Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > How did ancient warriors drink water on the battlefield? Reply to topic
This is a standard topic Go to page 1, 2  Next 
Author Message
Martin Whalen





Joined: 20 Mar 2007

Posts: 35

PostPosted: Tue 24 Aug, 2010 7:24 pm    Post subject: How did ancient warriors drink water on the battlefield?         Reply with quote

Okay, so I have an odd question, but it's one I was thinking about today while doing my job. (weed-whacking in the hot sun all day long)

So does anyone know how, or even if, warriors from our illustrious past drank water on the battlefield? They must have gotten thirsty! By Gods, imagine fighting in the heat, even in Northern Europe you must have gotten thirsty after all that movement and stress! (in armor too!?)

Eek!

Were there people on the field who supplied water to the men?

Did men carry canteens with them, or were they an unnecessary burden?

Or... Did men just suck it up and let the adrenaline numb their needs?

I'm curious.

Luceo Non Uro.
View user's profile Send private message AIM Address
R D Moore




Location: Portland Oregon
Joined: 09 Jun 2007
Likes: 7 pages
Reading list: 11 books

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 425

PostPosted: Tue 24 Aug, 2010 7:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Bible has a good passage to help illustrate this. Read Joshua, chapter 7, verses 4 through 7. I've remembered this since I was a young lad and have kept it close and remembered it in times of danger.
"No man is entitled to the blessings of freedom unless he be vigilant in its preservation" ...Gen. Douglas Macarthur
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Adam D. Kent-Isaac




Location: Indiana
Joined: 21 Apr 2009
Reading list: 2 books

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 297

PostPosted: Tue 24 Aug, 2010 8:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

They used drinking horns back then. They could be carried on a leather strap or a rope.

I think most drinking horns were used like a conventional goblet, taken out during meals, but I imagine some of them meant for mobility had a cap over them so they could hold a drink without spilling it. I think they used leather bags for storing water also.

Pastime With Good Company
View user's profile Send private message
Greg Coffman




Location: Lubbock, TX
Joined: 24 Aug 2006
Reading list: 4 books

Posts: 254

PostPosted: Tue 24 Aug, 2010 8:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ask and ye shall receive.

by Urs Graf

I've seen similar canteens in other period artwork. Various drinking skins and flasks were probably also present. Staying hydrated is always important with physical activity and for the soldier this means marching, building fortifications or camp defenses, etc. as well as in battle. I doubt everyone carried water, some had to share. And in the breaks in action camp followers and support people probably brought up water in buckets which soldier drank out of with a cup or ladle as depcited in the movie Zulu.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyDslpeS-qQ&feature=related
[The water is at the end of this clip, though the whole movie is worth watching.]

Martin,
Do you mean Joshua 7 or Judges 7? Letting your whole force stop and drink at a water source like in Judges would only be feasible out of action since you loose whatever formation they were in and it takes a while for them all to get water and then back into formation.

Greg Coffman

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
-Hebrews 4:12
View user's profile Send private message
Naythan Goron




Location: ON, Canada
Joined: 03 Feb 2008

Posts: 40

PostPosted: Tue 24 Aug, 2010 8:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Someone made a theory ( i believe on this forum) that solders would attack in waves and regularly fall back to the end of the line so to speak. It could be possible that the non combatants that followed the army were there at the end of the line tending the wounded and giving out food and drinks from wine skins buckets and laddels, horns, cups or bowls. there is excavated evidence of metal canteens carried by the roman legons as well as leather wine skins. (metal one in link) http://www.legionxxiv.org/equipdetails/equipsudusright.jpg

A friend of mine and regularly spar in maille, even with our armor only weighing in at 20-30lb we can only go for 10 maybe 15 min at the most. i believe that during a battle men would almost certainly fall back to the rear lines to rest for a little bit and then proceed to go back to the front lines again. the only battle i can name that solders did this was the battle of hastings... however the only thing recorded is that the cavalry went back for new spears and fresh mounts.

back in those days and to the best of my limited knowledge i believe that very seldomly would there be water actually drunk anywhere. if what my history teacher said can be creditable at all beer and wine were invented to replace the very unsafe conditions of water. i would emagine that there would be diluted beer, ale, or wine in whatever was being passed around on a battle field, not enough to get you drunk just enough to give you a taste and enough to kill whatever was in the water used to cut down the alcohol.

times come and go but the blacksmith's spirit will live on.
View user's profile Send private message Yahoo Messenger
Thom R.




Location: Tucson
Joined: 26 Jul 2007
Reading list: 30 books

Posts: 630

PostPosted: Tue 24 Aug, 2010 8:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The English were known to use formed bottles of waxed or boiled leather - so much so that there are 14th c French manuscripts referring to how the English "liked to drink out of their shoes"

Leather makes for an odd taste but wood requires sealant. Glass is breakable/chippable and expensive. Pottery is heavy. they were all used from what I can tell. probably depends upon the station of the individual...... tr
View user's profile Send private message
Craig Johnson
Industry Professional



Location: Minneapolis, MN, USA
Joined: 18 Aug 2003
Likes: 16 pages
Reading list: 20 books

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,277

PostPosted: Tue 24 Aug, 2010 9:39 pm    Post subject: Wine         Reply with quote

In the Roman period it was considered quite crude and rough to drink straight wine. Wine was almost always mixed with water and consumed this way.

Best
Craig
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
JE Sarge
Industry Professional



PostPosted: Tue 24 Aug, 2010 9:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Naythan Goron wrote:
Someone made a theory ( i believe on this forum) that solders would attack in waves and regularly fall back to the end of the line so to speak.


It's not really a theory. The Romans did actually did this. They rotated their troops back through the lines in order to always keep fresh troops facing the enemy. Here's a brief detail:

"When the first line as a whole had done its best and become weakened and exhausted by losses, it gave way to the relief of fresh men from the second line who, passing through it gradually, pressed forward one by one, or in single file, and worked their way into the fight in the same way. Meanwhile the tired men of the original first line, when sufficiently rested, reformed and re-entered the fight. This continued until all men of the first and second lines had been engaged. This does not presuppose an actual withdrawal of the first line, but rather a merging, a blending or a coalescing of both lines. Thus the enemy was given no rest and was continually opposed by fresh troops until, exhausted and demoralized, he yielded to repeated attacks."

- LTC S.G. Brady, The Military Affairs of Ancient Rome and Roman Art of War in Caesar's Time

Here's a very vague idea of it in HBO's Rome:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqzDrFX-cNs

Happy

J.E. Sarge
Crusader Monk Sword Scabbards and Customizations
www.crusadermonk.com

"But lack of documentation, especially for such early times, is not to be considered as evidence of non-existance." - Ewart Oakeshott
View user's profile Send private message
Gabriele A. Pini




Location: Olgiate Comasco, Como
Joined: 02 Sep 2008

Posts: 239

PostPosted: Tue 24 Aug, 2010 11:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My captain also say (and he made some studies about food for our company) that in medieval times drinking pure water wasn't the best option: in my zones there are a lot of stream that descend directly from the mountains, but I have to move only ten klom to see countries, like Milan, that depend on big streams for the water.
In this case you have to boil the water or mix it with some substances that purify it, like alcohol: certainly there was a great quantity of fermented fruit juice, like wine and cider, made to salvage how much as possible of the harvest.

I would think that with a ladle the biggest problem would be the mix of water and juices running down the chin... If it's only water it isn't a problem, but with the juices would be a little messy, and wasteful. This is were a drinking horn, with a thin section, would came handy.

Side note: the wine of the Romans had the consistency of modern honey, to better preserve it, so drink (or eat?) it pure was a sure and fast way to become intoxicated. Socrates (a Greek, i know, but the theory is the same) was know as a great drinker, able to resist to the pure wine.
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Egidijus Stonkus





Joined: 20 Mar 2009

Posts: 7

PostPosted: Wed 25 Aug, 2010 1:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As far as I know, europeans mostly drank wine. This was their daily drink, but, of course, they had different wine for celebrations which was much stronger. It was the same way with other nations, except that they drank beer. I was told that at times of Grunwald campaign each soldier could get 4 litres of beer a day. And there isn't a single word concerning water.

As for drinking, I believe that flasks would be most convenient because you always have some water with you.
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 3,123

PostPosted: Wed 25 Aug, 2010 1:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

JE Sarge wrote:

"When the first line as a whole had done its best and become weakened and exhausted by losses, it gave way to the relief of fresh men from the second line who, passing through it gradually, pressed forward one by one, or in single file, and worked their way into the fight in the same way. Meanwhile the tired men of the original first line, when sufficiently rested, reformed and re-entered the fight. This continued until all men of the first and second lines had been engaged. This does not presuppose an actual withdrawal of the first line, but rather a merging, a blending or a coalescing of both lines. Thus the enemy was given no rest and was continually opposed by fresh troops until, exhausted and demoralized, he yielded to repeated attacks."

This is pure supposition. We are pretty sure that the Ronans rotated their troops, but nobody has any idea how it was actually done. There are a few plausible methods that could have been employed.
View user's profile Send private message
Bjorn Hagstrom




Location: Höör, Skane
Joined: 25 Oct 2007
Likes: 1 page
Reading list: 8 books

Posts: 315

PostPosted: Wed 25 Aug, 2010 3:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Naythan Goron wrote:


back in those days and to the best of my limited knowledge i believe that very seldomly would there be water actually drunk anywhere. if what my history teacher said can be creditable at all beer and wine were invented to replace the very unsafe conditions of water. i would emagine that there would be diluted beer, ale, or wine in whatever was being passed around on a battle field, not enough to get you drunk just enough to give you a taste and enough to kill whatever was in the water used to cut down the alcohol.


I had this myth seriously challenged as late as this weekend by a former archaeologist and dedicated home brewer. Water quality would vary a lot, probably a lot more problematic in cities and towns than in rural areas.

Beer as brewed at the time, was not always brought to a boil in the brewing process and the alcohol content alone will not kill all microrganisms or parasites or other contaminants. Besides, water was quite likley used to wash your face, rinse your bowls and produce. Also alcohol content in the beer varies greatly from the first run of the mash to the second and third, producing a range of "feast beers" to "everyday beer". Remnants of this can still be found in the production and labeling of trappist beers in Belgium and the Netherlands.

My pragmatic archaeologist friend has the explanation of the reasons for using up such vast amounts of quite precious grain to make alcoholic beverages down to "it tasted ok, you got drunk" Also worth taking into account is that alcohol is fuel, so beer would be a good source of quick and easy calories for people who did a lot of manual labor.

Another note to period accounts of rations of beer and wine. They seem large but it is in no way certain that it means that it was all due to immediate consumption. It could be speculated that it was provided as payment in kind.

On the issue of how to keep yourself hydrated on the battlefield. Information is scarce, however there is a here on myArmoury quite frequently shown sketch Dornstein? showing a caricatured swedish solder facing a stylish landsknecht. The swedish soldier is carrying a flask that appears to be made out of wood.

Edit: attached the image



There is also the famous "Mary Rose" bottle made of leather. I am uncertain if the context points to battlefield use, but it seems likely.

My personal "e clunibus tractum" theory would be that someone had to be the "water boy" and bring a bucket or two to the rear of the line. It need not be more complicated than that. Buckets. Ladles.



 Attachment: 73.02 KB
145.gif


There is nothing quite as sad as a one man conga-line...
View user's profile Send private message MSN Messenger
James Head





Joined: 09 Mar 2008

Posts: 127

PostPosted: Wed 25 Aug, 2010 6:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Recently I have been getting interested in various 'power drinks' that were used throughout the various ages by different cultures.

The Greeks had something called Oxymel, which I believe was used by solders and field workers.

The Medieval Persians made Sekanjabin, which is still drank today.

And the colonial Caribbean islands invented a thirst quencher called a Switchel, which made its way back to New England and became popular there as well.

They all include a fermented component like vinegar. I won't pretend to be a medical expert, but my understanding is that vinegar is good for quenching one's thirst because it works in a similar fashion to modern Gatorade. Similarly, I have also heard that if an athlete is experiencing muscle cramps they can drink a little bit of pure pickle juice and the pain quickly goes away. This might be another example of why vinegar was included in so many refreshment drinks throughout history. And certainly, folks back then had more of a taste for vinegar since it was common for ales and other beverages to eventually ferment to the point of becoming vinegar.

A vinegar drink might sound gross at first, but if you mix it with the right ingredients it tastes very good. And surprisingly, it maintains a refreshing quality even when drank warm. I've also been weedwhacking all summer and have often brought along a small bottle of my own homemade Switchel to drink with my big bottle of ice water. I find that I don't need to drink as much pure water when I'm 'supplementing' it with Switchel.
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Elling Polden




Location: Bergen, Norway
Joined: 19 Feb 2004
Likes: 1 page

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,576

PostPosted: Wed 25 Aug, 2010 8:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Kingsmirror (1250s) state that you should drink regularly during fighting practice, but take care not to get drunk. This would suport mild beer as the drink of choice.
As for carrying, waxed leather bottles seems to have been the most common container for personal use.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website MSN Messenger
Christopher Treichel




Location: Metro D.C.
Joined: 14 Jan 2010

Posts: 268

PostPosted: Wed 25 Aug, 2010 9:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In Fronsberger's Kriegsbuch written in the 1560s of experience from the last bunch of decades there is a whole section on logistics including a rather detailed description of how much wine bread meat etc is required per person per day with extensive math to calculate how your army crawls on its stomach. BTW most armies drank wine back then because it lasts longer than bier... higher alcohol content. water unless it comes from a pure source is a sure and quick way of wiping out your army especially if they have been in the same location and are now defecating, urinating and washing their clothes in the same source you try to drink from. Been there done that in 2003 I had the experience of being located in Ad Diwaniya after the Iraq war phase I was over and being co located with a Regiment meant a lot of cases of diharea due to cross contamination between open water canals, sewage pits, food and washing water. Water is definitely not safe to drink. I remember a German Stein which had a joke written on the side from a town placard. something roughly like " it is against the law to urinate in the stream on Mondays and Wednesdays as Beer will be brewed on Tuesdays and Thursdays"

http://www.digitale-sammlungen.de enter Fronsberger to search his books available in the digital collection
View user's profile Send private message
David Clark





Joined: 10 Feb 2009

Posts: 129

PostPosted: Wed 25 Aug, 2010 10:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Such containers have been in use throughout history. For example, in chapter 11 of Grettis saga, Žorgeir is struck in the back by an assailant with an ax. fortunately for him, he had a leather drinking flask slung across his back, so the blow was ineffective. So, though the mentioned scenerio was not in battle, rather ambush, it does seem as though some form of beverage container was commonplace. So it only makes sense that soldiers would utilize the same containers in the field.
View user's profile Send private message
Douglas S





Joined: 18 Feb 2004

Posts: 177

PostPosted: Wed 25 Aug, 2010 11:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I had a site up a while ago about how to make a flacket, or leathern bottel. When Geocities went south, so did the info.

In short, a container was made from leather (preferably belly hide) and soaked. Then the container was pounded with sand to expand it. After it dried and the sand completely removed, the interior was coated - we used a combination of pitch and beeswax for the best effect.
View user's profile Send private message
Richard Schneider




Location: Des Plaines, IL
Joined: 07 Feb 2010
Reading list: 2 books

Posts: 31

PostPosted: Wed 25 Aug, 2010 6:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Something that has not been mentioned in this discussion is Mead. It is an ancient drink made by many different cultures.

Recently, as part of my exercise regimen, I got to thinking about how the ancient soldier stayed hydrated on the battlefield. Remembering that not only is liquid important but also enough salt is necessary. Sweating releases water and salt and just replacing the water can lead to serious conditions including death.

My theory was that Mead could have been the sport drink of the earlier ages. What I found researching Mead online is that the alcohol level could be kept lower, the cooking process made it safer to drink than water, and indeed there is some salt that naturally occurs in honey used to make the Mead (nothing like the high level of electrolytes they put in sport drinks today). Even still, it could indeed have been a very effective restorative on the battlefield.
View user's profile Send private message
David Teague




Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Joined: 25 Jan 2004

Posts: 409

PostPosted: Wed 25 Aug, 2010 11:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Have you guys lost your gourds???

Razz

Just a bad word play as gourds also were used a canteens in Europe and I don't think anybody covered their use yet.

Cheers,

David

This you shall know, that all things have length and measure.

Free Scholar/ Instructor Selohaar Fechtschule
The Historic Recrudescence Guild

"Yea though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou's sword art is with me; Thy poleaxe and Thy quarterstaff they comfort me."
View user's profile Send private message
Elling Polden




Location: Bergen, Norway
Joined: 19 Feb 2004
Likes: 1 page

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,576

PostPosted: Thu 26 Aug, 2010 5:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Honey was in relatively short supply, so Mead was ususally reserved for special, festive occations. There are accounts of riots breaking out at norwegian king Magnus Erlingson's court because he could not get hold of enough mead, so that the lower ranks had to drink the regular thin ale...
"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website MSN Messenger


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > How did ancient warriors drink water on the battlefield?
Page 1 of 2 Reply to topic
Go to page 1, 2  Next All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2018 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum