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So, I know that phosphorous matches are a relatively new phenomenon and so I was wondering how the romans lit their lamps. I also know that before the phosphorous match the most prevalent method of fire starting was the flint and steel method, but it doesn't seem like a suitable method for lighting a candle, so does anyone know? Also I was wondering what a legionary would carry in terms of fire-starting stuff?

Summa Gratias Tibi Ago

Iace Cornelius
You light some sort of easily combustible material with your flint&steel/wood pin rotation/whatever. The easily combustible material can be anything, really. Up here in the north we use "knusk", which is dried fungi that grow on tree trunks, fairly easy to get hold of. Then you use this to light a fire somewhere, and light your candle from that fire.

I suspect that somewhere (or more likely multiple places) along the line of march, there was a fire going that was then used to light other fires when they stopped for resting. Making a fire the olde waye takes some time, even for the practiced.
In pre-match days, making a fire was a bit like making sourdough. You could make a new one, but it was much easier to keep one going and use it as required. Usually in any given Roman household, you'd have a fire, or embers, on the hearth or brazier. Just grab a little stick and light it.

Troops on the march are a different story, but I suspect they had a way of carrying glowing embers or something like slowmatch. Most early modern armies did.
Ötzi, the "snow man" I think had one wooden box intended to carry burning coal, so he can make fire without having to start a new fire. At least that´s the modern interpretation... :roll:
Many AmerIndian tribes did exactly that, Iagoba, by puttin a glowing coal in a pile of dry wood dust or shavings, and wrapping it in tree bark. This can be converted to a fire whenever needed by simply blowing on it. Carrying two or three of these firestarters, one smoldering, the others waiting to be used can keep a fire ready to go for at least a day or so. At the next fire, just repeat the process.

Now if you fell in the river, you'd have to start all over, of course.
There is also the medieval "hand warmer", a copper alloy globe that opens, in which there is some form of suspension for hot coals - typically interpreted as....well...a hand warmer, but it could just as easily be used to keep a small hot coal store going. I would not be surprised if similar artifacts existed from the roman period, but I don't know of any.
Many Roman fire steels have been found.
Lighting a fire without matches can be done swiftly with a good flint and steel. There are people who I have seen light a new fire in under 30 seconds. This guy demonstrates the ease of it http://nl.youtube.com/watch?v=e16ojzcRkz0 . Important is the tinder used to catch the spark. For this, a particular kind of (now protected here because over over-exploitation!) mushroom is used, the tinder or hoof fungus. Here is a link to a somewhat popular explanation, which I added because of the Otzi link http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi/dec2001.html . Fire steels are a fairly common article to find in Roman context, but because they have to be made of good steel, were a prized item. I do Roman fire steels in the smithy using old files.
This fungus can and was used to transport fire, as you could use it as a fire beaker (and not a flaming flowerpot!!) and burning medium in one. It smolders for a long time.
I have found a good many references to it growing on birch, but that is a somewhat different variety, as far as I know. The ones on beech are to be preferred. To prepare them for fire-starting, the trama is best boiled in horse urine, as this adds to the ease in which it will catch a spark. If you want to avoid domestic conflict, you can also soak it in the leachate of ashes, 1 part water, 1 part ash (let soak first then strain, then add trama!) to enhance its fire-starting ability.
Have fun, it thrilling lighting your first fire with a fire steel!
Thanks for those tricks! Confusedhock:

Laudes! Big Grin
When I take my riding lesson this week I will take a plastic jug with me!
Thanks for the tip Robert!
:roll: :lol:
Some workers at Archeon park (Holland) are trained to light a fire with steel and stone. If you make it a lot of times a day (as they), you can get fire so easy as with a lighter (or a little less easy... :roll: )

Our camarades of Cohors Prima Gallica (Aitor and Iagoba's group) make fire with that method so quickly, too.
Ahem... not always so quickly... :roll:
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Aitor
I have oneof these firestarter from Jorge at armillum! So far, I have not managed to raise a spark, let alone start afire.... Sad
GJ is there a cutting edge on the flint you're using? If not, crack the flint with a hammer (beware! it throws very sharp pieces of stone in unpredictable directions--eye protection highly recommended) until you get a sharp edge. What happens in firemaking is that the flint actually cuts off some very small parts of the steel, which reach combustion temperatures. Pressure, I think, causes that heat.

The first rule of firemaking is this: before you kindle a flame, have a method instantly available for putting it out. Fires that never get lit don't burn forests or houses. For public demonstrations, I've found a bucket of water is just right for dropping the fire into. I always repeat that rule while doing the demo, too. People today are not as smart about fire as our grandfathers were, because they deal with it less often.

Here's the method that has always worked best for me. I've tried several ways, but this seems easiest for me. Hold the flint in your left hand, with the cutting edge upwards at about a 45 degree angle, or a little more toward vertical. Bring the steel down so as to glance across the flint, dragging the metal along the cutting edge, moving straight down. This should produce sparks, most of which will fly upward. These will sting your skin, and make a real irritant to your eyes. Pay attention. If everything is dry, I can get a spark to catch on the first or second strike.

If you get no sparks, adjust the angle of the flint. Always strike the steel against the flint, not the flint against the steel, because blood dripping from your knuckles will interfere with the fire starting process. Done that--doesn't work. It's much easier to control where the smooth steel impacts the irregularly shaped flint that way. And most strikers are curved, designed to help protect your hand behind the striking surface, like "brass knuckles", so to speak.

When you have that action so it will usually produce sparks, take a piece of charred cloth or moss, or fungus or whatever your pre-tinder is. Hold it on the top surface of the flint, and repeat. Some of the sparks should hit the underside and catch. One or more of them will make a red, glowing spot on the pre-tinder. If you blow on this spot, it will increase in size. It is from this glowing pre-tinder that you produce your flame in your tinder. Leaves of dried grass are good tinder. A fist sized bit is good enough to get a fire going in most conditions.

Put the glowing pre-tinder in a "birdnest" of the dry grass, and continue to hold the combustible material in contact with the glowing spot, and blow across it, to transfer the heat to the tinder. You should be able to produce a flaming mass of finger blistering actual fire in a few seconds.

Of course, if you're really making a fire, lay more tinder, cover with tiny sticks, etc., before you strike the spark (the word "strike" seems reasonable, doesn't it?). Have your other firewood at hand, and whatever you will be using to put the fire out later.

If you need to know how to produce charcloth, let me know, and I'll tell you an easy way.
Thanks for the pointers Dave!

I was doing that (stiking flint wit the steel)so it is either not enough effort on my part ot the angle.....will experiment!

OK, getting sparks now.....just wasn't dark enough to se before :roll: Big Grin

Thanks, will do the bit with the combustable. Will sawdust andfibrous material do n lui of charred cloth?
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