Velites are the legion's light infantry. In a pitched battle they will screen the legion's main battle line during the advance and harass the enemy with showers of javelins.
They can be recruited all Italian homeland provinces, the central heartlands of the Res Publica as well as the recently colonised areas in the south and the Po valley.
Velites are the legion's light infantry. In a pitched battle they will screen the legion's main battle line during the advance and harass the enemy. Before the heavy infantry engages trumpeters signal them to retreat through the gaps in the Roman line and reform behind the Triarii, or on the wings with the cavalry. Sometimes they are also directly used to support the cavalry.
The Velites are armed with javelins, a short sword and a small, but strong round shield. They wear no armour besides a plain helmet covered with an animal's skin (usually that of a wolf). This is mainly used for identification, and to make individuals recognizable to the centurions and tribunes over great distances.
Historically, the Velites were the men who were either too young to fight as Hastati or too poor to pay for equipment. They are all what had remained from the various Roman light infantry classes of the late 4th and early 3rd century BC, replacing the function of the Leves. The roughly 1200 Velites in a legion were not organised in their own manipuli with own officers, instead 20 of them were attached to each manipuli of the other infantry classes.
Every male roman had the duty to serve in the infantry for 16 years, or 20 years in the case of national emergency, until he had completed his 46th year of life. Excepting those rated high enough by the censor to be members of the ordo equester, or those with less than 400 drachmae worth of property who must serve in the fleet. Normally every roman must have served at least ten years in the military before he was permitted to hold any political office.