Attached to today’s Fourteenth legion, as in the Roman past, is a unit of provincial auxiliaries from the lands around the mouth of the Rhine, the First Cohort of Batavians, Roman Citizens.

These are often assistedby a Unit of Hamian archers from the far-distant province of Syria.

From the early days of the Republic the Roman army had supplemented its strength with auxiliary (literally 'help') troops. When people think of the Roman Army there is a tendency to think of the legions themselves and to forget the considerable contribution made to the Roman war machine by the numerous auxiliary cohorts that provided vital support in a number of areas.

While the Roman legions were undeniably the most effective fighting force of their age the Romans themselves had never managed to successfully develop their military forces beyond the legionary formations. Accordingly the need for cavalry, archers, slingers and so on was made good by recruiting non-Roman peoples into cohorts of 500 (quingenaria) and 1000 men (milliaria). These tended to be one of three types; light infantry, cavalry and mixed units (equitata) made up of cavalry and infantry.

Auxiliary troops were levied from the conquered provinces and were named after the locality of their origination. The period of service for an auxiliary soldier was roughly 25 years after which time he could be discharged with a small gratuity and, most precious of all, a diploma conferring Roman Citizenship on himself and his heirs. For acts of bravery it was more likely that Citizenship, either for individuals, or for the unit as a whole, was awarded. Cohorts and Alae, like the Legions, could be given honorary awards such as "VICTRIX" or carry an Imperial family name.

Auxiliary units lacked the specialised skills and equipment of the larger legions and were paid proportionately less. Moreover they tended not to be among the recipients of the large donatives handed out to the legions and the Praetorian Guard by successive emperors desperate to retain the loyalty of their troops. However, the Citizen cohorts (cohors voluntariorum civium Romanorum) thanks largely to the will of Augustus, were practically on the same pay level as the Legionaries, and in consequence their commanders bear the title of Tribunus.

Stationed in small forts along the frontiers the auxiliaries were mainly used for garrison and policing duties. When major campaigns were launched against the barbarians massed beyond the empire's defences, the auxiliary cohorts would be drawn on to provide support arms for the main legionary force.

Like their comrades in the legions the auxiliary troops were divided into centuries of 80-100 men commanded by a centurion. The centurions were as likely as not to be Roman citizens in the time-honored tradition of empire officers being placed in command of native troops. Such an appointment might represent a promotion from a one of the legions. It might be a direct appointment provided under the patronage of a provincial governor, or even the emperor himself. Certainly many of the centurions were drawn from the same native stock as the rank and file. Above the centurions was the commander of the quingenaria cohort - the Praefectus who was an equestrian officer. The rank of prefect was a senior one and commanded respect right across the army. The command of a cohors milliaria or civium Romanorum was usually in the form of a Tribunus. Command of an auxiliary cohort was often the reward conferred on outstanding legionary centurions who had proved deserving of independent command. Attached to today's Fourteenth legion, as in the Roman past, is a unit of provincial auxiliaries from the lands around the mouth of the Rhine, the First Cohort of Batavians, one thousand strong, loyal and faithful citizens of Rome.

©RMRS 2010