Handbook for Legionaries
This is the Handbook for new Legionaries to follow in acquiring their equipment. This section includes general standards; minimum kit for participation at Legio XI events, and recommended gear for campaign/overnight events.
For the content of this section, we are indebted to Matthew Amt, Commander of Legio XX, for allowing us to use material from, and links to, his website. Matt continues to show us the way.
Accuracy of presentation is our watchword. When we represent the soldiers of a Roman Legion to the public, they assume that our equipment is accurate — and we owe it to them to make it as accurate as possible given the documented knowledge available. Accordingly, all clothing and equipment should be as authentic as the modern world allows, tempered by some practicality. Our goal is to recreate Roman soldiers and civilians, not necessarily the individual industries that produced their clothing and accessories. Therefore fabric does not have to be hand-woven, and armor is made of mild sheet steel. Bearing that limitation in mind, the best way to make something is the way it was made in Roman times. If a dagger scabbard, for example, was made of thin sheet metal, a reproduction of it should not be cast. Resist the urge to “fake it”–such objects are usually unconvincing, fragile, or both. It is always agonizing to see someone go to great effort to make something wrong! When planning a project, take time to study the Handbook and other photos, drawings, and descriptions of original examples that you can find. Don’t try to “reinvent the wheel”, and stick to copying excavated artifacts rather than interpreting pictoral evidence, whenever possible.
You are always encouraged to exceed or surpass our minimum standards of accuracy, of course! The use of such things as hand-forged metal or hand-woven cloth can give results that are surprising, or teach us things we could not learn from the modern equivalents.
“Burden of Proof”–It is up to you to provide historical evidence for any item or technique you wish to use which is not covered in the Handbook–you may not use something just because it cannot be proved wrong! The Handbook is not exhaustive or omniscient, but it should indicate whether some conjecture or extrapolation is necessary. More information can be found in the books listed in the Bibliography, so please read! It is also impossible to list the countless ways NOT to do something–ask the Centurio or Optio if you have any doubts.
The following rules of thumb should give a good idea of our goals:
Clothing–Linen or wool–must be 100%, no blends or substitutes. Twills were common. Cotton and silk for civilians only, and must be approved before use. All exposed stitching (hems, etc.) must be done by hand.
Leather–Vegetable-tanned, top grain. Do not use splits, suede, and chrome-tanned leathers. Goatskin and calf were common. May be dyed, and should be treated with oil. Click here for Leatherworking Tips.
Metal–Mild steel, NOT galvanized or stainless. Brass may be used for bronze items. No tubular, split, or pop rivets. Click here for Armoring Hints.
Wood–Ash is best for weapon shafts and tool handles. Plywood is used for shields. Exotic types like ebony should be avoided unless provable.
Our more experienced members can find flaws in virtually everything we wear and use, but we understand that perfection is impossible. A reproduction is good enough if a reasonably knowledgeable person can pick it up and try it on without finding any anachronisms. And a good reenactor will always strive to improve even beyond that point.
Assembling your Basic Kit
A Brief Tutorial on Gear Assembly:
When assembling your gear, it’s sometimes tough to decide where to start. For this reason, a brief tutorial from the Centurio is offered here to guide a new recruit in “a way” to proceed. See the section below entitled “The Basic Kit for the Legionairy” for links to pages with more detailed descriptions on each item.
This is not the only way. This hobby is different for all of us, but these tips are ones that some of us have learned the hard way through trial and error.
Having said that, this is the order I would recommend:
1) Caligae. Since feet are individual and you will be spending a lot of time on them, I would get your Caligae FIRST! Either follow the patterns in the “Handbook for Legionaries” under the “Caligae” link, or order a nice set from PAR Fabrica. Many of your brothers have bought them here for a good price.
2) Tunica/Focale. These are easily made at the same time. Either follow the instructions on the “Tunica” link from the “Handbook for Legionaries” page, or contact the Centurio. I prefer the “teabag” pattern with no sleeves, but many options are possible. This thing should fit you like a tent, and I can supply you with a pattern and potential fabric choices. At all costs, try to avoid a garish, bright red. Blood Red is preferred.
3) Balteus. Every legionary should make his own balteus. This item teaches you many skills that you will need as you work on your complete kit — leatherworking, metal work, riveting, etc. All great skills. Several good suppliers of parts out there, from relatively inexpensive to expensive. Contact the centurio before you order plates or even whole baltei that are not accurate and a waste of money.
4) Gladius. For the gladius, you can go with an inexpensive option, or you can get expensive (Albion or Mark Morrow). If you are planning to order a custom blade, plan on it taking several months to arrive. Albion ships pretty quickly, as does Find-It Armory. Albion and Mark Morrow are well worth the money, but that’s up to the individual legionary. Probably the best inexpensive gladii for the money are the #SDK1171 Pompeii-style gladius from Find-It Armory and the SOTW0040 gladius from Soul of the Warrior. Chris (Find-It) and Rusty Myers (SOTW) usually have them in stock, and they are both good buys at $85-$95. Talk to the centurio for more gladius advice.
5) Pugio and Scabbard. Again, lots of options here. Inexpensive: from Deepeeka (the Brass Beaded version) to the very nice version from Soul of the Warrior (SOTW0028). Expensive: Custom work from Len Morgan (Fabrica) or Mark Morrow. You get what you pay for. Bottom line — whatever option you choose will take awhile, so order early from SOTW, Find-It, or your custom maker.
6) Galea. All of the versions listed as “approved” on the Legio XX site are also approved for Legio XI. Order this one early (as soon as you can afford it) from the “Approved” List in the “Galea” section of the Handbook — all of the vendors are at the mercy of Deepeeka, and it may take several weeks or even months for it to arrive. So, call/email the various vendors/suppliers for availability before you order your galea.
7) Scutum. There are a couple of scutum presses in the legion, and you should start early on yours. We can supply you with the pressed, curved blank for a very reasonable fee (usually less than $20), as well as the pattern for the painted emblem. While a nice leather rim is acceptable, brass is preferred and not that hard to do. For an umbo, the best I’ve seen are from Mark Morrow. The Deepeeka umboa are crap. This is another item I highly recommend you make yourself. Most, if not all, of the complete “off the shelf” scuta are not worth having. Click here to see a diagram of Legio XI’s scutum pattern. Cardboard templates of this pattern can be obtained from the centurio.
8) Lorica/Subarmalis. The only acceptable off-the-shelf segmentatas out there are from Deepeeka (the new version). Contact me for more information. For custom work, order one from Matt Lukes. For a hamata, the 8mm version from Find-It Armory is a great buy, as is the 6mm version. Both are accurate, the 6mm slightly moreso. If you want to make your own segmentata, we can help you do that, as well. It is cheaper, but honestly not that much cheaper depending on how much work you personally want to put into it.
For your subarmalis it will depend on which lorica you choose. Lots of good patterns available, none available off-the-shelf that are worth the price. You are much better off making your own. Contact the centurio for more information.
9) Pilum. Order this one last, from SOTW or Roman Legion Quartermaster. Both are cheap and accurate.
Final Note: Remember, you are not in this alone! Come to the workshops. Ask someone more experienced for help. Somebody in the legio has already made whatever it is you are trying to make, and will help you with yours at a workshop. That’s why we have them (and encourage you to attend).
Basic Kit for the Legionary
The Basic Kit required for participation in Legio XI events includes the following:
Gladius (Sword) and Scabbard
Pugio (Dagger) and Scabbard
Balteus (Military Belt)
Tunica (Military Tunic).
Caligae (Military Sandals)
Focale (Scarf). A simple kerchief, either rectangular (~12″x~36″) or square (~36″x~36″ – folded into a triangle). This garment prevents uncomfortable “neck rubs” from a lorica.
Subarmalis (Optional — but you will want one)
You can make most of this equipment yourself (with assistance from fellow miles) at our monthly workshops, or you can buy it from the recommended suppliers listed on the suppliers page. In every case, before you buy materials or actual items, contact the Centurio or Optio to ensure the item meets our standard.
Since it usually takes about a year to obtain the Basic Kit, New Recruits (Tirones) can borrow equipment from other members until they are able to acquire their own. Contact the Centurio or Optio for information.
Full Kit for Campaigning
In addition to the required Basic Kit, the optional (but highly encouraged) Full Kit for Campaign/Overnight events includes (but is not limited to) the following:
Caligae, Tunica, Focale, Balteus, Fascia Ventralis (Waist Scarf).
COLD WEATHER CLOTHING: Udones (Socks), Braccae (ankle length trousers), Femenalia (Calf Length Trousers) Paenula (Hooded Cloak) or Sagum (Cloak), Lodix (Blanket), Pileus Pannonius (Pannonian Cap), Pouch (or small bag/s).ARMOR:
Lorica Segmentata (Corbridge A and B variants); Lorica Hamata; Lorica Squamata, Subarmalis, Galea.
Scutum and Teginem (Leather Marching Cover).WEAPONS:
Gladius, Pugio, Pilum, small Utility Knife.MARCHING GEAR:
Loculus (Satchel), Furca (Carry Pole), Canteen.
A digging tool: Pala (shovel), Lamina Caespiti (turf cutter), Dolabrum (Pickaxe), Basket.
EATING UTENSILS: Vas (Cooking Pot), Patera (Mess Pot), Cup, Spoon.
Sponge, small hygiene tools (fingernail scraper, ear spoon, tweezers…), Comb, Razor.