The Roman army

The Roman army had a critical role in the construction of the Empire. The army was constantly evolving and much of its success lay in its ability to adapt to face different enemies. Around AD 100 the Roman army was about 300,000 strong and, being spread across the Empire, uniformity as well as diversity would have been visible.

The core of the army consisted of two groups: the legionaries and the auxiliaries. By the third century AD a new unit was established called numeri. This placed soldiers in areas of the empire distant from their homeland. One would therefore find a range of nationalities, such as people from the Middle East and North Africa, based in the forts of Northern Europe.

Current understanding of the nature and activities of the Roman army come from a number of sources. Whilst classical authors have left us with literary evidence, altars, tombstones and discharge certificates have revealed information about the careers of individuals. For example, citizenship was granted to auxiliary soldiers after twenty five years of service (Roman citizenship was granted to all free inhabitants of the Empire in AD 212). Excavations and aerial photography have increased our understanding of military movements and activities. In peacetime the army was involved with construction and manufacture and it is likely that extensive interaction took place between soldiers based in the army and the civilians of the surrounding settlements.

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