Where’s Waldoius? Spotting a Centurion

If you happen to be time-traveling or watching a historical reenactment squad, you’ll want to be privy to the who’s who of the ancient world. Today, we’ll cover how to identify one of the most important members of the Roman legion.

roman centurion costume

Our Roman Centurion Set

How to Spot a Centurion:

  • Does he appear to be commanding around 100 men? Centurions were professional officers in the Roman army who commanded a full centuria, a military unit consisting of roughly 100 foot soldiers.
  • During battle, is he leading from the front right of the centuria? Centurions led their men in war, and their frontward position meant that a disproportionate percentage of centurions experienced casualties.
  • Is he training and disciplining the legionaries? This was the job of the centurion. These officers had a reputation for doling out harsh punishments. The Annales tells of one centurion striking soldiers across the back with a staff until the stick broke.
  • Is he making bank? Centurions got paid about 5,000 denarii a year, which is 20 times more than the common soldier! So if you catch him pimpin’ his chariot, the dude’s gotta have rank.
  • Is he reading a book? Centurions were required to be literate. They also needed to have letters of recommendation, be at least 30 years of age, and have already served a few years in the army. Centurions could be elected, appointed by the Senate, or promoted from the ranks because of their courage and dedication.
  • Is he dressed more ornately than the other soldiers?  This is perhaps the clearest way to tell, since centurions always wore several distinct pieces:
  • Crested helmet: The Roman centurion helmet was silver-plated with a crest made of horse-hair or exotic feathers to give him an appearance of height!
roman centurion helmet

A Roman Centurion Helmet

  • Decorated armor: His clothes would’ve been the same as the soldiers’ but his armor would’ve been more ornate. Centurions wore mail or scale armor that fell to the waist. Their cuirass was worn over a cloth, leather, or padded vest. They also would’ve worn decorated greaves.
  • Vine staff: Also called the “vitis,” the centurion carried a three-foot stick made of grape vine as a symbol of rank.

Now you’re ready for your next game of Where’s Waldoius? If you’d like to impersonate this Roman officer, look here for the distinctive items you need: http://www.historicalclothingrealm.com/

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