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The captains of the 60 centuries of the Roman legion. They carried a staff of vinewood as their badge of office. In the republican age they were appointed, on the application of the legion, by the military tribunes on the commission of the consuls. There were various degrees of rank among the centurions according as they belonged to the three divisions of the triarii, principes, and hastati, and led the first or second centuria of one of the 30 manipuli. The centurion of the first centuria of a manipulus led his manipulus himself, and as centurio prior ranked above the leader of the second centuria, or centurio posterior. The highest rank belonged to the first centurioof the first manipulus of the triarii, the primipilus or primus pilus, who was admitted to the council of war. The method of promotion was as follows: The centuriones had to work first through the 30 lower centuriae of the 30 manipuli of the hastati, principes, and triarii, and then through the 30 upper centuriae up to the primipilus. After the end of the Republic and under the Empire the legion was usually divided into 10 cohorts ranked one above the other, each cohort consisting of three manipuli or six centuriae. The division into priores and posteriores, and into triarii, principes and hastati still remained, but only for the centurions and within the cohort, which accordingly always included a prior and posterior of the three ranks in question. The method of promotion, which was perhaps not regularly fixed until the time of the standing armies of the Empire, seems to have been the old one, the centurions passing up by a lower stage through all 10 cohorts, and the higher stage always beginning in the tenth. The first centurion of each cohort probably led it, and was admitted to the council of war. The promotion usually ceased with the advancement to the rank of primipilus. If a centurion who had reached this point did not choose to retire, he was employed on special services, as commandant of a fortress for instance. Under the Empire, however, exceptional cases occurred of promotion to higher posts.
Type: Standard
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