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roman army1
The Roman Army was made up of men from all over the Empire, no women were allowed to join. These men wereprofessional soldiers whose only job was to fight and defend Rome. Initally only property owners such as farmers could serve in the army, but from the 1st century B.C. onwards anybody could join. These soldiers would have to stay in the army for at least 25 years!

If a soldier was brave, clever and fought well he could become a centurion in charge of 80 ordinary soldiers called legionaries. Each troop of about 80 legionaries was called a century. There were 59 centuries in a legion and about 30 legions in the Roman army. There were also other soldiers called auxiliaries who included the cavalry.

Roman Army
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Roman Army
  • To show the differences in ranks centurions carried a special stick to show who they were. They used the stick to beat any soldier who disobeyed an order. The important centurions also wore special armor, which emphasized their rank.
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Roman Army
  • Roman soldiers had to be tough. They were expected to march 20 miles a day wearing armour. They were also expected to carry their own shield, some food and camping equipment.
  • Soldiers were also trained to fight together. They marched into battle in a flexible line with their shields next to each other. If the enemy shot arrows at them the soldiers in the rows behind the front line would lift their shields over their heads like a roof to protect them. This was called a testudo, which means tortoise.
roman fort
Roman Fort
  • The walls and gates
  • The walls of the Fort were narrow, but backed by a rampart of earth or clay, which sloped up from the structure's interior. The walls were built with sandstone blocks. The turrets on the walls rose to a height of around 9m (30ft). The main gate at Housesteads was the East Gate, or Porta Praetoria, from which the main street - via Praetoria - led directly to the headquarters - the Principia.
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Roman Fort
  • The headquarters
  • Inside the entrance was the open court, with a colonnade around the south, east and north sides. It had an assembly hall, or basilica, where the orders were issued, and there was a shrine to the imperial cult, where statues of the Emperor were kept.
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Roman Fort
  • The Commandant's house
  • The house of the Praefectus had rooms for the use of the family on the north and west side, with the kitchen in the north-east corner.
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Roman Fort
  • The hospital
  • The hospital was known to the Romans as the Valetudinarium. There was a long room on the north side of the courtyard, and this is believed to have been the surgery.
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Roman Fort
  • The granaries
  • The granaries were built on the highest part of the Fort, to keep the food inside dry. There was an open area to the west of the granary, to allow carts to unload and turn.
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Roman Fort
  • The barracks
  • The barracks had a veranda, facing onto the street. The barracks were each divided into ten units for the troops, plus larger apartments for the Centurion. They had low walls of sandstone, which supported timber frames with wattle and daub walls.
roman armor
Roman Armor
  • Muscle Cuirass: Early in Rome's history men wore bronze plate armor in the Greek hoplite style. In later years, it appears chest plates were reserved for those of higher rank. These were well decorated with animal, mythological and chest muscle designs.
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Roman Armor
  • Chain Mail: In latin, Lorica Hamata, (Loricae Hamatae plural form). There is some dispute over the origins, but mail was probably first developed by the talented smiths of Gaul. Mail showed up in the Roman armies in the first half of the 2nd century BC. A typical mail coat might weigh 15 lbs. It provided excellent protection, along with great flexability. A belt was worn to bring some of this weight off the shoulders.
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Roman Armor
  • Scale Armor: Called Lorica Squamata, (Loricae Squamatae plural form) Literally translates as "feather armor." Scale armor consisted of row upon row of overlaping bronze or iron scales, which resembeled a coat of feathers when completed.
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Roman Armor
  • Segmented Armor: The latin words, Lorica Segmentata, are used today, though it is not known by what name the Romans themselves used. The Romans appear to have completely developed this style themselves. This armor was made up of many pieces of laminated iron all bound together to form a very flexible and strong protection.
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Roman Armor
  • The Belt: Called balteus early in the empire and then cingulum militare in later times. The mark of a soldier, belts were not meant for civilian use! When worn over chainmail, the belt helped to take some of the weight off the soldier's shoulders.
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Roman Armor
  • Sandals: Called caligae in latin. Roman military sandals used iron hob-nails as treads, rather like the cleats of a modern-day football player. These were used for the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. After that time boots became more popular.
roman weapons
Hasta: The hasta was the Roman trusting spear. It was carried by the unitscalled triarii in Republic times. Marius military reforms made the pilum the standard spear carried by all legionaries.

Pilum: The pila (plural form) were quite unique in design. These javelins were designed to warp after impact, so they would drag down an enemy's shield, sometimes pinning two of them together. The average pilun was 1.8 meters long. It had a barbed iron shaft connected to the wooden pole in a weighted socket.

Roman Weapons
roman weapon
Roman Weapon

Pilum Sizes

Over 20 feet

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Roman Weapons
  • Gladius: The Romans patterened their short swords after those of the Spanish Celts. The historian, Polybius, says they were introduced into the army during the second Punic War. This sword was intended as a thrusting weapon. This was the best way to use a sword in tight formation. Using the sword in a slashing motion would cause the soldier to open his side to attack.
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Roman Weapons
  • Spatha: The was the sword used by the cavalry. The blade was much longer than the galdius and was used for slashing. The large numbers of barbarians serving in the legions used the spatha in the late empire. It was ideal because the spatha did not require the same skill and training needed to properly wield a gladius.
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Roman Weapons
  • Pugio: The legionaries carried a dagger starting in the 2nd or 1st centuries BC. During the rein of Augustus the gladius was carried on one belt and the pugio hung on another. By the 2nd century AD daggers were no longer issued.