At the time of Jesus, Rome had an estimated 500,000 troops in its army.
Legions were placed in two major Roman cities of Palestine, Sebaste in Samaria and Caesarea on the Mediterranean. A military force was also kept in Jerusalem at the Antonia fortress, guarding Herods temple palace. During Jewish feasts, Rome moved additional troops into the city to ensure order.
It was to a Gentile Roman centurion and his troops that fell the gruesome task of crucifying Jesus and the two men with Him. The officer had likely observed Jesus trial, final march to the execution, crucifixion, and response to the crowd that mocked Him. He had seen the sky turn black at midday, felt the earth quake, and heard Jesus last, exhausted death cry. A Gentile who probably had little regard for Hebrew religion, he was left with no doubt that the man he had seen die was not only “a righteous man” (Luke 23:47), but was in fact the very Son of God (Mark 15:39; Matt. 27:54).