Roman Cohors Quingenaria Equitata

Shield design of Cohors II Raetorum, the unit which garrisoned the Saalburg between 138 and 260 A.D.

Cohors quingenaria equitata is the Roman designation of a partially mounted cohort with a nominal strength of 480 infantry and 128 cavalry. The table below is based on the organization of Cohors II Raetorum civium Romanorum equitata, an auxiliary formation raised in the province of Raetia which covered the Italian Alps, Tyrol, Grischuna, eastern Switzerland, eastern Württemberg, and southern Bavaria. The entire cohort had been granted Roman citizenship in recognition of distinguished service. The picture shows a reproduction of the oval shield (scutum) used by Cohors II Reatorum.

In 138 A.D., Cohors II Raetorum was transferred to the Roman fortification of Saalburg, just north of Frankfurt/Main, in the Roman province of Germania Superior (upper Germany). The new Saalburg garrison provided immediate support for a section of the Limes Germanicus, a fortified borderline separating Germania Superior from the Cherusci, Chatti, Marcomanni, and many other tribes settled in unpacified Germania Magna. Limes Germanicus, and its south-eastern continuation, Limes Raeticus, consisted of 900 watchtowers with 550 km of wooden palisade in front. The 370 km stretch of Limes Germanicus was later strengthened by a dry ditch and rampart immediately behind the palisade; Limes Raeticus eventually received a wall which connected the towers.

The soldiers of Cohors II Raetorum built a larger, and stronger fortifaction on the site of a wooden castle dating back to the 88-89 A.D. rebellion in Germania Superior, and they maintained the watchtowers and palisades in their sector of the Limes Germanicus. The unit was based at Saalburg until the Limes had to be given up in 260 A.D., and the Roman army withdrew to the Rhine river line. Recruits for Cohors II Raetorum were drawn from the area around Saalburg.

Cohors quingenaria equitata

  • Praefectus (Cohort Commander)
    • Centuria
      • Centurio (Captain)
      • Optio (Lieutenant)
      • Signifer (NCO Standard Bearer)
      • Tessarius (NCO)
      • Approximately 80 footsoldiers
        • Immunes (privates first class)
        • Pedites (footsoldiers)
    • Centuria (same as above)
    • Centuria (same as above)
    • Centuria (same as above)
    • Centuria (same as above)
    • Centuria (same as above)
    • Turma
      • Decurio (Cavalry Captain)
      • Duplicarius (NCO on double pay)
      • Sesquiplicarius (NCO on one-and-a-half pay)
      • Approximately 30 mounted soldiers
        • Immunes (privates first class)
        • Equites (mounted soldiers)
    • Turma (same as above)
    • Turma (same as above)
    • Turma (same as above)

Actual unit strength varied between 500 and 600 men, enough to repel raiding parties and minor incursions. In the event of determined enemy attacks, the Saalburg garrison would receive support from Legio XXII Primigenia Pia Fidelis based at Mogontiacum (Mayence), Legio VIII Augusta based at Argentoratum (Strassbourg), or Legio III Italica re-deployed to Castra Regina (Ratisbonne), in the province of Raetia, by Marc Aurel (161-180 A.D.).

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