RomanArmyTalk

Full Version: Roman Soldier Diet and fitness
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
Pages: 1 2
I have always been interested in what the roman soldiers ate and what they did as exercise to become as fit as they were!! Is there any evidence of routine and diet structure within the ranks?

Look forward to what ever info you have for me!
Every month legionary troops went on three 30 km route marches in full pack and equipment, and I heard somewhere, at a pace of 6.4 kph (! - Anyone know if this is true?). At the end of each day he would construct a full camp. In addition to this there were the standard exercises of the post, javelin throwing, wrestling, etc etc.

If you are meaning specific exercise techniques, i.e. jumping jacks, bicycle crunches, someone else will have to tell you. But it seems, from everything that I've read, that the legionaries were toughened up by simulating the tasks they were to perform in the field while on campaign. However I find it unlikely that there wasn't the odd centurion who didn't demand his legionaries be capable of doing 50 push ups at a moment's command. That information just might not have come down to us, or is very obscure perhaps?
Don't forget many of the legionaries would have started out reasonably fit as they came from farming stock, in the main.

Diet probably depended upon if they were in barracks or on the march.

On the march dried foods would be in order grain, hardtack, cheese dried meats and sausages, plus whatever could be foraged (given time, season and environment). The hardtack could certainly be made into a porridge and grain could produce an unleavened bread (lagana - see Sally Grainger's books for recipe).

In Barracks Leavened breads, fresher foodstuffs and probably a plethora of other goodies from the local Vicus would be available to supplement the basic grain rations. Of course legionaries would have to pay for these themselves and so would probably prefer to save their money for beer and women. Traditionally brewed beer probably provided most of the vitamins minerals and carbohydrates (plus some protein) that a growing Tiro would need. :wink:

As for the marches; a standard march was 20 Roman miles in 5 hours or a forced march of 24 Roman miles in 5 hours. :? So, Paullus, your calculation sounds as though it refers to the standard march.

Don't forget of course this was all done in full battle kit and carrying impedimenta.
I think Vegetius says the "standard" march was 20 Roman miles in 5 hours at *mid-summer*. Since the Romans divided the daylight into 12 equal hours, a mid-summer hour is longer than a modern hour. And a Roman mile is shorter than a modern one. So it's more like 18 modern miles in almost 6 hours, a very reasonable walking pace. You can't go much faster than your baggage train, after all. In actuality, of course, they didn't always march that far every day on campaign. But they could!

And I think he says the did route marches *3* times a month in peacetime.

Daily formation drill and weapons training would keep them pretty fit. Plus recruits were taught to ride, swim, jump, and run, so I wouldn't be surprised if there were obstacle courses and such.

Matthew
R.W. Davies in "The Roman Military Diet," published in 1971, says on the basis of his reading of history, epigraphy, and archaeological finds that Roman soldiers throughout the Republic and Empire ate meat. Especially when as Mark said above - in permanent barracks/forts.

Much of Davies' work in "The Roman Military Diet" is interpretation, but some of it is scientific analysis of bones excavated from Roman British and German military sites dating from Augustus to the third century. From the analysis, we know the Romans ate ox, sheep, goat, pig, deer, bore, and hare, in most places and in some areas, elk, wolf, fox, badger, beaver, bear, vole, ibex, and otter. Broken beef bones suggest the extraction of marrow for soup. Alongside the animal bones, archaeologists found equipment for roasting and boiling the meat as well as for making cheese from the milk of domesticated animals. Fish and poultry were also popular, the latter especially for the sick.

Roman Soldiers Ate (and Perhaps Drank) mostly grain.
Davies is not saying the Roman soldiers were primarily meat eaters. Their diet was mostly grain: wheat, barley, and oats, mainly, and also spelt and rye. But, just as Roman solders were supposed to dislike meat, so too they were supposed to detest beer -- considering it far inferior to their native Roman wine. Davies brings this assumption into question when he says a discharged Germanic soldier set himself up to supply the Roman military with beer near the end of the first century.

It might be argued that the information about Roman soldiers of the Imperial period is irrelevant for the earlier Republican period. But even Davies argues that there is evidence from the Republican period of Roman history for meat consumption by soldiers: "When Scipio reintroduced military discipline to the army at Numania in 134 B.C., he ordered that the only way the troops could eat their meat was by roasting or boiling it." Q. Caecilius Metellus Numidicus made a similar rule in 109 B.C.

Lack of Refrigeration Meant Summer Meat Would Have Spoiled
Davies lists one passage that has been used to defend the idea of a vegetarian military during the Republican period: "'Corbulo and his army, although they had suffered no losses in battle, were worn out by shortages and exertion and were driven to ward off hunger by eating the flesh of animals. Moreover, water was short, the summer was long....'"

Davies explains that in the heat of the summer and without salt to preserve the meat, soldiers were reluctant to eat it for fear of getting sick. Also mentioned is a passage from Suetonius' biography of Julius Caesar in which Caesar made a generous donation to the people of Rome of meat.

Soldiers Could Carry More Protein Power in Meat than Grain. Davies is not saying the Romans were primarily meat eaters even in the Imperial period, but is saying that there is reason to question the assumption that Roman soldiers, with their need for high quality protein and to limit the amount of food they had to carry, avoided meat.

The literary passages are ambiguous, but clearly the Roman soldier of at least the Imperial period did eat meat and probably with regularity. (More often than not when garrissoned at a permanent camp or fort rather than a moving army) That the later Roman soldier may have been more likely to be from Gaul or Germania may not be sufficient explanation for the Imperial soldier's diet. This seems to be one more case where there is reason at least to question the conventional (here, meat-shunning) thoughts.
There is a mention too, somewhere, of a type of bread that was supposed to be baked several times. The supplier cut corners to maximise his profit, and only baked it once or something, and it all went off, or made the troops sick.

Any one hear of this?
Being at college now and doing physical stuff every day, I wonder how they treated daily injuries like muscle pulls, shin splints and the like?
With a vitus? :lol: :lol:

How is life at Police Academy Matt? One of my cousins husband is on the force in Toronto! Don't ask for a name tho, it has been a while sinceI have spoken to that side of the family! :wink:
Quote:There is a mention too, somewhere, of a type of bread that was supposed to be baked several times. The supplier cut corners to maximise his profit, and only baked it once or something, and it all went off, or made the troops sick.


They could be talking about hardtack.

After all the name 'biscuit' comes from the latin for twice ovened or twice baked.

There's a lot of other threads concerning both diet and hardtack.(Bucellata)

http://w10.eleven2.com/~joorthuy/rat/vi ... 19ee023d83

http://w10.eleven2.com/~joorthuy/rat/vi ... 19ee023d83

http://w10.eleven2.com/~joorthuy/rat/vi ... 19ee023d83
Hi Guys,

In regard to the argument weather soldiers ate meat on a regular basis,
Appian says that when Scipio arrived and rearranged his army he limited the gear of each soldier to necessaries and in regard to cooking

Quote:
For cooking utensils it was permitted to have only a spit, a brass kettle, and one cup. Their food was limited to plain boiled and roasted meats.

Don't know about you but that does it for me.
We have to beware translation here, and consider the vagaries of our own language. "Meat" used to mean simply "food." When animal tissue was meant the word used was "flesh." We still refer to nut meats, and repeat old formulae like "meat and drink," "one man's meat is another man's poison," etc. Here the meaning is simply "food."
That may be so John but as far as I know a spit is usually used to roast meat. At least where I come from Smile
Roasted vegetables may be very in vogue but they don't carry well & the thought of boiled nuts conjurs up a very different image :oops:
There is a great book which consummately discusses Roman military diet and everythiing around the topic:

Junkelmann, M., Panis Militaris, Mainz, 1997.

In the second issue of the Ancient Warfare Magazine there will also be an article about the topic. Smile
I remember reading somewhere that the Roman Army preferred recruits from the professions of herdsman and hunter, two groups that would have had a diet rich in animal protein.
Pages: 1 2