Wine for the Army

"They suffer no importation of wine whatever, believing that men are thereby rendered soft and womanish for the endurance of hardship." (Caesar, The Gallic War IV.2)

The provisioning of the Roman army with wine is a special story. In part, it is one of appreciable consumption. If soldiers drank at least as much wine as the citizens of Rome—about 100 gallons per year—then a 5000-man legion on provincial duty will have gulped down about half a million gallons every year, perhaps far more. In part, the story also is one of fascinating instances of political expediency. Thus, the emperor Claudius, despite the stutteringly incompetant image that the modern historian Robert Graves presented of him in I Claudius, wisely pandered to his forces in Britain, by passing on to them a tribute of fine wine extracted from the Rhodians of the Aegean.