On Thu, 7 May 1998 lialos@crosslink.net wrote:

> A Roman Legion did have decurions(leading 10 men[a decade/squad?]) and
> centurions leading 10 decades(or a century). Of course, I believe
> Centurions and Decurions were not officers, but were rather senior
> enlisted personnel.
> Anyone out there have a degree in Roman Military History or something?

Well, I sure thought about it as an undergrad. I suppose one
could say I minored in it. The thought that strikes me is this: yes,
"centurion" and "decurion" are very similar words, but their etymologies
and meanings are quite different.
My source for the distinction is "The Jewish War" by Josephus, III.7.3:

Accordingly, he sent Placidus with a thousand horsemen, and Ebutius a
decurion, a person that was of eminency both in council and in action,
to encompass the city round, that Josephus might not escape away

(I was delighted to find a copy of this on the net at
http://wesley.nnc.edu/josephus/, as my own is 250 miles away at present.
And yes, Josephus was one of the Jewish leaders in the war, and was
writing about himself -- that's how he knew enough to write the book.)

So, what we have here is centurion = leader of 100 men, as
expected, but decurion != leader of 10 men. Rather, a decurion was like a
city councilman -- "one of the ten best men" of the city, as it were.
And yes, while you are correct in saying that the centurions were
senior enlisted men, since they were professional soldiers (usually with
10-20 years of service in the ranks) and the Romans relied heavily on
what in the U.S. Civil War were called "political generals", and the
junior officers could best be described by the WWII term "90-day wonders",
most of the professionalism and military know-how of the Roman army was
carried by them. In fact, if a cohort (unit of ten centuries) were split
off from the main force (Caesar did this a lot, particularly when camping
for the winter), I would expect the senior centurion to be the force
The Roman service term (22, 25 or 28 years, depending on the time
and circumstances) once they converted to a professional army was also
long enough for every veteran mustered out to be a classed fighter in AD&D
terms, probably about second or third level (at, oh, 200 kills each level,
yes?). The really amusing thing then is, their standard practice in
establishing control in conquered territory was settling towns whose
entire adult male population consisted of legionary veterans...
In a Birthright setting, imagine the chagrin of gnoll raiders when they
discover that that tasty-looking new town just across the border is
populated not by women, children, and old men, but rather by women,
children, and four units of elite infantry. =)

- --Ryan
as usual, pontificating at great length just because it's fun