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Marching camps for small detachments
#1
Could I please get some advice on whether or not a small legionary detachment (say a century worth) would construct a marching camp while on the move? Would that mean they would have to have a mule train along with them as well? Your comments and thoughts are appreciated.
Frank Sultana

"I love treason but hate a traitor."
- Julius Caesar (100 BC - 44 BC)
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#2
Maybe I should reword my question to ask for an educated guess or even just an opinion. I do not seek historical evidence, rather what you think sounds right.

Again thanks.
Frank Sultana

"I love treason but hate a traitor."
- Julius Caesar (100 BC - 44 BC)
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#3
I actually asked a similar question a couple of years ago:

Small Unit Camps?

As you can see from that thread, there's nothing very tangible about the smaller sized camps. Units of a century or so were probably unlikely to be moving about far from the Roman frontier anyway, and within the frontier there would have been plenty of burgs, mansios and fortlets in the vicinity of the major road systems to accommodate them.

Beyond that, it seems we're into guesswork - there are a few very small marching camps, and I suspect there were probably more. A fortification of that size, particularly outside the Roman frontier, would not leave much of a visible record though, especially if it was only occupied for a night or so.
Nathan Ross
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#4
Thanks Nathan, I did search for an existing topic, but my Google foo failed me.

I see it was not such a silly question after all, and had also realized that a vexillation, as small as a century, may just never have traveled in enemy territory at all.

Again thanks for the reply and pointing me to your informative thread.
Frank Sultana

"I love treason but hate a traitor."
- Julius Caesar (100 BC - 44 BC)
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#5
Quote:I see it was not such a silly question after all, and had also realized that a vexillation, as small as a century, may just never have traveled in enemy territory at all.

I suspect they probably did, but it was either so common as to pass beneath notice or so uncommon that no standard procedure existed!

I think there's something in the Strategikon about small units sent out on reconnaissance or long-distance patrol in hostile territory, and how they might conduct themselves - it's very late Roman, but could preserve some details of earlier practice.
Nathan Ross
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#6
Currently tweeting my way along the construction camps of Hadrian's Wall (hashtags #hadrianswall #camp), most of which are under 1ha, and all of those so far added you can see here.

Mike Bishop
You know my method. It is founded upon the observance of trifles

Blogging, tweeting, and mapping Hadrian\'s Wall... because it\'s there
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#7
Is there any sort of handy calculation to try and roughly estimate the number of men that could have been accommodated in camps of a certain size?

I know any such estimates vary, and are far from exact. But could we say, for example, that a camp of 1 acre might have held X number of men, and divide or multiply proportionally? Or are there too many variables for this to work?

How many men might have used a camp like Haltwhistle Burn 4 (0.07 acres)?
Nathan Ross
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#8
Quote:How many men might have used a camp like Haltwhistle Burn 4 (0.07 acres)?

Guessing here but cannot imagine more than a century
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#9
Quote:Is there any sort of handy calculation to try and roughly estimate the number of men that could have been accommodated in camps of a certain size?
In her Roman Camps in Britain, Rebecca Jones discusses this in detail, looking at estimates starting with Roy, and points out that something around 630-740 per hectare seems to be consensus view. Of course, when you get into the realm of micro-camps, the intervallum occupies a much larger proportion of the internal area than in larger camps.


Quote:How many men might have used a camp like Haltwhistle Burn 4 (0.07 acres)?
Using RJ's figures, I reckon between 19 and 22 men :-)

I suspect the one constant in troop densities in camps was that there were no constants...

Mike Bishop
You know my method. It is founded upon the observance of trifles

Blogging, tweeting, and mapping Hadrian\'s Wall... because it\'s there
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#10
Why would size of the detachment matter? If it was common military practice to set up a defendable position for the night, would it not make sense a small detachment would dig in just the way a larger one would. They would have a smaller perimeter, but still a defendable position. Sound like good practice in enemy or hostile territory.
Salvete et Valete

Nil volentibus arduum


Robert P. Wimmers
Archeologie Beleven!
>http://www.ferrumantica.eu  (The NEW Fabrica of Vvlpivs!)
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#11
One thought: if each infantryman carried 2 of the pilum muralis-type wooden stakes to form the protection to the earth bank, the length of the perimeter which can be fenced is proportional to the size of the force and the area is proportional to the square of the size of the force. A very small force cannot carry enough pila. I have had a go at the maths:

If three pila are lashed caltrop style, and each is 1.7m long, the lateral breadth of the "cube" Is 0.85m (1.7m x cos 45 deg x cos 45 deg), since the pila have 45 degrees of offset to both the vertical and horizontal).

(Pila placed vertically would have to be 30 cm apart - too wide - to get coverage of more than 0.85m per 3 pila, so caltrop-style seems more efficient.)

Simplistically, if a century of 80 men has 5 "non-pila-porters" (assuming centurion, optio, tessesarius, standard-bearer and musician are spared), then such a century would have75 x 2 pila = 150, enough to form 50 "caltrops". The lateral length of each is 0.85m, so this is enough to form a square (the 4-sided shape with the highest area for a given perimeter) of 10.6 x 10.6m (i.e. 50 caltrops x 0.85m x 1/4 for the four sides), an area of 112 square metres, or 1.4 square metres per person, i.e. not enough.

If we say 750 troops per hectare, the upper end of the above range for troop densities, we need c13 square metres per soldier (i.e. hectare = square of 100m x 100m).

Using the above assumptions, the relationship between area and number of troops when the are enclosing their camp only with pila they are carrying themselves is:

Area A = square of (Troops N x 75/80(to exclude officers) x 2(pila each man)/3(pila to make a caltrop) x 0.85m(caltrop length) x 1/4 (to divide caltrops into 4 sides of square)) = 0.0176 x N x N.

If we say that each man has 13 square metres, so that A = 13N, we can solve the equation to get the minimum number of men who can carry enough pila to complete a camp perimeter:

A = 0.0176 x N x N & A = 13N, therefore 13 = 0.0176N therefore N = 739.

This implies that anything smaller than a cohort & a half (especially when you consider cavalry, officers, etc) must have travelled with a few cartloads of pila if they really did put a continuous hedge of pila around the perimeter.

Thoughts anyone?

John
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#12
Quote:One thought: if each infantryman carried 2 of the pilum muralis-type wooden stakes to form the protection to the earth bank, the
Simplistically, if a century of 80 men has 5 "non-pila-porters" (assuming centurion, optio, tessesarius, standard-bearer and musician are spared), then such a century would have75 x 2 pila = 150, enough to form 50 "caltrops". The lateral length of each is 0.85m, so this is enough to form a square (the 4-sided shape with the highest area for a given perimeter) of 10.6 x 10.6m (i.e. 50 caltrops x 0.85m x 1/4 for the four sides), an area of 112 square metres, or 1.4 square metres per person, i.e. not enough.

Without any of the math presented above (or anywhere near the knowledge), I had a "feeling" that a small marching camp just would not look right and would be too small to be effective. That's what prompted my original question. Throw in any animals and the space becomes even more severe.
Frank Sultana

"I love treason but hate a traitor."
- Julius Caesar (100 BC - 44 BC)
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#13
Quote:Using RJ's figures, I reckon between 19 and 22 men

Thanks! Using the same sort of calculation, I'd estimate the camp at Limestone Corner (0.06 acres) had enough space for 15-18 men... :errr:

Are there dimensions available for any of these very small camps (Haltwhistle Burn 4, Bean Burn 2, Grindon School or Limestone Corner)? Grindon School, at 0.3 acres, seems the closest to a 'century' size. Any way of assessing the width or depth of the surrounding ditches?

If we assume that these little camps were just scaled-down versions of the bigger camps (which in itself is quite an assumption!), then the resulting ditch and turf rampart must have been somewhat short of formidable, with or without stakes...
Nathan Ross
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#14
Nathan.

Where you estimate 15-18 men at the Limestone corner camp is just about the amount of troops it would take to operate a signal station, which is a thought I have had about this camp in particular for some time now for indeed that is just what it may well have been and there is very good evidence to suggest this.
Brian Stobbs
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#15
Quote:Thoughts anyone?
Other than the obvious 'you need to get out more!'? :-)

Mike Bishop
You know my method. It is founded upon the observance of trifles

Blogging, tweeting, and mapping Hadrian\'s Wall... because it\'s there
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