Bucellatum: Roman Army Hardtack

Welcome to Rome Across Europe!

When it comes to eating in Ancient Rome, it was pretty much feast or famine. It really came down to what social class you belonged to for the types of food, and how much food, you had available.

Now if you were in the Exercitus Romanus (Roman Army) things were a tad different. You didn’t really have a choice of what to eat since you were supplied food in the form of rations.

So today, we’re bringing you a  staple of a Legionarius (Roman Legionary) ration as we share with you Bucellatum: Roman Army Hardtack!

Roman Soldiers reenacting a campaign, which included rations that could be preserved for a long time.

Bucellatum was the precursor to hardtack, which is a simple type of biscuit or cracker, made from flour, water, and sometimes salt. Inexpensive and long-lasting, it was and is used for sustenance in the absence of perishable foods, commonly during long sea voyages, land migrations, and military campaigns.

Some early physicians associated most medical problems with digestion. Hence, for sustenance and health, eating a biscuit daily was considered good for one’s constitution.

Because it is so hard and dry, hardtack (when properly stored and transported) would survive rough handling and temperature extremes for years if kept dry. To soften hard tack (and make it edible), it was often dunked in wine, brine, coffee, or some other liquid, or cooked into a skillet meal.

We hope you enjoyed today’s outing. Maybe you’ll even be inspired to attempt to make some for Bucellatum yourself.

Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!


“Bucellatum – Roman Army Hardtack”. Pass the Garum, 25 October 2014.