Alex Kyrychenko: Roman Legionary

Photo of man in ancient Roman attire

AGE. FAC UT GAUDEAM. (Go ahead, make my day!)

If you happen to be walking across campus and you bump into a fully-armed Roman Legion, do not be afraid. Alex Kyrychenko (Academic Technology Services) will definitely be among the troops! He is a Roman soldier reenactor.

Alex has always had an interest in Roman military history and did extensive research on the Roman army of the first century C.E. for his Emory PhD. As such, Alex sought to acquire a Roman helmet and sword to display and wanted a proper replica. He began searching for authentic equipment and, thanks to the Internet, found an international Roman Army forum, where he met his first Roman reenactors.

An Atlanta-based group of reenactors had been asked to form a real life display as part of a Roman Empire exhibit in the Fernbank Museum and they invited Alex to come along as one of the soldiers. They lent him some of their equipment and he was hooked! Alex began learning more about the history of the Roman Legionnaires and started acquiring his own military accouterments.

Alex’s club is called Legio XI (Legion 11) and is named for an actual Roman Legion from the Ancient Roman Empire. They do presentations at various schools, colleges, and museums, including Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta for the “Imperial Rome Exhibition,” the Gulf Coast Exploreum in Mobile, AL for the “A Day in Pompeii” exhibit, Emory University (History and Classics departments), St. Pius Catholic High School, and others.

During the presentations, they portray Roman soldiers of the first century C.E., display authentic replicas of Roman military equipment as it was worn and used by the soldiers of the period, lecture on the Roman Army, and interact with the public answering their questions.

Legio XI sometimes joins forces with Legio VI from South Carolina to reenact larger-scale military operations. When doing outdoor presentations, they will bring authentic leather tents and artillery and set up a realistic camp. There are events in the US but most Roman reenactors live in Europe because Roman history and its artifacts are a part of the culture and history there.

The most difficult piece for Alex to acquire was his Roman helmet. Except for the cheek guards, it was raised from a single sheet of metal, whereas a cheap replica would be welded together. Alex commissioned a blacksmith in the Ukraine to create the centerpiece of his collection, an exact replica of an original now held in Archaeological Museum in Zagreb, Croatia. The curator of the museum, whom Alex met at an international conference on Roman frontiers, provided the photos and detailed information on the helmet. To supervise the project, Alex had the blacksmith send him photos of the work in progress, which took over a year to complete.

If you are interested in learning more, here is some info about Legio XI’s events.

  • Every April, Legio XI from Atlanta and also Legio VI from South Carolina participate in GJCL convention at Camp Rock Eagle, in Eatonton, GA. In 2014, the National Convention will be hosted by Emory University, and Legio XI will be there.
  • Every May, Legio XI and Legio VI do a presentation in the Explorations in Antiquity Museum in Lagrange, GA.
  • Every November, there is a large Roman event at Givhans Ferry State Park, SC, hosted by Legio VI. Here is a report about one of the events there (it even includes a picture of Alex as a Roman standard bearer!)

“We strive for authenticity and present Roman soldiers the way they really were, which is not what you see in Hollywood movies.” says Alex. “Our swords and armor are not fake; they are iron.¬†Everything is 100% real.”

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