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The cohort ( lat. Cohors "enclosed space") was a military unit in the Roman Empire , in particular a sub-unit of the Roman legion .

Roman Republic

Cohorts appear in the early days of the Roman Republic as a subdivision of the infantry units of the Roman allies. It was not until the time of the Punic Wars that the Roman legionary troops were also divided into cohorts if necessary, in that three maniples were temporarily combined into one cohort. The army reform of Gaius Marius made the cohort the most important tactical unit of the Roman legionary troops. The Legion was now regularly divided into ten cohorts of three maniples each, with each maniple consisting of two centuries . The nominal strength of a legion was 4,000 (3,000–6,000), the cohort a tenth of that, i.e. approx. 480 men, the maniples in turn a third of that. A centurie, half a maniple, may have had its namesake 100 earlier, actually later 60 to 80 men in actual strength. These were target or plan figures that were mostly not achieved in combat and are still discussed in the specialist literature. The highest ranking among the six centurions commanded the cohort. While the legion was more of an administrative umbrella term, the individual units acted as a cohort in several meetings on the battlefield. The prerequisite for this cohort tactic was the conversion of the Roman army under Marius to a professional army.

The cohors amicorum , which accompanied Roman generals and consisted of people who were personally connected to him, was not a military unit in the strict sense .

Roman Imperial Era

Signum of a cohort

The legions of the imperial era corresponded in structure to the legions of the late republic since Marius. The 1st cohort was an exception. This consisted of a centurie with twice the manpower (approx. 162 men) and two maniples. She was responsible for the signum (legion mark) carried by the Aquilifer . The centurion of the 1st centurie of the 1st cohort was the highest-ranking centurion of a legion ( Centurio primus pilus ). The cohort had normally not have its own commander out but was in combat by the most senior centurion, so the Triarier -Centurio of the first maniple. But you could z. B. be placed under the command of a staff officer, usually a tribune , in independent operations .

The military units stationed in Rome during the imperial era, the Praetorian Guard ( cohortes praetoriae ), the Cohortes urbanae and the Vigiles , were divided into cohorts, each under the command of a tribune.

Auxiliary units

The auxiliary troops , which, along with the legions, formed the second major component of the Roman army during the imperial era, were mainly divided into cohorts; only pure cavalry units were called Ala (there were also other units such as the numbers ). An auxiliary cohort was generally commanded by a prefect , and for some cohorts, especially those made up of Roman citizens, a tribune. When in the 2nd and 3rd centuries the combat deployment of entire legions had become uncommon, associations consisting of two or three cohorts were the rule ( vexillation ).

As the documented late antique cohort crews of various small forts along the borders show, it is not to be expected that these complete cohorts of around 500 men and their commanders in command were permanently stationed. Rather, a significantly reduced team strength would have to be assumed for the late period. However, there is no clear tradition of the military personnel strengths for this epoch.

Team strengths

There were pure infantry cohorts ( Cohors peditata and Cohors milliaria peditata ) and mixed cohorts consisting of infantry and cavalry ( Cohors equitata and Cohors milliaria equitata ). A simple cohort was usually commanded by a prefect , while a cohors milliaria was usually run by a tribune .

The theoretical team strength of the various cohorts is given as follows, assuming a strength of 80 men for a centurie and a strength of 30 riders for a tower :

unit Number Centuries Number Towers Strength
Cohors peditata 6th - 480
Cohors equitata 6th 4th 600
Cohors milliaria peditata 10 - 800
Cohors milliaria equitata 10 8th 1040


Web links

Commons : Cohort  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Cohort  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. ^ For example, Eining Castle : small fort ; 0.18 hectares; Crew: Cohors III Britannorum equitata
  2. ^ Fritz Mitthof : Annona militaris. Army supplies in late ancient Egypt. A contribution to the administrative and military history of the Roman Empire in the 3rd to 6th centuries AD. Gonnelli, Florenz 2001. p. 227.
  3. ^ David Benjamin Cuff: The auxilia in Roman Britain and the Two Germanies from Augustus to Caracalla: Family, Religion and "Romanization". (PDF 3.1 MB, p. 18 (8)) University of Toronto Department of Classics, 2010, accessed on March 5, 2017 (English).