1. Education
Send to a Friend via Email

Roman Weaponry

Here Are Some of the Roman Soldiers' Weapons

By

Image ID: 1619756  [Roman armor and accessories] (1810)

Image ID: 1619756 [Roman armor and accessories] (1810) Figures numbered (1-17). Written on border; "10-11 Fasces of lictors, 16-17 patterns of togas."

NYPL Digital Gallery

Roman Arsenals > Weapons

The late Republican era Roman historian Livy (c. 59 B.C.- A.D. 17) describes the basic set of armor and weapons a Roman soldier was to bring with him for military service, during the early period of Rome. At the time of the Servian reforms, during the regal period of legendary Rome (c. 753-c.509 B.C.), the populace was divided into six economic groups, the lowest not being required to serve in the military and five classes with a military responsibility. The first class was the richest, so its members were required to provide the most complete and best arms and weapons. These were the ones whose armor might protect them. Progressively lower requirements were made for the rest.

1st Class
Weapons and Armor

T. J. Cornell, in The Beginnings of Rome (a great starting point for those who want to learn about early Rome), says the first class wore the Greek Hoplite panoply. This is what Livy (1.43.2) says the first class had to provide for their own protection:

arma his imperata galea, clipeum, ocreae, lorica, omnia ex aere; haec ut tegumenta corporis essent: tela in hostem hastaque et gladius.

"Required arms for these were a galea (helmet), a Clipeus (round shield), ocreae (greaves), lorica (cuirass), all from bronze, for bodily protection; and for weapons against the enemy, a hasta (spear) and a gladius (sword)."

2nd Class

Livy says the following about the second class:

Secunda classis intra centum usque ad quinque et septuaginta milium censum instituta, et ex iis, senioribus iunioribusque, viginti conscriptae centuriae; arma imperata scutum pro clipeo et praeter loricam omnia eadem.

"The Second Class consisted of those whose property amounted to between 75,000 and 100,000 lbs. weight of copper; they were formed, seniors and juniors together, into twenty centuries. Their regulation arms were the same as those of the First Class, except that they had an oblong wooden shield instead of the round brazen one and no coat of mail."
Livy Translation of 1.43

Instead of the bronze clipeum, the second class had a wooden shield or scutum and no coat of mail.

3rd Class

Tertiae classis in quinquaginta milium censum esse voluit; totidem centuriae et hae eodemque discrimine aetatium factae; nec de armis quicquam mutatum, ocreae tantum ademptae.

"The Third Class he formed of those whose property fell as low as 50,000 lbs.; these also consisted of twenty centuries, similarly divided into seniors and juniors. The only difference in the armour was that they did not wear greaves."
Livy Translation of 1.43

The third class didn't have to furnish greaves, but no new weapons.

4th Class

In the fourth class, the weapons and armor were slightly different because a javelin was added.

In quarta classe census quinque et viginti milium, totidem centuriae factae, arma mutata: nihil praeter hastam et verutum datum.

"In the Fourth Class were those whose property did not fall below 25,000 lbs. They also formed twenty centuries; their only arms were a spear and a javelin."
Livy Translation of 1.43

5th Class

In the fifth class, the weapons were cheap or readily available: slings and stones.

Overall List
Roman Personal Weapons and Armor

From the preceding passages in Livy

Galea - Roman helmet
Clipeus - Roman oval shield
Ocrea - Roman legging
Lorica - Roman coat of mail/leather or Cuirass
Hasta - Roman spear
Gladius - Roman sword.
Scutum - Roman rectangular shield
Verutum - Roman javelin.

Assorted other items of Roman armor and weaponry include:

Parma - Roman round shield
Balteus - Roman shield
Pilum - Roman javelin
Cassis - Roman helmet

See Catapults

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.