Legion: A Word with Many Meanings
The word legion has a long and rich history, dating back to ancient Rome. It can refer to different things depending on the context, such as:
- A unit of the Roman army consisting of 3,000 to 6,000 foot soldiers and cavalry.
- A large military force or army, especially the French Foreign Legion.
- A very large number or multitude of something or someone.
- A TV series based on the Marvel Comics by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz, starring Dan Stevens as David Haller, a troubled young man who may be more than human.
- A series of gaming PCs, laptops and gear by Lenovo, designed for gamers searching for power and grace.
As you can see, legion is a versatile and interesting word that can be used in many ways. Whether you are interested in history, comics, TV shows or gaming, there is a legion of options for you to explore.
Legion: A Word with Many Meanings (continued)
One of the most famous and influential meanings of legion is the Roman army, which was the largest and most powerful fighting force in the ancient world. The Roman army was responsible for conquering and defending a vast empire that spanned from Britain to Egypt, and from Spain to Syria. The Roman army also shaped the culture, politics, and economy of the empire, as well as its legacy for future civilizations.
The Roman army underwent many changes and reforms over the centuries, adapting to different enemies, terrains, and challenges. The earliest form of the Roman army was a citizen militia that fought in a phalanx formation, similar to the Greek hoplites. However, by the 4th century BCE, the Romans developed a more flexible and manoeuvrable system of units called maniples, which consisted of 120-160 men each. The maniples were arranged in three lines according to their experience and equipment: the hastati (young and lightly armed), the principes (mature and heavily armed), and the triarii (veterans with long spears). The cavalry and the auxiliaries (allied or subject troops) supported the infantry on the flanks and rear.
The manipular army proved its superiority over the phalanx in several battles against the Macedonians and other Hellenistic kingdoms. However, as Rome expanded its territory and faced more diverse enemies, such as the Carthaginians, the Gauls, and the Parthians, the manipular army became inadequate for prolonged and distant campaigns. The soldiers needed more professional training, better equipment, and more loyalty to their commanders. Therefore, in the late 2nd and early 1st centuries BCE, a series of reforms transformed the Roman army into a standing force of professional volunteers who served for 16-20 years. The main reformer was Gaius Marius, who abolished the property requirement for enlistment, standardized the equipment and training of the soldiers, and reorganized them into larger units called cohorts (480 men each). He also granted land and pensions to his veterans, creating a personal bond between them and their general.
The Marian reforms had a profound impact on the Roman society and politics, as they enabled ambitious generals like Sulla, Pompey, Caesar, Antony, and Octavian to raise their own armies and compete for power. The civil wars that resulted from this situation eventually led to the end of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire under Augustus in 27 BCE. Augustus further reformed the Roman army by reducing its size to 28 legions (about 150,000 men), establishing permanent camps and fortifications along the frontiers, creating a central reserve in Italy, and creating a new force of guards and police called the Praetorian Guard. He also fixed the term of service at 25 years, increased the pay and benefits of the soldiers, and regulated their recruitment and discharge.
The Augustan army was the basis for the imperial army that lasted for several centuries. The imperial army was divided into two branches: the legions (heavy infantry) and the auxilia (light infantry, cavalry, archers, slingers etc.). The legions were composed of Roman citizens who swore an oath of loyalty to the emperor. The auxilia were composed of non-citizens who were recruited from various provinces and regions of the empire. They provided valuable skills and local knowledge to the army. Both legions and auxilia were granted Roman citizenship upon their discharge.
The imperial army was a formidable force that maintained peace and order within the empire (the Pax Romana) and defended it against external threats. The army also played an important role in building roads, bridges, aqueducts, forts, cities, and monuments throughout the empire. The army also contributed to spreading Roman culture, law, language, religion, and administration among the conquered peoples. However, the army also faced many challenges and crises over time, such as corruption, mutinies, invasions, civil wars, inflation, barbarization, fragmentation, and decline. The Roman army finally collapsed along with the western part of the empire in the 5th century CE. The eastern part of the empire survived as Byzantium until 1453 CE.