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This article is about the ancient Roman military rank. For the bird genus, see Legatus (bird).
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A legatus (anglicised as legate) was a general in the Roman army, equivalent to a modern general officer. Being of senatorial rank, his immediate superior was the dux (provincial governor), and he outranked all military tribunes. In order to command an army independently of the dux, legates were required to be of praetorian rank or higher; a legate could be invested with propraetorian imperium (legatus pro praetore) in his own right. Legates received large shares of the army's booty at the end of a successful campaign, which made the position a lucrative one, so it could often attract even distinguished consuls (e.g., the consul Lucius Julius Caesar volunteered late in the Gallic Wars as a legate under his first cousin once removed, Gaius Julius Caesar).

The men who filled the office of legate were drawn from among the senatorial class of Rome. There were two main positions; the legatus legionis was an ex-praetor given command of one of Rome's elite legions,[1] while the legatus pro praetore was an ex-consul, who was given the governorship of a Roman province with the magisterial powers of a praetor, which in some cases gave him command of four or more legions. Due to his advanced senatorial status, a legatus was entitled to five fasces and five lictors.

This rank was also the overall legionary commander. This post was generally appointed by the emperor. The person chosen for this rank was a former tribune, and although the emperor Augustus set a maximum term of command of two years for a legatus, subsequent emperors extended the tenure to three or four years, although he could serve for a much longer period. In a province with only one legion, the legatus was also the provincial governor, but in provinces with multiple legions, each legion had a legatus and the provincial governor (who was separate from the legions) had overall command.

The legatus could be distinguished in the field by his elaborate helmet and body armour, as well as his scarlet paludamentum and cincticulus. The latter was a scarlet waist-band tied around his waist in a bow.[2]

Diplomatic legatus[edit]

Legatus was also a term for an ambassador of the Roman Republic who was appointed by the senate for a mission (legatio) to a foreign nation, as well as for ambassadors who came to Rome from other countries.[3] This is the sense of the word that survives in the phrase Papal legate.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Roman Army". Accessed April 16, 2007.
  2. ^ The Legions of Rome, Stephen Dando-Collins, p. 47, Quercus (December 2010).
  3. ^ Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1875), Bill Thayer's edition, entry on "Legatus".

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602 news items

DFW Catholic
Thu, 03 Jul 2014 10:15:00 -0700

Legatus, a Catholic organization of senior business executives and their spouses, seeks a Chapter Development Officer for its Northeast Region. Legatus was founded in 1987 by Tom Monaghan, the Founder of Domino's Pizza, Ave Maria University and Law ...
DFW Catholic
Mon, 07 Jul 2014 08:11:15 -0700

He/she will engage in all aspects of the logistics necessary to conduct monthly events of the highest quality thereby assuring an excellent Legatus experience for the members month after month. CDO positions are currently available in the following ...
A.V. Club
Thu, 24 Jul 2014 20:00:00 -0700

Illythia is a threat and her reappearance reminds viewers of the lingering specter of Legatus Glaber and the rest of the Roman world. She may behave like a child, but Illythia also has one of the episode's best lines, the evocative, “The heat is a ...
Shelby Township Source Newspapers
Tue, 15 Jul 2014 08:22:30 -0700

Company president Dan Weingartz is a member of an Ann Arbor-based nonprofit, Legatus, which has ties to Tom Monaghan and consists of more than 4,000 devout Catholic business owners and executives across the nation. Legatus, the Latin word for ...
Catholic Sentinel
Fri, 11 Jul 2014 09:07:30 -0700

Over his years in Lincoln, various organizations have established chapters in the diocese, including the Catholic Lawyers Guild, the Blessed Gianna Beretta Molla Guild/Catholic Medical Association and Legatus. Born near Milwaukee and raised in that ...

Houston Chronicle

Houston Chronicle
Mon, 30 Jun 2014 12:24:08 -0700

Bashaw, a member and former president of Legatus, a group of Catholic CEOs, as well as chairman of Catholic Charities of Galveston-Houston, won't be affected by the ruling. While his company meets the definition of "closely held," Bashaw has fewer than ...
Sun, 13 Jul 2014 08:22:30 -0700

Faith PR is a PR and communications agency working with a range of consumer and B2B clients including Oriflame UK & ROI, Yummy Yorkshire Ice Cream Company, Bertie's @ La Cachette, West Yorkshire Enterprise Agency, Legatus Law, Catherine Green ...
The Ave Herald
Mon, 30 Jun 2014 06:52:30 -0700

Sonny was a member of the St.Louis chapter of Legatus, a Knight Grand Cross of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and the Legion of 1000 Adorers. Seven years ago Sonny was able to make his "dream pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

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