Military Wiki
Roman shield.svg
Roman shield.svg
Legatus legionis
Campaign history of the Roman military
Active - August 476
Country Ancient Rome
Type Infantry
Part of Roman Legion
Garrison/HQ Castra
Patron Mars
Equipment Gladius, Scutum, Galea
Senatus popolusque romanus and
l'Aquila legionaria
Vexilloid of the Roman Empire.svg

Legatus legionis was a title awarded to legion commanders in Ancient Rome.


By the time of the Roman Republic, the term legatus delegated authority (usually a consul or proconsul). Julius Caesar made wide use of the title throughout the Gallic Wars.[1]

From Augustus, the emperor gave the title of legatus legionis to senior commanders (former Tribunes) of a legion, except in Egypt and Mesopotamia, where the legions were commanded by a praefectus legionis of an equestrian rank. The legatus legionis was under the supreme command of Legatus Augusti pro praetore of senatorial rank. If the province was defended by a single legion, the Legatus Augusti pro praetor was also in direct command of the legion.

A legatus legionis could order capital punishment.[1]

The senatorial legatus legionis was removed from the Roman army by Gallienus, who preferred to entrust the command of a legionary unit to a leader chosen from within the equestrian order who had a long military career.

This post generally lasted 3 or 4 years, but could be much longer.[2] A legatus legionis was usually from a wealthy or important family.[3]

In popular culture

  • Most famously, on Maximus' left arm in the movie Gladiator. As a slave, he removes it using a sharp instrument (possibly a sharpened stone) as he feels betrayed by the leaders of Legatus legionis.
  • The book Voluptas by Jonathan Shane O'Brien contains a character, Vincent, who is a legatus legionis.[4]
  • The book When the Eagle Hunts by Simon Scarrow features General Vespasian (who became Emperor in 69 AD), when he served as legatus legionis in Britain.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, the Legate Lanius was a Legatus Legionis.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Legate Rikke is a Legatus Legionis.


  • EB Thomasson, Legatus: Beiträge zur römischen Verwaltungsgeschichte, Stockholm, Göteborg, 1991
  • Sir William Smith, A dictionary of Greek and Roman antiquities, Volume 1, Ed. William Wayte and George Eden Marindin, 3rd Edition, J. Murray, 1901 [5]
  • L. Keppie, The Making of the Roman Army, from Republic to Empire, 1984.


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