When discussing the logistics of Roman armies, I usually see consumables and seigework discussed the most. However, I've been wondering about how the arms, armor, and tools were created and distributed.

Were they created centrally somewhere? On site at army camps? Or did they buy them from independent craftsmen?

I know that in the earlier parts of the Republic, soldiers were often required to procure their own arms, but I'm curious what the process was later on. Particularly in the more permanent legions of the Empire.

  • This is a great question. For example, was there a centrally-managed warehouse or depot that dispatched arms and equipment to the various legions and was staffed by specialized army logistics and contracting/acquisition professionals? Were centurions allocated a budget to acquire arms for their centuries? Were individual soldiers issued their own arms and armor allowances in cash and told to go purchase or make their equipment?
    – Robert Columbia
    Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 12:44

2 Answers 2


Gaius Gracchus and his reform law, Lex Militaris, made the state responsible for supplying the military with equipment and clothing. It also meant that merchants and craftsmen would be employed providing this equipment and thus receiving a more stable and reliable income from the sale of supplies to the government rather than individuals. Military supply contractors made money off the government even back then.

In some cases, the merchants followed along with the fort/road system and established facilities to smelt iron, work lumber and so forth. The logistical advantage of the Roman road system also made it possible to move supplies over longer distances and required fewer manufacturing areas.

  • 4
    Thanks for the answer. Do you know anything about how the craftsmen were organized? Did they contract with a person/group that was then expected to produce a certain amount of goods? Or was it more military in nature, with the state directly running the production facilities? Also, can you point me to any decent sources for learning more about these sorts of logistics?
    – ricree
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 6:40
  • @ricree good question. In other words, were the craftsmen pretty much independent contractors who set their own hours, hired their own assistants, ran their own facilities, etc., and contracted with the government to produce X swords and Y suits of armor by Z date, or were they employed in government-run factories punching the government's clock and receiving an hourly or daily wage?
    – Robert Columbia
    Commented Jul 26, 2022 at 12:50

Great Question! One of those things that you just don't think about when you think of the Roman Empire. The search I did brought me to this Wikipedia article about Roman Military Engineering, which should provide you with even more links to give you all the information.

Some funny things I learned:

  • All Roman soldiers were equipped with a shovel!
  • When idle they made them build all kinds of things, from canals and farms to mines, because an idle army is an army that is vulnerable to mutiny.

Looks like they not only made most things locally and on the spot, but also provided roads to quickly retreat and move their heavier equipment. So, it seems they were able to create weapons, forts, roads, etc... on the spot, but also moved equipment around. However, I doubt moving a siege engine from Rome to Germania proved to be very efficient.

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