Rome’s Blood

          Rome stood for over a millennia for more reasons than one, but one of the biggest reasons was the might of their army.  The armies of Rome were known as the Legions.  From these Legions, Rome drew some of its greatest leaders, and through them they gained much land all across Europe, Asia, and Africa.

          The Roman Legions date back to the early times of Rome, back to the Trojan War.  The mythical founders of Rome were descendants of Aeneas, a great Trojan general who fled with his family and some of his men to Italy.  The story of this journey is called the Aeneid, a work of the Roman poet Virgil.   Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of Rome, fought for the right to name Rome after themselves.  It is quite apparent that Rome’s roots are soaked in blood.

          The Roman armies were separated into several divisions and were generally led by a General, or Imperator.  Centurions were also a major commanding force in the Roman army—they commanded units of a hundred men.  Sixty of these “Centuries” made up a legion.  The highest honor a Roman soldier could receive was a posting to the Emperor’s Praetorian Guard.  The leader of the Guard was known as the Praetorian Prefect.

          A Roman army camp was known as a castra.  There were always two streets in a castra which intersected at the headquarters tent/building, which was at the center of the camp.  They were nearly always easily defended, and they were almost always laid out the same.  For example, if a drunken soldier was at a foreign garrison, he’d still know which way to the barracks.

          The Roman Legions fought many battles.  Among the most famous are the Battles at Actium, Adrianople, Mylae, Asculum, and Issus.  At Actium, Octavian Caesar routed Marc Antony’s forces and retook Egypt.  At Adrianople, Roman forces under Emperor Valens were routed by the Visgoths, who wiped out most of the force sent against them.  Mylae was a sea battle during the Punic Wars, fought off the coast of northern Sicily.  The place of defeat for an opponent of Lucius Septimius Severus was Issus.   When fighting the Greek General Pyrrhus at Asculum, the Romans again found themselves suffering an embarrassing defeat.  This is not to mention the Punic Wars, of which there were three, fought between Rome and its greatest rival, Carthage.  After the Third Punic War, Carthage was destroyed by the Romans, but not before the damage had been done in the second war by the general Hannibal.

          However, the Roman army also won great victories, and kept the peace in the Roman Empire, keeping the roads safe for travelers and finding its way into the Bible and other Christian religious texts.  A Roman soldier is credited with stabbing Jesus of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) with a spear while he was dying on the cross, while other soldiers gambled at the base of the cross for his clothing.

          The Roman army had many symbols, such as the wolf, the eagle, and the dragon.  All of these had special significance to the Romans.  Legions also were named for animals.  The dragon was found on the standards of Roman cohorts.  In addition, there were many awards that a Roman soldier could win—one of these was the Civic Crown, the highest honor a soldier could receive.


Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 99. © 1993-1998 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

“The Mighty Roman Legions: Praetorian Prefect”

“The Mighty Roman Legions: Roman Army Camps: The Castra”