Roman and Mediaeval History, Illlustrated Travel Journals, Mediaeval Literature, Geology


20.5.09
  Room Sharing, Roman Style

Hi, it's me, Aelius Rufus. I know I've been rare those last months, but I was busy visiting my friends in Britannia and didn't find much time to write those blog posts for you. And I admit I spent a good deal of time in the leisure centre at Caerleon. If you had seen my living quarters in the Saalburg castellum, you'd understand.

Interior of a room in a fort barrack (Caerleon Museum)

Eight of us, a so called contubernium, share a room of 15 square metres plus a little anteroom with shelves for our equipmen, and a kitchenette. You see it's pretty dark and sparsely furnished - not that there'd be space for anything more than bunk beds, one table, and a few pegs in the wall. When on campaign, we also share a tent.

(Left, oven for a contubern-ium, Caerleon Museum)

Roman soldiers and auxiliaries don't have a central dining hall and no chefs (Asterix got that one wrong); we have to do our own cooking and can be glad if one of the chaps gets a bit of a hand for it. The ingredients, grain, beans, bacon, sometimes dried figs or other fruit and a bit fish, as well as beer and wine are distributed by the command. There is always enough to keep us fit, but it's not roasted venison in a creamy juniper berry sauce, and potato gratin (ops, that's Gabriele chiming in, I have no idea what potatoes are).

Usually ten contubernia, a centuria that is, share a barrack in the fort. We're led by a centurion, and those guys don't live in such crowded and dark quarters. No, centurions are special and have their own house at the end of the barrack and slaves to cook for them, and us poor soldiers to clean their armour. They also get ten times the salary we get. It's a damn injustice - invented by Augustus, I've been told. He wanted a gap between the ordinary soldiers and the officers so the army wouldn't stick together and turn against him or some such. And indeed, when there were mutinies like the time Tiberius became Emperor while the legions prefered Germanicus, it was the centurions who got killed during the mess, and in the end the mutiny came to nothing and Tiberius stayed put.

Modell of a fortress (Birdoswald Museum)
In the lower part you can see the barracks with the attached houses for the centurions

There's one good thing, though, and that's the fact the centurions are ranked according to the place of the centuria they lead, and half of them spend their time ogling the place of the centurion ranking above them. It's even worse in the regular legions where there are sixty of the lot and the structure is even more complicated.

But now I must go and fix the hobnails on those damn sandals. I swear they'll use lost nails to track the ways of the Roman army one day. *

Oh noes, Crispus and Buccio are playing at dice again. Which means the rest of us can listen to Buccio complaining that he's lost a weeks worth of pay. Again. He should know better and not play against Crispus, that man has some uncanny luck.

Another interior shot

* They have in fact done that in Hedemünden where those nails mark the way from the south to Hedemünden Camp and the further route north on the hills along the Visurgis valley. A smaller camp (sort of a mile castle) also was discovered along that way, and that one obviously had been attacked at some point.

BTW, that mysterious shadow in the Birdoswald Modell photo is me shooting said photo.
 
Comments:
I wonder if they had problems with snoring room mates? That's interesting about the nails. A couple of the photos didn't load for me for some reason.
 
Welcome back, Aelius Rufus!
 
Shelley, I bet they had.

That's odd, I can see the photos fine. Anyone else got problems?


Thank you, Carla.
Aelius Rufus.
 
Sounds more like Crispus has dodgy dice, if you ask me. :)

Love that detail about the hobnails!
 
Yeah, I have my suspicions about Crispus' dice, too, but he'll get away with it until I find out what the punishment for using dodgy dice was. ;)
 
Lol. Great post - glad I don't have to live in those conditions!
 
Gabriele


I suspect the entire Century will swear to the Centurion that they do not know why Crispus was walking along the battlements with blanket over his head when he took misstep. And the Centurion, will accept that story.

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I think Rufus, in a plea for sympathy ,is not letting on to the whole story. Except in war the Army was seldom recruited to full strength, most of the time there would only be four to six soldiers living in a room. And some one would be on duty so the whole contubernium would seldom be present at once. And it is probably more weather proof than he could have had as civilian. It does make those temporary WWII barracks that were used for the next forty years look good.
 
Wonderful shots and details--you can take photos in the museum? I love visiting the Greek and Roman exhibits at the old Getty Museum in Malibu, but they don't let you take photos! d:(
 
Lol Hank, sounds like an idea.

Dayya, it depends on the museum. Some will allow photographing without flash, and sometimes my charming smile has an effect on the guards. ;) But I have also encountered situations where I could not take pics.
 
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Miscellaneous musings of an aspiring Historical Fiction and Fantasy author. Illustrated essays on Roman, Dark Age and Mediaeval history, Mediaeval literature, and Geology. Some poetry translations and writing stuff. And lots of photos of old castles, cathedrals, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes from Germany, the UK and Scandinavia.

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I'm a writer of Historical Fiction living in Germany. I got a MA in Literature, Scandinavian Studies, Linguistics and History, I'm interested in Archaeology and everything Roman and Mediaeval, an avid reader, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, and photographer.

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