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Encyclopedia > Centurion
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Centurion redirects here. This article is about the Roman soldier. For other meanings, see Centurion (disambiguation).
Reenactment including a centurion
Reenactment including a centurion

A centurion (Latin: centurio; Greek: εκατόνταρχος (hekatontarchos), κεντουριων (kenturiōn)) was a professional officer of the Roman army after the Marian reforms of 107 BC. Most centurions commanded a century (centuria) of 80 men, but senior centurions commanded cohorts, or took senior staff roles in their legion. Image File history File links Question_book-3. ... Wiktionary (a portmanteau of wiki and dictionary) is a multilingual, Web-based project to create a free content dictionary, available in over 151 languages. ... Centurion may refer to: Look up centurion in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Image File history File links Metadata Size of this preview: 448 × 599 pixelsFull resolution (2437 × 3260 pixel, file size: 3. ... Image File history File links Metadata Size of this preview: 448 × 599 pixelsFull resolution (2437 × 3260 pixel, file size: 3. ... Reenactors of the American Civil War Historical reenactment is a type of roleplay in which participants attempt to recreate some aspects of a historical event or period. ... For other uses, see Latins and Latin (disambiguation). ... See: Structural history of the Roman military The branches of the Roman military at the highest level were the Roman army and the Roman navy. ... The Marian reforms of 107 BC were a group of military reforms initiated by Gaius Marius, a statesman and general of the Roman republic. ... Centuries: 3rd century BC - 2nd century BC - 1st century BC Decades: 150s BC 140s BC 130s BC 120s BC 110s BC - 100s BC - 90s BC 80s BC 70s BC 60s BC 50s BC Years: 112 BC 111 BC 110 BC 109 BC 108 BC - 107 BC - 106 BC 105 BC... A cohort (from the Latin cohors, plural cohortes) is a fairly large military unit, generally consisting of one type of soldier. ... Legion can refer to: Roman legion, a division of troops within the Roman army Legion (demon), a demon found in the Christian Bible in Mark 5:9 and Luke 8:30 The American Legion, A veterans organization in the United States A creature from Castlevania Category: ...

Centurions took their title from the fact that they commanded a century. Centuries were so-called because they originally numbered roughly 100 men. Just after that they numbered 60 men each and were paired into maniples, one of which with greater authority. After the Marian reforms however, the standard establishment was set at 80 men.



In the Roman infantry, centurions initially commanded a centuria or "century" of 100 men, then 60 and finally 80. During the Imperial era Centurions gradually rose in seniority in their cohort, commanding centuries with higher precedence, until commanding the senior century and therefore the whole cohort. The very best centurions were then promoted to become centurions in the First Cohort, called Primi Ordines, commanding one of the ten centuries and also taking on a staff role. The most senior centurion of the legion was the Primus Pilus who commanded the first century. Ancient Rome was a civilization that grew from a small agricultural community founded on the Italian Peninsula circa the 9th century BC to a massive empire straddling the Mediterranean Sea. ... Infantry of the Royal Irish Rifles during the Battle of the Somme in World War I Infantry or footmen are very highly disciplined and trained soldiers who fight primarily with small arms(rifles), but are trained to use everything from their bare hands to missle systems in order to neutralize... Centuria (Latin plural Centuriae) is a Latin substantive rooting in centum a hundred, denoting units consisting of (originally, approximatively) a 100 men. ...

All centurions, however senior, had their own allocated century.

The Primus Pilus was so called because his own century was the first file (primus pilus) of the first (rightmost) cohort. Only eight officers in a fully officered legion outranked the Primus Pilus: The legate (legatus legionis), commanding the legion; the senior tribune (tribunus laticlavus); the Camp Prefect (praefectus castrorum); and the six tribunes (tribuni angusticlavii) who had a greater rank in the praetorian guard as they commanded a whole cohort. The Primus Pilus was a member of a Roman legion. ... A cohort (from the Latin cohors, plural cohortes) is a fairly large military unit, generally consisting of one type of soldier. ...

In comparison to a modern military organization, centurions covered a whole range of ranks. Ordinary century commanders would be equivalent to a modern army lieutenants or captains. The senior centurions leading cohorts would be equivalent to lieutenant colonels. The Primus Pilus with his senior staff role might be considered equivalent to a modern colonel.

Centurions often suffered heavy casualties in battle, generally fighting alongside the legionaries they commanded. They usually led from the front, occupying a position at the front right of the century formation. They led and inspired their men by example. They also sought to display the skill and courage that got them to their rank in the first place. It is for these reasons that they often suffered a disproportionate number of casualties. A Legionary is a member of a legion. ...

Below the centurions were the optiones, seconds-in-command of centuries. An optio (from the Latin verb optare, to choose, because an optio was chosen by his centurion) was a soldier in the Roman army who held a position similar to that of a non-commissioned officer in modern armies. ...


Each century had a precedence within the cohort. Centurions' seniority within the cohort and legion depended on their century. Centurions begun by leading junior centuries before being promoted to leading more senior ones. Centurions were referred to by the name of their century.


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The precedence during the times of manipular legion commanded sixty men and were organized like this:

Hastati: Ten junior and Ten senior. This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ...

Principes: Ten junior and Ten senior. The plural of the Latin word princeps. ...

Triarii: Five junior and Five senior. The Triarii (Latin singular triarius) was the third standard line of infantry of the Roman Republics army. ...

For the imperial legion they were organized (in order of who advanced first); 1st cohort. 2nd cohort 3rd cohort and so on

There were eight centuries in the first cohort. All first cohort centurions outranked all centurions from other cohorts.


Roman centurion.
Roman centurion.

The Roman centurion was distinguished by his uniform: his armor was silvered, he wore his sword on his left side rather than his right, he wore greaves on his legs, and the crest of his helmet was distinctively turned perpendicular to the front. As the well known lōrīca segmentāta armor came into use, Centurions continued to wear chain mail armor. It is believed that he also wore his decorations and awards prominently on his torso in battle, to show his bravery to friend and foe alike. He also carried a short staff (stick) - usually a vine stave, called vītis - as a symbol of his authority. One infamous centurion was nicknamed "Cedo Alteram" ("Give me another") because of his habit of breaking his staff across the backs of his men. He was eventually killed in a mutiny. Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... A reenactor dressed as a Roman soldier in lorica segmentata The lōrÄ«ca segmentāta was a type of armour primarily used in the Roman Empire, but the Latin name was first used in the 16th century (the ancient form is unknown). ...


The centurion was in charge of his century/cohort. Centurions were also tasked with the training of the legionaries. They could often be merciless in their handling of this task, and were known for dealing out brutal punishments. While the Roman army was known for these harsh conditions, it paid off during battle when strict order and discipline could decide the outcome. This often allowed the Legions to succeed in battles where they faced a numerically superior army. A Legionary is a member of a legion. ...

As commander, the centurion had the right to give awards to the men in his cohort, as well as to punish them, whenever necessary. The centurion's punishments could be very severe, and could include execution. Execution is a synonym for the actioning of something, of putting something into effect. ...

However, centurions could be punished by their own superiors. Examples of behavior warranting punishment of a centurion are sleeping on the job, or failing to train legionaries sufficiently. Like any other soldier, a centurion caught guilty of such discretions could be sentenced to death just as easily as the soldiers under his command.

Qualifications for becoming a Centurion

A man in the Roman army who wanted to become a Centurion had to meet many qualifications. First, the man had to have several letters of recommendation from important people. Therefore, it would help if one trying for the position was befriended to several important senators, or even the consuls/emperor themselves/himself (depending on the time period). A senate is a deliberative body, often the upper house or chamber of a legislature. ... For modern diplomatic consuls, see Consulate general. ... Ordinary Magistrates Extraordinary Magistrates Titles and Honors Emperor Politics and Law This article discusses the nature of the imperial dignity, and its dynastic development throughout the history of the Empire. ...

Age Requirements

A man who desired to be a Centurion would have had to have been at least thirty years of age. Therefore, if he had entered the army at age 16, he would have spent almost half his life in the military, giving him the experience he needed so that he would know how to sufficiently command his cohort.

Social Status

As stated above, the aspiring centurion needed good connections to be recommended for the post. These connections might have been easier to achieve if the centurion was of a higher class.


One of the tasks of the centurion was to relate his superior officers' written commands to the men in his cohort. Therefore, he had to be able to read. In order to do this, he needed at least enough education to be literate. Also, the more educated one was, the better chance he had of becoming centurion.

Benefits and Hazards of being a Centurion


Centurions had the privilege of riding on horseback during marches and, if they had been given permission to marry, to live with their family while in garrison. For people named Garrison, see Garrison (disambiguation) Garrison House, built by William Damm in 1675 at Dover, New Hampshire Garrison (from the French garnison, itself from the verb garnir, to equip) is the collective term for the body of troops stationed in a particular location, originally to guard it, but...


These officers were responsible for their men during battle, and led from the front, fighting alongside their soldiers. Their increased prominence put them at higher risk, and casualty levels for centurions were correspondingly high.

Vegetius about the qualities necessary for the Сenturion

The centurion in the infantry is chosen for his size, strength and dexterity in throwing his missile weapons and for his skill in the use of his sword and shield; in short for his expertness in all the exercises. He is to be vigilant, temperate, accive and readier to execute the orders he receives than to talk; Strict in exercising and keeping up proper discipline among his soldiers, in obliging them to appear clean and well-dressed and to have their arms constantly rubbed and bright (Vegetius.De Re Militari, II, 14) Vegetius (Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus) was a celebrated military writer of the 4th century. ... De Re Militari (Latin On military matters) was a treatise of late Roman warfare that became a military guide in the middle ages. ...


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External links

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centurion: Information from Answers.com (637 words)
A centurion (Latin: centurio; Greek: hekatontarchos) was a professional officer of the Roman army.
The Roman centurion was distinguished by his uniform: his armor was silvered, he wore his sword on his left side rather than his right, he wore greaves on his legs, and the crest of his helmet may have been turned perpendicular to the front.
Centurions had the privilege of riding on horseback during marches and, if they had been given permission to marry, to live with their family while in garrison.
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