The organisational system that's still used today!
Let's say you're a normal Roman legionary in a legion (unit of about 6,000 men) in the imperial Roman army sometime between the Marian reforms (104 BC) and emperor Diocletian's military reforms (AD 290). You're paid the basic wage of 10 asses a day (no, not an actual ass. A as, or assarius, was an ancient Roman coin) and up to 225 denarii a year. But you're tired of being a legionary. You want to move up through the ranks and command hundreds, no, thousands of soldiers! Here's the full list of ranks; where would you fit?
- Legatus Augusti Pro Praetore or Legatus Propraetor, also called the Imperial Legate: The top man, he was often a ex-praetor, and served as the commander of two (or more) legions at once. He also got to serve as governor of the provinces in which he and his legions were stationed. The Imperial Legate usually held his post for about 3 or 4 years. He was appointed by the Emperor himself, and thus was usually a senator or ex-consul (only senators or nobles were allowed to command legions). The Imperial Legate also had the title of Dux, or leader. If the Legate happened to be head of the Praetorian Guard, then his title was that of Praefectus. The Imperial Legate's modern equivalent would be the rank of General.
- Legatus Legionis, also called the Legion Legate: This guy was the commander of one legion. Just like the Imperial Legate, the Legion Legate was a senator and was directly appointed by the emperor. He also usually held command for about 3 or 4 years, although a much longer time period was not out of the question. He also got the job of commanding any auxiliary forces that were attached to his legion, even though the auxiliaries weren't formally part of his legion. If a Roman province only housed one legion, then the Legion Legate got to serve as the provincial governor. In such cases, he would be both the Imperial Legate and the Legion Legate. He would also have the title of Dux, just like the Imperial Legate. Otherwise, the Legion Legate was subordinate to the provincial governor. The Legion Legate's modern equivalent would be that of a full Brigadier.
- Tribunus Laticlavius, also called the Broad Band Tribune: This guy's title has NO relation to wired internet; he got his name from the broad striped tunic that senators wore. The Broad Band Tribune was appointed either by the Emperor or by the Senate. Serving as a broad band tribune was often the first step taken by young up-and-coming senators during their senatorial career (however this step was optional). The Broad Band Tribunes was generally quite young and inexperienced, especially when compared to the Narrow Band Tribunes (see below). Despite this, he was second in command of the legion after the legate, though, interestingly, not during battles, thanks to his young age and inexperience. If the legate died, the Broad Band Tribune would assume command over the legion. The Broad Band Tribune's modern equivalent would probably be that of a Lieutenant Colonel.
- Praefectus Castrorum, also known as Camp Prefect: This guy was third in command in the legion. He was second-in-command in war, and often commanded the legion in battle. One of his posts was being the senior officer who was in charge of training the legion. Generally, the Camp Prefect was a army veteran who had served as Primus Pilus, finished his 25 years of military service, and had been made a member of the equestrian class upon retirement. He was often had been of a lower social class than his fellow tribunes, so they probably disliked the fact that he outranked them (the reason he was in charge was his experience, thus avoiding the scenario of a young inexperienced mistake-making noble or senator commanding a legion). The Camp Prefect's modern equivalent, as with the Broad Band Tribune, would be that of a Lieutenant Colonel.
- Tribuni Angusticlavii, also called the Narrow Band Tribunes: Each legion had five of these guys. They often young but had at least some years of military experience, often having commanded various types of units. These men were not senators, but instead were from the equestrian (knight) class. They often served as administrative officers. The Narrow Band Tribune's modern equivalent would likely be the rank of Major.
- Tribunus Cohortis: This rank went to commanders of an entire cohort. If the cohort happened to be based in a city, then instead the rank was Tribunus Cohortis Urbanae.
The rank of Centurio, also called a Ordinarius, was an officer rank and actually had many grades, so a centurion had very good chances of promotion. The century commanded one century (originally, a century had one hundred men, IF they could all be rounded up; sometimes, centuries had as few as 80 men in them. When Rome first began to go and conquer the world, a century had 120 men. Later, it got 100 men again, but by the reign of Emperor Augustus in 30 BC, it had been shrunk to 80 men). The rank of centurions had its origins in the Etruscan period. A typical legion had about 59 or 60 centurions. In modern terms, a normal centurion like a Warrant Officer with a junior officer's commission. A senior centurion, however, was like a modern-day Captain. Here's the low-down for the different centurion ranks.
- The legion's most senior centurion was called the Centurio Hastatus Prior (centurion of the first spear), or the Primus Pilus (literally, first file). He was directly in charge of the first century of the first cohort. In battle, he commanded the entire first cohort. Later on in life, the primus pilus could still be promoted to Camp Prefect. When the Primus Pilus retried, he very likely would become part of the equestrian class. He was paid 60 times the basic wage.
- The centurions in charge of the cohorts from the second to the tenth were each called the Pilus Prior (the Primus Pilus was actually also a Pilus Prior). They were the most senior centurions of their cohort, and answered directly to the Primus Pilus. They usually were experienced soldiers, and had started their careers as normal soldiers and had moved up through the ranks. Like the Primus Pilus, the Pilus Prior commanded his entire cohort in battle. Under the Pilus Prior in each century were five other centurions, whose ranks, from highest to lowest, were Princeps Prior, Hastatus Prior, Pilus Posterior, Princeps Posterior, and the Hastatus Posterior.
- The Primi Ordines (ranks of the first) were the five commanders of the first cohort, including the Primus Pilus. The four commanders' ranks, from highest to lowest, were Princeps Prior, Hastatus Prior, Princeps Posterior, and Hastatus Posterior. The four commanders were senior to all centurions except the Primus Pilus and the Pilus Prior. The four commanders were paid 30 times the basic wage.
- There were a total of sixty centurions in a legion. The centurions were the backbone of the professional Roman army. Fighting was a centurion's career; he gave commands on the battlefield, and was in charge of the daily lives of the soldiers under him. Generally, centurions had started out as legionnaires and had moved up through the ranks, but occasionally the emperor or another high-ranking official directly appointed someone for the post. Each normal centurion was paid ten times the basic wage.
- The forward hastati (forward spears)
- The rear hastati (rear spears)
- The forward principes (forward principal line)
- The rear principes (rear principal line)
- The forward triarii (forward third line)
- The rear triarii (rear third line)
Even if you couldn't qualify as a centurion, you still had a chance. You could always go for one of the lower ranks! Here are a few:
- Optio Centuriae, or just Optio : This guy was appointed by the centurion himself and acted as his second-in-command. His job was the command the century's rear. The optio's "badge of office" was a wooden rod or staff. To be seen from afar, the optio had special black and white plumes on this helmet, the tail hanging from the rear. He got paid double the basic wage for his position. The modern equivalent for the optio is likely the lieutenant.
- Tesserarius (Guard Commander): Every century had one of these. These guys were second to the optios, and, as a result, were paid one and a half times the basic wage. The tesserarius was third in command in a century. He distributed the watchwords used by the commanding officer to the guard commanders; he also made sure that no unauthorized use took place. He was also the administrative assistant to the staff at the military HQ. The modern equivalent of the tesserarius would likely be the First Sergeant or the Staff Sergeant.
- Cornicularius: The administrative deputy or assistant of the Legate, and other senior ranked commanders.
- Decurio or Prefectus equitatius: This guy was the commander of a cavalry unit, known as a turma in Latin. Each unit had about 10 to 30 eques legionis (knight of the legion in Latin) in it.
- Duplicarius: This guy was second-in-command to the Decurio. He was paid double the basic wage.
- Sesquiplicarius Salararius: This guy was third in command to the Decurio.
- Decanus: This guy commanded a contubernium or octet, or a eight-man squad (each century had ten octets). A contubernium lived together in the same tent, and fought and traveled together. The rank of decanus was the first normal rank to which a normal legionary could be promoted on his way up the ranks. The decanus's modern equivalent would probably be the Corporal or the Sergeant.
The legionnaires were also divided by ranks. Here's the list.
- Tiro: This guy was a newly-recruited legionary who was still in training. A tiro trained for 6 months before coming a normal legionary.
- Miles or Peditatus: An normal legionary or infantryman, living a normal life in a harsh Roman army. If the legionnary, however, performed exceptionally well in battle, he was given the title of Miles Gregarius (literally, soldierly legionary).
- Discens: This guy was basically a "legionary in special training", that is, he was training for a special immunes position (see below). In reality, however, he was only ranked slightly higher than his fellow normal legionnaires. In fact, the only major difference was that he received extra pay.
If you're just not cut out to get a high rank in your legion, you could always serve in one the special posts! Here are a few:
- Aquilifer: This guy was one of the legion's standard bearer, and was responsible for the standard known as the aquila, or eagle, which was the physical representation of the entire legion. His position was very prestigious and important, and for good reason: the loss of the aquila was one of the worst things that could happen to a legion (the legion could actually be disbanded if the eagle was lost or stolen). As a result, only veteran soldiers who had an excellent understanding of the legion's tactics occupied this post. On the plus side, the aquilifer got paid twice the basic wage. Often, an aquilifer would later in life rank up and become a centurion.
- Signifer: Each century had one of these (thus, each legion had 59 of these). In each cohort, the first century's signifer was the senior signifer of the cohort. The signifer was responsible for the signum, a spear shaft decorated with three vertically mounted medallions, which displayed the century's awards and decorations. On top of the spear shaft was a open hand, which was symbolic of loyalty (though a spear or a wreath were sometimes on top of the pole instead). The sigum was actually a rallying point of the legionaries. The signifer was also the legionaries' banker, and took care of the legionnaires' payment and savings. he was the head of the century's financial administration. Like the aquilifer, the signifer was paid twice the basic wage. A normal legionary training to become a signifer had the special rank of Discentes signiferorum.
- Cornicen: This guy was in charge of the corno, a large coiled horn. He issued the audible commands of the officers with his corno. He also worked with the signifer in rallying the legionnaires to the signum. The cornicen was also paid twice the basic wage.
- Tubicines: These guys were trumpeters, and they helped to gain the attention of soldiers for announcements and the like.
- Imaginifer: If you served in the army during and after the reign of Emperor Augustus (27 BC - 14 AD), you could have served on this post. The imagnifer carried the standard with the three-dimensional image of the Emperor, serving as a constant reminder to the legionnaires of where their loyalties lie. He was attached to the leading cohort only. The imagnifer was also paid twice the basic wage.
- Vexillarius or Vexillifer (flag bearer): This guy carried the vexillum, or flag. The flag was draped on a large, T-shaped flag staff, which was carried around to show off Roman might and power. The vexillum, however, slowly but surely fell out of use; the last unit to use it were the Praetorian Guard. A style of Roman fort known as a vexillation fortress was named after the vexillum.
- Draconarius: This guy was the cavalry equivalent of the vexillarius. He carried a standard called a draco.
- Immunes: These were legionnaires who knew special skills. As a result, they had slightly better pay than normal legionaries and were exempt from guard and labor work. These men, however, still counted as fully enlisted legionaries and had to serve on the battle lines when needed. Immunes included artillerymen, quartermasters, drill and weapons instructors, clerks, engineers architects, surveyors, carpenters, hunters, musicians, surgeons, medical staff and military police. A hunter immune had a special rank called a Venator.
- Prefectus fabrorum: This guy was a officier, and he was in charge of the craftsmen and workers (blacksmiths, carpenters, metal workers, etc.) who provided services for the army.
- Duplicarius: This was a special pay grade; you could be awarded it regardless of your rank. The duplicarius also received twice the basic wage.
- Armicustos: A quartermaster whose responsibility was the supplying and distributing of weapons.
- Centuriones exercitatores: These guys were officers, in charge of training the cavalry.
- Hastiliarius: This guy was the army weapons instructor. He made sure all soldiers knew exactly what they were using and how they could use it.
- Ballistarius: This guy got to operate the ballista, a large piece of artillery.
- Libritor: These guys were artillerymen, and they got to operate and maintain large siege engines, such as the onager.
- Scorpionarius: This guy was in charge of operating the scorpio, a small artillery weapon.
- Explorator: This guy was either a spy who was sent ahead by forward units or a normal scout.
- Mensor: A army-employed surveyor. A team of these guys was known as a Metatore.
- Capsarius (doctor) or Medicus (field medic): These experts worked to keep Roman legionnaires in working conditions.
- Quaestionarius: This guy was the army interrogator and torturer. Not someone you'd want to annoy.
- Cerarius: The army bookkeeper. His name comes from the Latin word cera, the name of the wax tablet he used for work.
- Mulio: An army-employed mule driver. This guy was a part of the impedimenta, or baggage train. He carried the army tents, tools and food on his trusty mule. Thanks to him, legionnaires could march through enemy territory without having to carry their heavy equipment and were ready to fight the enemy at a moment's notice.
- Adscripticius: An "extra" soldier, used during the Roman Republic era as a quick replacement for killed or wounded soldiers.
- Extraordinarius: These guys were set aside as a backup force. About 20 percent of the infantry and 33 percent of the cavalry were part of this group.
- Beneficiarius: This guy was a senior soldier who had been specially chosen from the normal troops. He was an orderly and was assigned to a senior officer to serve as his aide. His duties included fulfilling administrative duties, collecting custom taxes, and/or supervising the policing of a district. Here are a few different types of beneficiarius, including Beneficiarius Consularis (Consular Aid), Beneficiarius Tribuni (Tribune's Aid), Beneficiarius Classis (Fleet Quartermaster), Beneficiarius Notarii (Secretary), Beneficiarius Exceptores (Short-hand Writer), Beneficiarius Exacti (Recorders), Beneficiarius Librarii (Archivist), Beneficiarius Interpretes (Interpreter), and Beneficiarius Haruspices (Seer).
- Triplicarius: This rank was rarely used, but when it was, it was only given to senior soldiers who had lots of experience. A triplicarius was paid three times the basic wage.
- Evocatus: This was a special group of soldiers, as here were the veterans who had served their military term and received their military diploma, but had chosen to re-enlist in the Roman army, often at the general's request. As a result of their re-enlistment, they received twice the basic wage and exempt from certain duties, such as manual labor.
- Missicus: A retried soldier, who received a land grant from the Roman government in gratitude for his service. Often, he and his family were given land in newly-conquered territory and became one of the first Roman settlers to move in (good if natives like you; bad is they don't)
- Curator Veteranorum: A commander in charge of a unit of retired war veterans (usually only used in emergencies such as barbarian invasion or civil unrest).