How to (re)create a roman legion, a lesson with Mattew
by Luca Bonacina, July 2003
Legio XX is the name of the roman reenacters group started by
Matthew Amt (41) about 12 years ago. It is based in Laurel close to the USA capitol
Washington D.C. and counts up to 25 members, with some civilians
Even if not really known by the general public, Matthew became, during
these years, a true celebrity, in the roman reenactor world due
to his Handbook For Legionaries, an how-to on line guide (http://www.larp.com/legioxx)
that drives the beginner to understand how to make by himself any kind of
roman equipment. In 2003 his web site was awarded by the Roman Hideout
with the Gold Award.
When this passion born?
Heck, no idea, must have been way back in high school.
When you attempted for the first time to re-build something roman?
12th grade (1980) in an Ancient History class. I made some aluminum armor, wooden gladius, etc. as my class project. Must have been 17.
Matt, how many dollars do you spend each year just for personal achievents (books, reconstructions, etc.)?
Maybe $50 on books, $100 or so on leather, some fabric, some brass. Almost nothing on equipment, since I make so much of my own stuff and don't really need any new Roman
What are the things that make your group different from the others?
Me of course! Actually, I'm not sure I know enough about other groups to give a good
answer. There are a number that got their inspiration from us.
Let's talk about the very famous "larp" Legio XX website. Almost every group is
usually jealous of his work. Nobody wants to share knowledge, contacts, experiences, for many reasons, first of all because for many is becoming business. Your way to share everything made you very famous and loved by all roman reenacters. Your web site is assumed as a sort of bible. Are you satisfied of this or you would like to do something more or different?
I've just tried to make it the resource that I wish I had when I got started. This entire hobby is about education, and the thought of withholding information is completely alien to me. Why learn anything that you are not willing to share? And I
"want" to tell everyone how I made all my stuff, so that I won't have to make it for them! Being the "guru on the mountaintop" can be a little tiring sometimes, but I'll try to keep answering questions as long as people keep asking. It does feel really good to be making a difference. By the way, "Larp.com" is not my server, I simply accepted their offer of free web space. I have two other historical sites there, and a fantasy one as
What do you think about all the controversies between european roman groups?
I don't know much else about the group politics in Europe, but I expect it's the same kind of friction that happens among Medieval or Civil War groups in the US. It's sad, but that's what happens when you get a lot of passionate people together.
It is true that in US there is much more brotherhood between groups?
Might be mostly because there are so few of us so far, and spread so far apart. But different groups are starting to rub shoulders more, now, and there are some personalities clashing. Hey, we're Americans, we can bicker self-destructively better than anyone else in the world!
More details on this topic are available on the Tunic Color page of the Legio XX website (http://www.larp.com/legioxx/tcolor.html)
Do you fight too?
Not yet. If someone else in the group wants to make wicker practice shields and wooden swords, or foam rubber swords for really whacking each other, great, but I don't have time for more projects right
Legio XX has very active members, that are usually easy to find on the
famous web forum: Roman Army Talk (RAT). One of them is Richard Campbell
who shares with Matt his authentic passion and it's big generosity.
Richard is an old friend of the Roman Hideout since when it started, he
maintains his two huge maps to locate roman groups linked on our home
When did you meet Matt?
Quite by accident a friend from New Orleans who admitted he was a Roman reenactor told me about
Matt. I attended a workshop, met Matt and some of the others and have participated ever
What is your opinion about the european controversies?
Matt is fond of saying that to start and maintain a Roman group you need one person's strong ego, and egos are usually not good at compromise. That and it seems some European groups can get funds from local governments, something we never do, so competition for that must factor in. I don't think anyone in the US makes money from these events; it is a hobby for enthusiasts and volunteers. The only thing keeping more of us in the US from participating in each others events is the distances