Recruited from the gentry and lower aristocratic classes of Roman society, the equites were the cavalrymen of the royal and early Republican Roman armies. To be a member of the equestrian class meant that a man was rich enough to keep a horse, and provide his own armour, shield and spear. There were usually some 300 equites in each Republican Legion, organised into ten turmae of thirty horsemen each under the command of three decuriones. One of these men would be the praefectus, or commander, of the squadron. Mostly drawn from the young sons of elite society, these were men keen to show their courage. Showing prowess on the battlefield was an important step towards gaining political office and prestige for their families. Mundane duties such as patrol or reconnaissance would be the work of the equites extraordinarii of the Socii, the Romans’ collected Italian allies. During the Samnite and Punic Wars, the equites’ ranks were opened to first class commoners. Although they received none of the equestrians' social and political powers, they eventually replaced the aristocracy in the ranks of the Roman cavalry, allowing the equestrians to become senior officers in the newer Marian Legions.