TENT AND CAMP 12/19/07
| The Legion's outdoor
activities are usually centered on the camp. It is not just the
area in which we talk to the public and dump our gear, but part of our
overall impression. Because of the small size of our group it is
not possible to reconstruct an actual camp with ditches and
Our camp, therefore, is a sort of cross-section or sampler, with a
firepit, stacked arms, a sentry or two, and examples of whatever items
we have. Sometimes armor and equipment is displayed on a blanket,
or there may be a table with books and models adjacent to the camp.
Modern distractions such as coolers and bedding are forbidden in camp during public hours. An exception is the first aid kit, which is contained in a round leather box called a capsa. Whenever possible, food and other necessities should be removed from modern wrappings and stored in baskets, linen bags, etc. Covering modern items with a blanket or cloak is insufficient. Miscellaneous clutter and trash are to be avoided--even small items such as cigarette butts should be policed up before public hours begin. The tent is also open to display, so the same rules apply. Since visitors will be in the tent at times, do not store keys, wallets, or other valuables in it--keep them in a pouch inside your tunic, or carry them in your satchel.
Items which are historical but inappropriate to a marching camp are also not allowed: stools, chairs, etc. Baskets or Roman-style boxes may be allowed for containing period or modern gear. Obviously, our civilian displays could have such furnishings, as well as any appropriate awning or booth.
The tent was constructed mostly by Ed Safford, a former member, and is owned by several of the current members. Please be exceedingly careful not to damage it!! It is made of goatskin (one end is cow leather), hand-sewn with correct Roman seams that are designed to allow rainwater to run off without getting inside. Details of the construction were taken from the article "New Light on Old Tents" by Carol van Driel-Murray, in Volume 1 of the Journal of Roman Military Equipment Studies (http://www.jrmes.org), which examines a portion of tent found at Vindolanda. The goatskin panels from that site were based on a "standard" rectangle about 20 by 30 inches. We were forced by the smaller size of our goatskins to use a standard panel of 15 by 20 inches, but most of the other construction features are copied from the Vindolanda finds. The proper welted seams we used are shown on the Leatherworking Tips page. The initial waterproofing was done with a mixture of cod oil and lanolin, and we periodically coat it with neatsfoot oil. Small pinhole leaks we patch with wax and tallow.
The tent is approximately ten feet square and five feet tall. The side walls are about 14 inches high--there is some controversy concerning the height of the sides, due to the discovery at Vindolanda of the corner of a tent with walls three feet high and a more shallow roof. There are depictions of steeper-roofed tents on Trajan's Column, and surviving pieces of tent flaps from other sites that seem to show a steeper roof angle, but unfortunately neither reveals the height of the side walls.
| The poles include three
and a 2-piece ridgepole. This was devised partly for ease of
and the original system is unknown. The pegs are oak, based on
found at Newstead and other sites.
The reinforcing patches for the rope attachments are shown in the van Driel-Murray article. Each is a leather tab about 3-1/2 by 5 inches, square at the top and round at the bottom. Sewn to it at the round end are two successively smaller round patches, and through all are two slits or holes for the rope to go through. The stitch marks on the walls show that they were sewn flat to the side of the tent just under the eaves, each one straddling a seam between the wall panels so that one hole or slit was on each side of the seam. So the ropes passed completely through the patch and the wall, over the seam, and out again.
Finds of tent leather, goat or calf, are known from a number of sites, and Pliny says that 35 calfskins are required for a tent. Instead of "under canvas", an encamped force was said to be "subpellibus", literally "under hides". There is no literary or archeological evidence for fabric tents, so there is no reason to believe that Roman army tents were made of anything but leather.
here for Leatherworking Tips.
Progress photos of leather tent
being made by Legio V Alaudae, http://web.utk.edu/~cohprima/tent.html
Legio VI Victrix has a Leather Tent page, http://www.legionsix.org/Leather%20Tent%20%28Papilio%29.htm
Due to the sheer expense of the
leather, many Roman groups use canvas tents. These are often
painted brown to resemble leather, and can be quite convincing from any
Jared Fleury's tent project, http://www.florentius.com/tent.htm
Legio XXX Painted Canvas Tent, http://www.geocities.com/legio_tricesima_cohors_tres/campusMartis/conturbernium/ContuberniumTent.html
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