Book Review: Feeding the Roman Army: The Archaeology of Production and Supply in NW Europe


by Sue Stallibrass and Richard Thomas, editors

Oxford: Oxbow Books/Oakville, Ct.: David Brown Books, 2008. Pp. v, 169. Illus, maps, diagr., notes, biblio. $60.00 paper. ISBN: 978-1-84217-323-7

The Imperial Roman Army was undoubtedly the largest bureaucratic institution in Western history until the nineteenth century.  The ten essays in this volume address the problem of how this enormous force was fed during the heyday of the Empire. 

Focused on north-western Europe, the work nevertheless draws upon evidence ? literary, documentary, archeological ? from other parts of the Roman world.  Much of this evidence is zoological and botanical in origins, the result of excavations in the midden heaps outside former Roman camps, and the reader will find a good deal of material on the varieties of animal, vegetable, and liquid provisions supplied to the troops.  There is also a good deal on how regional environments and resources affected the military diet; e.g., pork was of only minor importance in the meat ration in some areas, while in others it ranged up to 60 percent.   

The work provides some interesting insights into how over time importation often gave way to local production, how local economic activity changed, and how lifestyles evolved in various newly annexed and even "barbarian" regions near the Imperial frontiers, due to the presence of large permanent garrisons, which promoted increasing Romanization. 

A highly technical work, and not the easiest read, Feeding the Roman Army will be of value students of the Roman military or those interested in logistics.
Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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