The contubernium was the smallest organized unit of soldier
A soldier is a member of the land component of national armed forces; whereas a soldier hired for service in a foreign army would be termed a mercenary...

s in the Roman Army
Military history of ancient Rome
From its origin as a city-state in Italy in the 8th century BC, to its rise as an empire covering much of Southern Europe, Western Europe, Near East and North Africa and fall in the 5th century AD, the political history of Ancient Rome was typically closely entwined with its military history...

 and was composed of eight legionaries. The men within the contubernium were known as contubernales. Ten contubernia were grouped into a centuria
Centuria is a Latin substantive from the stem centum , denoting units consisting of 100 men. It also denotes a Roman unit of land area: 1 centuria = 100 heredia...

. Soldiers of a contubernium shared a tent
A tent is a shelter consisting of sheets of fabric or other material draped over or attached to a frame of poles or attached to a supporting rope. While smaller tents may be free-standing or attached to the ground, large tents are usually anchored using guy ropes tied to stakes or tent pegs...

, and could be rewarded or punished together as a unit.

It was led by a Decanus
Decanus means "chief of ten" in Late Latin. The term originated in the Roman army and became used thereafter for subaltern officials in the Byzantine Empire, as well as for various positions in the Church, whence derives the English title "dean"....

, the equivalent of a junior non-commissioned officer
Non-commissioned officer
A non-commissioned officer , called a sub-officer in some countries, is a military officer who has not been given a commission...

. They were appointed from within the contubernium and were most likely the longest serving legionary. Their duties would include organising the erection of the marching tent and keeping discipline.

Two auxiliary "servants", comparable to modern support troops, were assigned to each contubernium. They were responsible for the care of the contubernium's pack mule, making sure the legionaries had water during the march, and often had special skills like blacksmith
A blacksmith is a person who creates objects from wrought iron or steel by forging the metal; that is, by using tools to hammer, bend, and cut...

ing or carpentry
A carpenter is a skilled craftsperson who works with timber to construct, install and maintain buildings, furniture, and other objects. The work, known as carpentry, may involve manual labor and work outdoors....


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