This entry was posted on March 8, 2020.
The Roman Legion represented a unique tactical formation that proved superior to all other ancient armies. Among the elements that contributed to is superiority was its unique configuration; that is, the physical arrangement of the soldiers and units and the way in which they moved in relationship to each other. Considering that the legion may have been history’s most successful army, it is surprising that there are still fundamental disagreements about how it functioned in battle.
The purpose of the models presented here is to help visualize the legion. The models have been built from data from a variety of experts, many of whom do not agree with each other. The hope is that the models themselves may serve as a tool to clarify questions, identify solutions which are more or less likely, and lead to a further refinement of knowledge about the legion.
The basic method used is to start with the standard descriptions given by the various experts and draw them with as much accuracy as possible. To do this, the drawings were all done in CAD. CAD software has the advantage of accurate scaling from a fraction of an inch to miles. This ensures that all drawings are accurate whatever the scale they are presented at. It also allows for a more direct comparison of one version with another.
Once the standard descriptions were completed detail at the level of the individual soldier was added. Weapons and people were modeled at their true dimensions and the legion formations rebuilt from the level of detail up. This ensured that the final product was consistent at all scales. In many cases this accurate model making demonstrated flaws in the traditional descriptions. A good example is in the model of the camp. Once an allowance is made for the guy ropes on the tents it becomes clear that the space allocated to tents is insufficient in the standard model.
In trying to develop a complete model of the legion many questions arose. In many cases there was no authoritative expert data to use as the basis for the model. Wherever this occurs the underlying data that was used is clearly described.
The drawings were converted to .jpg's from the original .dwg AutoCAD drawings. As .dwg viewers for browsers become more readily available it may be possible to put the original .dwg files on the net. This would give much greater viewing power to the user since the originals can be viewed at any scale and from different positions.
Permission to use illustrations from the site may be given for works with a bona fide historical purpose.
The bibliography lists the sources I consulted in the preparation of this material. I would like to be clear that there has been no attempt to base the descriptions on ancient sources. I do not consider myself expert enough to independently interpret Livy, Polybius, Vegetius or any of the original sources and have been quite satisfied to base these pages on the work of various experts who have interpreted the ancient sources. In many cases a particular drawing depends on multiple sources. Where there is a single source, I have given the reference in the text.
I make no claim to definitive authority. The reader should consider the merits of the drawings, information given and arguments that support an opinion and not rely on this site as an authority in its own right. The models are not presented as definitive depictions of how the legion actually was. Rather, they are working drawings that try to visualize what various experts have said about the legion and try to show how additional information might be folded into those descriptions.