Roman Military Camps

Stage 27: in castris
The Legionary Fortress
The Legionary Fortress
The fortress where a legion lived when not on
campaign was like a fortified town which covered 50-60
acres (about one third of Pompeii)
There was a standard pattern for the layout
Chief buildings were the principia, praetorium,
valetudinarium, and the horrea
Roads were laid out in a grid pattern although there
were three main streets: 1) via praetoria-from the main
gate to the front entrance of the principia; 2) via
pricipalis-across the whole width of the fortress; and 3)
via quintana-behind the principia and across the width
of the fortress
The fortress was surrounded by a ditch, vallum, which
was an earth wall or mound, and battlements, with
towers at the corners and at intervals along the sides.
Each side had a fortified gateway.
The principia was a large and impressive
building at the heart of the fortress
Visitors would enter a flagstone courtyard
surrounded on three sides by a colonnade
and storerooms, on the far side was a large
basilica where the commander worked with
his cofficers, interviewed important local
people, and administered military justice
Major Buildings
Plan of a legionary fortress
In the center of the far long wall of the basilica and
directly facing the main gate was the most sacred
place in the fortress, the sacellum, or chapel.
The standard of the legion was housed here, the
aquila. It was made of gold and in its talons clutched
a bundle of golden darts that represented the
thunderbolts of Jupiter. The aquila represented the
spirit of the legion and aroused feeling of intense
loyalty and an almost religious respect.
To lose it in battle was the worst possible disgrace
and misfortune; this rarely happened.
The aquilifer was the soldier who looked after the
aquila and carried it in battle. He was a soldier of the
first cohort.
On either side of the sacellum were the
rooms for payroll and paperwork, close by
was the safe
The praetorium was behind the principia and
was a luxurious house in the style of an
Italian domus urbana which provided the
legatus and family comforts they required for
a civilized life: central heating, garden, and a
private suite of baths
The hospital contained many sick wards
which were designed to ensure peace and
quiet for the sick and injured
There was also a large reception hall to
accommodate an influx of casualties from
battle and a small operating theater equipped
with running water
Designed to keep grain dry and cool for long periods
In the first century AD they were made out of wood,
but from the second century on they were made of
Long, narrow building
Roof had overhanging eaves to carry the rain water
Floor was supported by small piers or low walls
which allowed air to circulate freely underneath
which prevented damp from rising
Could store grain for one or two years
Housing 5000-6000 men
Long, narrow, rectangular buildings were divided
into pairs of rooms, each pair providing
accommodation for an eight man section
Each section cooked for itself on a hearth in the
front living room
Each block housed a century
At the end of the block was the larger suite of rooms
for the centurion
Bath House
Important for hygenic and social reasons
Consisted of a tepidarium, caldarium, and
Sometimes it was outside the fortress by a
stream, or inside the fortress
Always outside the fortress
Same shape and layout as the civilian
amphitheater and could seat the whole legion
Used for ceremonial parades, weapon
training, and displays of tactics, as well as for
occasional gladiatorial shows
Local Citizens
Civilians tended to gather around military bases
Traders who set up bars to sell food and drink came
This was a place for soldiers to also meet local girls
Soldiers were not legally allowed to marry, but the
army allowed unofficial unions
The father lived in the barracks, while the family lived
just outside, and his sons enlisted at 18 or 19
Many of these settlements (vici) developed into towns
and even became self governing (Eboracum (York))
Military bases played an important role in the
development of civilian town life
Eboracum (York)
Praetorium-the living-quarters of the commanding
Valetudinarium-the hospital
Via praetoria-street which ran from the main gate to
the front entrance of the principia
Via principalis-street which extended across the whole
width of the fortress making a T-junction with the via
praetoria just in front of the principia
Via quintana-street which passed behind the principia
and also extended across the width of the fortress
Vallum-ditch surrounding the fortress which was an
earth wall or mound, and battlements, with towers at
the corners and at intervals along the sides
Basilica-great hall, where the commander worked with
his officers
Aquila-image of an eagle perched with outspread
wings on the top of a pole
Domus urbana-luxurious house with comforts
expected for a civilized life
Contubernium-long, narrow, rectangular buildings
providing accomodation for an eight man section
Vici-settlements outside of military bases
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