Leather Tent


The 2006/7 season saw construction of Legio VI’s first leather contuburnium tent, or papilio. This project was funded by tax-deductible contributions from members of Legio VI as well as several outside supporters. These were Lenoir Josey of Houston, TX, Richard Beleson of San Francisco, CA, and Mary Lannin of Healdsburg, CA. Legio VI offers a profound multas gratias to these wonderful people! The actual construction was supervised and carried out by Terry Sebolt, manager of the Leather Factory in Baldwin Park, CA, after extensive research into Roman tent construction. “Sweat equity” was provided by Gil Whitley, Linda Satorius, Matthew Hicks, and Ron Glass, who cut and oiled panels and helped Terry stitch them together. Tent poles were constructed by Caius Man. Inspiration and pattern came from Jared Fleury, whose excellent tent reconstruction page can be found HERE. The VI papilio is made of calfskin (the actual Roman examples found so far have been either calfskin or goatskin). The dimensions and design are based on large pieces of an actual Roman tent found in Vindolanda, Britain, and published by Carol van Driel-Murray in her article “New Light on Old Tents” in the first issue of JRMES, 1990. The Vindolanda tent had a side wall of about three feet (although when a “mud flap” at the bottom is allowed for, this is reduced to just over two feet). Some experts, including Dan Peterson, contend most Roman legionary tents had a much shorter side wall of just over a foot, resulting in the steep-sided tents seen on Trajan’s Column. We chose to follow the Vindolanda model because (a) it is the best available evidence in hand, and (b) it makes for a somewhat roomier tent. Below are some shots of our tent “in action” at the California Poppy Festival, Old Fort MacArthur Days, and Fort Lafe (AR) AD 43.

Typhaeus (Matt Hicks) and Dio (Arik Greenberg) unpack and unfold Legio VI’s new leather contuburnium tent, or papillio.




Fully stretched out, you can see why the Romans termed it a “papilio” (butterfly).


Artorius (John DeSalvo), Centurio Flavius (Dave Michaels), and Optio Dio (Eric Greenberg) before the completed papilio.

Close up of the “rain flap” running along each side.

The tent as it appeared at Fort Lafe, AR in the ’07 edition of AD 43. The rustic poles and side rails were cut on-site from the forest in the background!

Centurio Flavius Crispus gives an idea of the tent’s dimensions. About 10″ of the side panels are used as a “mud flap,” reducing the height of the side walls to just over two feet.

The camp as set up at Fort MacArthur in July, 2007.

Crixus (Mike Malin) and Agradorus (Devin Hardin) take a break in the papilio’s cool interior.