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ROMAN

FORT

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Titles in the Inside Story series:

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David Salariya

Book

Jenny Millington
Stephen Johnson

Editor

Consultant

AN EGYPTIAN PYRAMID
Jacqueline Morley

ISBN 0-87226-346-0
ISBN 0-87226-255-3 pb
Author:

Fiona Macdonald studied history

and

at

at the University of East Anglia,

part-time tutor in Medieval History.

books on

historical topics,

Cambridge University
where she is now a

She has

written

A FRONTER FORT
ON THE OREGON TRAIL

many

Scott

Illustrator:

A GREEK TEMPLE

Wood was

Gerald

Steedman

ISBN 0-87226-37
ISBN 0-87226-264-2 pb

mainly for children.

film advertising.

born

He then

becoming

years before

London and began

in

illustrated

book

magazines

his career in

Fiona Macdonald

many

ISBN 0-87226-361-4

for

illustrator specializing in

A MEDIEVAL CASTLE

historical reconstruction.

Fiona Macdonald

ISBN 0-87226-340-1
ISBN 0-87226-258-8 pb

Consultant:

Stephen Johnson studied Classics and Archaeology

at

A MEDIEVAL CATHEDRAL

Roman fortifications.
books on Roman forts, and on

Oxford University, concentrating on

He has

written several

Roman

Britain, including

Fiona Macdonald

ISBN 0-87226-350-9

one on Hadrian's Wall. Since


1984 he has worked for English Heritage as an
Archaeologist. Publisher, and most recently as a

A RENAISSANCE TOWN
Jacqueline Morley

Regional Director.

ISBN 0-87226-276-6

THE ROMAN COLOSSEUM

Created, designed and produced by

The

Book Co

Salariya

Fiona Macdonald

UK.

Ltd, Brighton,

ISBN 0-87226-275-8

Published by

ROMAN FORT

Fiona Macdonald

Peter Bedrick Books


2112 Broadway

ISBN 0-87226-370-3
ISBN 0-87226-259-6 pb

Mew York. NY 10023


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ROMAN VILLA

Jacqueline Morley

Ltd

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ISBN 0-87226-360-6

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reproduced, stored

Fiona Macdonald

any form or by any means,

mc. mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the

ISBN 0-87226-381-9

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Ubrary of Congress Catakxjiny-in-Publication Data
Macdonald. Fiona.

A Roman fort Fiona Macdonald


I

st

American

Jacqueline Morley

ISBN 0-87226-309-6

by Gerald Wood.

illustrated

ed.

A 16TH CENTURY GALLEON

Includes index

Richard Humble
ISBN 0-87226-372-X

Summary
oman

fort

Text and illustrations describe the construction of an ancient


and the lives of the soldiers who manned it in defense of

the Empire.

A 16TH CENTURY MOSQUE

0-3

Fiona Macdonald

ISfc'

>9-6(pbk)

ortiAcation

RomeJuvenile
'

ill

literature.
II

Fo

ISBN 0-87226-3 10-X

Rome.

Title.

A VIKING
93

6397

TOWN

Fiona Macdonald

ISBN 0-87226-382-7

Printed in

Hong Kong

A
b\

WORLD WAR TWO SUBMARINE


Richard Humble
ISBN 0-87226-351-7

JNSIDEASTORY

ROMAN

FORT
FIONA MACDONALD

GERALD WOOD

PETER BEDRICK BOOKS


NEW YORK

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Contents
Introduction

the roman empire


The rom\n *rmv
Other forces
Roman roads
marching camps
From camp to fort
Choosing the site
Building the fort
a working community

Why be a soldier?
A soldier's life
Food and water
SS

and

Gods and

injury

spirits

Outside the walls


fkrade \ n d off-duty

o
h

BATTLE

Siege warfare
a lasting record

Roman facts
Glossary
Index

Introduction

3*

[WMF

G*7^*

VMJAVU

-*G>-

p.cxu-svM

'Let

it

.,^-.-,

be your

task,

.-. r

Roman,

to control the nations with your

power.' That is what one Roman


poet wrote, around 19 BC. During the

<:

years covered by this

AD

200),

Rome

book (from about 50 BC

to

ruled over the largest empire in

the world, with borders stretching for thousands


of miles.

>

The empire's

frontiers

were guarded by

a magnificent army. While on duty,

Roman

camps, or set up
permanent bases in strongly-built forts.
We can still see and admire the remains of
soldiers lived in tents in

many

of these forts today.

Some

of the best

preserved examples can be found close to


in northern England, although
were also built in Germany, North Africa,
Transylvania (modern-day Romania), the Middle
East, Scotland and Wales. Why were forts
necessary? Who designed and built them? What
was it like to live inside one? And how were forts
defended when Rome's enemies attacked?
Fortunately, we have plenty of surviving
evidence to help us answer these questions.
Archaeologists have excavated the sites of many
Roman forts, and have discovered not only traces
of long-lost buildings, but also thousands of
objects made or used by the people who lived
there. Roman writers have left descriptions of
how forts were built, as well as histories of
military campaigns. And in Rome, a marvelous
series of pictures carved on a tall monument,
known as Trajan's Column, provides us with a

Hadrian's Wall

forts

HPt

Wv>
-V<

IIP
%?-

V
x

v\

very detailed picture of

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Roman army

life.

THE ROMAN EMPIRE


In

AD

17. the

Roman empire was

at

height.

its

It

extended across an enormous territory, from


southern Scotland to the Caspian Sea. All

conquered lands sent goods and money to


Rome, as tribute and taxes. In return, Roman
government officials and Roman soldiers
stationed all around the empire claimed to bring
peace, good laws and profitable trade.
Conquered peoples did not always take this view
of what was going on. As one British chieftain
was reported to have said: What they call
empire-building

and

theft:

they

Rome had

is

just plundering, butchering

make

a desert,

and

call

"peace".

it

not always been powerful. But

around 510 BC. it began to develop from a small


town into a busy city. Roman citizens fought
successfully - to control

throughout southern
build

The

.able

made

trade routes

and for space


new temples, houses and farms.

earliest

money

vital

Italy,

Roman

showed pictures
goods Coins

before

c.

100 B r

WORLO

to

about 270 BC, Roman troops began to


conquer neighboring lands. By 30 BC, they

After

controlled

most

of the countries bordering the

Mediterranean Sea.
further afield for

Roman

generals also looked

conquests and marched

Germany and
They arrived in Britain in AD 43, and
overran most of the Middle East between AD
106-1 16. Roman imperial power lasted for
northwards into Switzerland,
France.

almost

about

five centuries, finally

AD

476.

collapsing

in

In

Roman

times, the

countries of Europe

know today
Instead,

we

did not exist.

Europe was

divided into

many

smaller

Each was the


homeland of a different
states.

tribe.

On

this

map

(left),

you can see the names of


states in

The Roman empire

made

(below) grew rich through

throughout
the empire, and so a great

distant lands,

many rare and

in

taxes, but also


trade.

through

Roman merchants

business deals with

local suppliers

valuable

Europe.

Rome from
and were
wealthy customers

goods came
sold to

Roman

to

the.markets-ihere^.

_>

pottery

wool
cloth

^
S^P

Cr>

j*

&
iV

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wine

olive oil

fruit

wheat
gold
silver

3fr

-**

o
*

papyrus

honey
glass
leather or pelts

marble
iron

THE ROMAN WORLD

egionary centurion

Each group of 80 footsoldiers (1) was led by a

THE ROMAN ARMY

centurion

(Before then,
citizens,

who

it

consisted of ordinary

Other officers

included standard-bearers

Rome's astonishing conquests would have been


impossible without an efficient, loyal army. Under
the empire, the Roman army became the first
full-time, professional fighting force in

(2).

(3)

who

also acted as

and pay-masters.
They were accompanied
treasurers

into battle

was the army's task to guard the frontiers of


Rome's mighty empire. In some cases, this did
It

not involve

much

leaders accepted

the world.

Roman

fighting.

Where

the local

Roman government,

of

The
They do

Roman

troops was needed.

In

other regions of

professionals were always ready for war.

the empire, such as Britain, France

Josephus wrote in AD 64,


not wait for war to begin before getting
with their weapons, nor are they idle in

Germany,

peacetime... but, as

if

hands, they never stop

to grips

born with weapons

as they

did in parts of Africa, only a token 'police force'

served part-time.) These

historian

by specially-

result,

and

Roman rule was bitterly opposed. As a


Roman soldiers stationed there often had

to fight for their lives.


in their

training...'.

Food
baggage

waggon

rations and medical

supplies were carried

in

ox-

drawn carts, or by mules,


and were kept well-guarded
oxen and

ur

driver

auxiliary archers

/^V

trained musicians

(4),

standards

who

sounded orders on loud


brass trumpets. The senior
standard-bearer (5) wore

the skin of his legion's

A Roman

totem animal, such as a

smaller units. This

He kept close
commander (6).

wolf or boar.
to the

legion (below) was divided into a

made

imperial

150,000 regular

axstxt

number

of

and control,
men most

easier to organize

and also helped officers to arrange


effectively on the battlefield.
encase-

The Roman

it

aaaasi

their

varnam

aaistati.

army contained about

soldiers, called legionaries, plus

and commanders. For the


legionaries, the army was a life-long career. They
signed on for 25 years' service, and, inevitably,
many died before it was time to retire. At first,
legionaries were recruited only from the citizens
of Rome, but after c.100 BC, men from all
Roman lands were encouraged to enlist. As well
as legionary troops, the Roman army included
auxiliary soldiers (see page 10), who provided
specialists like archers and riders.

their officers

How
8

a legion

men =

was

divided:

contubernium

2 centuries

(tent-group)

6 centuries

10 contubernia

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century

10 cohorts

=
=

maniple

cohort

legion

Other forces
iary soldiers

non-Roman
helpers',

were

originally recruited

nations. Their

from

name means

and they were meant

to assist

Roman

legionary troops by providing either extra

manpower

or specialized fighting techniques.

Auxiliaries fought using the

weapons and armor


bows and

of their native lands: archers with

arrows

came from

the Middle East;

men used

to

on horseback came from conquered


in France; and sling-shot throwers, armed

fighting
tribes

with lethal stone "bullets',

came from

the

southern Mediterranean. But before long there

was little practical difference, apart from their


weapons, between legionary and auxiliary troops.
The government in Rome relied on both groups
of soldiers to

defend

its

vast empire.

A Roman

on horseback and armed with a spear,


enemies in Gaul (present-day
France). This carving comes from a Roman stone
sarcophagus (coffin) found in Italy.
soldier,

fighting against Celtic

Army commanders were


chosen from young men

good schooling, they made

then as magistrates

a career

of the empire's provinces.

born to noble families. After

first

Next, they might be given

the

command

legion,

of a

and lead

whole

men

There were three

known as

to

in

public service,

serving as senators

and

war. Successful

commanders were made


provincial governors,

different types of auxiliaries:

because they
were fast-moving, and fought on either side of
cavalry,

'alae' (wings),

foot-soldiers in battle; infantry (soldiers

who

and the cohors equitata' mixed regiments of infantry and cavalrymen.


The navy also played a part in Roman
wars. Ships were used to carry men and horses
fought on

foot);

in

one

were chosen by the

emperor

If

to serve as a

they worked wisely, they

tribune (junior

reporting straight to Rome.


The highest honor was to
be promoted to command

an
of

commander).

entire army, consisting

many

legions,

and to

plan battles and campaigns.

to fight in distant lands. For example, Julius

Caesar had 600 special landing


warships

built to

help

in his

craft

and 28

invasion of Britain in

54 BC. Caesar's new ships were wider and lower


than usual. They could be quickly loaded, and
could carry troops right up on to the beaches.
This

meant

soldiers could start fighting as

soon

as they reached the shore.

Warships were armed


with a bronze prow to
smash enemy boats, and
had wooden towers built
on their decks to shelter
soldiers firing catapults or

arrows.

ARMY AND EMPIRE

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a mile post

Roman roads

Roads were

built

on

foundations of stone

on sand. Layers
and stone chips
were added, and covered
blocks

Roman emperors
govern

their

relied

on roads

to help

them

empire. They needed to be able to

with a top surface of stone

send messengers from outlying provinces to


Rome - and back again - quickly and without
accident. They wanted tribute goods and
essential supplies to arrive in

good

condition.

large

numbers

when

rebels threatened.

For

They

Drains and curbs ran along

both sides.

and

in

of troops to frontier trouble spots

expert road-builders

roads were

safely

slabs or thick gravel.

also might have to hurry

these reasons, the

all

Rome

laid

of pebbles

built

by junior officers

Romans became

and engineers. Roman

by ordinary soldiers, supervised


who were specially trained as

architects, surveyors or procurers of building

supplies. Military architects

became famous, and

wrote about building designs and techniques.


Their writings still survive, along with a great

many Roman roads, bridges and other buildings.


Once the army had finished building a new road,
the local community had to maintain
it.

Roman

Archimedian screw

Roman

roads (above)
were busy throughout the

coffer

So government
and army traffic was given
empire.

priority.

roads were planned to suit the army,


'

straight as p

towns (where

were usually

made

as

>etween important
.

ed)

and

Bridges

(right)

to carry roads

were

built

and water

supplies. Coffer-dams

were

constructed and drained

with Archimedian screws


i

bypassed; the.

so that

pillars

built in rivers

could be
and lakes

river

w&cer

dam

j^m
walkway

~7? r

*||H

Iron

shoe

(left),

used to

protect the feet of horses

Roman
built of

bridges could be

wood

Roman army
in

of neatly-cut timbers,

on stone

or stone. This

resting

bridge,

Wooden

Germany, was made

pillars.

braces gave

support to the walkway.


i

The emperor Trajan


ordered his troops to
build a stone bridge at

Alcantara, Spain, to
carry a military road

across a deep
river valley.

Stones

for building the

arches of the bridge were

shaped
then

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at

lifted

ground

level,

using a hoist.

>
i

Marching camps
The Roman army
marched along in

traveled
strict

on

order - auxiliaries at the

and cavalry
armor,

at the rear.

weapons and

in

essential

kit

camp

defended.

If

site

the middle,

had

had to be
enemies were
it

men

a square enclosure.

- a saw, a hook,

Earth

was

(for shifting

earth

on

piled

up

on guard, while the others


dug a ditch (about 10 feet
deep and 13 feet wide) to

make

carried his

II

stood

own

Each man

a rope, a pick-axe, a basket

been found,

nearby, half the

foot. Soldiers

high-ranking troops safely

front,

Once

~n
t

i
'
1

i
zt

t <i
i

3Z
JZ

~-H

to build

a steep rampart.

building sites), a kettle, a metal food container

centurions' tent

and toilet articles such as a razor and a comb.


Even using well-made Roman roads, heavilyladen soldiers could only travel about 15 miles
each day. It was therefore necessary to provide
somewhere safe and sheltered for the army to

Early layout (above) of a

marching camp, described


by the historian Polybius in
the

2nd century

BOThe

army's leather tents

(left)

were long-lasting and

rest overnight.

Temporary camps - known as 'marching


camps' - were the answer. Here, soldiers slept

waterproof.

When

not in

use, they could be


in

rolled

up

into

compact

bundles. Tents and tentpoles were carried

commandePs

tent

carts or

on mules

in

ox-

legionaries' tent

tents

made

of leather stretched over

wooden

poles, with straw covering the floor.^Eight

crowded

senior officer, called a

tribur

id to

mark out

t;

He used

When

a century (80 men)


was on overnight guard
o tents were put up
fell

-.*.-

asleep,

men

which measured about


10 feet square. Officers' tents were bigger.
Around 800 tents were needed to shelter a
whole
legion. To avoid chaos as night fell and
\
soldiers hurried to unpack, it was important that
tents were pitched in neat rows^Camps always
had the same layout, wherever the troops were men boasted they could find their own tent in the
into

each

tent,

The commander's tent was always near the


of the camp. Legionaries camped benind
commander's tent; tents for auxiliary troops
ced like a 'human shield' between the
ander's tent and the enemy.

dark.

,>

Carving

(right)

Trajan's

column

from
(see

pages

42-43) showing soldiers,

wearing cloaks to protect

them from the

cold,

outside a walled camp.

.-O
yr?v

Deep

ditch and high

(top), used to keep


enemies out of the camp.
Below: shallow ditch and
low rampart, used for a
temporary marching camp
where there would have
been less time to build
such a big defense system.

rampart

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From camp to fort


A typical
Marching camps were useful while army units
were traveling from one part of the empire to
another, or while soldiers were fighting in hostile
lands. But once a province had been conquered,

in

fort

was

laid

out

a regular grid pattern,

like

many Roman

towns.

Buildings were linked by

wide roads, leading from


the headquarters and the

or during long drawn-out campaigns,

commander's house
four main gates.

somewhere more permanent was needed for


soldiers to live in and use as a base. Forts were
built to meet this need.

to the

|i^ *& safi

In

many

ways, a

marching camp

fort

was

built in

(Compare the layout

Via^Frfrcipairs^

^-8JiaS>ar

h,

or stone.

of the fort

shown on these

auxiliary garrisons (purpose-built to

commander's

fighting troops

residence. But a typical fort

other b

*wo

the same, bu*


lavatories, sta

workshops, a
parade groun

nad a temple

"

a larger, stronger

like

wood

pages with the plan of the marching camp on


page 14.) Like a camp, a fort provided sleeping
accommodation, headquarters offices, and a

many

"?

forts
s,

had
were exactly

baths,

kitchens,

^ms, a

Historians have identified two

main types of
house
campaigns) and

fort:

on active
permanent legionary bases (designed to be lived
in by regular troops in peace as well as in war).
But whichever type they were, all forts were
guarded by deep ditches and a strong
surrounding wall, with tall watchtowers and
well-defended gates.

Inside the fort:


1

Porta

decumana

(back gate).
2.

Defensive

earthworks (ditch

and rampart),
topped by a strong
stone

wall.

3.

Watchtower.

4.

Workshops.

5.

Stores.

6.

Bathhouse

(with

furnace for heating


water).
7.

Hospital.

8.

Additional workshops

and/or barns and


stables.
9.

Praetorium

(commander's
house).
10. Principia

(headquarters
building). This

housed a
shrine, weapons
stores,

meeting

offices for
officers

all

and

hall,

the

clerks

running the
fort,

the

a treasury, and

room where

the

standards were kept.


11. Granaries.
12.

Barracks where
soldiers slept.

13. Side gates.

14. Lavatories.
15. Porta praetoria.

(main

gate).

Outside the

fort:

16. Exercise halls

soldiers could

Forts and

armies had been

walls kept

the soldiers safe from

enemy

attack.

marked the

Roman

They

also

limits of

Roman

influence from the rest of

the

non-Roman

until

AD

117,

the

world.

Roman

Up

men

busy, and encouraged

proud of what

words of one recent

them

historian) 'specialists in

they had achieved. Better

expansion'. After that, their

living

task changed: they

power, and

separated areas of

(in

became

defenders. This

could be boring,
depressing work. Building
forts

and

walls helped

keep

to feel

conditions - forts

marching

drill

where

do
and

practice fighting in

bad weather.
17. Civilian settlement

were much more


comfortable than camps also helped to keep up the

or vicus'. where

army's morale while the


men were so far from home.

and

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traders, craft

workers, innkeepers
soldiers' families

lived.

ROADS. CAMPS AND FORTS

Choosing the

site

all developed from the basic army


camp, not all forts looked alike. Much depended
on local conditions - was the ground flat or hilly,

.Although they

rocky or

damp? What

stone, timber or other

building materials were available?

Roman

and surveyors
on which to
a fort was close to a

architects, engineers

took great care to find the best


build.

The

ideal position for

site

well-made road, with good supplies of food (for


humans and animals), fresh water and timber
nearby.

It

should be easy to defend and have a

commanding view

of the countryside

all

around,

so that advancing enemies could be seen


time. And, as the
out: attention

Roman

in

The

author Vegetius pointed

must be paid

to the healthiness of

surprisingly, this ideal site

found, but

Roman

was

rarely

builders did their best in

commander,
would

discuss plans for a fort with

government officials and


senior army officers. He

the place'.

Mot

legion's

called a legate,

might also consult written


accounts of

earlier

campaigns, or look at
improved designs for forts
before building began.

many

unpromising environments - like the bleak,


windswept hills along the Scottish border.

Once

the decision to build a fort

was taken, all


was an

the trees and bushes were cut down. This

enormous

task.

The

buildings of a large fort

covered about 4 acres, but an area of anything


up to 15 acres might need to be cleared, to give
the builders

room

to work.

Then

the architects

and surveyors moved in, to take measurements,


work out quantities of materials that would be
needed, draw up plans and mark the position of

Surveyors (above)
marking out the ground-

ditches, ramparts, gates, walls

plan of the fort used a

and

buildings.

groma' - a long pole


topped with two crossed
sticks, from which
weighted strings were
hung: By looking along the
Tff

cross-pieces, surveyors

could check that their


building

would have
and right-

straight sides

angled corners.

Legionary and
soldiers

trees
build

(left)

auxiliary

cut

down

and carted timber to


walls around fhe fort,

and some of the

inside

buildings as well. This

rough, heavy work.

was

Senior officers kept a


close watch on building
costs.

Each legion had a

staff of clerks

who

(supervisor) gave orders to


all

the skilled

the legion.

workmen

in

They were

all

they also checked

the cost of

the

all

major

building repairs.

meant they were excused


from routine duties
because they had special
skills,

classed as immunes'. That

in use,

kept

detailed accounts of

The praefectus castrorum

money spent on building a


new fort. Once a fort was

unlike the ordinary

laborers.

It is likely that merchants


from conquered peoples
sometimes preferred to

make money by

selling

stone and timber to the

Romans than to stay loyal


own leaders who

to their

were fighting
from Roman

for

freedom

rule.

Friendly local chieftains


in

parts of Britain

and

France could be helpful to


soldiers building forts,

and

They had expert


knowledge of local
conditions, and also knew

could give them useful

the best places to obtain

information.

building supplies.

BUILDING THE FORT

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Building the fort


was supervised by an official called
He was responsible
out the surveyors' instructions and

Building work

the 'praefectus castrorum'.


for carrying
for
all

making sure

that laborers

the proper tools.

men

skilled in

many

were supplied with

legion normally included


Forts were guarded by

construction tasks, including

ditch-diggers, glaziers,

tile

makers, plumbers,

gateways, with iron-clad

doors 4 inches

stonemasons, limebumers and woodcutters.


Each legion had its own way of organizing
building work, and used its own designs for
features such as doorways and gates. Some
legions fighting in Germany seem to have had a

thick.

Gateways could be built of


wood, concrete (stones,
earth, lime and water), or
massive stone blocks. Big
windows helped the guards
keep watch.

Strong walls could be


made of logs and turf. A
carving from Trajan's
Column shows a fort being
built.

ready-made blueprints drawn up, only


needing to be adapted to local conditions. At
first, auxiliaries were not trusted to work on
permanent buildings like forts, although they dug
ditches and ramparts around the big camps, and
were used by the legions to provide unskilled
labor. Later, after about AD 120, auxiliaries began
to undertake building projects on their own.
Forts were built from materials available
set of

locally. In

made

the north of England, forts were usually

of stone. In the forest lands of

they were

made

of materials

Germany,

Sometimes a mixture
was preferred; buildings have been
of timber.

found with stone footings or foundations under


walls

made

of

wood, and wattle and daub (woven

twigs covered with a layer of mud).

Roman
1.

tools:

pick; 2.

hammers;

3. shears; 4. knives;

5. pincers; 6. hatchets; 7. dividers; 8. calipers; 9. borers;

10.

stone walls, a
-

earth

was

plumb-line weights; 11. hoe.

Lookouts were posted on


top of towers. Inside, there

Clay antefix (roof


ornament) made by
the

XX

men

(20th) Legion,

of

and

were rooms where men


could rest between spells

on

duty.

decorated with a boar.

Sometimes the Romans

had a

built long, fortified walls,

wall with

such as Hadrian's Wall

in

the north of England.

It

gateways (milecastles). and


further earthwork barriers.

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ditch, a stone or turf

defended

BUILDING THE FORT 21

A WORKING COMMUNITY

private
living

rooms

Commander's house
-ium)

lavatory

private dining

room

^s%

and bath

kitchen

entrance

servants

In many ways, a fort was rather like a city. It had


homes, streets and open spaces, and was
surrounded by a wall. Large forts provided
accommodation for over 5,000 people - this
meant they were bigger than many provincial
towns in Roman times. Inside, some of the
buildings were grand and luxurious. The
headquarters block might be decorated with
columns and statues; the commander's house
might have painted walls and mosaic floors, as

well as elegant,

commander's

quarters

reception

rooms

stable

main

street

comfortable furniture. Often, the

wife

and family

Like people living in a

city,

lived there as well.

the population of a

fort had several basic needs. Housing


was already there, but a steady supply of food,

wine, fresh water, firewood, clean clothes, grazing

The fort commander's


house (praetorium) was
similar to the

many
had

wealthy

homes

baths and lavatories, a

civilians.

rooms

kitchen and

of

for

entertaining, servants'

rooms and

It

shrine

(room where

armory (weapons

store)

standards were kept)

stables.

private living areas,

headquarters building
(principia)

administrative offices

basilica or

assembly

hall

treasury/strongroom

underneath shrine

ard

rooms

Wheat was stored in vast


granaries - some were 130
feet long.

They were

designed to be watertight

and

and materials to repair their


had to be provided. At different
times, they also needed to call on doctors,
lawyers, scribes and priests for help and advice.
Towns grew and prospered slowly. But forts
were 'instant cities', built in empty countryside,
and surrounded by enemy land. Fort-dwellers
could not always rely on local merchants,
craftsmen or professionals to provide the goods
and services they needed straight away. On this
page you can see some of the many different
people, with many different skills, who worked
inside a fort and helped to make it a comfortable

fireproof.

for their horses,

buildings

place to

still

Granary floors were


keep grain
cool and dry. At one end

were bays, where carts

Oats and barley -

Lazy soldiers were

ventilated to

could deliver fresh


supplies.

normally fed to horses -

were kept

in

granaries

punished by being allowed

and

water for weeks.

store-rooms.

live.

and

to eat only barley

7^3

f^

fin
iLi
Soldiers were not the only
people to live in a Roman
fort.

A commander

brought

his wife

family (2) to

live

(1)

He employed domestic

clerks

servants (3) to look after

grooms

the praetoria building and

(7)

and

the people

with him.

there.

who

lived

The army paid

(4),

doctors

(6),

(5),

blacksmiths

and other

skilled

Trusted workers from the


local

community, like this


and his apprentice

builder

came

workers to help army

(9).

officers (8) run the fort.

each day to work.

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also

LIFE IN THE

into the fort

FORT

Why be a soldier?
What made

man become

a soldier?

The

life

was tough and the risks were considerable;


tombstones from all corners of the empire record
the names of soldiers who died in battle, or from
diseases caught on campaign. Even when
soldiers were not fighting, they spent their time
training, or building roads and forts.
Food was simple. A legion on the march ate
wheat flour, baked into hard, dry biscuits, and
anything else they could find. Discipline was
harsh. Soldiers could be flogged for theft - or
they might even be crucified. Shared battle

experience encouraged trust and comradeship,


but men might also feel lonely and isolated.

Ordinary soldiers were not allowed to marry,


although some had 'unofficial' wives. Sometimes
conditions were so bad that troops rebelled.
Why, then, did men enlist? Mainly for the

money.

Roman

soldiers were paid regularly and


and often managed to save part of their
earnings. They were also given a share of booty
captured in war, and a generous grant when they
fairly well

retired.

Before

auxiliaries as a

society;

most

Rome when
chance
Perhaps
dull,

212,

some men joined

the

way

of improving their position in


soldiers were made citizens of

they retired. For a few, there was the


and a responsible career.

of promotion,

some men joined simply to escape from

routine

chance

AD

lives.

They wanted excitement and a

to see the world.

Legionary sold,

Tombstone

(right),

1 legionary uniform,
tturion,
'

24

Marcus

iiCilis.

47.

He

died

legionary
centurion,

AD 100-

150

Putting on underwear
(above)

woolen pants and


and fastening

a tunic

armor.

In

Roman

warm

climates,

soldiers did not

normally wear any


underclothes; they thought

they were unmanly. But


soldiers

on campaign

in

cold northern lands soon

copied local Celtic styles


of clothing to keep

Far

left

warm.

(page 24):

Legionary centurion:
Helmet
1.
Vine-wood stick
2.
(sign of rank).

Panel with monster's

3.

head to

drive

away

harm.
Metal corselet.

4.

Leather

5.

kilt.

6.

Dagger.

7.

Sword.

8.

Knee breeches.

9.

Leather boots.

Left:

Legionary infantryman
1.

Helmet.

2.

Spear.

3.

Corselet of metal
strips.

Finely-made sword
(above) and scabbard of a
type

between

AD

-AD

Essential

5.

Sword.

6.

Woolen

7.

Leather stomach

kit.

tunic.

protector.

known as the 'Pompeii


It was made

pattern'.

10

4.

100.

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Shield.

Leather boots.

LIFE

IN

THE FOF

A soldier's life
Roman
fighting.

soldiers did not

But they were

spend

still

all

their

time

kept busy. There were

- including weapons
practice every day
to keep troops fit and ready
for war. There were reports on the enemy's
movements, and briefings from army spies. On
festival days, such as the emperor's birthday,
there might be a special ceremony, with prayers
and sacrifices.
The fort itself had to be guarded. Soldiers
patrolled the walls and questioned everyone who
entered the gates. They also kept unauthorized
people out of the headquarters building and the
regular training sessions

commander's house.

men

were assigned to special duties,


keep the peace. A typical
provincial governor employed the following extra
staff, all 'borrowed' from legions stationed
nearby: 3 secretaries, 10 messengers, guards,
Reliable

to help local officials

and
grooms. Troops were also used as military
escorts, customs officers and spies. Lazy soldiers
might be given unpleasant duties or 'fatigues':
cleaning lavatories and drains.
But for most men in a fort, life was centered
on the two rooms in a barrack block which they
shared with seven others. They cooked, ate and
relaxed together. For soldiers away from home,
these close comrades must have been as
orderlies, interpreters, torturers, clerks

The layout

of legionary

contained 10 pairs of

barrack blocks developed

rooms, where the soldiers

from the arrangement of

slept

and stored

soldiers' tents in a

One

pair of

marching camp. In a
camp, the 10 tents needed
to house a complete
century (80 men) were
pitched together

in

a row,

with the officers' tents at

one end. Legionary barrack


blocks were similar. They

their

kit.

rooms was
shared between 8 men;
one room was used for
sleeping, the other for

storage and for cleaning


and mending equipment.
At one end of the block,
there were larger rooms,
for the

centurion

important as their families.

We

can find out about


soldiers from their

Roman

tombstones. For example,


memorial stone gives

this

us a 'mini-biography' of

one

soldier. His

name was

Gaius Saufeius, and he


served with the IX (9th)
Legion, which was active
Britain

around

AD

in

65.

Gaius died when he was 40


years old, after 22 years of

army

service, so he must
have joined up when he

was

18.

Gets up

in

room shared

Goes

men. Puts on

to

bakehouse

to

Ready

for duty. Reports to

who

On

patrol

in

the country

collect bread for himself

his centurion,

and room-mates. Usually

men

they eat together.

readiness to work.

suspicious.

His 'watch' (period of duty)

Goes

Goes to see troops


weapons practice on the

building to check duty

Meal with room-mates;


bread, cold bacon and
cheese, lentils and onions,

tasks for next few days.

Goes to one of the fort


workshops to collect spare
sword that is being
mended. Pays for the work.

On

Off duty again. Goes to

with 7 other

armor. Notices hole

woolen

tunic;

in

mends

it.

ends.

at

parade-ground.

Plays quick

game

of dice

to headquarters

rosters

and

find out his

guard duty again,

this

for

inspects

neatness and

nearby.

Has

to

sharp lookout

sick

keep a
for

anything

sour wine mixed with water.

Dictates letter to one of


the fort clerks to send to

time checking everyone

the fort hospital to

who comes and goes by

friend,

Centurion investigates.

the main gate.

falling off ladder.

saying friend

Just time to leave the fort


to go to the tavern in the

Looks at nuts and


honeycomb offered

Returns to fort, wrapped


thick woolen cloak made

Back inside barracks

with friends. Accuses

one

of cheating; quarrels.

'vicus' for

evening meal and

some warm

wine.

for sale

by local peddler to soldiers


in

the tavern.

visit

who has broken

leg

in

by local weavers.

wear

it

He

will

again on night duty.

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injured friend's family,


is

ill.

room. Centurion checks

men

sleep,

all

home. Has short


then on duty again.

are

LIFE IN THE

Food and water


What

did

Roman

soldiers eat? Their basic food

was wheat, ground up and mixed with water and


cooked to make biscuits, porridge or bread. But
wheat by itself was not enough. One Roman
author. Vegetius, recognized that it needed sharp
flavors to go with it. 'Let them have ... wine,
vinegar and salt, in plenty at all times,' he
advised. Other Roman experts were concerned
about nutrition. They suggested adding lentils,
cheese, bacon, lard, vegetables, honey and olive
oil to the basic ration of grain. Remains of other
tasty foods - rabbits, grouse and deer, fish and
fish sauce, oysters, beans, fruits and nuts - have
been found at fort sites. These were obtained
locally, or imported by merchants.

At

camp

(above), soldiers

cooked food for


themselves and for the
other 7

members

Army

clerks (below) kept

records of foodstuffs

purchased and consumed

of their

at the fort.

contubernium.

'=-

List of

army stores

(above) written

wooden

on a

tablet. Left:

Cooking pot on a stand


with an oil-burner to keep

Wheat

food warm.

(above) and other

grains were milled at the


fort

using millstones turned

by mule-power.

Wax tablets
stylus,

used

(left)

and

for noting

rations issued. Steelyard

(bottom) used to weigh


soldiers' biscuits.

It

was important

(left)

for

soldiers at the fort to stay


friendly with

farmers

who

some

local

sold food.

Long-handled metal
skillet

(above), used by

soldiers to

cook

over an open

their

fire.

food

A good

water supply was one of the most

fort could have. Each man


needed about 3 quarts a day. Workshops, baths,
and stables used more. Surveyors planning a fort

important assets a

looked

stream or spring nearby,


dug a well. They channeled the
water around the fort, using stone gutters or
or,

if

for a fast-flowing

necessary,

pipes of lead,

wood and

clay.

Water went first of all to a fountain, where it


was used to fill buckets for drinking and cooking,
then to the bath-house, and
lavatories.

Where

finally to

possible, these

lowest point of the

the

were

built at

the

so that sewage could


flow naturally away. This was a wise precaution,
because, as Roman architects warned: 'Dirty

could seat several people

water

at

is

fort,

Roman

a kind of poison, and the cause of

lavatories (above)

once. Seats were placed

over a deep channel,

epidemic disease.'

flushed with running water.

and two
(scrapers) used at

Soldiers used washable

Oil flask (right)


strigils

sponges on

the baths.

Hot room
Hot dry

2.

Furnace
Changing

3.

Cold room

7.

Lavatory

4.

Warm room

8.

Cold pool

1.

5.
6.

room

sticks instead

of toilet paper.

room

Bath-house (above) found


Red House, near

At the baths: Bathers

at

stored their clothes in

Hadrian's Wall. Built for a

cupboards built into the


changing room wall.

fort of

the

first

century AD.

Next the hot room made


bathers sweat. They had to

wear sandals or the


burnt their

feet.

floor

Bathers put oil on their


and used strigils to

skin

scrape
their

it

off

together with

sweat and

dirt.

Bathers went first to the


cold room, then moved
slowly into the warm and
hot rooms.

Then

they went back to the

cool room, to cool

off.

and

stop sweating. Here they

could

sit

and

relax.

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The warm room was


heated by steam produced

when water was splashed


on

its

hot

floor.

Finally they

jumped

into

the cold plunge pool, to


rinse their skin.
felt

Mow

they

clean and fresh.

LIFE IN THE

FORT

and injury

Illness
Only

fit.

men were accepted as


Roman army. But even the

strongly-built

recruits for the

healthiest of troops could

be injured

or

in battle,

develop a serious disease. Each fort had a team


of medical staff trained to provide emergency
treatment and hospital care. Preventive medicine

was important,

Army

too.

officers

responsible for making sure their


clean, and, as

we have

out to reduce the

laid

dressers" (given this

men's wounds

kept

seen, forts were sited

and

risk of disease.

Army doctors were


to the highest ranks.

were

men

respected, but did not rise

Doctors were assisted by

name because they dressed


who also nursed sick

in battle),

soldiers while they recovered. All the

medical

staff

were male. Doctors and dressers worked in large,


well-planned hospitals, which were an essential
part of every fort.

Roman

medical texts describe treatments for a

number

of wounds, including jagged cuts


from swords, broken bones, dislocated joints,
and spear points or arrowheads sunk deep into
large

the flesh. Doctors operated without anaesthetics

(except alcohol), but they did

know about

keeping wounds clean, closing cuts with stitches,


amputating mangled limbs and using simple
antiseptics such as
oil.

Even

recovered,

were

salt,

turpentine, arsenic

and

many patients died. Soldiers who


but who were too weak to fight again,

so,

retired with a pension.

Roman
One

of the

most

common

medical

instruments:

and difficult operations


was removing weapons
from deep wounds (right).

Forceps with toothed


grip

used

for pulling

arrows out of wounds.


2.

f^P

3.

Probe for wide, shallow


wounds.
Glass dropper for eye
treatment or for giving

4.

medicine to patients.
Bronze spatula (flat

5.

ointment
Knife used

knife) for

Roman

soldiers were

trained to face death


bravely.

even

They knew

in hospital,

illnesses could not

Id*'

that

many
be cured.

spreading
,
in

operations.
6.
7.

Bronze spatula.
Bronze tweezers.

Carved stone 'stamp', used


mark cakes of eye-ointment

name of the doctor


who made them.

to

Doctors (left) made


medicines from herbs.

with

Some
and

the

boilin

9 herbs

herbs, like aniseed

dill,

but r

did help patients.

>st

did not.

LIFE IN THE FOf-

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Gods and spirits


To

Roman

soldiers, the

terrifying place.

world could be a

Death could

strike at

any time,

and snatch a soldier's soul. Invisible spirits lurked


all around, and ancient gods and goddesses
looked down from heaven to judge the actions of
mortal men and women.
These mysterious spirits and remote gods
played an important part in human affairs. They
brought triumph or disaster, so it was important

made

not to offend them. Soldiers

animals or food, hoping to win

made promises

sacrifices of

favor.

of future offerings

if,

they survived a battle safely, or had

The army had


worshipped

own

its

at festivals

was the god

of war,

They
for

example,

good

special gods,

throughout the

also

Stone carving

(above),

showing a scene from the


life

of Mithras.

He

here sacrificing a

shown

is

bull; its

blood was a symbol of


everlasting

life.

Bronze statue

god

of

(right)

Mars, the ancient

Roman

It was
Mars and the

of battles.

dedicated

'to

emperor's divine power'.

luck.

which it
year. Mars

and Jupiter protected

governments. Altars dedicated to them, to


Hercules, a warlike hero, and to the goddesses

and Epona (protector of horses), have


been found at many forts.
As well as these long-established religious
traditions, there were new, mystery cults which
spread throughout the empire from the Middle
East. Today, Christianity is the best-known of

Victory

these, but in

Mithras was

Roman

This carving (above) of


three local gods - the
spirits of healing, fertility

and

life

after

found near a

death - was

Roman

fort.

Statue of Brigantia

times, the worship of

more popular

(above), a north British

with soldiers. This

was

goddess portrayed

understandable. Mithraism promised

comradeship here on
after

death to

earth,

and a glorious

men who were

Roman

in

style.

life

Silver
killed in war.

Gold

box and wine-

strainer (below),

perhaps

used

ceremonies.

in religious

ring (above), with a

Christian inscription:

Senecianus,
in

may you

live

God'.

Soldiers

(right)

who had

joined the cult of Mithras

The

legion's shrine

housed statues and

(left)

altars

for the army's 'official'


worship of the emperor

and the gods of war. It also


had a secret strongroom in
which valuable objects
were hidden.

worshipped in a dark,
underground temple,
known as a Mithraeum.
Senior

members

of the cult

dressed as magical birds

and animals, who figured


in stories

associated with

Mithras's achievements.

Scene from

Trajan's

Column, showing
legionary soldiers

campaign taking

on
part in

a religious procession.

They are leading


animals - an ox, a sheep
and a boar - which will
be sacrificed to the gods
in the hope of winning a
victory.

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fl

I
,

1-

Outside the walls


-

The army

often took over an area of land around

grown and animals


Sometimes the soldiers farmed this
themselves, but, more often, they arranged for
a fort where crops could be

grazed.

local laborers to cultivate

One
What happened when a Roman fort was built?
What impact did it make on the local
community? At first there might have been
hostility,

was money

newly-arrived soldiers,

Some
help

came to realize
made from the

but soon local people

that there

local chiefs

them

to be

and began

made

to co-operate

alliances with

Rome

fight against their rivals nearby.

Local sculptors

rr.

'^stones tc
oldiers
i

who

to

fort

it.

historian has suggested that a

acted

'like

Roman

a magnet', attracting merchants

from miles around. Excavations have also

new settlements close to


warm countries like Africa and

revealed clusters of

Roman

forts. In

the Middle East, traders lived in tents, spreading

goods on the ground, where soldiers could


past and inspect them. In colder lands, new
villages grew up, close to the fort's walls.
their

stroll

Fragments

of several

use, were locally

made.

different types of pottery

High-quality, decorated

have been found at Roman


Simple pots and

wares were imported from

forts.

specialist potters in

dishes, for everyday

Italy

and elsewhere.

Villagers provided

all

kinds of goods and services,

from food, clothes and weapons to taverns and


brothels where the soldiers relaxed off duty.
Some soldiers also rented houses, where they
spent as

women

much

time as they could with the local

they had chosen as their wives, and with

their children. Officially, the

army

did not

recognize these marriages, but everyone else did.

Roman

soldiers wore

leather boots (like

openwork sandals) and


shoes. Soles were

from layers of

fastened together with iron


studs.

made

leather,

Boots and shoes

needed

repairing, so

cobblers

in

the vicus were

kept busy.

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Cloth for cloaks and tunics


was made fro.,, wool. Local
women spun yam and wove
cloth. Men worked as dyers
and tailors.

On parade and off-duty


tt
Many

forts

had a large open space within

walls, close to the

their

headquarters building. This

was the parade-ground, used for regular parades


and kit-inspections, and also for religious
ceremonies on special holy days.
Why did the army hold parades? They were
good training, because they helped new recruits
learn discipline, and how to recognize urgent
battle commands. Parades were also held to
teach men to be proud of their legion, and to
honor its standard. Commanders, officers, men
and even horses wore their best uniforms, and
looked on respectfully as the standards were
carried by.

standard was a legion's symbol. It was made


from a long metal pole decorated with emblems,
often covered in gold.
like

close to the
at Caerleon,
built

around

Roman
Wales.

AD

80.

(above)
fortress
It

was

The top

Some

a boar or a wolf.

legions
Little

these were fixed to the standards.

had a totem

statues of

of a standard,

on parade. The
hand shows it belonged
carried

to

a maniple (160 men).

Officers

animal,

The amphitheatre

- and

on parade (below)
horses - wore

their

special ceremonial armor,

made

of gold or silver.

was too valuable and


delicate to

wear

in

war.

It

Ceremonial parades might also be held in sports


arenas (called amphitheatres) outside the fort.
Then, when most of the soldiers were off-duty,
they would often be followed by some kind of
entertainment. Gladiators were popular with

Mosaic showing

Lincolnshire. Racing
risky, for

men and

Roman

audiences, but too expensive for most


garrisons to hire. Local wild animals might be

chased and killed, or enemy prisoners, too weak


be sold as slaves, might be made to fight until
they died. Other popular sports included chariotracing and wrestling.
to

Roman

soldiers (below)

marched long distances


carrying heavy loads, and
labored to build
forts.

camps and

This helped keep

them fit for battle. But daily


weapons practice was even
more important. Soldiers
fought with padded armor

Gaming board (above left)


made of stone, with glass

and blunted swords. But if


they fought carelessly, they
could still get hurt

Board (above

chariot

racing (above), found in

counters.

right) for

ludus latrunculorum.

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was

horses, but

it

attracted

huge crowds of spectators.


They liked to bet on who
would win.
Soldiers (below) played
'ludus latrunculorum', a

game

like

checkers.

modern

In battle
Roman soldiers were good at fighting; that was
what they were paid for. They were brave, fit,
loyal and well-armed. But this could also be said
of

many

of the troops they fought

conquered.

Why was

successful against so

and

Roman army so
many strong and

the

courageous foes?

The Roman army won battles partly because


Rome was rich. The government of the empire
could afford to keep a large army permanently
ready to fight. It could also afford to build good
roads and special ships to rush troops quickly to
wherever they were needed.
Soldiers overlap their
shields to
(tortoise)

defensive

make

a testudo

- a strong,
'shell'.

An

auxiliary archer.

Arrows could travel further


than javelins, allowing the

army

to attack at long

range.

Legionary soldiers

in

the

front line hurl spears at the

enemy.

strong soldier

could throw a javelin to

wound an enemy
feet away. Their

ove/ 80
comrades

stand behind them, ready


to follow

wave

up with a second

attack.

Forts (above) were given

Seventeen

extra defenses

were

by

filling

the

built

forts (below)

along the

Roman

surrounding ditches with

frontier at Hadrian's Wall in

spiky thorn branches.

northern England.

Scotland

England

Portable artillery (above)


like this ballista, is

used

Ballista bolt (above) in the

The Romans also won battles because


commanders planned campaigns with
intelligence and skill. Roman strategists and

spine of a British warrior,

tacticians

to shoot metal bolts at

who

enemy

Celtic stronghold.

targets.

died defending a

had an almost 'scientific' attitude to


They believed it was no use simply to let
soldiers charge headlong against an enemy;

war.

instead,

commanders should consider

the layout

of a battlefield, the direction of the wind

and even

the time of day. Caesar, one of Rome's best


generals, advised his soldiers to attack

when

the

sun was behind them, so that its bright rays


would dazzle and confuse the enemy.
The Roman army also used manpower
cleverly. Armies were made up of men trained to
fight in

many

different ways. Together, they

worked more effectively than an army of nonspecialists, however brave they might be.
This thorough training meant that in an
emergency, Roman commanders could rely on
their soldiers to act quickly and sensibly.

Roman
many

soldiers fought

battles against the

Celtic peoples
Britain,

who^ived

France and

in

Germany. The Celts were


brave fighters, but were

used to attacking
chariots or

They were not as

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in

on horseback.

Roman

soldiers

fighting

on

foot.

skilled

when

as

y>
wooden arm-

Siege warfare

onager

Roman forts were built to 'hold' a frontier - which


might be marked by no more than a road against hostile people.

- fe*

\J

Enemies could usually be

driven off, thanks to a fort's strong walls. But


sometimes a frontier had to be abandoned if it
was in very open surroundings and proved too
difficult to

<=>

defend.
i&t*
twisted rope.

sTk

M
~.

a
';;

i&

ML)M

w\

ijs

A.

<=*'

''Vv^Ofc

An onager

(above).

Rocks

are loaded into a sling fixed

N]

wooden arm. This will


be winched backwards by

to a

twisting a rope.

rope

is

When

loosed, the

arm shoots

the

wooden

forwards,

hurling out the rocks.

~x

Assault towers

(right) are

Soldiers (below) trying to


knock holes in walls with a

equipped with wooden


drawbridges.
are

let

When

these

battering

down, soldiers can

down inside the


enemy city's walls.
leap

ram

are sheltered

Soldiers (below) use a


tortoise formation (see

page 38) to advance.

from enemy counter-attack


by a strongly-made

When

wooden

start to

roof.

they reach the

enemy's

walls,

they

will

undermine them.

testudo (tortoise)

This ballista, or catapult,


works like a huge

For example, around

demolished a

AD

line of forts

crossbow. Unlike an

158, the

Romans

along the Antonine

Wall in Scotland, and retreated southwards to

onager, which takes four

men

to operate, a ballista

only needs two; one loads

often, forts

the flat-tipped metal bolts,

were successfully used as bases for Romans to


launch their own attack. Troops stationed in forts
rode out on raiding parties, or staged a carefullyplanned ambush. Sometimes sieges were used
to conquer hostile towns. In the fort workshops,

the other pulls the lever to

safety.

That

failure

was unusual. More

carpenters and blacksmiths

made

release the

bow

ingenious war-

machines which could be used by Roman troops


to

smash their enemies.


Few walls were strong enough

to stand up to a
pounding from a Roman battering ram. Roman
military technicians also

designed enormous

ballista

catapults to hurl rocks long distances over

enemy walls. They built tall towers, covered with


strong wooden cladding, so that soldiers could
shoot arrows down into the enemy city, while
remaining

(fairly)

safe themselves.

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string.

A LASTING RECORD

An

ancient

myth

told

triumphs originated:
killing a local

battle, the

how

Romulus, seized

took part

AD

98-1 17.

in

procession.

soldiers

king,

The emperor Trajan reigned from

won important

Roman

homeward, singing
and dancing. By Trajan's

leader in

Roman

many more people

times,

his rich

armor, and led the

after

a triumphal
It

had become

a religious, as well as a

He

northern frontiers.

Roman

(below) built

in

Rome

to

honor the emperor Titus,


who ruled from AD 79 - 81.

program along the empire's

One

'ovations'.

The triumphal arch

Dacia (present-day
Romania), Armenia, Turkey and Iraq. He also
victories in

started a building

military occasion. Only


emperors were given
triumphs; lesser men had

of the best-known
,

defenses, Hadrian's Wall in the north of

"sewstvs
-".!-TK.-.WE3QlviUCSS

XlVOtriOLW VSi* iI.*Kl

England, was not built until after Trajan's death,


but he had already started to build forts and
roads in that 'danger zone'.

When

Trajan returned to

was awarded a

Rome

in

AD

106, he

was an honor
and their troops.

'triumph'. This

given to victorious emperors

Heads

of Dacian

warriors (above) are offered

They paraded through the streets of Rome to


receive praise and thanks from the citizens.

to the

emperor Trajan by

his victorious troops after a

hard-fought

battle.

Roman

troops did not respect the


Prisoners were sometimes
carried

on

litters (6),

shoulder-high.
later sold

memory

In

of the ceremony's

ancient origins, trophies of

captured armor

the

(7) were
paraded beside them.

being honored
in

man

(8).

He

rode^,

His face was painted red,

>,

he wore kingly robes, and


he carried a sceptre and (<%
branch.

own dead comrades.

inscriptions praising the

although they held solemn

a gold-colored chariot.

olive

funeral services for their

Triumphal arches (above)


were decorated with
carving, and with

bodies of their enemies,

triumphator', the

They were

as slaves.

Then came

general's achievements.

The procession was

They were followed by

White oxen, chosen

the magistrates and

treasure captured from the

sacrifice,

senators - the ruling class

enemy

of

Rome

and

(1)

by

led

Often, a beautiful stone arch

commemorate
Trajan's great

(3), or,

sometimes,

models of conquered

(2).

was

cities.

for

came next (4),


along with enemy prisoners
in

chains

The most important enemy


captive was later taken
away to be executed, as a
sacrifice to the

(5).

Roman

gods.

built to

their victories, but, to record

campaigns, a

monument

different

was chosen.
Trajan's Column'
feet high.

carvings,

2,500

It

is

is

a stone

pillar,

decorated with a

about 100

spiral

band of
shows over

more than 260 feet long. It


soldiers on campaign marching,

Roman

fighting

and building

forts.

Column provides
Roman army life. But

For historians today, Trajan's


a very helpful record of

mean to people living at the time? For


many Roman soldiers, it must have summed up

what did
their

aim

it

in

life:

to

work hard,

fight bravely

and

When

executed, the general being

the triumphal

procession (above) reached


the Capitol

center of

the sacred

Rome - and

chief prisoner

the

had been

honored

sacrificed

an ox to

Jupiter, the greatest

Roman

god. This scene

comes from

a silver cup.

The

shouted

win praise and rewards before they died.


Behind the triumphator,

in

his chariot, stood a slave


(9)

who whispered

'Remember,

in

to him:

the hour of

The emperor's
was followed by his

only a man.'
chariot

victorious troops (10).

They wore their best


uniforms and had laurel
wreaths on their heads as
they marched

your triumph, that you are--^

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soldiers

'lo

Triumphe' (Look at the


Triumph). They also sang

^ bawdy songs.

Roman facts
Language and
In

the glossary

some words

in

letters

on pages 45 - 47, you will see


italics. These are words in Latin,

Romans

the language the

2000 years

many

after

used. Today, almost

most Roman

forts

were

built,

of these words, for example,

contubernium

',

have almost completely

because the thing they


describe (Roman soldiers in a tent) no longer
exists. Words like this are now used only by
disappeared. This

historians

Roman

is

and archaeologists studying the

those of their families, record soldiers' two


languages. For example, Barates, an auxiliary

from Syria serving at a fort near Hadrian's Wall,


arranged a memorial to his wife. The Latin
carving reads: To the spirits of the departed and
to Regina, his freedwoman and wife, from the

aged thirty, Barates of


These words are followed by
a more personal message, in Barates' own,
Syrian, language: 'Regina, the freedwoman of
Catuvellanian

Palmyra set

tribe,

this up'.

Barates, alas'.

past.

you can see, many other Roman


words have survived, hardly changed, in the
languages we speak today.
But, as

Messages from home


Legionary and auxiliary soldiers used scribes to

them write letters home and, perhaps, to


them read the answers they received. Some
of these letters, written on thin strips of wood,
have survived. They reveal that soldiers born in
help
help

Inscriptions

and tombstones

Grand inscriptions, like the proud words carved


on Trajan's Column (page 42), were written in
precise, elegant Latin, which educated Roman
people spoke and were able to read. Ordinary
Roman soldiers spoke in a simpler style, and

some could

Many auxiliary
from non-Roman nations,

not read at

soldiers, recruited

all.

warm Mediterranean

lands asked for extra

warm

clothing while serving at northern frontier forts.

One

letter,

sent to a

Roman

northern Britain, reads,

'I

soldier stationed in

have sent you two pairs

and two pairs of underpants... greet


my friends... and all your mess (room)-mates'.
Letters from one fort commander's wife to

of socks...

preferred to speak the language of their

another have also survived; they show

homeland even while they were serving with the


Roman army. Sometimes their tombstones, or

women

tried to

maintain contact while

wild, lonely lands.

how
living in

Glossary
where

Altar, a stone 'table'

sacrifices

were made.

Calipers, tool used to

make measurements.

Amphitheatre, (Amphitheatrum) a large building


containing many rows of seats where games and
other public performances took place.

Celtic, belonging to the native peoples

Antefix, (Antefixus) a decorated

Celts - who
Germany.

at the

edge of a

tile,

often placed

Cavalry, soldiers

lived in Britain,

Century, a unit
lift

fight

on horseback.
- called
northern France and

roof.

Archimedian screw, an ancient Greek


used to

who

water by forcing

it

in

the

Roman

army: 80 men.

invention,

to flow along a

Chamfron, face-armor worn by a horse.

spiral-shaped channel cut into the surface of a

which is kept turning round by a wheel


its upper end. Each time the log
turns, the water in the channel is moved further
along, towards the upper level.
heavy

log,

attached to

Coffer dam, a strong, heavy, box-shaped


structure, built

water so that

bottom of a

it

on land and lowered into the


stands on the sea bed or on the

river

or lake.

Once

the

position, the water inside the 'box'


Artillery,

Roman

weapons

pumped

that shoot bullets or (in

out, leaving a dry

space

dam

is in

can be

for builders.

times) arrows and metal bolts.

Cohort, (Cohors)

centuries -

six

480

soldiers.

Asset, something valuable.

Commemorate,
Assigned, given

provide a memorial

Contubernium, a group

Roman

Auxiliaries, (Auxilia) troops in the

recruited from

for.

to.

non-Roman

army,

of 8 soldiers

who shared

a tent or a pair of barrack rooms.

peoples.

Corselet, armor covering the back, chest and


Ballista, a

Roman weapon,

like

huge crossbow

Barracks, buildings where soldiers

stomach.
Crucified, (Crucifictus) put to death by being

live.

fixed to a cross.

Basilica, a large

assembly

hall.

Cult, (Cultus) a

Bawdy,

way

of worshipping gods.

rude.

Dislocated, forced out of correct position.


Blueprints, designs

for buildings.

Bolt, a metal rod or dart, fired like an arrow

Drawbridge, a wooden bridge that can be raised


or lowered by using ropes or chains.

Booty, treasure captured

Dressers, people

Briefing, information

in war.

and orders given

Brothels, houses where prostitutes

to troops.

live.

Emblem,

who

give

'first

aid' in battle.

sign or badge.

Enlist, join the army.

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glossary

Epidemic, disease that

is

widespread throughout

army

Landing-craft, boats used to carry an

to

a population.

the shore.

Fatigues, (Fatigatio = tiredness) unpleasant army

Laurel, (Laurus) an evergreen bush, with shiny


leaves. For the

duties.

Romans

was

a laurel-wreath

sign of honor.

Flogged, punished by being whipped.


Legate, (Legatus) a
Footings, stones or strong timbers at the base
("foot')

commanded

man

who

of high rank,

a legion.

of a wall.

Legion, (Legio) the most important unit


Forceps, medical instruments
to grip

like

pinchers, used

and remove weapons from wounds.

Garrison, building where an army

is

based.

Roman

army.

It

contained 10 cohorts

in

the

4,800

soldiers.

Legionary, (Legionarius) belonging

connected

to,

or

with, a legion.

Glazier, craft worker skilled at handling glass.

Limeburner, building worker who made cement.


Granaries, buildings where grain

is

stored.
Litter, (Lectica)

a portable bed.

Gradients, sloping land.

Magistrate, (Magistratus) government

official

Groma, an instrument (two cross-pieces


mounted on top of a pole) used by Roman

responsible for administering the law.

surveyors to measure straight lines and corners.

Mangled, crushed and broken.

Grooms, people who look

Maniple, (Manipulus) two centuries - 160 men.

Immunes,

after horses.

soldiers with special skills

who were

Milecastle, gateway through Hadrian's Wall.

excused from normal army duties.


Mortal, (Mortalis)

human; bound

to die.

Imperial, (imperatoris) belonging to an empire.

Mosaic, picture
Infantry, soldiers

who

fought on foot.

colored

Romans
Ingenious,
cleverly

ngeniosus= naturally
designed and made.
(I

Inscription, (Inscriptio)

wood

tiles

made from thousands

of tiny

or fragments of stone. Wealthy

liked

mosaic

floors in their

homes.

clever)

words carved on stone,

Onager, a Roman war-machine, which hurled


rocks at the enemy. It was named after an onager
(a wild donkey), because it 'kicked'.

or metal.

Orations, (Oratio) speeches.


Iron-clad, covered with iron.
Piles, strong

of spear.

wooden

buildings, bridges

posts used
and roads.

to support

Plumber, (Plumbum = lead) someone


working with lead.

skilled in

write,

Plumb-line, a tool used to measure straight

made

Scribe, (Scriba)

lines,

who uses

Senator, a

someone
these

member

trained to read
to

skills

make

and

living.

Roman government.

of the

of a string with a heavy weight attached.

Shrine, a holy place.

Plundering, taking away goods from enemies.


Sling, a strip of cloth, used to hurl stones or

Porta, the Latin word for gate.

bolts with great force at the

Praetorium, the commander's house


Praefectus castrorwn, the

in

Strategists, people

fort.

Surveyors, people

officer responsible

for organizing the building of a fort or

measurements

camp.

are to be

Principia, the headquarters building in a

fort.

Probe, a medical instrument used to

deep

inside

Testudo, a

wounds.

army campaigns.

plan

who make

accurate

of sites where roads

and buildings

built.

Tacticians, people
feel

who

enemy.

who

plan

'tortoise' battle

how to

fight battles.

formation of soldiers

with shields (page 41).

who buy something on

Procurers, those

of the organization they

work

behalf

Totem, a mascot

for.

Province, (Prouincia) a part of the

Roman

empire.

or guardian animal.

Transylvania, part of present-day Romania and


Hungary.

Provincial, (Prouincialis) belonging to a province.

Treasury, a place where valuables are stored.

Rammed, hammered down

hard.

Tribune, a junior army

Rampart, a bank of

earth,

officer.

used as a defense.
Tribunal, (Tribunus Militaris) a platform where

judges

Rations, basic food supply.


Recruits,

men who

sat.

Tribute, (Tributum)

have just joined the army.

peoples to their
Sacrifice, (Sacrificium)

goods sent by conquered

rulers.

an offering to the gods.


Trophies, (Trophaeum) precious goods captured

Sarcophagus, a

in war.

coffin.

Sceptre, (Sceptrum) decorated

stick, carried

as a

Vallum, a deep defensive

ditch.

sign of power.

Ventilated, allowing

Scouts, lookouts
is clear.

who go ahead

to

check that

air to

drcul

'

all

Vicus, a civilian settlement by a

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fort.

GLOSS A

Index
Page numbers

in

chamfrons

bold type refer

(face

chariot racing

to illustrations.

masks) 36, 36

37

chieftains, local 19.

clerks

19
Latin

23

44

sacrifice 32, 33,

lavatories 29,

auxiliary soldiers 9. 9. 10. 11. 14,

20.45

legionaries 9, 14, 24, 25,

D, E,

legions 9,

46

46

letters (written

doctors 23. 30

exercise halls 17

food

8, 8, 24, 27.

28-29, 28-29

fort

commander 23

fort

commander's house 22, 22

taxes 6

29
battering ram 41. 41
battle 38. 38-39
battle tactics 39
blacksmiths 23
boots, soldiers' 35. 35
Brigantia 32
bathing 29.

bndges 12-13. 12-13


building a fort 20-21.

building materials

gateways 20, 20

milecastles 21,

gods 32

milling

granaries 23,

bathhouse 29

groma

Trajan's

Column

15, 24, 33,

43

47
tribute 6, 12, 47
triumphal arch 42
tribune 11, 14,

triumphal procession 42-43, 42-

43

O, P
CI,

headquarters building 22

onager 40-41, 40-41, 46

hospital 31

operations 30,

30

20-21

underwear 25, 25
vicus (village near fort) 17, 34-35,

20

parades 36

Italy

34-35, 47

praefectus castrorum 19, 20, 47

and
1

injury

1.

30-31

46
46

19,

walls

32
roads 12, 12
Roman empire 6-7

10

32

Hadrians Wall 21. 39

infantry

certificates

28

money 6, 6

illness

45
Celts 39. 45
centurion 8

20

Trajan (emperor) 13, 42

triumphator 42, 42, 43

immunes
1 1

21

Mithras (god) 32,

46
46

18, 18,

Titus (emperor)
tools

30

musicians 9

I,

cavalry

14-15
42
tombstones 34, 44
tents 14-15,

marching camps 14-15, 14-15,

medical instruments
merchants 7, 19

barracks 26. 45

sword 25

living conditions 17
lookouts 21

16

41,41.45

38

standard-bearers 9
standards 36, 36
surveyors 18, 18, 47

by soldiers) 44

Mars (god) 32, 32

ballista39. 39.

47

soldiers 18, 18. 24, 25, 27, 27,

46

legate 18,

accounts 19
amphitheatres 36, 37. 45
antefix21.45
Archimedian screw 12. 45
architects 12. 18
assault towers 41
army 8-9. 14
army commanders 11.11

29

religion

Julius Caesar (emperor)

Rome

20

warships 10-11, 10-11


water supply 29

weapons 10-11, 37
wounds 30

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ROMAN
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16th

CENTURY

GALLEON

in

PETER BEDRICK BOOKS


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