Written by: Nigel Apperley
The cavalrymen represent members of the alae who were the auxiliary cavalry of the Roman Empire. An alae regiment consisted of around 500 men and was split into 16 turmae, each turmae consisted of 32 men not including officers, so one of these turmae is equivalent to a modern day platoon.
The auxiliary cavalry would have been attached to the legion, and they would have been positioned on the flanks of the legion in battle, this is why they were called alae as this word means wing in latin. The Roman Cavalryman had to serve for 25 years, and after that time (if he had survived) he would be granted Roman citizenship.
One very important point to remember is the cavalryman's mount, when the Romans came to Britannia they used the local Native Ponies as cavalry mounts, these ponies were very agile, strong and could carry a fair weight, they could also cover long distances, and their short legs helped them to negotiate the steep and rough terrain that they had been born into. They also keep their condition well and grow a thick coat that would protect them against wind, rain and snow.
We know that the average height of a Roman cavalry mount was 14.2 hands high (58 inches in height) and there is evidence to show that the Romans used our Native Ponies that exist today, especially the Fell Pony from Northumberland.
The Romans did bring other breeds of equine with them when they came to Britannia, one such breed was the Arab.
For further images of Roman Cavalry on this website go here.
Nigel also runs a website dedicated to the Roman use of cavalry, which can be found here.