Theoretical Archaeology Group Conference 1998,Univesity of Birmingham, 20.12.1998

The Roman military Valetudinaria: fact of fiction

Patricia Anne Baker (University of Newcastle upon Tyne)

There is no debate as to the existence of the Roman military valetudinaria (hospitals), yet the buildings are often identified without much question, making its classification in need of re-examination. The first valetudinarium was identified at the legionary fortress of Novaesium in the late nineteenth century when a hoard of surgical and toilet instruments was found in one room of the structure. The plan of the building also suited the modern nineteenth century perception of how a hospital should be designed. Following the identification of the building at Novaesium all other buildings of similar plan located within legionary and auxiliary fortifications were recognised as hospitals without much consideration of the archaeological remains, as most hospital buildings have no remnants of surgical instruments. Consequently, it is necessary to ask whether the buildings identified as valetudinaria are hospitals or whether they served another function. Moreover, it is important to question the anachronistic views placed on the buildings' identification because they affect beliefs about health care in the Roman army.

The examination requires a discussion of Hyginius made in conjunction with a description of the buildings identified as hospitals from fortifications in the western Roman frontiers of the Rhine, Danube and Britain. The location in which surgical instruments were found will be noted, when available, to determine another possibility for a valetudinarium. The archaeological excavations from within these buildings have revealed evidence of high temperature burning and finds of pottery and glass, suggesting that they served another function, perhaps that of a fabrica (workshop) or storage. Finally the valetudinaria will be compared with Mediaeval hospitals to demonstrate the problems of assuming Roman hospitals were similar to modern ones. Therefore, the study will question pre-conceived ideas about what constituted a hospital in the Roman army. ...

Teil der Zusammenfassung von einem Vortrag, der von der Autorin am 20.12. 1998 auf der Theoretical Archaeology Group Conference - veranstaltet vom 19. bis zum 21. Dezember 1998 von der University of Birmingham - gehalten wurde.

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