As a Roman centurion reenactor, Rusty Myers not only dresses the part, he lives it. Here, he describes what it would be like to face a Roman warrior.
OCCUPATION: Police lieutenant
ROMAN NAME AND RANK: Justus Rustius Longinus, centurion
ANCIENT ROMAN HE’D MOST LIKE TO MEET: Longinus, the centurion thought to have pierced Jesus’ side at the crucifixion. “I’d like to talk to him—see how his life turned out.”
The first time Rusty Myers dressed up as a Roman centurion for a church play, the best feature of his makeshift costume was a construction helmet, worn backwards, with broom bristles on top.
Eleven years—and a lot of historical research—later, Myers cuts a striking figure in a more authentic uniform: vivid red tunic; leather harness crisscrossing his torso, displaying phalarae (medallions) for battle heroics; caligae military boots on his feet; and a transverse crest atop his metal helmet, so his soldiers can always spot him.
“People are amazed,” says Myers of the spectators who watch him at S.C. festivals, church dramas and school performances. Most, he says, “have no idea that Roman reenactment even exists.”
It didn’t, in South Carolina, until Myers banded together with a handful of other friendly would-be warriors to create Legio VI, the state’s only Roman reenactment legion. Only 40 or so small groups like his exist nationwide.
For many, he says, it’s an opportunity to mingle their Christian faith with a love of history—a fascination with the military forces overseeing Judea in Jesus’ time.
“You can make Christian history come alive,” he says.
He has written a monologue, “The Confession of Justus,” that he performs during Lent, giving a centurion’s perspective on the crucifixion.
“Only one person stood up for Jesus and said, ‘This is the son of God’—a grizzled, old centurion,” Myers says. “It’s a pivotal moment in the history of the world, and we’re not even sure of his name.”
The how-tos of Roman reenactment
Getting started as a Roman reenactor is mostly a matter of getting your gear together. Rusty Myers is happy to walk newcomers through that process.
“You can get into this hobby for $600,” Myers says.
Myers’ legion of S.C. reenactors, Legio VI, requires no dues to take part—only a commitment to pitching in at legion events, with as much authenticity as possible. Legio VI will even supply its own kits to outfit newbies while they are in the process of making or acquiring their gear.
The website for Legio VI outlines the basics:
I. Caligae (sandals)
II. Tunica (tunic)
III. Balteus (belt)
IV. Pugio (dagger)
V. Gladius (sword)
VI. Lorica (body armor, including hamata, chainmail, and segmentata, plate)
VII. Subarmalis (under armor)
VIII. Focale (scarf)
IX. Galea (helmet)
X. Scutum (shield)
XI. Pila (javelin)
XII. Mess gear
That’ll get you started. Grab a copy of the legion’s field manual, memorize enough Latin to recognize some basic greetings and commands and you’re ready for action. Trained and outfitted legionaries stage six to eight reenactments a year in the Carolinas and Georgia—the big one is Legio VI’s Castra Romana each November at Givhans Ferry. They also perform in Christian dramas at Easter and Christmas that are especially popular with spectators.
“Everybody likes Romans at Easter—we crucify people,” Myers jokes.