighters. Yes, a legionnaire must be not only a fighter, but also a professional builder, capable of building a camp from “scrap materials” using the entrenching tool that every soldier had with him.
Everything was very interesting with the legionnaires’ food. The fact is that the Roman army was “contract”, each soldier received a salary. Provisions were handed out to the soldiers once a month, in large batches, and the soldiers paid for each batch from their own pockets. The food was inexpensive, but it was impossible to get it for free.
Every legionnaire could eat like an emperor, if only there was money. However, in reality, the Roman legionaries were not gluttons. 70% of their diet consisted of cereals (oats, millet, barley, etc.) 25% of their diet consisted of meat, fish, dairy products, fruits and vegetables. And finally, 5% of the diet was alcohol, bread and salt. You could drink as much as you wanted in the Roman army, but if you let your unit down during the battle, you could be sentenced to death.
By the way, soldiers used salt not only for cooking, but also for healing wounds, stopping bleeding and disinfecting.
That’s it for today. As you can see, the training of the Roman legionnaire had one goal – the development of endurance and functionality, and the diet was simple but balanced. Now you know how the Roman legionaries trained and you can even repeat something …