Italy - The Centurion
A centurion (Latin: centurio; Ancient Greek: κεντυρίων) was a professional officer of the Roman army after the Marian reforms of 107 B.C. In the Roman infantry, centurions initially commanded a centuria or “century”. Centuries, or centuriae, developed from the Roman tribal system under the Servian reforms and could contain 200 to 1000 men. Later, generals and Caesars further manipulated these numbers with double and half-strength units. Julius Caesar, for instance, made the first century double strength.
Centurions often suffered heavy casualties in battle, generally fighting alongside the legionaries they commanded. They usually led from the front, occupying a position at the front right of the century formation. They could be identified by the transverse horse-hair crest on top of their helmet, their metal greaves and (unlike the legionaries) the sword worn on the left, like all Roman officers. They led and inspired their men by example. They also sought to display the skill and courage that may have brought them to their rank in the first place. It is for these reasons that they often suffered a disproportionate number of casualties.
Being held personally responsible for the training and discipline of the legionaries under their command, centurions had a well-deserved reputation for dealing out harsh punishment. In The Annals, Tacitus tells the story of one known as ‘Cedo Alteram’ - which roughly translates to ‘Gimme Another’: “The mutinous soldiers thrust out the tribunes and the camp-prefect; they plundered the baggage of the fugitives, and then killed a centurion, Lucilius, to whom, with soldier’s humour, they had given the nickname ‘Gimme Another’, because when he had broken one vine-stick across a soldier’s back, he would call in a loud voice for another… and another.” The vine-stick mentioned above by Tacitus was called a vitis; it was a symbol of the centurion’s authority and the implement with which he would mete out punishment.
Evidence suggests that centurions had important social status and held powerful positions in society. They seem to have received their status according to their rank. On retirement they could be eligible for employment as Lictors. Centurions had to be literate, have connections (letters of recommendation), be at least 30 years of age, and had already served a few years in the military.
"The centurion in the infantry is chosen for his size, strength and dexterity in throwing his missile weapons and for his skill in the use of his sword and shield; in short for his expertness in all the exercises. He is to be vigilant, temperate, active and readier to execute the orders he receives than to talk; Strict in exercising and keeping up proper discipline among his soldiers, in obliging them to appear clean and well-dressed and to have their arms constantly rubbed and bright."
-(Vegetius. De Re Militari, II, 14 )