Contubernium – a Roman squad
Contubernium was the smallest organized unit of the Roman army. It included 8 fighting men led by a Decanus. Two more auxiliary servants were usualy added to support the contibernum regarding food and tools. These eight soldiers shared a tent during campaigns or a room in the barracks while stationed in the Castrum. Decanus, as already mentioned, commanded these men and was held responsible for accomplishing the unit’s orders. If these orders were not obeyed a higher commander could punish the unit as a whole. This meant that it was essential for the contubernium to be well organized.
Auxiliary servants within the Contubernium
Contubernium was the Roman equivalent of today’s Squad with Decanus being the today’s NCO (non commissioned officer). He was usually a soldier that had the most experience in the squad – the one that served the longest in the army. The already mentioned servants took care of the unit’s domestic animals (Romans always took domestic animals on their campaigns as a source of food. They also had mules as means of transport). Servants were also in charge of some „special“ skills such as blacksmithing, leather-working and carpentry.
Housing of the Contubernium
Contiberniums shared a room in the barracks. Sometimes they shared a bigger hall with other contubernia, but while being on the campaign they always used the standardized tent. The base of this tent was circa 3 square metes large, while the height stood at 1.50 m. The mule operated by servants transported tent poles, folds, stakes and ropes. It also carried the tools used for tent construction. It was impossible for all men in the contubernium to fit inside the tent at the same time. However, this didn’t pose any problem as there were always at least 2 soldiers out acting as guards. So, 8 people could sleep in the tent without a problem, also leaving some space for equipment and clothing.