The Roman legion stationed in the Judaean Province at the time of Acts was made up of about 5,000 soldiers. They were known as Legio X Fretensis, or the 10th Legion of the Strait. The 10th Legion of the Strait had a long history of success, being led by the likes of Caesar Augustus and Julius Caesar. Artifacts stamped with the name and number of this legion, as well as its icons — the bull, boar, ship, and Neptune – have been found throughout Judea, including Jerusalem itself.
Hearing of a conspiracy to kill Paul, the Roman commander stationed at the Antonia Fortress stepped-in and ordered Paul’s evacuation from Jerusalem to Caesarea, the provincial seat of Roman government. This commander – known as a “tribune” in the 10th Roman Legion — was named Claudius Lysias. Each regular tribune was responsible for 12 centurions and up to 1,000 soldiers. There were six tribunes that served under the top general in the 10th Roman Legion.
Roman legionary soldiers of the Empire period were typically equipped with armor of metal and leather, a shield, spears, a dagger, and a gladius. The gladius was the famous short sword of the Roman foot soldier. In Roman fashion, the soldiers were usually clean-shaven with short hair. The legionaries endured difficult training and faced harsh penalties for not serving properly. Punishment could be as severe as “decimation,” which was the act of killing 10% of an entire unit as an example to the others. Harsh stuff indeed, but it created a fierce and successful military.
According to Acts, Chapter 23, the tribune Lysias was determined to get Paul out of Jerusalem, away from the mobs, and safely to Caesarea. The first leg of that journey was northwest, through the rough hill country between Jerusalem and Antipatris. To avoid the angry crowds, Lysias rushed Paul off at night with a heavily armed contingent of 200 soldiers, 200 spearmen, and 70 horsemen. Once they made it to Antipatris, the foot soldiers returned to Jerusalem and Paul continued on horseback with the cavalry. When they arrived at Caesarea, the soldiers took Paul before the governor Felix, with a letter from Lysias that explained what was going on.
To His Excellency, Governor Felix:
This man was seized by the Jews and they were about to kill him, but I came with my troops and rescued him, for I had learned that he is a Roman citizen. I wanted to know why they were accusing him, so I brought him to their Sanhedrin. I found that the accusation had to do with questions about their law, but there was no charge against him that deserved death or imprisonment. When I was informed of a plot to be carried out against the man, I sent him to you at once. I also ordered his accusers to present to you their case against him. (Acts 23:26-30)