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The contubernium was the smallest organized unit of soldiers in the Roman Army and was composed of eight legionaries, the equivalent of a modern squad. The men within the contubernium were known as contubernales.[1] Ten contubernia were grouped into a centuria. Soldiers of a contubernium shared a tent, and could be rewarded or punished together as a unit.


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The contubernium was led by a Decanus, the equivalent of a junior non-commissioned officer. They were appointed from within the contubernium and were most likely the longest serving legionary.[2] Their duties would include organising the erection of the marching tent and keeping discipline.[3]

Two auxiliary “servants”, equivalent to modern logistical support troops, were assigned to each contubernium.[1] They were responsible for the care of the contubernium’s pack mule, making sure that the legionaries had water during the march, and often had special skills like blacksmithing or carpentry. While a unit of eight "contubernales" does not adhere to the organizational system in multiples of 10 men (“decanus”, “centuria”), when two auxiliaries are counted as an implicit part of the unit, a contubernium does match the nomenclature.


  1. ^ a b "The Roman Army of the Roman Republic". 2010. Retrieved 12 April 2010.
  2. ^ "Roman Military Glossary". 15 Mar 2010. Archived from the original on 3 March 2015. Retrieved 12 April 2010.
  3. ^ "Decanus 1st century AD". Retrieved 12 April 2010.

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