Medicine and the Roman Army

The Roman Army

The Roman Army was responsible for many of the great developments of medicine in the Roman Army. Care and attention for the army was of vital importance and it was the army that, more often than not, was responsible for implementation of the great Public Health developments around the empire.

The need to have a fit and healthy armed force may at first seem both obvious and easy to ensure. In the modern world selection is largely of the fittest and training techniques can be utilised to make sure that they stay this way. In Roman Times the onus was largely upon the military to ensure that recruits had the means to get fit enough prior to enrollment and a large degree of effort was put into providing for the soldiers health once he was enlisted.

Medicine in the Roman Army

The Military would often be entering and controlling lands with little if any idea of public health or of the need for personal hygiene. Take Britain at the time of the invasion for example. Evidence from the invading Romans suggests that the land was marshy and forever foggy. The Britons had built no public baths, aqueducts or sewage systems. To the conquering Roman Army this was a potentially dangerous situation.

The evidence of the Army’s importance with regards public health and preventative medicine is clear upon examination of the remains of Hadrian’s Wall and the surrounding areas. Forts along the wall often had baths, there are remains of aqueducts around many Roman sites in Britain and sewage works were common place alongside ‘flushing’ toilets within fort complexes.