Antesignani are elite legionnaires trained to fight outside the heavy infantry’s battle formation. Armed with spears, light javelins, and a gladius they wear lighter armour and carry smaller shields to increase their agility.
Besides the regions of Italia, that now have collectively gained citizenship, they can be recruited in all fully Romanized provinces of the Imperium Romanum, where great numbers of our citizens have now their homes.
Antesignani are elite legionnaires trained to fight outside the heavy infantry’s battle formation. Armed with spears, several light javelins, and a gladius they are more lightly armoured with a simple bronze breastplate instead of lorica hamata, a new Coolus bronze helmet, and carry smaller oval shields instead the heavy scuta to increase their agility. On march, the duties of the Antesignani are to cover the columns as well as to scout and secure the area in front of the army. In a battle they can be used to screen the legions advance, to counter enemy skirmishers, or to support the cavalry if no specialised auxiliaries are available.
Historically, the organization of the legion began to change at the end of the 2nd century BC and in the early 1st century BC all but the heavy infantry had disappeared. The Hastati, Principes and Triarii were now all equipped in the same manner and only their names remained. Three of their maniples, each increased in size to 160 men, now formed one cohort, the new main tactical unit of the Roman infantry, besides the now 80 men strong centuria. These changes offered much more tactical flexibility to the legion. Instead of being limited to a three line battle formation, the soldiers could be positioned as easily in one, two or even more lines. A cohort was big enough to operate separated from the main army, to perform smaller tasks independently.
After the social war the former socii received Roman citizenship and were now recruited into the legions. However, the disappearance of the Velites and Pedites Extraordinarii reduced the legion's abilities and made it dependent upon external light infantry support. In the 1st century BC it became common to train some elite legionnaires as Antesignani to fill this gap.
The problem of the late republic was to find enough men who fulfilled the property requirements to serve as heavy infantry in the many and continuous wars the masters of the Mediterranean world now had to fight. This was one of the main reasons that reforms in the army had become inevitable. Earlier attempts to increase the number of suitable small farmers through land reforms by the Gracchi were blocked by senate, as many senators owned great latifundia now sprawling all over Italy. So all property requirements were abolished and volunteers from all social classes were welcomed as well as the conscripts, while the state or their generals paid for their equipment. The senate had refused to bear the incalculable able costs for the veterans so that the generals had to take care of them. The loyalty of these men shifted more and more to charismatic leaders that they were now depending on, preparing the ground for many bloody civil wars of the 1st century BC.