When we think of the Roman soldiers, unless we are particularly fond of that period of history, most likely our images and impressions come more from Hollywood than from anywhere else. However, what the film industry does not show is the background of the common Roman soldier. Did you know that the soldiers were stationed far from home to dissuade desertion and that they took their living quarters with them when they traveled? The average warrior was trained for war, but rarely fought. Instead, they were expert in multiple trades and used them to build roads, aqueducts, coliseums, forts, etc. Their tools were as important to them as were their weapons and their precious tools of the trade traveled with them. The average soldier was constantly on the move and was trained to march as quickly as four miles an hour for five hours a day – wearing sandals.
It wasn’t until the end of the Roman Empire that the Roman soldier was allowed to marry. Until then, bachelorhood was a strict requirement. Women were not allowed in the army group, but were allowed to set up tents outside the encampments. Most of these women were prostitutes.
If you think a four year requirement in the military is stiff today, how about the duty requirement of the Roman soldier – twenty-five years. They were decently compensated during their conscription and received a regular pension upon retirement.
What about you? Do you know anything about the Roman soldier that I didn’t cover? What about any soldier in any war – Civil War, WW I and II, Viet Nam War (did you know that U.S. soldiers in Viet Nam were trained to use the pendulum, an ancient dowsing tool, to locate mines and hidden caves)? I would love to hear from you.