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The Centurio was the Officer in charge of a Century of 80 men. A Century never consisted of 100 men, and in Republican times only consisted of 60 men. The Centurio was normally a career soldier who had worked his way up through the ranks and was tough and experienced. In battle he would lead from the front, which meant they had a high mortality rate.
The equipment reflected his high status and was designed to make him easy to pick out in battle. He carried his sword on the left side, unlike the Legionaries who carry it on the right, had silvered greaves on his legs, a cloak on his left shoulder and wore a large transverse crest on his helmet made of horsehair or feathers.
If he had been given military awards, called Phalerae, he would wear these on a harness on his chest. Phalerae were awarded in sets of five, seven or nine and he sometimes wore these on behalf of the century he commanded. The Centurio always carried a vine stick, which was a badge of office, but was also used on the men for casual corporal punishment. One Centurio on the Rhine was nicknamed “Cedo Alteram” (fetch me another) because he was always breaking vine sticks on the backs of his Legionaries.
Centurions were graded in seniority and the five in charge of the Legions first Cohort were each in charge of 160 men. The top Centurion was called “Primus Pilus” or “First Spear”.
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