Frater, soror, contubernalis: Greedy Institutions and identity relationships in the auxiliary military communities of the northern frontier of Roman Britain in the first and second centuries A.D.

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Robert Matthew


This thesis is a reassessment of the concept of the 'fort community' and analysis of the people who dwelled within it, utilising archaeological evidence from the northern frontier of Roman Britain. Traditional approaches which have focused on military functions or on military-civilian dichotomies cannot provide a full account of discrepant identities (Mattingly 2011). A holistic approach which acknowledges and incorporates non-military activities can provide an important alternative perspective into how the inhabitants of Roman fort communities related to one another. The thesis utilises Lewis Coser's concept of the 'greedy institution' (1974) to resituate the imbalance of power affecting identity within the Roman military.The discussion is framed within nested layers of identity and community. In the first chapter, a historical overview of Roman military scholarship is presented that contextualises the current archaeological climate and illustrates key issues of bias. Three core forms of identity are analysed in the second chapter in the context of the Roman auxilia; socio-cultural, gender, and ethnicity. This discussion positions the auxiliaries as a group both empowered and subjugated, consisting of 'martial races' exploited within a military role. In the third chapter, the textual evidence for identity on the northern frontier is analysed, using epigraphy and the Vindolanda tablets. Within these the discrepant identities of members of the fort communities are identified. In the fourth chapter, I analyse the architectural underpinnings of military identity through an examination of the development and ideology of the 'standard plan' fort. In the fifth chapter, I analyse the material evidence for the habitus of fort community life, focusing on three activity contexts; military display, craft and industry, and bodily consumption. The thesis concludes by assessing the strengths of the 'greedy institution' approach and outlining its significance with regards to future research.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2015