The Roman legion (from the Latin legio, meaning "military levy") refers to the heavy infantry that was the basic military unit of the ancient Roman army in the period of the late Roman Republic and the Roman Empire. A legion consisted of several cohorts of heavy infantry known as legionaries or legionnaires. It was almost always accompanied by one or more attached units of auxiliaries, who were not Roman citizens and provided cavalry, ranged troops and skirmishers to complement the legion's heavy infantry.
The size of a typical legion varied widely throughout the history of ancient Rome, with complements of 4,200 legionaries and 300 equites in the republican period of Rome to 5,200 men plus auxiliaries in the imperial period.
Legions were created, used, and disbanded time and again throughout the history of the Roman Empire. Several hundred legions were named and numbered during this period; to date, about fifty have been identified. In the time of the Early Roman Empire, there were usually about 25 to 35 standing legions plus their auxiliaries, with more raised as needed.
Because of the enormous military successes of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, the legion has long been regarded as the prime ancient model for military efficiency and ability.
The principle weapon of the legionnaire was the gladius, or short broad sword, which was protected in a scabbard or sheath. Using this heavy iron weapon, ranks of legionaries could cut a swath through opposing formations; it was the ideal weapon for a foot soldier engaged in hand-to-hand combat. Roman infantry also carried a pugio or broad-bladed dagger as a sidearm or backup weapon. For defense in melee combat and from ranged weapons such as arrows, the legionnaire carried a rectangular, semi-cylindrical body shield known as a scutum.
All coins in the series Great Warrior:
- Roman Legionary
- Viking Norseman
- Medieval Knight
- Japanese Samurai