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Roman Military Logistics


Modern concepts of logistic functions

foodmosaic.jpg (46674 bytes)  Mosaic of various Roman food items from North Africa 3rd c. CE.  Found at Sousse, Tunisia.


A limiting factor in ancient warfare


Who were the logisticians of ancient times?


OXCARTNicols.jpg (17k)  Frieze of a Roman cart.  Photo by John Nicols.

WagonKoeln.jpg (39474 bytes)  Reconstructed Roman carriage in Roemisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne, Germany.  Photo by Jenny Cline.

MedicsPlate.jpg (36530 bytes)  Greek plate showing field medical care of battle wounds.  Photo courtesy VRoma.

wounded-mcmanus.jpg (58844 bytes)  Roman army medici tend wounded legionaries on the battlefields of Dacia, 1st c. CE.  (Trajan's Column, Rome).  Photo courtesy VRoma.


How logistics affected Roman tactics


Units of Money, Weight & Measure

coindiagram-vr.jpg (96274 bytes) 
Denominations of Roman coinage.  Courtesy VRoma

Greek Monetary Units

Attic talent                = 60 minae (26.196 kg = 57.8 lb)
    mina                    = 100 drachmae (436.6 gr = 15.5 oz)
    stater                   = 2 drachmae
    drachma              = 6 obols
    obol                     = 12 chalcia  

Egyptian drachma    = 1/4 Attic drachma
1 Attic drachma        = 1 Roman denarius

Roman Monetary Units

libra (pound)            = 12 unciae (about 327.5 gr = 11.5 oz)
aureus (gold piece)  =  25 denarii
denarius (10 as pc)  = 4 sesterces
sestertius (HS)        = 4 asses (originally 2.5 asses)

Greek Weights & Measures

artabe (Persian)       = about 1 medimnos (about 52 liters; a dry measure 
                                  equal to a Roman medimnus)
pechus (cubit)          = 1.5 podes (44.4 cm = 17.48 inches)
pous (foot)               = 16 daktuloi (29.6 cm = 11.6 inches)
daktulos (finger)       = 18.5 mm = .728 inches
aroura (in Egypt)      = about 1 Roman iugerum (land area)

Roman Weights & Measures

modius                    = 1/6 medimnus (about 8.6 liters = 15.17 pints)
pes (foot)                 = 29.57 cm (11.6 inches)
mille passus (mile)    = about 1500m (1618 yards)
iugerum                    = 28,800 sq Roman feet (.252 ha)


References & Sources

The food mosaic was taken from

The cart image above is (c) John Nicols, 1999, taken from the OSSHE Historical and Cultural Atlas Resource.

Units of money, weight and measure from B. Campbell, The Roman Army: a Sourcebook.  London: Routledge, 1996.



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