Full Version: Soldiers meal- where in the permanent camps
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This thing bothers me a lot? If soldiers had their meal during the day, every day, in the camp, where could it be???
In, or near baracks?
In other places, not so specialized buildings?
How that stuff with preparing, eating, clearing all the mess functioned?
My opinion is that baracks are not suitable, because they usually don't have space, sewers and water supply, but other buildings are on my mind, mostly those close to the underground infrastructure.
What is your opinion?
Quote:My opinion is that barracks are not suitable, because they usually don't have space, sewers and water supply ...
I seem to recall evidence of food debris, found in pits dug into the verandah-space in front of barrack blocks, but I cannot remember the precise details, Stefan.
Quote:I seem to recall evidence of food debris, found in pits dug into the verandah-space in front of barrack blocks, but I cannot remember the precise details, Stefan.

It could be argued that rubbish pits seldom reflect the day-to-day use of a site but rather reflect the end of the life of a site. Nevertheless, most Roman military sites produce evidence for ovens around the intervallum and Housesteads is a good example of that. In the north-east corner of the fort, two barrack buildings (13 and 14) shared one bakehouse containing two circular ovens - it was excavated in the 1970s/80s and is situated beneath the interval tower between the north-east angle tower and the east gate. There was only room in the structure for the ovens and the implication seems to be that the bakehouse was situated as close as possible to the barrack blocks so they could be supplied with the food directly. There are really no other buildings at Housesteads that could be used as a mess of any kind.

Mike Bishop
Quote:It could be argued that rubbish pits seldom reflect the day-to-day use of a site but rather reflect the end of the life of a site.
I absolutely take your point, Mike. (And welcome back to RAT!) And, furthermore, I accept that the following tidbit from Inchtuthil is perhaps not the best example to generalise from.

But it is interesting that, in the few barrack blocks that Richmond investigated "properly" (?), he found evidence that "Rubbish pits had been dug along the verandah, one per contubernium; their shape suggests that they were wicker-lined; a removable basket would make emptying easier. These pits were mainly used for food refuse; their contents included animal bones" (Pitts & St Joseph, [amazon]Inchtuthil. The Roman Legionary Fortress[/amazon], p. 151).

Incidentally, this is a very good example of how rumours start! Richmond's own drawings show clearly that, although there were several pits, there wasn't "one per contubernium", and I'm not sure how the shape of a pit is supposed to prove that it was once wicker-lined! The final report omitted any study of animal bones, so it's not clear exactly what Richmond found in his verandah rubbish pits. :roll:
It reminds me on Morels reconstruction of Rodgen where in front of some baracks (tents) were rectangular pits displayed.
I think there is evidence at some of the forts along Hadrians wall for cooking in the front of the barracks too! Not sure which forts I saw this in tho'

OK sorry, was thinking about the details Mr cambell just finished speaking about, so am probably worng, again! :roll:
There are a large number of rectangular buildings spaced at regular intervals around the ramparts of the fortress of Chester. I seem to recall that they were first interpreted as places where the soldiers might have had their meals but I am not sure if this interpretation is still held.
Is it more likely that the soldiers just recieved some rations to cook themselves or that there was some kind of kitchen which provided food for all of the troops and they just went there to get it and eat it somewhere?

I just remember that appartements in the insulae in Rome for example don't show any kinds of kitchen or something like that and that it was suggested that it was quite common for the ordinary people in the towns to go and get their food in one of the many "fastfood" places everywhere in town. So if this is true I wouldn't be surprised at all to find some central kitchen in the permanent camps.

plus if you look at the organisation of the army with hospitals, baths and so on, it wouldn't be so hard to imagine some kind of legion's kitchen as an institution, especially because it would probably be cheaper for the army to buy, have more control over the soldier's diet and would save much time because the soldiers don't need a 2hour break to prepare food, cook and eat. :wink:
hmmm. We know that soldiers received rations, traditionally in grain, though at some point, and probably (in the way of such things) earlier in practice than in the written record, augmented by oil, wine and other foodstuffs. I am not sure any more, but Irecall a source mentioning that soldiers swapping their rations for prepared food or drink was a problem duriong the Principate.

We have a reasonably good idea of the many specialists active in the Roman Army. the ones responsible for doling out rations were (probably) the mensores. Yet in that body of evidence, I know of no coquus or pistor. Neither do the pridiana mention cooking durty, though they mention bath duty. We have no evidence of institutionalised food preparation.

Bear in mind also the tradition that the Roman Army comes from. Traditions in institutions are long-lived - take for example the fact that we have not had an active aristocracy for ages, but the world's armies still clearly distinguish commissioned officers (who are gentlemen) and other ranks (who are not) instead of providing a unified career path with different entry levels. The Roman army did not assume responsibility for feeding or paying its troops initially. Rations and pay became fixtures gradually, with reality outstripping regulations all the time. It is perfectly conceivablke that the institutional framework made no provision for food preparation. It didn't in the case of the grain dole in Rome, either (until late).

How the Roman army supposedly operated and what it did on the ground frequently appear to have been very different. That may well account for baking ovens, camp kitchens and the fireplaces inside barracks blocks reconstructed as cooking fires.

In the end - and this one needs taking with a scoop of salt - I am convinced we've been reading the Roman army all wrong. I can't prove it, but I suspect the parallels with modern armnies and the loving accounts of upper-class nostalgics have blocked our view of the way that things were done. It is quite conceivable that nobody had a problem with the idea of troops spending a good deal of time making their food. This would have represented a valuable skill, confirmed their martial virtue (cooks are a phenomenon of luxu, the sapping influence of decadence, and according to Vegetius barred from military service in Ye Olden Days), and above all, would have been a perfectly normal thing - everybody did it. A modern army's concern for efficiency and professionalism dictates differently, but the Romans didn't tick like us.

So I would assume that the troops were at all times issued rations (initially grain, with occasional extras, later more varied foods until, by the time of the 3rd centuy annona militaris, almost everything would be porovided in kind rather than bought from pay). They were then expected to make of these what they would, bread, porridge, soup, perhaps toasted grain (puffed wheat is fine finger food, if tricky to get right), and any arrangements to do so communally were 'the way things were done here' until they were systematised in Late Antiquity.

One last thought: we should not forget that Roman soldiers had slaves - not all of them, perhaps only a few, perhaps almost all, but that labour was available and could well have been used for food preparation. I suspect - scoop of salt again - that the armies of the Caesars were a lot less 'Schütze Arsch' and a lot more warrior aristocracy than popular imagination suggests.
I have started to thinking about this problem from completely different point. In fact from point of organization of underground structure in fortresses. In fact in one part of SIng. camp there is no such structure, so I figured that it has to do something with inside life organization. Main two everyday needs of every man are....., we know which two. So, latrine and thermae are well documented, food and everything about the food is another problem, so I have started to think (lazy me in fact von Petrikovits has dedicated part of Innenbauten to this topic) how they organized themselves. First of all I thought about canabae legionis, in fact what was the purpose of these military areas outside camp, so some parts of food preparation and consuming could be done there, another is inside the camp, and intervalum is obviously part of camp where such tasks are possible. So I agree with Michael, organization of camp is telling us that we simply can not neglect organization of everything, and to believe that such important aspect of food consuming and preparing was not organized. Maybe the term panis militaris castrense tell's about it.