Tuesday, 8 April 2014


F is for Frumentum.

Now someone might quite rightly say what the ‘F’ is that? Those energy levels that I’ve mentioned in my 'E' post can only be achieved by a good food intake, so that the body is able to sustain the effort required of it.

Frumentum was the grain ration allotted to a soldier in the Roman Army. As part of their ‘contract’ with Rome they expected to be paid in more than one way. They had an annual ‘pay’ which was in many ways nominal since most were signed up for 25 years and didn’t get the cash until they ‘cashiered’ out of their post.
However, on a daily basis they expected to be given food rations.

Frumentum was their grain ration.
Whatever the contract stated, I’m fairly sure that the amount frumentum was very dependent on where the soldier was stationed; whether they were on an active campaign, or in a monitoring role somewhere in the Roman Empire.The grain supply may have depended on what type of plant was locally grown. If a typical emmer type of wheat grown by the Celts wasn't locally raised the supply may have come from oats or more likely from barley.

It seems standard that the quantity of frumentum x 8 was issued to each contubernium group of 8 soldiers and used to make a form of porridge, or baked as a flat bread in a 'typical pit/stone bread oven if the legion, or cohort, was on campaign.

Research seems to vary regarding who carried what during a long campaign. Some sources state that soldiers of the earlier Roman period carried their own issue of grains, sometimes for as many as fourteen or sixteen days, but others favour the idea that the pack mules carried the goods and then issued to the contubernium group at each marching camp.

It is documented that the conquest of Britannia was very important for the Roman Empire's coffers since areas of southern Britain grew plentiful crops, and some of those crop yields were wanted for feeding the Roman soldiers stationed in areas of the Empire which did not produce such good yields.   

Cibaria were the soldier's other rations which weren't grain. These including a small amount of meat, vegetables, vinegar and seasonal and stored fruits when available. These may not have been expected on a regular basis, not considered necessary for survival. The amount of meat eaten by the legionary seems to have varied a lot but is thought to be much less than would be currently expected.

Supplying the troops is the job of my Roman tribune in After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks. Gaius Livanus Valerius is mostly responsible for ensuring the sullies of metals flow around the Roman forts and encampments of the northern Britannic areas, but he is called upon to specially re-establish supplies of horses, mules and other goods when he is seconded from the Legio XX and spends some time as the top tribune, the Tribune Militis, for the Legio IX. In that function it would likely have been his responsible to oversee all supplies were being met efficiently- the Roman war machine being a very organised entity.   

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