The Legions of Rome: History
The History of the Legions

Rome was first founded some time in the 8th century BC by the Latini. In BC 509, the Kingdom of Rome became the Roman Republic, ruled by a Senate, and sometimes by dictators in time of emergency. By the 3rd century BC, Rome controlled the entire Italian peninsula, having fought a bloody war against the Etruscans and the other tribes of the peninsula. During the war with the Etruscans, Rome's army consisted mainly of farmers, given enough training to temporarily be turned into soldiers. According to what records are left, several groups of Roman farmers showed astounding aptitude with the blades and shields. After the Romans had conquered the Etruscans, the Republic became the dominant force in the Italian Peninsula, and only a few years later, the only force on the peninsula. During this time, the first legon was formed, rumored to have been known as the Legion I Romulus, after the legendary founder of the city. Rome continued to expand, suduing the territories of Iberia (Spain), Greece, Panonia (Yugoslavia), Illyrica (Albania), and Macedonia. After the Punic Wars fought with Carthage, Rome became the only major military presence in the Mediterranean besides the Egyptians, who had become lax in all the wealth of their empire.

The Roman Legions quickly began the expand, turning from one to three, to five, to ten, to fifteen. Eventually, Gaius Julius Caesar began his rise to power in Rome, starting with his participation in the defeat of the Pontic King Mithridates, who had stired Greece into rebellion. Julius Caesar was elected as one of two Consuls, the supreme rulers of the Republic. The Consuls had the power to veto any vote by the Senate, order and marshal troops, and declare war and peace, to be approved by the Senate. With the power of Consul in his hands, Julius Caesar planned and led a campaign against the tribes in Gaul (France). He began with four legions in BC 59, and by the time of his return to Rome, he commanded eight. By the time of his invasion of Britain some five years later, he commanded six legions, and a legion comprised entirely of auxilia reserves. Within slightly less than a decade, he had conquered and subdued all of Gaul, and pushed back the Germanic tribes beyond the Rhine river, where they would stay for more than forty years. By BC 50, Caesar was the most powerful military commander in Roman military history. Pompey, who had become Caesar's political enemy, forced the Senate to recall Caesar and order him to disband his legions. Caesar believed the Pompey would attempt to kill him before he reached Rome, leading to a civil war that rocked the Republic and permanently changed the foundation of power.

This civil war culminated in the Battle of Pharsalus, where Caesar defeated Pompey's legions, despite being outnumbered heavily. This was the first time that Roman legions had fought each other in battle. After Octavian became the first Imperator of Rome, the Legions continued their conquests, swallowing Britannica (Britain), Germanica (Germany), Aegyptus (Egypt), Pontus and Anatolia (Turkey), Syria, Judea (Israel), Dalcia (Romania), Mauritania (African coast on the Mediterranean), Mesopotamia, and Scythia (Black Sea). The legions fought hundreds of battles, from their crushing defeat in the Teutoberger Wald, to their astounding victories at Alesia, Alexandria, Parsagade, Camulodunum, and the Rhine. Then, in 451 AD, the Hunnic invasion of the Western Roman Empire culminated in the Battle of Campi Catalunici (Catalaunain Plains), the bloodiest battle in Roman history. There, 250,000 legionairres fought with 250,000 Visigoths against the million invaders of the Hunnic horde and their Gothic allies. The Romans and Visigoths lost half their force, but also killed half of the Hunnic horde, which turned back in retreat the next morning. Campi Catalunici stood as the last testament of Roman might and power, and the unbreaking strength of the legions. It was there that the true legend of the legions began, and there that archaeologists discovered the remains of a massive battle, where an army of foot infantry, outnumbered two to one against an army of cavalry, stood their ground, and held when all hope was lost.

After Campi Catalunici, the next emperor, Diocletian Augustus, ordered the Legions disbanded, and reformed the army into a new organizational structure. There, the legions still refused to let go, many resisted and fought against the armies seeking to capture them. But by 550 AD, when Rome fell, every one of the Legions was gone, their names passed into the Books of Time. Even so, centuries later, the power of the legions still often amazes military commanders, as they see the might of an army that never surrendered, never gave up. The legions were more than an army, they were a family. If anything, the legions were simply one man. They moved as one, fought as one, died as one, lived as one. The legions were the pure embodiment of unity, strength, perserverance, loyalty, and power. And in history, they shall stand as a testament to Rome, and humanity.

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