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Brutal Facts About The Roman Legions

The Roman Legions were some of the most fearsome military units in the history of mankind, and for hundreds of years people would wet their tunics every time they heard the bloodthirsty Legions marching along.

Their actions literally shaped history, and yet little is known of the men who made up the ranks of the Legions, or what they had to go through to become one of history's most badass warriors.

The Roman Legions were formed after the Romans were utterly defeated by the Gauls in 390 BC, so to ensure they would not be defeated again the Romans organized and trained the ultimate army-

There were endless drills, and marches to the point of exhaustion. Roman soldiers were attending weapons training every morning and practiced melee combat with wooden swords, spears and shields, twice as heavy as their real counterparts, to build up strength. Part of their daily training also involved a 19 mile-long march to be completed in five hours, while carrying a full pack of weapons, shield, food rations, cooking supplies, and a short spade, along with their own personal kit. Besides these extraneous exercises, soldiers would also familiarize themselves with the highly organized battle tactics and formations, which in the early days of the Republic, at least, were based on those of the Greeks. No other army in the world at the time would receive such a rigorous training, which gave the Roman Legions a tremendous advantage in waging war.

But not every soldier would embrace life in the Legions, so the Romans came up with a particularly brutal way to deal with those considering mutiny or desertion- the Decimation:

The way they went about it was to have the guilty men divided into groups of ten, and to have them draw straws. The soldier who drew the short straw was to be killed by the other nine, by clubbing him to death. That’s some messed up psychological conditioning right there. And since the decision of who will die was left to chance, all soldiers were liable for execution, regardless of their level of involvement, rank, or distinction. But because killing off ten percent of the army is almost never a good idea, the Decimation never became common practice.

Dionysius of Halicarnassus called it “an ancestral punishment,” and it was most prevalent during the 5th century BC, but even then there are only a few known cases. The Roman commander and future triumvir, Crassus, is said to have revived it when fighting Spartacus in 71 BC. The last recorded case of Decimation was during the reign of Emperor Diocletian (284–305 AD), but with the emergence of Christianity, this punishment disappeared completely under its influence.

Read 10 Brutal Facts About the Roman Legions here


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