“As we pull up to the Roman Army Training Camp and Gladiator School we can see our instructors waiting for us. On horseback, dressed in full Roman Army uniform, they make an impressive sight! We follow one of the instructors into the school room where he introduces himself as Alessio.
Alessio tells us about the school, explaining that everything we will be using, seeing and touching is, incredibly, an authentic replica of what the real Roman Army would have used! Alessio hands each of us a tunic and belt to wear along with a selection of armour, wooden swords, slingshots, small shields and other bits of weaponry. We throw on our tunic and belt and impatiently rush towards the door. I’m excited to see what’s in store. The aim of the day is to pass certain trials so that we can become a qualified legionary in the Roman Army. I can see the hills in the valley again and the sandy ground of the training ring where we will be trained to become a legionary.
Imagine… me a proper legionary…
I’m last out of the passageway after my comrades. The sun beats down on us as for the final time we walk out onto the training ground. I rearrange my tunic and secure my belt to ensure it doesn’t slip, nothing can go wrong. Today I graduate; today I become a soldier in the Roman Army.
I have been at the camp for three years now. I have worked and trained hard and have perfected my skills in all the trials. Today, I prove once and for all that I am worthy of joining the most powerful army of our time. I am put into a group with Felix, Julius and Augustus. All good fighters.
Our first trial is the gladius. Our heavy wooden training swords are replaced with real metal ones. I summon in my memory all that I have learnt so far, everything that my trainer has told me. How to hold it, how to defend with it and most importantly, how to inflict a fatal, final blow! It is my turn, I have one shot to hit my target. I concentrate hard and thrust forward. I finish off my move as I have been taught; twisting the blade to ensure it is fatal. I am confident I have done enough.
Next it is the bow. My test is to aim further and to be more precise than my comrades first in a standing position, then kneeling, then the most difficult… whilst moving. For each I must hit the target directly and precisely in the centre. I take my shots; all but one hits the very eye of the target. I am relieved to see that I do better than my peers and my hopes are regained.
After lunch it is the assault course, a test of speed and agility where we must dodge various obstacles and race against each other whilst carrying our weapons. It is a hard and long test and when we finally finish it is with a strong sense of relief.
For the final task we must work together as our instructors test our skills in defence. As a group we must recreate the most tactically advanced move of the Roman army, the testudo formation. We heave our scutums up against our bodies and move slowly onward as our trainers test our defence. It goes well, the barrier holds.
And it is over!
We are sent to sit at the sideline while our marks are counted. They call the successful ones up one by one to receive their contract that makes them a legionary in the Roman Army.
My name is called! My heart leaps as I step forward to claim my prize.
I smile at my companions as we walk off the grounds and through the door into the changing block – we are legionaries.
Everyone’s buzzing as we arrive back inside and start undoing our outfits. My belt has gone really tight and it takes me ages to get if off so I’m the last one out and onto the coach. We wave goodbye to Alessio – still in his uniform – as we head back to Rome. I pull out my certificate saying I have qualified from the Roman Army Training Camp and Gladiator School. Well… maybe some day.”