Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Saturday 27 April 2024

This must be my week for being prompted by other people's blogs. Way back in January, Urspo referred to the idea floating around the internet about men's thoughts on the Roman Empire. I can't say I have many, although I went to the kind of grammar school that gave you plenty of Latin (and a low tolerance level for bloody Caesar throwing yet another bridge across yet another river), but seeing that the British Museum had an exhibition on life in the Roman army, it would be foolish not to see it.

Another daunting queue to get up to the security check, though having a timed ticket for the special exhibition got me priority (and when I came out - around noon - there was no queue at all, for whatever that tells you). Once inside, though there was plenty of room for everyone, and separate children's activities which kept the visiting primary school party busy away from the rest of us. 

 There were a few items I have actusally seen before on a visit to Vindolanda - leather shoes and sandals, and some writing tablets (what sounded like the equivalent of the "Colonel's lady" inviting a friend to a birthday party, and a list of supplies to be ordered) but so much more, about recruitment (pretty selective, and it helped to have contacts: also, soldiers had to provide their own arms and armour), training (tough), living conditions (also pretty tough if you were on campaign), health (tricky - disease and poor food were all too common), leisure, and the prospects of survival into retirement rewards (citizenship and pensions). Some of that might not be too different from almost any military, though presumably the Romams were the first that we can see how they systematised it all.

Not the kind of shield the ordinary soldier could afford

Not Mussolini but a military standard featuring the Emperor Galba -
until he met the same fate as Il Duce

Another standard - the "dragon" which also made what was supposed to be a fearsome sound

On campaign: constantly pitching and striking camp with tents made of goatskin and wooden tent pegs

On campaign, poor hygiene and disease were a recurrent problem - here's a portable medicine box

No qualms about enslaving their prisoners (if they took any), or about glorying in booty

Leisure time - gambling (of course) but to prevent cheating the black box is designed to randomise the casting of dice

Opportunities for fun for kids of all ages