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A ''legatus'' (
anglicised Linguistic anglicisation (or anglicization, occasionally anglification, anglifying, or Englishing) is the practice of modifying foreign words, names, and phrases to make them easier to spell, pronounce, or understand in English language, English. ...
as legate) was a high-ranking Roman military officer in the
Roman Army The Roman army (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in ...

Roman Army
, equivalent to a modern high-ranking
general officer A general officer is an Officer (armed forces), officer of highest military ranks, high rank in the army, armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, or marines. In some usages the term "general officer" refers to a rank above colo ...
. Initially used to delegate power, the term became formalised under
Augustus Caesar Augustus (23 September 63 BC19 August AD 14) was the first Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles through ...

Augustus
as the officer in command of a
legion Legion may refer to: Military * Roman legion The Roman legion ( la, legiō, ) was the largest military unit of the Roman army The Roman army (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic b ...

legion
. From the times of the Roman Republic, legates received large shares of the military's rewards at the end of a successful campaign. This made the position a lucrative one, so it could often attract even distinguished consuls or other high-ranking political figures within
Roman politics Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, the people of ancient Rome *''Epistle to the Romans'', shortened to ''Romans'', a letter in ...
(e.g., the
consul Consul (abbrev. ''cos.''; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the powe ...
Lucius Julius Caesar volunteered late in the
Gallic Wars The Gallic Wars were waged between 58 BC and 50 BC by the Roman general Julius Caesar against the peoples of Gaul (present-day France, Belgium, along with parts of Germany). Gauls, Gallic, Germanic peoples, Germanic, and Celtic Br ...
as a legate under his first cousin,
Gaius Julius Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman people, Roman general and statesman who played a critical role in Crisis of the Roman Republic, the events that led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Rom ...

Gaius Julius Caesar
).


History


Roman Republic

The rank of legatus existed as early as the
Samnite Wars The First, Second, and Third Samnite Wars (343–341 BC, 326–304 BC, and 298–290 BC) were fought between the Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the , run through of the . Beginning with t ...
, but it was not until 190 BC that it started to be standardized, meant to better manage the higher numbers of soldiers the
Second Punic War The Second Punic War, which lasted from 218 to 201BC, was the second of three wars fought between Carthage Carthage was the capital city of the ancient , on the eastern side of the in what is now . Carthage was the most important trading ...

Second Punic War
had forced to recruit. The legatus of a Roman Republican army was essentially a supreme
military tribune A military tribune (Latin ''tribunus militum'', "tribune of the soldiers") was an officer of the Roman army The Roman army (: ) was the armed forces deployed by the Romans throughout the duration of , from the (to c. 500 BC) to the (500– ...
, drawn from among the senatorial class of
Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, Italy).svg , map_caption = The te ...
(usually a
consul Consul (abbrev. ''cos.''; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the powe ...
or
proconsul A proconsul was an official of ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose wo ...

proconsul
), who acted as a second-in-command to the magistrate in charge of the force. This role was usually played by either seasoned generals or ambitious young senators; the latter option eventually displaced the military tribune as a path to gain recognition. The legatus was officially assigned by the Senate, although it was generally only done after consulting with the magistrate in command, hoping to pair a commander and a lieutenant who could work together without trouble. This was established to avoid clashes of leadership like that of the consuls Varo and Paulus in
Cannae Cannae (now Canne della Battaglia) is an ancient village of the Apulia it, Pugliese , population_note = , population_blank1_title = , population_blank1 = , demographics_type1 = , demographics1_footnotes = , demo ...
. The legatus often acted as a military consultant or adviser, like
Scipio Africanus Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus (, , ; 236/235–183 BC) was a Roman general and statesman, most notable as one of the main architects of Rome's victory against Carthage Carthage was the capital city of the ancient , on the eastern side ...
did for his brother
Lucius Lucius ( el, Λούκιος ''Loukios''; ett, Luvcie) is a male given name A given name (also known as a first name or forename) is the part of a quoted in that identifies a person, potentially with a as well, and differentiates that pe ...
during the
Roman–Seleucid War The Seleucid War (192–188 BC), also known as the War of Antiochos or the Syrian War, was a military conflict between two coalitions led by the Roman Republic and the Seleucid Empire. The fighting took place in modern day southern Greece, the Aeg ...
, or as a trusted man of action, as in the case of
Lucius Quinctius Flamininus Lucius Quinctius Flamininus (died 170 BC) was a Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, the people of ancient Rome *''Epistle ...
and his brother
Titus Titus Caesar Vespasianus ( ; 30 December 39 – 13 September 81 AD) was Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles thro ...
in their campaigns. After the Marian reforms, the figure of the legatus as a major second-in-command was eliminated. Multiple legati were assigned to every army, each in command of a
legion Legion may refer to: Military * Roman legion The Roman legion ( la, legiō, ) was the largest military unit of the Roman army The Roman army (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic b ...

legion
, which was called ''legatus legionis''.
Julius Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of Italy *, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *, the people of ancient Rome *', shortened ...

Julius Caesar
made wide use of this title throughout the
Gallic Wars The Gallic Wars were waged between 58 BC and 50 BC by the Roman general Julius Caesar against the peoples of Gaul (present-day France, Belgium, along with parts of Germany). Gauls, Gallic, Germanic peoples, Germanic, and Celtic Br ...
. Initially, only conflicts on foreign ground had demanded the presence of legati, but the beginning of the Social War in 90 BC saw them being increasingly deployed in Italia. There were two main positions. The ''legatus legionis'' was an ex-
praetor Praetor ( , ), also pretor, was the granted by the government of to a man acting in one of two official capacities: (i) the commander of an , and (ii) as an elected ' (magistrate), assigned to discharge various duties. The functions of the magi ...
given command of one of Rome's legions, while the ''legatus pro praetore'' was an ex-
consul Consul (abbrev. ''cos.''; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the powe ...
given the governorship of a
Roman province The Roman provinces (Latin: ''provincia'', pl. ''provinciae'') were the administrative regions of Ancient Rome outside Roman Italy that were controlled by the Romans under the Roman Republic and later the Roman Empire. Each province was ruled ...
, with the magisterial powers of a praetor, which in some cases included command of four or more legions. A legatus was entitled to twelve , who carried out punishments with
fasces Fasces ( ; ; a ', from the word ', meaning "bundle"; it, fascio littorio) is a bound bundle of wooden rods, sometimes including an axe (occasionally two axes) with its blade emerging. The fasces is an Italian symbol that had its origin in the a ...

fasces
(bundled rods). A ''legatus legionis'' could order
capital punishment Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is the state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ' ...

capital punishment
.


Roman Empire

From
Augustus Caesar Augustus (23 September 63 BC19 August AD 14) was the first Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles through ...

Augustus
onwards, the emperor gave the title of ''legatus legionis'' to senior commanders (former
military tribune A military tribune (Latin ''tribunus militum'', "tribune of the soldiers") was an officer of the Roman army The Roman army (: ) was the armed forces deployed by the Romans throughout the duration of , from the (to c. 500 BC) to the (500– ...
s) of a legion, except in
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identi ...

Egypt
and
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in th ...

Mesopotamia
where the legions were commanded by a praefectus legionis of an equestrian rank. The ''legatus legionis'' was under the supreme command of a
Legatus Augusti pro praetore A ''legatus Augusti pro praetore'' (literally: "envoy of the emperor – acting for the praetor") was the official title of the governor A governor is, in most cases, a public official with the power to govern the Executive (government), executi ...
of senatorial rank. If the province was defended by a single legion, the Legatus Augusti pro praetor was also in direct command of the legion. This post was generally appointed by the
emperor An emperor (from la, imperator The Latin word "imperator" derives from the stem of the verb la, imperare, label=none, meaning 'to order, to command'. It was originally employed as a title roughly equivalent to ''commander'' under the Roma ...
. The person chosen for this rank was a former
tribune Tribune () was the title of various elected officials in ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the ...

tribune
, and although the emperor
Augustus Caesar Augustus (23 September 63 BC19 August AD 14) was the first Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles through ...

Augustus
set a maximum term of command of two years for a legatus, subsequent emperors extended the tenure to three or four years, although the incumbent could serve for a much longer period. In a province with only one legion, the legatus served as the provincial governor, while in provinces with multiple legions each legion had a legatus and a separate provincial governor who had overall command. A legatus held full power over his legion. ''Consul Militaris'' held control of all legions under the Emperor, who held entire control of Rome during the time of the Roman Empire. After the Roman Republic, all of the Senate's controls shifted to the Emperor, making him the most powerful person in Rome. The Legatus Legionis would delegate duties to his command staff, who would then carry out his orders. A legatus was one of the most respected military ranks in Rome. The legatus could be distinguished in the field by his elaborate helmet and body armour, as well as a scarlet ''
paludamentum In Republican and Imperial Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, Italy).s ...
'' (cloak) and ''cincticulus'' (a waist-band tied around the waist in a bow). The senatorial legatus legionis was removed from the Roman army by
Gallienus Publius Licinius Egnatius Gallienus (; c. 218 – September 268) was Roman emperor with his father Valerian (emperor), Valerian from 253 to 260 and alone from 260 to 268. He ruled during the Crisis of the Third Century that nearly caused the coll ...

Gallienus
, who preferred to entrust the command of a legionary unit to a
leader Leadership, both as a research area and as a practical skill, encompasses the ability of an individual, group or organization An organization, or organisation (Commonwealth English The use of the English language English ...

leader
chosen from within the
equestrian order The ''equites'' (; la, eques nom. singular; literally "horse-" or "cavalrymen", though sometimes referred to as "knight A knight is a person granted an honorary title of knighthood by a head of state (including the pope) or representati ...
who had a long military career.


Diplomatic ''legatus''

''Legatus'' was also a term for an ambassador of the Roman Republic who was appointed by the senate for a mission (''legatio'') to a foreign nation, as well as for ambassadors who came to Rome from other countries.
Smith Smith or Smithing is a craft A craft or trade is a pastime or an occupation that requires particular skills and knowledge of skilled work. In a historical sense, particularly the Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Age ...
, ''Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities'' (1875), Bill Thayer's edition
entry on "Legatus"
The concept remains today as a diplomatic
legation A legation was a diplomatic representative office of lower rank than an embassy A diplomatic mission or foreign mission is a group of people from one state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazin ...
.


See also

*
List of Roman army unit types This is a list of Roman army The Roman army (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', me ...
*
Centurion A centurion (; la, centurio , . la, centuriones, label=none; grc-gre, κεντυρίων, kentyríōn, or ) was a position in the Roman army The Roman army (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is ...

Centurion


References

{{Authority control Ancient Roman titles Military ranks of ancient Rome