22 April 2023

What is the Roman centurion? In the Bible and in Ancient Rome

By Donald

are one of the most emblematic characters of the legendary soldiers of the Roman Empire, after the Roman Republic. Over the years, his presence in the ranks of the legions became a sign of strength and military stability in the empire. In this article you will find more about what a Roman centurion is.

What did it mean to be a centurion?

in ancient rome, this position occupied one of the highest within the Roman legions. Being a centurion meant having the duty and responsibility of leading a unit of more than 80 soldiers into battle. But it was not an easy task to reach this rank, as it required a great deal of skill and experience.

Candidates must be at least 30 years old, and have served in the Roman army for a minimum period of 10 years. They had to have physical aptitudes suitable for battle, they also had to be brave and know military tactics in depth, it was important to know how to write and read.

His superior officer and the emperor were the ones who they were in charge of selecting them, and receiving this promotion was a sign of his loyalty. Once appointed, they were given a special sword and shield much larger than that of a common soldier, received a raise in salary, and were required to obtain special and respectful treatment from their subordinates.

They were highly respected in Roman society, and was considered a sign of high status. They were also granted the right to wear a purple robe with the emblem of their position, which gave them status and allowed them to socialize with other senior officers in the military hierarchy.

What is a Roman centurion in the Bible?

They are mentioned in the Bible on several occasions, and are considered Valuable figures in the history of Christianity. It was a centurion with little seniority in office, who was in charge of supervising the crucifixion of Jesus, who exclaimed: ‘Certainly, this man was the Son of God!’.

One of the most relevant mentioned in the Bible is Cornelius, had a very positive reputation among the Jews, for his prayer and charity. This centurion is considered the first Gentile to be baptized as a Christian, and is a representation of how the message of Christianity spread beyond the borders of Israel.

Another is mentioned, which turns to Jesus for help to cure his servant, who was sick, and Jesus is surprised by the centurion’s faith. This story is interpreted as a sign of the Christian faith, which was not limited to the Jews, but could be found by anyone regardless of their origin.

What rank did a centurion have?

It was the officer he was in command of a ‘century’the latter was a military unit made up of 80 soldiers, and had the help of 3 collaborators:

  • the optiawho was a kind of lieutenant who answered directly to the centurion
  • the tessarariuswho functioned as the person in charge of security and passwords.
  • the signifierentrusted to carry the insignia of each century.

among the centurions there were also ranksthe one with the highest rank was the Primus Pilus, then the Princeps prior, Hastatus prior, Princeps posterior and finally the Hastatus posterior.

The hierarchical structure in the Roman army, higher than centurion rankthere were the tribunes, who are the commanders of the cohorts, and in turn all of them were in charge of the Legation of the legion.

Compared to today’s military hierarchies, the Legacy is equivalent to what we know as a Generalthe tribune to the colonel, and the centurions, with more seniority in service, are equated to the rank of commander, while the other centurions to captains.

Some historians who specialize in military subjects, they emphasize that the centurion was an important piece for the imposition of discipline in the troops, and in this way they contributed to guarantee the effectiveness of these, especially on the battlefield.

What was the function of the centurions?

These were in a relationship of subordination before the tribunes, and They were responsible for the training of legionnaires under his command. They had to assign the necessary tasks and also impart discipline.

His duty was to show courage in combat, since if they were caught as cowards they would be executed. These figures earned the respect of their soldiers by setting an example in battle.

Among the tasks they were responsible for supervising were the construction of trenches and fortifications, they had to take roll and assign the password for the entrance of the camp. They also escorted prisoners, and were in charge of establishing the logistics of supplies while they were on a campaign.

They also had to protect the banner of their legion and make reconnaissance excursions into enemy territory.

What is the origin of the centurions?

The origin of the range dates back to the first army Roman from the middle of the 8th century BC This was led by Romulus, who had around 3000 soldiers and 30 centurions, of these, every 100 soldiers, who in turn were for one centurion.

Dionysius of Halicarnassus states that the range has an Etruscan originand that was brought to the army of Rome by the Servian king Tulio, being awarded to the soldier with the most courage in battle.

Another theory mentions that it could be a rank taken by the Romans, of the military tactics of the Samnites, who were a people who lived in the central region of Italy. According to historians, the Samnites divided their armies into groups of 100 men, led by an officer known as ‘centenarius’, who also led 10 soldiers.