A day in the life of a Roman soldier – Robert Garland


The year is 15 CE
and the Roman Empire is prospering. Most of the credit will go to the emperor, but this success wouldn’t
have been possible without loyal soldiers like Servius Felix. Servius enlisted as a legionary
eight years ago at age 18, the son of a poor farmer
with few prospects. Unlike the majority of legionaries,
he doesn’t gamble, so he’s been able to save
most of his wages. He’s even kept his viaticum, the three gold coins he received
when he enlisted. If he survives until retirement,
he’ll receive several acres of land. And he’s grown rather fond
of a girl back home whom he intends to marry. But he’ll have to wait until he completes
his 25 years of service before that can happen. And the life of a legionary
is dangerous and grueling. Today, Servius’s legion,
along with three others, has undertaken a “great march”
of 30,000 Roman paces, the equivalent of nearly 36 kilometers. Servius’s armor and weapons, including his gladius, scutum, and two pila, weigh over 20 kilograms. And that’s not counting his backpack,
or sarcina, which contains food and all the tools
he needs to help build the camp – spade, saw, pickaxe, and basket. Although Servius is exhausted,
he won’t sleep much tonight. He’s been assigned the first watch, which means looking after
the baggage animals and keeping alert
against a possible ambush. After he’s done, he lies awake,
dreading the day ahead, which will force him
to recall his worst nightmare. At dawn, Servius eats breakfast
with his seven tent companions. They’re like a family, all bearing scars
from the battles they’ve fought together. Servius is from Italia, but his fellow soldiers hail
from all over the empire, which stretches from Syria to Spain. So they’re all far from home
in the northern land of Germania. Servius’s legion
and three others with him today are under the command of
Emperor Tiberius’s nephew Germanicus, named for his father’s military successes
against the Germanic tribes. Each legion has close to 5,000 men, divided into cohorts of about 500, further subdivided into centuries
of around 80-100 men. Each century is commanded by a centurion. An aquilifer, or eagle-bearer, marches at
the head of each legion carrying its eagle standard. The centurions march beside
the legionaries belting out orders, “Dex, sin, dex, sin,” “Right, left, right, left,” starting with the right foot as the left
is considered unlucky or sinister. Despite the strict discipline,
there’s tension in the air. Last year, some legions
in the area revolted, demanding better pay
and a cut in the length of service. Only their general’s charisma
and negotiating skills prevented wholesale mutiny. Today is a “just march,”
only 30 kilometers. As the marshes and forests of Germania
lie beyond the empire’s road system the men must build causeways
and bridges to make headway— something they’ve recently spent
more time doing than fighting. Finally, they arrive at their destination,
a place Servius knows too well. It’s a clearing on the outskirts
of the Teutoburg Forest, where six years ago, during the
reign of the Emperor Augustus, Germanic tribes under
their chieftain Arminius ambushed and destroyed three legions. Proceeding along a narrow path, the legions were attacked from
forest cover under torrential rain with their escape blocked. It was one of the worst defeats
the Romans ever suffered and Augustus never lived it down. Servius was one of the few survivors. Servius still has nightmares of
his comrades lying where they fell. But now the army is back to bury
the dead with full military honors. As he helps in the task, he can’t help wondering whether the bones
he handles belonged to someone he knew. Several times he wants to weep aloud,
but he pushes on with the task. The glory of the Empire
can go to the crows. All he craves is to retire
on a small farm with his wife-to-be, if the gods should spare his life
for 17 more years.

100 thoughts on “A day in the life of a Roman soldier – Robert Garland”

  1. Thank you so much to everyone who has been supporting us over on Patreon! If you want to get involved with our nonprofit mission to bring free educational tools to people around the world, join us at https://www.patreon.com/teded.

  2. If this was longer, I would have kept watching it. Good job. But honestly, just give the weights & distances in miles & pounds too, it only takes a second

  3. Hey guys , i want to challenge you and myself.
    If my youtube channel reach 1k subscribers
    i will read every single ( English) comment under Despacito song^^
    Will post a video of me reading all comments
    pst: mr.Beast cant complete this challenge but i can :3

  4. In an Paradoxal way, the war is an terrible thing, wich destroys lifes of people who lived in peace, but at the same time, it makes men become from enemies, Brothers, it makes them united, like a family, everyone willing to risk their lives for their fellow Brothers in Arms. And after war is over, the men who served will crave that kind of brothership, even after death. Respect to those who Served! No matter the Race, Skin Color, Religion, Origin, politicak Beliefs.

  5. Today, I was pissed cause I had to wait for three cars in front of me at the KFC drive thru.

    Damn we have it tough compared to them.

  6. Yet what he doesn’t know is he’ll be ambushed again in only a matter of hours 😔
    And yes, that genuinely happened.

  7. I was one of a military soldier in S.Korea only for 2 years. I can't imagine how to bear so much of years on military service. Looking back on the past period in military service, spending just 1 day was feel like 1 year to me.

  8. I thought retirement was 25 in the auxiliary, 20 in the legions and 16 for the praetorian guards.
    Also a legion soldier had a better chance of reaching retirement age than your typical civilian. Life was just hard for scrubs.

  9. Actually soldiers often went back to Rome during time of peace. It was not just 25 years of war without interruption.

  10. Excellent video as usual!
    Btw, I too own a pink piggy bank too keep my own Sestertii in. You cannot be a true Roman and NOT have one. 😏

  11. if the 7 others aren't from Italy then aren't part of a legion right? you have to be a citizen to be in a legion, or is that incorrect?

  12. I'm confused, he's an auxiliary since he is not a Roman citizen and auxiliary units go up to one extra large cohort(5 double century) but there are no legions for the auxiliary unit it's only for the legionary(soldiers who are Roman citizens).

  13. Latin – Sarcina = bag in english in romanian means task or something to carry. Romanian language still retains latin original words.

  14. Lol the pagans were better than the Romans! And there worst defeat was from the hands of Khalid-ibn-Al waleed, A commander who ruined thr rule of Heraclius (romans ofcourse) in middle east! Do search about him.

  15. Wait wait wait. I'm not trying to declare what happened back then, but troops from different locations in the Roman empire were not mixed together. It was extremely uncommon to see a Syrian or a Brittanic with soldiers from Italy itself.

  16. It's super informative to watch people's lives in different eras and settings. I love this series you've launched)

  17. 2:05 This is incorrect. He is a legionary, meaning he is a Roman citizen. This part of the video says he is sharing a tent full of soldiers that are from all over the empire, but that can’t be the case, because Legionnaires can only be Roman citizens. Thos men born out of Italia, would of been Auxiliary soldiers for Rome, not Legionaries. All those men in his tent would be from Italia.

  18. I'm pretty sure the longest a legionnaire ever had to serve was 20 years and it was 16 at times. Sometimes they would be retired even earlier if they won a great victory or their general became emperor. Although not something you could count on. As the legionnaire became more experienced and valuable he would generally be in the back ranks and would only have to do fighting if the lines broke which didn't happen often to the Roman Army. I would say this imaginary soldier would have a good chance of surviving until retirement if he had already made it 8 years.

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