The Soldiering Life--#1; (388-390 AD)

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The Soldiering Life--#1; (388-390 AD)

Postby Marcus Minucius Audens » Sat Jan 21, 2017 9:33 pm

>>>> The Soldiering Life--#1; (388-390 AD) <<<<

The Roman soldier spent very little of his time in service on the battlefield. In fact, a legionary might easily spend his entire career without once seeing action in a big battle. Skirmishes, police actions, riots, rebellions, and raids were all too common, however, and no doubt every legionary had to face these once or twice in his career. Day--In, day--out, the real concerns of the legionary were focused, not on the death or glory of pitched battle, but on sentry duty, local patrols, customs searches, loading and unloading grain, foraging for firewood, . . .and on making money. In the fourth century, everyone from the tribune in command down to the newest recruit was on the take. Everyone wanted to make some extra cash to try to stay above the rising tide of inflation.

Amazingly, the duty roster for a Roman century was discovered in Egypt, and although dated to the late first century, gives an excellent idea of the daily routine of our late Roman soldiers while in garrison. According to the surviving roster, soldiers seem to have been allocated their tasks individually, rather than by contubernium or cohort. Some of the duties lasted one day, others two or more, and all the obvious garrison tasks are listed. Sentry duty at the headquarters building, the gatehouses, the towers, and ramparts all appear on the roster. In adition, as does ‘latrines’ which can only mean cleaning out the communal fort toilets. Likewise, assignment to the bathhouse probably meant assisting with its maintenance and operation, rather than enjoying its luxuries. There were several men assigned to road patrol, one to street cleaning, and another to the lines or side streets of the camp. There is no explicit duty connected with the fort storehouse, which would be expected considering its key role in the daily life of the legion. There is, however, a duty which has been translated as ‘camp market duty’ which might well refer to work in the stores. Assignments also refer to ‘stretchers’ (the fort hospital?), to artillery, to 'standards' (guarding or polishing?), to 'drainage' (no doubt cleaning), and to escort duty with centurions and senior officers. A common assignment is called ‘in century’ which might have meant serving as available manpower for the centurion. 'Boot duty' is also common, and might refer to repairing the unit’s footwear, but is more likely to have meant that the soldier served an officer as ‘boot-man’ or servant for the day. The most intriguing of the tasks is ‘plain clothes.’ We know that legionaries sometimes served as crowd control or as an ad hoc police force, and we also have literary evidence that they could be sent into the streets in civilian attire, armed with a dagger or a concealed club to be ready for civil disturbance. This roster, written on papyrus, may have recorded details of Legion III (Cyrenaica), which was stationed in Egypt at the time.

>>> Reference:

>> Paul Elliott, “The Last legionary, Life as a Roman Soldier In Britain, AD 400,” (Spellmount, 2012)

Respecfully Submitted;

Marcus Audens
Marcus Minucius Audens

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