Ancient Roman Army Ranks Facts
The ancient Roman army dominated the battlefield for centuries. This amazing army was able to accomplish great military success due to many reasons not the least of
which was structure and efficiency. Part of this structure was the army ranks. On this page of Ancient Roman Army Facts you will find information and interesting
facts. You will find the answers to such questions as what were the Roman army ranks and who could be promoted to those ranks.
Over the many years of its existence the Roman army rank structure changed. The information below describes the rank structure that basically existed during the late
Republic years through the early years of the Roman Empire.
In order to better understand the information below keep in mind that the Roman army was organized into Legions which were the largest organizational unit of the army.
Senior Ancient Roman Army Ranks
- General (dux) - Although during the Roman Empire the emperor ruled the military he usually assigned generals to command over the army. Military campaigns were commanded by a general
(dux) who were usually relatives or friends of the emperor. The general commanded several legions.
- Legionary Legate (Legatus) - Every legion was commanded by a Legionary Legate (Legatus). This person was usually appointed by the emperor and was a former Tribune.
- Tribunus Laticlavius - This officer was second in command of a legion, under the Legate.
- Praefectus Castrorum - The soldier with this military rank was the 3rd in command of a legion.
- Tribuni Angusticlavii - These were equestrian tribunes; there were five of them in each unit.
- Primus Pilus - He was the legion's senior centurion (see below) and commanded the legions first cohort (division).
- Centurions - Each legion had approximately sixty centurions who were responsible for leading about 100 men; in fact the name Centurion is derived from the Latin word for 100;
Low Level (Principales) Ancient Roman Army Ranks
- Signifer - These soldiers were the standard bearers of the Roman military who carried the military emblem of their unit. As you will see below there were numerous types of
standard bearers in ancient Rome. In early Roman history the rank of Signifer referred to all standard bearers; later in the Roman Empire standard bearers became more
specific; identified by the type of standard they carried.
- Aquilifer - He was the standard bearer of the Legion which was a very prestigious rank. Many Aquilifers eventually were promoted to the rank of Centurion.
- Imaginifer - The soldier with this rank carried the standard with the image of the Emperor. This rank was added during the reign of Augustus.
- Optio - Each Centurion appointed one Optio to be his second in command.
- Tesserarius - Officers of this rank were responsible for guarding the Roman forts. They were responsible for keeping the watchwords (passwords) that were used to enter the forts
- Cornicen - This low-level Roman officer was responsible for signaling orders to the soldiers. He used a brass type instrument called a cornu.
- Immunes - This rank signified a specialist which included engineers, doctors, and surveyors. They were given special treatment due to the value of their skills to the army and
were usually not required to do any physical labor.
- Discens - Milites (see below) in training to become a specialist (Immunes) within the Roman Army.
- Milites - This was the military rank of the Roman army foot soldier. Soldiers of this rank made up the bulk of the Roman Army.
- Tirones - These were the new recruits of the army who were training to be Milites.