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Salvete Omnes!

Has anybody done research into how legionaries stored bread and grain while on campaign? Was it stored individually by miles or collectively per Contubernium? What storage vessels were used? I know modern methods are to store bread in an airtight transparent bag but that would not have been possible for the legionary.

I've done some experimenting myself. I baked a basic wholegrain leavened loaf stored in a double lined linen bag and compared it to a loaf stored inside double lined bag put into leather bag. The results were better with the addition of the leather. In the case of the linen bag only the bread was still edible after 2 days whereas the linen and leather was a little better with the bread remaining edible for about 3 days (I know, it all depends on what you consider edible. If your hungry enough you'll eat dirt Big Grin )

Valete,

Nerva.
I think they stored it as a kind of bisquit for the first couple of days and had more grain in their own bag. (I use a linen bag for that). I mean, Josephus tells us they had to carry food for three days on their own. I personally think more food was carried on carts. Every soldier had access to a know amount of food, as far as I understand, which would support the idea of a general logistic centre within the legion.

You might find this an interesting read:
The Logistics of the Roman Army at War (264 B.C. - A.D.235)
Jonathan P. Roth
Hardtack, called bucelarum, I think, can be ground up and used as flour. It can be broken up into larger pieces and used as porrdige. Or it can be softened with water or posca, and eaten as it is. When in its hard state, it lasts for a very long time if it's kept dry.
Salvete Omnes!

You have to remember that after the Marian reforms us poor legionaries had to carry our own grain supplies. 3 days worth was probably the smallest amount. Bucelarum or hard tac is very useful as it dose not completely cook the grain, although that does depend on the temperature it’s dried at. Bear in mind, even freshly prepared bucelarum still contains 5% to 20% moisture, enough for most yeast to establish themselves, so leavened breads are easily raised. Regardless of whether it's hard tac or grain I'm really trying to find out what it may have been stored in.

Valete,

Nerva.
What about a drawstring sack coated with wax or oil so as not to permit air or moisture getting to the food? Light enough to carry and easy enough to make. Though evidence would be hard to come by :| .
Interesting thing to consider.

I would have thought it unlikely that bread in a loaf form was crried at all as it is bulky and goes stale quickly. It stays fresher if it is wrapped in a damp cloth and stale bread also freshens if you pour water on it and then heat it again - but any scraps are then too hard to consider worth keeping. This would beg a question of the availability of ovens/hot stones etc on campaign to re-fresh the bread, which then queries the conditions of the march. It also infers that grain would have to be milled on the march and that would require a heavy (smaller perhaps) mill stone to be carried by some one/somewhere (conternubia mule?).

Practically, already ground grain or hard tack would be a more productive way of preserving the grain ration but would need to be kept dry, so double wrapping would be best - linen then placed in a leather pouch? Hard tack biscuits could be kept anywhere on the person and provide a sustaining snack en route, but tend to increas the requirement for water - another bulky, heavy item to carry.

(The British Army had a very sweet, oat based biscuit in the 24 hr ration pack which could be eaten as it was or it made a great porridge when hot water was added. Very filling and warming after a hard day...especially if you add dried apple flakes to "spice" it up!)
Quote:Practically, already ground grain or hard tack would be a more productive way of preserving the grain ration
That's true of course, but when on campaign for months at a time, even that would run out. There are numerous accounts of Caesar's troops foraging in (other people's) fields for grain. So it stands to reason that they did, in fact, carry querns with them. One idea suggested in some thread here was that each contubernium carried one on their mule.

Also, a makeshift earth oven can be made from a few flat stones, some earth, and a little knowhow. So yes, they would have been able to bake fresh bread if they had a time to prepare, or if they were camped for a few days in one place.
Quote:
Quote:Also, a makeshift earth oven can be made from a few flat stones, some earth, and a little knowhow. So yes, they would have been able to bake fresh bread if they had a time to prepare, or if they were camped for a few days in one place.

I would agree with that too, and I suppose it all depends on the context of the storage required.

Long marches would probably required milled grain carried and ready, when more time was perhaps spent throwing up defences than cooking for over night halts. Long term campaigns with rests and halts at known areas, or expeditionary camps would require a more organised administration and long term approach...and foraging or perhaps even local purchase (is that too polite for a Roman expeditionary force??!) is a lot easier than the logistics required for carrying many weeks/months supplies. It must also affect the timing of campaigns too. It is a lot easier to acquire grain already gathered than trying to get it "off the hoof" as it were.

Is there any evidence for small, portable querns? Or would it be a large pestle and mortar?

It just keeps throwing up more questions doesn't it!
Most villages on the way would have mill stones why not gather grain on the way and grind it when camped outside of the village. I would think each permanent fortification would desire at least basic food tools to sustain a garrison also.
As in most Roman military topics, we are not blessed with a superabundance of evidence, and must apply a healthy dose of speculation.

Having said that, the primary evidence -- if I have forgotten anything, please remind me -- is (a) Plut., Antony 45.4, where Antony's soldiers cannot mill grain because they have abandoned their baggage (the implication being that they had been carrying mill-stones with them); (b) Herodian 4.7.5, where Caracalla is anxious to bond with the common soldiers on campaign, so he mills his own ration of grain and bakes his own loaf; © the archaeological find of a small mill-stone (ca. 42 cm diameter) at the Saalburg, inscribed CON BRITTONIS, which has reasonably been explained as meaning con(tubernii) Brittonis, "belonging to Britto's squad", and has been interpreted as designed for use on campaign (due to its small size); and (d) the actual finds of stone-lined field ovens (for baking bread) in the marching camp at Kintore.
Quote:... © the archaeological find of a small mill-stone (ca. 42 cm diameter) at the Saalburg, inscribed CON BRITTONIS, which has reasonably been explained as meaning con(tubernii) Brittonis, "belonging to Britto's squad", and has been interpreted as designed for use on campaign (due to its small size); and (d) the actual finds of stone-lined field ovens (for baking bread) in the marching camp at Kintore.


Magic! Do you have a more detailed reference for the small mill-stone please? And possibly a photo? I had a discussion on this dum de dum years ago while excavating at Arbeia Roman Fort in South Shields and finding what I argued were bits of smaller mill stones reused to patch road surfaces...far too junior then to be taken notice of though :?
Salvete Omnes!

It's interesting how a simple question can turn into a fascinating thread. This has turned into a really interesting argument. I performed a fairly simple experiment week before last. I took 5 kilo's of buckwheat and ground it using a small hand quern stone, it took me over two hours (I know, I'm an embarrassment to the guild of millers :oops: ). I then had to separate the husks and chaff from the flour, again I sucked at that, it took me about 40 minutes. I ended up with just over a kilo of flour, that’s a harvest ratio of 5:1...dismal, but that’s me :roll:

I then made a simple dough using only water and salt (200ml of water and 1mg of salt). Now we get to the interesting bit…cheating Confusedhock: Yes it's true, I added 2 grammes of yeast. I know the Romans would have not added yeast in native form but they would have kept a host (a dough which is never fully used for bread but which is used as means of sustaining a yeast colony for continual sacrificial use in regular batch loafs). A portion of this dough would be added to any new batch to provide the leavened start. So maybe I'm only cheating a little :wink:

Well it took almost 4 hours to rise (oh dear, reminds me a bit of myself on a good day :lol: ). I then baked it in a regular oven at 180 Deg. C for 40 minutes. Now that’s about 7.5 hours all in all. Now let's assume our ancient forefathers were more talented than me (not bloody hard) and could have milled and prepared the grain in 1 hour. Yeast is yeast and the best they could have done in warm conditions would be 2 hours to rise the dough. Baking is a hard one to estimate, but for the sake of argument let’s say 1 hour. That’s 4 hours in total, half of which is down to the expansion of the yeast and carbonation of the dough.

So where did the average contubernia find the time to bake bread? You can see why unleavened bread may have been far more practical on campaign. With unleaded bread a compound such as bread soda or Sodium bicarbonate is used to carbonate and raise the dough. The beauty of this is that it takes no time at all, once the dough is mixed it goes in the oven.

Now ovens are a whole different discussion…
Quote:Well it took almost 4 hours to rise
Yeast is for sissies. I seem to recall that Junkelmann did an experiment where he was able to mill grain and bake an unleavened loaf in around 1 hour (I think).
Quote:Do you have a more detailed reference for the small mill-stone please?
H. Jacobi, Saalburg-Jahrbuch 3 (1912), 21, with Taf. 5,40 (I think).
Quote:And possibly a photo?
Even better: a drawing![attachment=0:165d0p7p]<!-- ia0 Saalburg-millstone_small.jpg<!-- ia0 [/attachment:165d0p7p]
Quote: Yeast is for sissies. I seem to recall that Junkelmann did an experiment where he was able to mill grain and bake an unleavened loaf in around 1 hour (I think).

Well he's a better man than me, Gunga Din Big Grin lol:
Thank you for the references - got some interesting things when I googled it but not as accurate as yours ta!

Nerva - that ain;t bread, that's a work of art LOL!! Seven and half hours...did you eat it? :lol:
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