As recruiters, we pride ourselves during the more quiet hours of the day regarding our talent in attracting but more importantly; recognizing the innate talent and potential of a person. Through our efforts, a hidden gem may be discovered or a rare ore may be forged into something greater. That very process of touching and altering a person’s story is the very essence of what makes us who we are. Yet how did the systematic tradition of recruiting, as we know, start?
Similar to the origins of many practices of Western Civilization, it is possible to trace back the tradition of recruiting to the Roman Empire. However, an important distinction needs to be highlighted as both the practices and the rationality of recruiting were considerably different in the two chapters of Roman Empire. It is also worth noting that we will be looking primarily at the recruitment of Roman legionaries and not the auxiliary forces.
When we look at the Republican Era of the Roman Empire, we see a recruiting model which is primarily romantic and economic, as opposed to the systematic and rigid recruiting model of Imperial Rome. This was an era when Rome fought either defensive battles or wrestled with bordering powers. Ergo, their recruiting principles were primarily based on “seasonal-citizen levies." It was the duty of every Roman Citizen to defend Mother Rome from any and all threats. To this end, “The Man on the Horse” is one of the most famous Roman iconographies. Since Summer was the ideal time for Romans to make war, the dutiful citizen would sow his fields, go to war and return during harvest, humbly and gloriously. There was no greater honor.
Becoming a legionnaire in Republican Rome would not only require citizenship but also a certain portion of property. The amount of land holdings (and horses) would determine the height of hierarchy and position a man would assume in the military.
With Augustus Caesar coming into power and Marius undertaking substantial military reforms, we start to observe Rome becoming an unstoppable fighting machine as it continues to reach ever forward and continue to conquer the majority of the ancient world.
Becoming an Imperial Legionary was considerably more difficult as opposed to its republican counterpart. A candidate needed to pass certain legal, mental and physical steps before being able to earn the title of probatus (accepted for training). The legal requirements were mainly about the status (being a Roman citizen and not being a freed slave) and having a clean criminal record. In some instances, it is also observed candidates presenting a letter of recommendation from the paterfamilias or another noteworthy individual regarding good moral standing.
Mental and physical requirements measured the overall fitness of an individual for a lifetime in soldiering. A Roman legionary needed to be at least 1.78 m in height and between the ages of 13- 35. They must be strong, fast and endurant enough to represent Rome on the battlefield and in politics when needed. They also needed to be sane and educated enough to understand and follow orders given in Latin, in addition to any level of education required by the specialty of the position.
Becoming a probatus does not mean the candidate is a Roman soldier just yet however. A probatus must pass his mental and physical proficiency exams first before becoming signatus (enlisted) and truly joining the Imperial Roman Army and taking the sacramentum.
As you can see, the seeds of recruiting methodologies we use today were actually planted a millennia ago. The examinations they devised long ago are still being utilized by recruiters today; reaching perfection a little more in each use.
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