Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Castrametation - Camp Indeed, Sir

Artistic recreation of a Roman castrum


Noun. Late 17th century.
[French castramétation, from Latin castra metari measure or mark out a camp.]

The designing or laying out of military camps.

castral adjective. rare. Of or pertaining to a camp. M16
castrensian adjective. Or or pertaining to a military camp. M17
castrum noun. A Roman encampment or fortress. M19

War films and military histories often skip over some of the more unpleasant, boring or mundane aspects of human conflict - disease for one thing: when was the last time you watched a war film where 3/4 of the soldiers were waylaid by dysentery? Logistics is another. Considering how ancient armies were unmechanised but still incredibly large and mobile (Alexander the Great, when crossing into Asia Minor, had approximately 40,000 soldiers to look after), it's surprising we don't hear more about castrametation - that vital art of designing and laying out one's military camp. Doing so has to take into account a multitude of factors - security, mobility, sanitation and organisation. Actually, it's obvious why war films don't dwell on this - it's about as dull as military life gets. Still, it is rather important, and those rambunctious Romans apparently had it down to a fine art, their castra (Latin for 'camps') following very specific and very efficient patterns.

Have you ever designed, worked on or otherwise experienced a military camp?

Do please pitch your tented comments into the box below.


  1. Asterix taught me all I ever hope to know about castrametation.


    1. Would you share some insights? Coz ... y'know ... I never know when I might need to know the basics of ...

  2. I was certain this word was a blend of "castration" and "meditation". Thank God it wasn't! But oh the imagery your post created; war, dysentery... It reminded me of an exhibit in the museum of American History in DC that was about the Civil War (I think) and showed soldiers carrying "stuff" in buckets that were surrounded by flies. To express my disgust in Greek: "bliax".

    1. It would certainly be difficult to meditate during a ... oh never mind ... and yes ... bliax indeed, Evi ... bliax indeed.

  3. Nice one Ed. I think I read somewhere that "castramenstruation" is when someone gives the camp a good spring clean once a month.
    This usually threw the whole camp into a bit of a mood. Can't imagine why.

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