I remember reading it in the late 1980's or early 1990's. If I recall correctly, it was:

  • set in the future
  • based on the Roman model of civilization and empire
  • about a guy who was training to become a legionnaire
  • telling the story of his training, deployment, first battles, survival
  • about his becoming friends with another warrior
  • about the fact that he and his buddy were not originally citizens
  • about his becoming a commander
  • probably low tech - swords, spears, bows, not guns or lasers
  • may have been limited to a single planet

It seems like it was part of a series of at least two books. Maybe the guy eventually becomes emperor.

Stories that I've ruled out:

  • Anything after 1998
  • David Drake - Ranks of Bronze
  • Douglas Hill - Last Legionary
  • Jerry Pournelle - Janissaries
  • Robert Silverberg - Roma Eterna
  • Harry Turtledove - Misplaced Legion
  • The first 2 of those you've ruled out deal with legionaries who use actual swords and shields (well, gladii and scuta); is this also a story about low-tech soldiers?
    – DavidW
    Commented Jun 11, 2020 at 16:51
  • It seems like they used swords. I’m gonna edit cuz now that think about it. It might have been limited to a single planet.
    – decuser
    Commented Jun 11, 2020 at 17:12
  • 1
    Maybe this one? scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/169536/…
    – Danny Mc G
    Commented Jun 11, 2020 at 20:24
  • @DannyMcG Note that series didn't come out until 2003, so it might be too late. (Besides, I've read those, and at least in the first 3 books there's no low-ranking Roman legionary-type viewpoint character.)
    – DavidW
    Commented Jun 11, 2020 at 21:50
  • Except for the galactic empire bit and 1990s it sounds like Cursor's Fury (2006), which is 3rd book in a series of 5. The protagonist is assigned to join a legion, becomes commander by the end of that book and by the end of the series is First Lord. Commented Jun 11, 2020 at 23:14


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