Aquis Querquennis

Aquis Architecture (III): Soldiers' barracks, workshops, areas outside the walls and towns. - AquisQuerquennis 3D

Mapa zonas Aquis querquennis
Aquis3D 15 May, 2020 No Comments

This post finishes the series of articles related to the architecture of the Roman archaeological camp, Aquis Querquennis. The previous two can be found at:

Aquis Architecture (I): Construction and defensive system

Aquis Architecture (II): Main quarters, hospital and granary.

In this case, we will comment on the architecture, materials and floor plan of various areas that have not yet been analysed, such as the barracks, workshops, warehouses and commander residence.

Soldiers’ barracks

Troops barracks are logically the most numerous type of building in military enclosures. These buildings usually have an elongated rectangular plan divided into a series of duplex rooms. These spaces are called contubernia, since they had to house a contubernium (8 soldiers), and were thus divided because the front space (arma) was used as a warehouse or functional space and the one at the back (papilio) as a bedroom. At the top of the building was the residence of the NCOs, a compartmentalised space in various rooms around a central corridor.

Five buildings have been documented in Bande for the time being that could have been used as barracks for the troops.

All these buildings follow a very similar construction pattern: they are rectangular and organised internally in a U-shape around an open central courtyard. Around the courtyard are two rows of cubicles or rooms each divided into two rooms: armae (3.75 x 2.5 m) and papiliones (3.75 x 3.7 m).

As we already pointed out, the cubicles would have been divided into two areas by a dividing wall. The front or arma would have opened onto the interior courtyard, since the door that allowed access to the rooms was located on its facade, and would serve as a meeting area, kitchen or simply for storage. The rear, papilio, would have been a bedroom, with the soldiers’ beds attached to the walls of the room.

The presence of the wells is worth mentioning, as it indicates that, to a large extent, the water supply depended on the rainfall collected by the pipes that longitudinally crossed the courtyard itself. These would be made of stone and, in theory, would not have a roof.

The places for the NCOs are divided into 6-7 (depending on the barracks) small rooms arranged around a central corridor connecting with the entrance hall and forming an L shape. It seems that the NCOs’ rooms are not finished significantly better than those of the soldiers, although it was possible to identify the existence of an extra cabin to be used. It is quite possible that not all the remaining rooms would have been bedrooms, and there may be meeting or leisure areas equipped with various furniture (e.g. cabinets, chests, tables or chairs).

Aquis Querquennis - Soldiers barracks
Aquis Querquennis – Soldiers barracks

The Commander’s residence

In the classic distribution model of Roman forts, the main quarters (principia) would be crossed by the granary (horrea) and by the commanding officer’s residence (praetorium). As the northern area of the lateros praetorii in Bande has not yet been explored, the building in question could have been found here.

The praetoria of the imperial era follow the style of the Roman aristocratic domus. As these are private residences, a high degree of variability is to be expected. However, they were usually organised around an internal porticoed courtyard (atrium) and a series of public and private rooms. Thus, there would be warehouses, kitchens, dining rooms and bedrooms; and some even have their own bathrooms. Frequently, richer pavements and pictorial decorative elements appear in these buildings.

Barracks and stables

According to the archaeologists digging on the site, the Bande fortification would have been occupied by a legionary cohort of 6 centuries of 80 men each. Each of the troop barracks could house a century, so there should still be another building to be found. If the fortification was symmetrical, this construction would be to the north of the principia.

However, it does seem clear that these new barracks will have a floor plan very similar to the buildings discovered so far. There may also have been stables for animals in the fortifications since we know that the legions had a small detachment of cavalry, and that the horsemen in these units would share the same barracks as their mounts; such that the horses would occupy the front area with their riders at the rear. However, such a cavalry squadron in Bande is currently only conjecture.

Workshops and storehouses

Aquis Querquennis - Various areas in the barracks
Aquis Querquennis – Various areas in the barracks

The Roman army demanded a constant supply of goods and equipment. Therefore, there were often storage areas in these fortifications other than granaries, such as in workshops (fabricae) where different crafts or industries were conducted, usually related to working with metals, wood, leather or bone. Military equipment would be made or repaired in these locations.

There are a series of rooms in this area that could have been used for storage or carrying out the aforementioned activities, in which case we may find hydraulic floors, tools, defective parts or waste material, for example.

Likewise, there is evidence for the presence of weapons store areas in these forts and fortifications, at least as regards common equipment and replacements.

Extramural areas

Ancient sources mention a good number of civilians followed Roman soldiers on their movements – e.g. slaves, families, merchants, craftsmen and prostitutes – and had to camp outside the military compound at all times. Once permanent military bases appeared, primitive towns established around them were also consolidated until they formed true protourban nuclei called uici. Sometimes these towns were located next to the fortifications, while in other cases they were at a certain distance from them, due to an area of military exclusion.

Over time, if the uicus showed a certain strength in its work as a redistributive centre for goods and services, larger buildings would appear, such as granaries, stables, warehouses, workshops, road stations and even monuments or prestigious buildings, such as temples or baths.

The immediate surroundings of the Bande fortification have been explored only occasionally. However, just 20 m southeast of the enclosure is a series of small structures: some stone walls with little foundations that show up to four rooms on the ground plan, one of which had a hearth inside, so it could have been a kitchen.

An area of 20 x 10 m was also dug near the old church of Baños de Bande. Although various Roman construction items and materials were found, no clear structures could be recognized.

Aquis Querquennis - Porta decumana
Aquis Querquennis – Porta decumana

Structures were found In the vicinity of this area that were identified as part of the Aquae Querquernae mansio, a road station mentioned by the Antonine Itinerary. These consist of a building that has an inverted L-shaped floor plan in its last phase, compartmentalised into several rooms, and a possible porticoed courtyard. Materials were found here that span from the Flavian period (late 1st century AD) to the 5th century AD. However, the reuse of construction items from the military fort indicates that these structures would have appeared after the fort was abandoned.

Given the lack of evidence, there is little that can be ventured regarding the order of the town that would grow around the military fort following one of its roads. Undoubtedly, in this place a settlement whose livelihood was directly related to the presence of the military unit would have accommodation and this would imply the existence of residential spaces, workshops, shops, bars and even brothels.

The most viable hypothesis seems to be that the nucleus of Aquae Querquennae began its existence during the period of military presence in the town, but that it would not reach its peak until the soldiers left. It is very possible that in the environment of the fort there were also other small settlements, such as open farms.

Finally, there must have been a necropolis in the vicinity of one of the local roads. Despite the various funerary epigraphy located in the area, the exact situation of this site is unknown, either from the time of the military occupation or from the later period.