Thread Rating:
  • 0 Vote(s) - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Small unit camps?
#1
As everyone knows, the Roman army on campaign constructed a fortified camp at the end of every day's march, destroying it again when they moved on. This would be fine for armies, single legions with auxiliaries, even larger vexillations. But what about smaller units - cohort size or less? Would they also construct a camp, on a reduced scale? What is the smallest known Roman 'marching camp'?

There are potentially two easy answers to this, I know - the first being that the Roman army did not commonly move around in hostile areas in anything less than cohort strength; the second would be that forts and fortified positions were established along roads that could offer temporary accomodation to smaller units in transit. Later, they could be billeted on locals.

However, there surely must have been situations where smaller military groups would need to camp in the open - parties of new recruits or reinforcements in frontier areas, conveyed by a centurion or optio, or bodyguard groups for travelling officials or envoys to foreign powers. Some of these groups could feasibly consist of a centuria, a single turma, or less. Would they too build a camp?

I doubt there's any actual evidence, archaeological or literary, for this, so my question is perhaps rather speculative. I recall, in Shipway's novel Imperial Governor, some mention of rough zareba-style fortifications using spiky bushes, but I suspect this detail comes more from Mr Shipway's experiences in the army in India than anything Roman! But what do others think?

:?:
Nathan Ross
Reply
#2
Nathan.

I do know that on the Otterburn military range there are two smaller camps known as Sills north and south that are not massive camps, I don't know the actual size of these but then there are many situations where smaller parts of larger camps have been sectioned off so can this be a way where they just used another larger one and cut down the area required.
These camps can all be very clearly seen on Google Earth and I do think that your man for camps would be Duncan Campbell, there are also small camps along the length of Hadrian's Wall but these served another purpose I'm sure.
If however on google earth you follow upward along the A 68 from Corbridge there is a very good one on the left of the road just before you reach the junction with the 6318 Military road that is Hadrian's Wall.
Brian Stobbs
Reply
#3
Quote:What is the smallest known Roman 'marching camp'?
Sounds like a pub quiz question. :wink: (You're not in a pub just now, Nathan, ... are you?)

Quote:There are potentially two easy answers to this, I know - the first being that the Roman army did not commonly move around in hostile areas in anything less than cohort strength; the second would be that forts and fortified positions were established along roads that could offer temporary accomodation to smaller units in transit.
I think you're probably right on the first score. On the second score, Antonine road-fortlets (a term that I have just invented to make it clear that the fortlets in question lie beside a major road!) often have sizeable annexes tacked on. One likely reason would be to offer secure accommodation to troops or traffic in transit. (I vaguely recall having previously posted a plan of Oxton fortlet, one of my favourites.)

Quote:However, there surely must have been situations where smaller military groups would need to camp in the open - parties of new recruits or reinforcements in frontier areas, conveyed by a centurion or optio, or bodyguard groups for travelling officials or envoys to foreign powers. Some of these groups could feasibly consist of a centuria, a single turma, or less. Would they too build a camp?
No idea. Your travelling officials are supposed to have stopped off at mansiones. There's a nice mansio at Vindolanda. (I can recommend the wine list. :wink: ) Small groups are maybe less likely to have been wandering around beyond the frontier.

Quote:I doubt there's any actual evidence, archaeological or literary, for this, ...
Which brings us back to your small camps. Brian's camps -- Sills Burn North and Sills Burn South, near High Rochester -- are roughly 2ha (= 5 acres). As you said, Brian, they are still upstanding, and have never been excavated (as far as anyone knows!).

If we're looking for smaller, there's a group of roughly 1.5ha (3 [sup]1[/sup]/[sub]2[/sub] acres) camps in the vicinity of the Antonine Wall (e.g. Easter Cadder, Polmonthill, Twechar). Because of their proximity to the frontier works, they are thought to have been "construction camps" for the squads building the Wall.

I'm not sure of the story behind Alverdiscott in Devon (allegedly 1.5ha). Perhaps our Devon correspondent might comment? :wink:

Edit: Tiniest camp found? Bishop Rigg near Corbridge (0.5ha = 1 [sup]1[/sup]/[sub]3[/sub] acres), thought to be a labour camp for a road-building squad.

Edit 2: Absolutely tiniest camp found! Sandford, 3.5 miles NW of Brough on the A66. Allegedly 180 x 100 ft (it was recorded in 1950 and disappeared from human ken!) which makes it 0.16ha ([sup]2[/sup]/[sub]5[/sub] acre). I wonder if this is Nathan's small group of recruits, lost on the way to Carlisle! :wink: (I'm going to stop looking now.)
posted by Duncan B Campbell
Reply
#4
"Devon Correspondent"....is that me? i'm glad you didn't say Expert as i am definatly not that.
Alverdiscot in North Devon is 1.47ha/3.6 acres and as far as i know, never been excavated.
There is another listed at Tiverton, that has a size of 1.35ha/3.35 acres, both are very small but similar in size.Also a fort between Tiverton and Wiveliscombe exists roughly 100m by 100m...thats small.And finally the Fort at Wiveliscombe is 1.45ha/3.5 acres.
With the exception of Alverdiscot, the rest of these "forts" seem to be in an area well behind the Legionary base at Exeter and possibly in a safer area so as to allow "practice" camps to be built,a sort of Sailsbury Plain for the Legion to operate in.
Only my thoughts.
Kevin
Kevin
Reply
#5
Quote:Sounds like a pub quiz question. :wink: (You're not in a pub just now, Nathan, ... are you?)
If I knew of a pub that asked quiz questions like that, I'd spend all my time there :grin:

Quote:Your travelling officials are supposed to have stopped off at mansiones... Small groups are maybe less likely to have been wandering around beyond the frontier.
The envoys I had in mind were more those travelling beyond the frontier, to meet with the potentates of barbaricum perhaps - anything from a centurion to a senator appears here and there, and presumably they didn't travel alone... As for the small groups - how about pre-Antonine Britain, for example? Would a centuria marching up Watling street from London to Wroxeter in the mid first century be assured of nightly refuge in Roman fortifications, or would they have to take their chances with the locals (or built a camp-let)? Then there are those praetorians supposedly sent off by Nero to find the source of the Nile... but that's so far off the beaten track it probably doesn't bear thinking about!

Quote:Absolutely tiniest camp found! Sandford, 3.5 miles NW of Brough on the A66. Allegedly 180 x 100 ft... which makes it 0.16ha...
I did think that the Flavian site at Bar Hill (half an acre, apparently) might be a camp, but it seems to be a fortlet instead. I can't think of any fortlet or watchtower or burg or whatever further than a day's march from a larger establishment, so presumably the little garrisons of these places wouldn't need to go roughing it in the wild on their journeys out and back...
Nathan Ross
Reply
#6
As a reply to the topic my question is did workparty's like roadbuilders make camps along the road as they progressed or did they walk every day to work before starting?
because i think even along the road no or even few camps are found?
How big would a roadbuilding party be?
AgrimensorLVCIVS FLAVIVS SINISTER
aka Jos Cremers
member of CORBVLO
ESTE NIX PAX CRISTE NIX
Reply
#7
Quote:
D B Campbell post=308329 Wrote:Absolutely tiniest camp found! Sandford, 3.5 miles NW of Brough on the A66. Allegedly 180 x 100 ft... which makes it 0.16ha...
I did think that the Flavian site at Bar Hill (half an acre, apparently) might be a camp, but it seems to be a fortlet instead. I can't think of any fortlet or watchtower or burg or whatever further than a day's march from a larger establishment, so presumably the little garrisons of these places wouldn't need to go roughing it in the wild on their journeys out and back...
Are we sure these earthworks are Roman camps? I've come across 'Roman camps' on ancient maps of Wiltshire for instance, and they are always either undated, or Medieval?
Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR
FECTIO Late Romans
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
[Image: artgroepbutton.jpg]
Reply
#8
Quote:Are we sure these earthworks are Roman camps? I've come across 'Roman camps' on ancient maps of Wiltshire for instance, and they are always either undated, or Medieval?
Admittedly, it can be difficult to tell for certain. Some of the factors we would look for are (a) a playing-card shape (nice rounded corners), (b) proportions of 1:1 through to 2:3 (on its own, no guarantee, as this probably covers most enclosures you're likely to find), © entrance gaps located centrally along each side (if roughly 1:1) or at least pairs of entrance gaps located opposite one another (creating a straight internal roadway from gate to gate), (d) Roman-style gate protection (the clinching factor, if you can find a titulus or clavicula).

Proximity to other Roman works often gives us a false sense of security, but a tentative case can be made for something like Sandford, because it lies beside a Roman road. Bishop Rigg is a safer bet, as it was actually trenched, turning up Roman pottery.
posted by Duncan B Campbell
Reply
#9
It is interesting to note that Bishop Rigg is on the 255 degree frontier line as discovered and recorded by the late Raymond Selkirk, this is a line that has forts at Roman mile intervals running from Whitley Bay on the east coast to Maryport in Cumbria.
This frontier line crosses Hadrian's Wall a bit further east between Whitchester and Harlow Hill or to be more correct Hadrian's Wall crosses this earlier line, it then links up with the Red House Roman Fort on the Stanegate to the west of the Roman site of Corbridge.
The 255 line then crosses the river Tyne and continues westward to Maryport on the Cumbrian coast, therefore as Robert has pointed out there may be more to what we think about Bishop Rigg being a marching camp.
Brian Stobbs
Reply


Possibly Related Threads…
Thread Author Replies Views Last Post
  Marching camps for small detachments fsultana 19 2,603 03-29-2014, 09:24 AM
Last Post: PhilusEstilius

Forum Jump: