The Celtic beer in Vindolanda and its surroundingsArticle 4 of 8 Malt, maltsters and malting in Vindolanda

4 - Barley and wheat for the brewers of Vindolanda (tablet 180)


Two sites, Neuss and Caerleon, delivered remarkable plant debris. In a shop of the Caerleon fortress dating from the Flavian period (69-96), charred remains of various cereals and other vegetable matter were discovered. Cultivated and some wild barley, spelt, rye and wheat, oats both wild and cultivated were found, apparently as weeds rather than food, as well as lentils, horsebeans, and various weeds. Most of these grasses are not native to Britain, and must therefore have been imported with cereals. Dr Helbaek concluded that the Romans intended lentils and rye to be sown, but that the grain had to be malted to make beer (cervesa). Beer must have been a popular beverage among the Roman troops. A demobilized miles of the Germanica class settled down to supply itself beer to the military market towards the end of the 1st century. Recent analysis of the vegetable matter recovered from the legionary fort in Neuss (Germany), which dates from the 1st century, has revealed a clear picture of military food. Amounts of wheat, barley, wild oats (probably used as fodder, as were hay and other crops) were found, as well as beans, beans, lentils, garlic, salt and various plants (sorrel, Succory Dock-Cress), as well as grapes, elderberries and hazelnuts.

In Vindolanda, 320 modii (2758 litres) of wheat are distributed to groups and individuals scattered around the fort. The tablet is an account of wheat sold by a civilian and his associates (Bowman, Thomas and Adams 1990, 43).The wheat is supplied to military personnel, including some legionnaires (lines 5, 22) such as Spectatus and Firmus. It is not known whether any of this huge volume of wheat (enough for more than 2,000 daily rations) was partly used for beer brewing.

Such arrangements must have existed with the 5000 modii of grain for the soldiers (see Octavius to Vindolanda who claims from Candidus the 500 denarii to pay for the wheat he bought; T. 343.i.6-ii.14.).


Tablette 180
1  _ratio frumenti em[ensi ex quo  Measured wheat account of which
2  ipse dedi in cupam [  I myself put in the barrel [
3  mihi ad panem [  for myself, for bread ...
4  Macrino m(odii) vii  to Macrinus, 7 modii
5  Felicio Victori iussu Spectati  to Felicius Victor on Spectatus' order
6  comodati m(odii) xxvi  provided as a loan (?), 26 modii
7  in follibus tribus patri m(odii) xix  in 3 sacks, to father 19 modii
8  Macrino m(odii) xiii  to Macrinus, 13 modii
9  bubulcaris in siluam m(odii) viii  to the herdsmen in the woods, 8 modii
10  item Amabili ad fanum m(odii) iii  as well to Amabilis for the altar, 3 modii
11  [..]. Idus Septem(bres) Crescenti  ... september, to Crescens
12  iussu .[.]..i m(odii) iii  on Firmus' order (?), 3 modii
13  item .[ c.6 ]e[ ]..  as well ..., modii
14  Macr[..][ ]. m(odii) xv  to Macr... ..., 15 modii (?)
15  item ma.[ c.6. ] m(odii) [ ]iii  as well to Ma... (?), modii
16  patri ad [ c.6 ].as m(odii) ii  to father ..., modii 2
17  vi Kal(endas) [O]ctobr[es  26 september
18  Lu[..].[.. ben]eficiar[io] m(odii) vi  to Lu... the beneficiarius, 6 modii
19  Felicio Victori m(odii) xv  to Felicius Victor, modii 15
20  ad turtas tibi m(odii) ii  for rolled loaves (?), to you 2 modii
21  Crescenti m(odii) ix  to Crescens 9 modii
22  militibus legionaribus  to the soldiers of the legion
23  iussu Firmi m(odii) xi[  on Firmus' oarder, 11+ modii
24  Candido m(odii) [  to Candidus, modii ..
25  tibi in folle br.gese [  to you, in a sack brought from Briga (?), ...
26  tibi [  to you, ...
27  Lucconi ad porcos [  to Lucco, in charge of the pigs ...
28  Primo Luci [  to Primus, slave (?) of Lucius ...
29  tibi [  to you ...
30  Lucconi in ussus suos [  to Lucco for his own use ...
31 item [.]uos m[.]..i.[  as well that I sent to you ... modii .. (?)
32  in [.]uotur[.].  during the consulate (?) of Voturius (?)
33  patri [a]d i[uu]encos [  to father, in chare of the oxens ...
34  item inter metrum [  as well, amongst the measures...(?)
35  libr.s xv redd. librae xv[  15 pounds make 15+ pounds (?) ...
36  fiunt m(odii) [  total, modii ...
37  item mihi ad panem m(odii) i[  as well for myself, for bread, modii ..
38  summa frumenti m(odii) cccxx s(emis)  total of wheat, 320 modii


Next to beer, barley appears several times in the tablet 190 (see "3 - Celtic beer in Vindolanda ..."). This cereal was not much eaten by the soldiers, except as a punishment or in case of a shortage of frumentum (wheat) during the lean season, or in unusual circumstances. Barley was mainly used as fodder for animals. It could, however, have been used in cooking, for polenta for example (André 1981, 63-4). The reference given by S. Lauffer, Diokletians Preisedikt (1971) at 2.1 i, shows that polenta could be made of frumentum or malt (bracis. For malt see tablet 191).

The Celtic beer in Vindolanda and its surroundingsArticle 4 of 8 Malt, maltsters and malting in Vindolanda