Go to page Content

The Roman News: Army Life – text only version

THE FRONT LINE

Illustrated by ANGUS McBRIDE

 

<Image of a Roman army encampment of tents in a field under a gloomy British sky at dusk>

HOME SWEET HOME: Legionaries set up camp after a hard day’s march.

 

OUR VAST empire was won by ordinary foot soldiers. In their honor, The Roman News reprints an article from A.D. 80, when our troops were conquering lands at the Empire’s most northern edge. A reporter joined them on the march.

 

LEFT, RIGHT! Left, right! The clatter of hobnailed sandals echoes in my ears as a vast line of soldiers tramps onward in perfect time. Each day’s march brings us another 18 miles closer to the enemy. For this is frontier country, the very edge of the known world—the chilly wastelands of Britain.

 

<Cartoon image bottom left under text of a Roman legion marching in pouring rain past a sign that says ‘Welcome to Britain’>

 

I’ve joined a legion of 5,000 foot soldiers. These legionaries are grouped into centuries, units of about 80 soldiers. And a group of six centuries makes a cohort—one of ten cohorts in a legion.

 

The commander of the legion is the great General Agricola. His mission is to conquer the Celtic tribes of northern Britain and claim new land for the Empire.

 

The men march behind their legion’s flag with pride—despite the harsh and difficult conditions.

 

The rain never stops! It splashes down the soldiers’ bare legs, drips dow their faces, and even soaks into their heavy packs.

 

Although there are mules to carry the tents, each man has to shoulder his own kit. Clothes, bedroll, food for three days, bucket, pickax, stake, saw, and digging tools—it’s a heavy load.

 

Each legionary also has to carry his iron helmet and his weapons—a sword and a pair of javelins—and wear all of his body armor as well.

 

No wonder the men are so glad to stop and make camp even though it means more hard work.

 

Some soldiers stand guard while others dig a ditch around a square campsite. Then a fence of sharpened stakes is put up inside the ditch to keep the enemy out.

 

When this is done, there’s a meal of bacon, cheese, dry biscuits, and sour wine—then bed.

 

Tomorrow it’s another long 18-mile march, and another step closer to Rome’s great dream—to conquer the world!

 

<Textbox> YOUR EMPIRE NEEDS YOU! New recruits needed for the Roman army. Join TODAY and you could soon be on patrol in the sunny deserts of Egypt or the wild forests of France. - Term of service – 25 years - Pay – 3,000 sestertii a year (minus cost of food and weapons) - Clothing and other equipment free - At the end of your term, you will receive a cash payment AND a piece of land Recruits must be Roman citizens. Those from foreign countries within the Empire must be willing to learn Latin after enlisting.

 

Extracts from The Roman News by Andrew Langley and Philip de Souza, Candlewick Press, reproduced with permission of Walker Books, text © Andrew Langley 1996.