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  • Physical Exercise: Exercise consisted of running, jumping and carrying heavy packs.
  • Swimming: Recruits swam during the summer if their camps were adjacent to water.
  • Vaulting onto a horse: This part of physical training involved all recruits and employed a
    wooden horse. Exercises were initially performed without weapons and equipment.
  • General: As the recruits improved, they were issued weapons to use during physical
    training. Exercises increased in difficulty until military pace was achieved.


  • Sword: The soldiers employed wooden swords and round wickerwork shields, both
    double the weight of  normal service equipment. Practice involved attacking six foot
    wooden stakes. As the soldiers experience grew, standard service swords and shields
    were issued.
  • Pilum: Soldiers trained with a heavier than normal weight pilum. They developed arm
    strength and marksmanship by targeting stakes. After the soldiers had become
    comfortable with their practice pila, they were issued service models.
  • Armatura: Once they were proficient with a gladius and pilum, the men were paired to
    train in individual combat and mock engagements using wood weapons equivalent in
    weight to service weapons . When real swords and pila were finally employed, the tips
    were shielded with leather buttons to prevent injury.
  • Bow: 25-33% of recruits received bow training using stakes as targets.
  • Sling: The art of throwing stones by hand and with a sling was taught.


  • The final type of basic training involved field action. Under the supervision of an officer,
    soldiers in full equipment (66 lbs/man) and 17 days of rations marched at a military pace
    on unfamiliar routes, and established practice camps with fossa and valum.
  • Ambulatura: Battle formations were practiced on 10 mile marches thrice monthly. They
    included forming single and double lines, wedges, squares, and circles. Recruits
    continued practicing until they were able to march at military pace and often faster.  
    Training varied and was conducted in all types of weather over a four month period.


  • Marching: The first concept that new soldiers learned was the "military pace”. This was taught by
    marching twenty Roman miles (18.4 miles/29.6 km) in five summer hours. Units that marched at a
    uniform speed were less vulnerable to attack. The quick time pace was 24 Roman miles in five
    summer hours (with occasional ten minute breaks).

    It is important to know how the Romans treated time. Days were 24 hours long, equally split
    between day and night . However, the number of minutes assigned to each hour fluctuated
    depending upon the season and geographical latitude. In Italy, the daylight winter hour averaged 45
    minutes whereas in the summer a daylight hour was 75 minutes.

    Click here to learn about parade square drill.