How Roman Legions Worked

By | June 20, 2019

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Reenactment of Roman Legionaries. Source: (

Among the great civilizations in history, the Roman Empire stands among the top for its lasting influence on Western culture. But its power was due in large part to the power of the famous Roman legions which conquered territory, ruthlessly suppressed rebellion, and built a network of roads that for the first (and arguably the only) time that linked most of Europe and the Mediterranean into a unified political unit.

So how did it work?  

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Roman army reenactors. Source: (Wikimedia)


The size of a Roman legion varied over its history. During the time of the Roman Republic (before 26 B.C.), a standard legion was considered to be about 4,000 infantry and 200 cavalries. As these numbers show, the Romans relied much more on foot soldiers than on horsemen. During emergencies, this number was raised 5,000 infantry and 300 cavalries. These figures ranged from lows of 3,000 infantry and 200 cavalries to 6,000 infantry and 400 cavalries. During the height of the Roman Empire in the second century A.D., there were roughly 25 to 30 legions throughout the Empire.