A Foot in Both Camps: The Civilian Suppliers of the Army in Roman Britain

Ben Kolbeck
2018 Theoretical Roman Archaeology Journal  
The civilian attendants and suppliers of the Roman army-those who were attached economically and voluntarily to the Roman military-are an important and understudied group. This article explores their roles and experiences during the Principate in Britain. It is argued that civilians were deeply involved in the functioning of the peacetime army's supply-network; that these roles offered a scope for significant prosperity; and that the service community became increasingly integrated with local
more » ... grated with local areas and incorporated many local agents. Further, the article argues that, in self-conception and in practice, they inhabited both 'civilian' and 'military' communities, the distinction between these two being weaker than is sometimes assumed. Finally, by examining the material in the light of globalisation theory, this article suggests that civilian attendants and suppliers can be seen as both 'local' and 'global', while also arguing for a greater appreciation for variability of experience among those traditionally seen as representing 'global' interests. Key to globalisation theory is the tension between the global and the local, and the question of how the two are to be fitted together. This is a tension that surfaces frequently in the material under discussion here. The subjects of this study are liminal figures, with ' a foot in both camps' in more than one sense. They inhabited the boundaries between the military and civilian spheres, as non-soldiers who nevertheless were deeply integrated into military communities. At the same time, they were located in the liminal space between the global and the local, representing global (Roman) interests, and yet also interpreting and negotiating those global interests in local contexts. It is usually at the limits of definitions where the most illuminating examples are to be found, and as such I believe that the subjects of this article, properly studied, have something to tell us about the experience of connectivity and globalisation in the Roman world.
doi:10.16995/traj.355 fatcat:vytb726awraxjl76q3oipxcfre