For nearly one thousand years, the world quaked at their footsteps, and the very sound of their name: The Legions. The elite troops of Rome’s formidable army, which would carve up an empire that stretched from the Highlands of Scotland to the scorching deserts of the Arabian Peninsula. They would kill and enslave millions, pillage and raze cities to the ground, and transform the mighty Mediterranean Sea into the Empire’s own private lake. The only time in human history when the whole of the Mediterranean would be under one single government was under Roman rule. The Roman Legions were such a mighty force in the world, even their own Emperors were afraid of them.
10. Their Military Training
The Roman Legions had come a long way since around 700 BC, when Rome itself was nothing more than a small gathering of hovels atop the Palatine Hill, to 117 AD when it became the largest Empire of the ancient world, making up 20% of the world’s population. Back to around Rome’s beginnings, its army was only comprised of local farmers, who would be hurriedly called into action, fighting skirmishes with neighboring settlements. And only the men who owned property were called into battle, as they were the only ones trusted to defend Rome, or fight on its behalf.
All of this would change in 390 BC however, when an army of Gauls utterly defeated the Romans, and then descended upon the city itself. They continued sacking and pillaging Rome for the next 6 months until finally they were paid off to leave. The Romans got a wake-up call which would change their destiny forever. They then spent the following centuries perfecting their Legions by systematically training and organizing a professional military machine like nobody had ever seen before.
There were endless drills, and marches to the point of exhaustion. Roman soldiers were attending weapons training every morning and practiced melee combat with wooden swords, spears and shields, twice as heavy as their real counterparts, to build up strength. Part of their daily training also involved a 19 mile-long march to be completed in five hours, while carrying a full pack of weapons, shield, food rations, cooking supplies, and a short spade, along with their own personal kit. Besides these extraneous exercises, soldiers would also familiarize themselves with the highly organized battle tactics and formations, which in the early days of the Republic, at least, were based on those of the Greeks. No other army in the world at the time would receive such a rigorous training, which gave the Roman Legions a tremendous advantage in waging war.