Life in the Roman Army

The Roman empire spanned more than a million square miles and owed its existence to its military might. By promising citizenship to those without it, the Roman army – the West’s first modern, professional fighting force – also became an engine for creating citizens, offering a better life for soldiers who survived their service.

Roman military history perhaps stretches as far back at the sixth century BC but it wasn’t until the first emperor, Augustus (63 BC – AD 14), that soldiering became a career choice. While the rewards of army life were enticing – those in the legions could earn a substantial pension and those entering the auxiliary troops could attain citizenship for themselves and their families – the perils were real. Soldiers were often posted far away from
home and viewed with fear and hostility by civilians – not helped by their casual abuses and extra roles as executioners and enforcers of occupation

Beheadings and cruxifictions were common as were slow painful punishments and deaths and giant guard dogs known as mollosians were used to heighten security at forts and terrorise the occupied population . And the soldiers. could meet grim ends off, as well as on, the battlefield.


Giant Roman Mollosian guard and fighting dog
Giant Roman Mollosian guard and fighting dog

At its height the Roman Empire had 300,000 men under arms , to control a population of 60
million – only 20 per cent of whom were citizens.

If soldiers survived they were not only citizens but could expect to a pension equivalent to ten years salary

Roman gold coins
Roman gold coins

Pictures courtesy of the British Museum


Destination – Italy