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Roman Army Auxiliary Troops

Besides the legionaries, who were Roman citizens, there were attached to each legion an equal amount of infantry furnished by the socii, or subjectallies, and a body of horse twice or thrice as numerous as the Roman cavalry. In this way, the entire force of the legion might be reckoned at from nine to ten thousand men. But the allies were kept perfectly distinct, both in camp and on the battle-field. Their superior officers were called, not tribunes as in the legion, but prefects, prefccti sociorum.

The auxilia included all the standing troops, except the legions, th volunteers (cohortet Italioae civium Romanorum volumtoriorwm) and of course the praetorian guards. They were divided into cohorts, and were under the command of the legati. Cavalry and infantry were often combined, and constituted a cohors equitata. Each cohort (like the legionary cohort) had its standard, and consisted of six or ten centuries, according to its size, which mighi be five hundred or a thousand men. To be distinguished from the auxilia were a provincial militia, which appear in certain provinces (such as Raetia. Britain. Dacia). They were not imperial, and were supported by provincial funds.

The period of service for the auxiliaries was twenty-five years. They were distinguished from the legionaries by their lighter armament. The auxiliaries were recruited in the earlier imperial period from the non-Roman population. With the extension of Roman citizenship this distinction was gradually eliminated, and the so-called cohortes Italicae civium Romanorum voluntariorum, or cohorts of Roman volunteers, were a noteworthy exception to the rule of non-citizenship in the early period. The auxiliaries not possessing the rights of Roman citizens received them upon the completion of their term of service.

All non-legionary bodies of troops in the provinces were known as auxilia. They were distinguished by the great variety in their equipment and manner of warfare, as contrasted with the uniformity of the legions in these respects, and by their organization into much smaller units of command. The term ala denotes a permanent body of auxiliary cavalry under a single officer, cohors as similar division of infantry. But some cohorts contained both infantry and cavalry, and there was a two-fold basis of strength for both aloe and cohorts, some containing about 500, others about 1,000 men.

Ala miliaria 1,000 cavalry
Ala quingenaria 500 cavalry
Cohors miliaria cquitata 240 cavalry
760 infantry
Cohors miliaria peditata 1,000 infantry
Cohors quingenaria cquitata 120 cavalry
380 infantry
Cohors quingenaria peditata 500 infantry
In addition to cohorts and aloe the auxiliary forces included the numeri. The term numerus denotes a unit of command in a general sense. But in a more limited sense it came to be applied to those units which were not included within the meaning of the special terms ala and cohors. The exceptional formations called numeri in the limited sense correspond to the irregular bodies in some modern military systems. They varied in size from 300 to 900. They may very likely have grown out of provincial militia, and their equipment and manner of fighting reflected the customs of particular tribes included within the Empire.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 15:51:00 ZULU