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Archaeology and Early History

THE ROMAN ARMY

It is highly likely that the Roman army would have been a familiar sight to anyone resident in Dartford during the Roman occupation. Troops, both infantry and cavalry soldiers, would have been seen regularly as they moved along the Roman road from Londinium to the coast. There was a Claudian military posting station based at Springhead near Dartford.

 

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THE ROMAN LEGIONS, AUXILIARY AND CAVALRY

It was the legions of well-armed infantry soldiers that formed the core of the Roman army. Every aspiring legionary had to be a Roman citizen. Potential recruits had to be aged between 18 and 20 and serve for a period of twenty-five years. Great emphasis was placed on physical fitness and social status. Initially, legionaries were recruited from Italy, southern Spain and southern France, but in the course of the second century A.D. grants of citizenship brought in a great influx of legionaries from north Africa and the Danube provinces of the Roman Empire.

The remainder of the Roman army was made up of units of auxiliary troops (auxilia) none of whom were Roman citizens. Members of the auxiliary regiments tended to be recruited from newly conquered Roman provinces. The auxiliary regiments consisted both of infantry and cavalry. By A.D. 120 there were approximately 35,000 Roman soldiers based in Britain. The composition and organisation of the Roman army changed considerably throughout the Roman occupation.

 

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WEAPONS AND ARMOUR

Each legionary carried two javelins. Also the short, broad-bladed sword (gladius) designed for fighting at close quarters. A dagger might also be used. Protective armour was made from a light suit of overlapping iron strips, giving the soldier considerable freedom of movement. Each legionary wore a distinctive protective helmet and carried a shield made of plywood covered with goatskin; only the edge-binding, hand-grip and central boss were of metal.

Auxiliary infantrymen carried a simple spear in place of the javelin and a legionary-style sword. Helmet types worn by the auxiliary differed slightly; the shield carried by auxiliary troops was oval and flat. Armour consisted of a mailshirt with small inter linked iron rings sewn onto a linen or leather jerkin. Auxiliary troops tended to wear knee-length leather trousers. The equipment and dress of cavalrymen was slightly modified.

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