The Roman Army
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The army that invaded Britain in 43 AD at the command of the Emperor Claudius differed in structure from the one that gradually slipped under local control as the province became independent in the fifth century. This change is reflected in the types of sites the army used and the structures it built. Timber and earth forts some intended for one winter's or summer's use during the first century became more permanent structures built or rebuilt in stone. During the second and third centuries they were given towers to provide flanking fire along the walls as the army began to contemplate its bases coming under siege. And by the fourth century the classic playing card ground plan of forts was becoming replaced by irregular shapes that took advantage of defensive locations and begin to suggest medieval castle plans.

The Role Of The Army
Armies in the Ancient World had a range of functions. Fighting wars was only one and for many soldiers it would have been a rare experience. The Roman army in Britain: acted as a police force, combating minor civil disorders or quelling cattle raids; enforced taxation; and provided skilled administrators and engineers to the provincial governor. The frontier systems should not be thought of as modern frontiers. They were not the equivalent of Iron Curtains between Empire and the barbarians. They were zones that the army patrolled in front off to ensure that allied tribes lived in peace and that lawlessness did not encroach on the province. That lawlessness might be the modern equivalent of a single criminal or rarely an alliance of unfriendly tribes. And when the army did campaign in force it might be because of the tensions caused by competing and proud cultures - native or Roman - or because of an Emperor's political or personal need for glory.

The Army Of The Early Empire
The army of the first and second centuries had as its core legions. Each approximately 6,000 men strong and recruited from citizens throughout the Empire. The legions fought as heavy infantry, but also provided engineers, cadres of officers and men to assist the government, and officers for the non-citizen troops - the auxilia. The auxilia provided the army's cavalry and light infantry. Their units were 500 - 1,000 strong and normally recruited from non-citizens. Auxiliary soldiers received citizenship when they retired. Auxiliary regiments were grouped into army groups based on a legion and under the command of the legion's commanding officer. Normally there were the same number of auxiliaries as legionaries in these army groups.

Household Troops
In the early empire the Emperor had under his direct command the Praetorian Guard and his cavalry body guard - the Singulares both based in Rome.

The Praetorian Guard
Of higher status than both the legions and the auxiliaries were the Praetorian Guard. Most of their soldiering was done at Rome as the Emperor's household troops, although they did accompany him on campaign. The size of the Guard fluctuated, by the second half of the first century it had nine cohorts with 500 men in each. There were also a number of urban cohorts whose role was to maintain order in Rome.

Singulares was the name given to the body guard of the Emperor, governors or generals. The British singulares would have been based in the Cripplegate fort in London and have been made up of men seconded from the rest of the British garrison

The total number of legions in the Empire remained at around 30 until the late third century, when the Emperor Diocletian increased their number to over 60. Throughout this period legions were based in frontier provinces where they were able to campaign beyond the Empire. Britain's garrison fluctuated between three and four legions during the first century, depending on the demands of other provinces, but from the mid 80s AD the number remained at three, though not always the same three, with bases at Caerleon, Chester and York. Assuming an equal number of auxiliaries this suggests a total army strength of between 36,000 and 48,000 men making the British army one of the largest in the Empire. Legions consisted of ten cohorts, with six centuries of 80 men in each cohort, apart from the first cohort which from around 70 AD was double strength, ie six centuries of 160 men. There were also 120 mounted troops to act as messengers and scouts. The legion's commanding officer was the legate; appointed from the senatorial class by the Emperor. The other senior officers were six tribunes and 60 centurions. Detachments from legions or occasionally from auxiliary regiments operating on their own or with other detachments were known as vexillations (from the flag that identified them that was known as a vexillatio) and until the creation of field armies in the late Empire were the way of providing temporary reinforcements to provincial armies for major campaigns. It is presumed that this practice of creating vexillations for the field armies gave rise to the increase in the number of legions in the late Empire and their reduction in size to units of around 1,000 strong.

A Map Of Roman Britain