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I should state at the outset.  I do not actually have any Roman armies (yet)
But Alasdair was asking whether I knew of a book which listed each period of Roman, with illustrations of what they looked like, and showed next to it, a list of all the enemies for that priod, and illustrations of what they looked like.
And I thought, I could sort of do that here, assuming I can find enough images on the interweb, of course.
Roman periods.
For me, there are 9 distinct flavours of Romans (excluding the whole 'Byzantines were Roman thing')
 Era Roman Features Enemies

 Early Romans

- The Kings and early Legions:

753 B.C. to @ 450 B.C.

This covers the first Italian Kings and then the Servian class system and the early 'Hoplite' army era. 

About the only thing I can say on these guys is that they may have had cello case shields (called an ancile shield) and a pointed helmet.  The organisation was tribal, and there would likely have been chariots on occasion. 

The first proper organisation is ascribed to Servius Tullius in the mid 500s.  This is the famous class system, organising men according to their ability to provide the equipment necessary to meet the criteria for each part of the line.  This is often taken as creating a hoplite army, because the equipment can be described as hoplite panoply.  I think this may be too superficial. 

Certainly the organisation would have been significant, and mark a change from raiding to warfare.  But I think they still look like hill tribesmen to me, and not at all like the phalanx which the true marks the true hoplite.


Latins (Volsci, Campanians, Aequians)

Oscans (Samnites)

Gauls (early ones)

 Early Republican Romans

- Camillan Romans:

to @ 300 B.C.

The first legion (levy), with the well know lines of battle, velites/leves/rorarii,  hastatii, principes and triarii.

I have no time for all this rorarii and accensi as full ranks behind the triarii nonsense.  To me they are at best descriptions of camp followers, and not part of the fighting line.  I would not bother with representing them on a table.  I am much happier to label the first skirmish line as rorarii, however.

I like these guys with tall feathered helmets (For me, helmets are an easy way to differentiate, so even though the change from feather to plume happened well into the mid republic, I use it as a simple short hand for the early republic alone).

The hastatii with a chest protector rather than full armour, and pila - for me by the mid republic, I perfer to see uniformly equipped hastati and principes.

The principes with full mail and a long spear - Dionysios has this during the Pyrrhic war, but again, for a simple wargamers codification, this works for me as an early republican feature. 

Triarii full mail an a long spear also, optional left leg greve.

Allied legions, such as they were, would not conform to the Roman pattern, and would have fought in their own native style, so I would leave them clearly differentiated too, and without any of the organisational advantages offered to the Romans themselves.




Arguably Epiriots and Gauls

 Mid Republican Romans

- Polybian Romans:

to @ 100 B.C.

The victors in the Punic wars, and the conquerors of Greece and Macedon.

The change over point here is quite vague, you could pick @300 as I did with the period between the second and third Samnite wars, or you could pick the experience of fighting Pyrrhus at around 275.  Either way, this is the classic republican army.

Hastatii and principes are now pretty much identical with mail (my preferential codification) and pila - the change in weapon indicating a change in function.

Triarii still armed with spear

Plumes rather than feathers on their Montefortino helmets - this change happened during this period, possibly quite late, but it makes a simple codification for me to differentiate from the Camillans, so I prefer it.

Latin allies would also be pretty much identical to Romans by now, I think.















 Late Republican Romans

- Marian / Caesarian Romans:

to @ 25 A.D.

Cohorts rather than maniples.
Chain mail and oval shields
All men basically the same, with no inherent skirmisher capability (i.e. no velites).
plumes optional (I prefer without again as a simple codification), and I would have brass Montefortino helmets.
The Social war was right at the start of this era, so you really just have Romans now
- with local allies where appropriate - such as Gauls / Germans with Caesar, or Armenians out in the east.











Civil wars

 Early Imperial Romans

- The Principate:

to @ 85 A.D.

A change over period between the famous lorica segmentata and the chain mail of Caesar.

For me, I would have them in chain mail and still with oval shields and no plumes on the full metal Coolus helmets.

But you could just as easily have them in lorica with the square shields too.

Lots more formally recruited auxilliarys than previously to do the dirty jobs.





Caledonians / Picts / Scots Irish

Civil Wars

 Mid Imperial Romans

- Trajanic Romans:

to @ 260 A.D.

Trajans column offers the best evidence for this.

But for codification purposes this is the full Asterix type - lorica segmentata, unplumed Imperial Gallic or Italian helmet, square shield etc.

Good access to eastern auxilliaries and allies such as Armenians and Sarmatians






Early Sassanids

Civil wars

 Mid Imperial Romans

- Aureleanic Romans:

to @ 280 A.D.

Still pila armed and equipped quite similarly to the Trajanics, but with a little more emphasis on cavalry to help counter the first gothic incursions.

Rome was in a bit of difficulty in this period, so it is more interesting in that respect.  It marks the change from the walls era of Hadrian to the Aurellianic attempt to re-establish control over the frontiers by force.

The Armenians give way to a Palmyran ally option in the east and you could also include some Germanic allies for a bit of colour.



Sassanid Persians

Civil Wars

 Late Imperial Romans

- The Dominate:

to @ 380 A.D.

After Diocletians reforms (even though I put him within the Aurelianic era) and his complete restructuring of the army to reflect its unsustainable borders.

Things start to change over - the pila has gone as Rome is faced with a true cavalry threat. Shields are large true ovals, helmets are spanglehelm or ridged varieties, cavalry are becoming routinely armoured, and horse archers start appearing in numbers on the Roman side.

You have the frontier militia (limitanei and ripensus), the mobile regional army (comitatenses) and the elites who were soon farmed out to those regional field armies (auxillia palatini), not to mention the pseudocomitatenses.

Sassanid Persians



Civil Wars

 Late Romans

- Late Western Rome:

to @ 476 A.D. or 565 A.D.

Late Romans, where the cavalry and the allies dominated and an Italian is hard to find.

This is pretty much an entirely German army now, full of personal loyalties and war leaders. Bucellarii and Foederati.

Actually, its a particular interesting period with lots of colourful characters.

And its one of the few periods when the Romans are the good guys.

You can also extend this to include Julian against the Persians and Belisaurius and Narses attempting to re-establish an eastern presence in Italy





Civil Wars

There is variation and subjective interpetation within that simple outline, and some semi anachronistic usage of terms too, but it offers a working grasp on the differences for me.
I thought it might also be helpful to present a list of (land) battles within each of those periods, to help illustrate who was fighting whom and when.
 A beginners list of Roman battles (753 B.C. to 476 A.D.)


 Nations which defeated the Romans are highlighted in bold as the victor.
Where possible, civil wars have identified the two parties.
Notable names from the battle are also offered occasionally.
The war column is to help link battles which were part of a bigger campaign.