Roman Legionary 1st century A.D.
History: The term legion comes from the Latin “legio” meaning “the chosen” (from the Latin lego, meaning “to choose”). The meaning of the word can be better understood by referring to a passage by Plutarch, describing the founding of Rome by Romulus: “After founding Rome, Romulus first of all distributed the valid fighting men into various military corps. Each corps was made up of three thousand foot soldiers and three hundred mounted soldiers to which he gave the name of legions, because the men chosen were the most combative”.
The ordinary legionaries, named simplares, belonged to two categories: the immunes, that is, those exempt from heavy work, and the munifex, that is, the fighters. Our model represents a munifex or a fighter. He is equipped with a helmet, a cuirass, a shield, a javelin, a sword and a dagger. We shall briefly describe each of these elements typical of a I century A.D. soldier.
The helmet: a Gallic type modified by the Romans. It had two cheek protectors that protected the face and neck, and protection for the nape of the neck. It was made of iron and mass-produced so that every legionary could have one.
The cuirass: This was made of small segmented iron plates called segmented lorica, and was based on the protection in iron, the crupelari, used by gladiators.
The shield was of Samnite origin, at first oval and then rectangular. It was made of three layers of plywood, and lined with leather. It weighed about 6 Kg and was 1.80 metres high. At the centre was an iron protection for the hand holding the scutum, the external part of which was also used as a blunt weapon.
The javelin was called pilum, that is, throwing javelin. Some had a counterweight. The pilum was about 1.82 metres long and made up of two parts riveted together. On impact, the point stuck in the target, and the rest separated from it. If the point stuck in an enemy shield, it weighed it down and hindered movement. If the pilum fell to the ground it broke into two pieces and therefore could not be used by the enemy.
The sword or gladius hispaniensis was a weapon of Iberian origin, about 55cm long and 7 cm wide, and weighed about 2 Kg (swords used in training weighed about 6 Kg.).
The dagger or pugio was much shorter than the sword and was also of Iberian origin. It had grooves along the blade to let more air into the wound caused.
Both the gladius and the dagger (pugio) hung from a belt around the waist, called cingulum. The figurine has metal-studded leather strips hanging from the cingulum, probably used as protection for the lower part of the stomach. Such protection would have been totally inadequate, and therefore, its function is not clear.
Painting: Apart from natural leather and metallic colours, the artist is free to use his imagination, bearing in mind the fact that Roman soldiers preferred red and blue, and did not object to brown.
Painter: Andrea Terzolo
Sculptor: Gianni La Rocca