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Early Britain--Roman Britain
The Roman Occupation, A.D. 85-211
by Conybeare, Edward


Pacification of Britain—Roman roads—London their centre—Authority for names—Watling
Street—Ermine Street—Icknield Way.

A. 1.—The work of Agricola inaugurated in Britain that wonderful Pax Romana which is so unique a phenomenon in the history of the world. That Peace was not indeed in our island so long continued or so unbroken as in the Mediterranean lands, where, for centuries on end, no weapon was used in anger. But even here swords were beaten into ploughshares and spears into pruning-hooks to an extent never known before or since in our annals. So profound was the quiet that for a whole generation Britain vanishes from history altogether. All through the Golden Age of Rome, the reigns of Nerva and Trajan, no writer even names her; and not till A.D. 120 do we find so much as a passing mention of our country. But we may be sure that under such rulers the good work of Agricola was developing itself upon the lines he had laid down, and that Roman civilization was getting an ever firmer hold. The population was recovering from the frightful drain of the Conquest, the waste cities were rebuilt, and new towns sprang up all over the land, for the most part probably on old British sites, connected by a network of roads, no longer the mere trackways of the Britons, but "streets" elaborately constructed and metalled.

A. 2.—All are familiar with the Roman roads of Britain as they figure on our maps. Like our present lines of railway, the main routes radiate in all directions from London, and for a like reason; London having been, in Roman days as now, the great commercial centre of the country. The reason for this, that it was the lowest place where the Thames could be bridged, we have already referred to. 189 We see the Watling Street roughly corresponding to the North-Western Railway on one side of the metropolis, and to the South-Eastern on the other; the Ermine Street corresponding to the Great Northern Railway; while the Great Western, the South-Western, the Great Eastern, and the Portsmouth branch of the South Coast system are all represented in like manner. We notice, perhaps, that, except the Watling Street and the Ermine Street, all these routes are nameless; though we find four minor roads with names crossing England from north-east to south-west, and one from north-west to south-east. The former are the Fosse Way (from Grimsby on the Humber to Seaton on the Axe), the Ryknield Street (from Newcastle-on-Tyne to Caerleon-upon-Usk), the Akeman Street (from Wells on the Wash to Aust on the Severn), and the Icknield Way (from Norfolk to Dorset). The latter is the Via Devana (from Chester to Colchester).

A. 3.—It comes as a surprise to most when we learn that all these names (except the Watling Street, the Fosse, and the Icknield Way only) are merely affixed to their respective roads by the conjectures of 17th-century antiquarianism, Gale being their special identifier. The names themselves (except in the case of the Via Devana) are old, and three of them, the Ermine Street, the Icknield Street, and the Fosse Way, figure in the inquisition of 1070 as being, together with the Watling Street, those of the Four Royal Roads (quatuor chimini) of England, the King's Highways, exempt from local jurisdiction and under the special guard of the King's Peace. Two are said to cross the length of the land, two its breadth. But their identification (except in the case of the main course of Watling Street) has been matter of antiquarian dispute from the 12th century downwards.190 The very first chronicler who mentions them, Geoffrey of Monmouth, makes Ermine Street run from St. David's to Southampton, Icknield Street from St. David's to Newcastle, and the Fosse Way from Totnes in Devon to far Caithness; and his error has misled many succeeding authorities. That it is an error, at least with regard to the Icknield Way and the Fosse Way, is sufficiently proved by the various mediaeval charters which mention these roads in connection with localities along their course as assigned by our received geography.

As to the main Watling Street there is no dispute. Running right across the island from the Irish Sea191 to the Straits of Dover, it suggested to the minds of our English ancestors the shining track of the Milky Way from end to end of the heavens. Even so Chaucer, in his 'House of Fame,' sings:
"Lo there!" quod he, "cast up your eye,
Se yonder, lo! the Galaxie,
The whiche men clepe the Milky Way,
For it is white, and some, parfay,
Y-callen han it Watlinge-strete."
At Dover it still retains its name, and so it does in one part of its course through London (which it enters as the Edgware Road, and leaves as the Old Kent Road). 192

A. 4.—This name, like that of the Ermine Street, is most probably derived from Teutonic mythology; the "Watlings" being the patrons of handicraft in the Anglo-Saxon Pantheon, and "Irmin" the War-god from whom "Germany" is called.193 There is no reason to suppose that the roads of Britain had any Roman name, like those of Italy. The designations given them by our English forefathers show how deeply these mighty works impressed their imagination. The term "street" which they adopted for them shows, as Professor Freeman has pointed out, that such engineering ability was something quite new to their experience.194 It is the Latin "Via strata" Anglicized, and describes no mere track, but the elaborately constructed Roman causeway, along which the soft alluvium was first dug away, and its place taken by layers of graduated road metal, with the surface frequently an actual pavement.195

A. 5.—For the assignment of the name Ermine Street to the Great North Road there is no ancient authority.196 All we can say is that this theory is more probable than that set forth by Geoffrey of Monmouth. That the road existed in Roman times is certain, as London and York were the two chief towns in the island; and direct communication between them must have been of the first importance, both for military and economical reasons. Indeed it is probably older yet. (See p. 117.) But, with the exceptions already pointed out, the nomenclature of the Romano-British roads is almost wholly guess-work. Some archaeological maps show additional Watling Streets and Ermine Streets branching in all directions over the land,197 presumably on the authority of local tradition. And these traditions may be not wholly unfounded; for the same motives which made the English immigrants of one district ascribe the handiwork of by-gone days to mythological powers might operate to the like end in another.

A. 6.—The origin of the names Ryknield Street and Akeman Street is beyond discovery;198 but that of the Icknield Street is almost undoubtedly due to its connection with the great Icenian tribe, to whose territory it formed the only outlet.199 By them, in the days of their greatness, it was probably driven to the Thames, the more southerly extension being perhaps later. It was never, as its present condition abundantly testifies, made into a regular Roman "Street." The final syllable may possibly, as Guest suggests, be the A.S. hild = war.

A. 7.—Besides these main routes, a whole network of minor roads must have connected the multitudinous villages and towns of Roman Britain, a fact which is borne witness to by the very roundabout route often given in the 'Itinerary' of Antoninus between places which we know were directly connected.200 Moreover this network must have been at least as close as that of our present railways, and probably approximated to that of our present roads.


Romano-British towns—Ancient lists—Methods of identification—Dense rural population
—Remains in Cam valley—Coins—Thimbles—Horseshoes.

B. 1.—Of these many Romano-British towns we have five contemporary lists; those of Ptolemy in the 2nd century, of the Antonine 'Itinerary' in the 3rd, of the 'Notitia'201 in the 5th, and those of Nennius and of the Ravenna Geographer, composed while the memory of the Roman occupation was still fresh. Ptolemy and Nennius profess to give complete catalogues; the 'Itinerary' and 'Notitia' contain only incidental references; while the Ravenna list, though far the most copious, is expressly stated to be composed only of selected names. Of these it has no fewer than 236, while the 'Notitia' gives 118, Ptolemy 60, and Nennius 28 (to which Marcus Anchoreta adds 5 more).

B. 2.—With this mass of material202 it might seem to be an easy task to locate every Roman site in Britain; especially as Ptolemy gives the latitude (and sometimes the longitude203 also) of every place he mentions, and the 'Itinerary' the distances between its stations. Unfortunately it is quite otherwise; and of the whole number barely fifty can be at all certainly identified, while more than half cannot even be guessed at with anything like reasonable probability. To begin with, the text of every one of these authorities is corrupt to a degree incredible; in Ptolemy we find Nalkua, for example, where the 'Itinerary' and Ravenna lists give Calleva; Simeni figures for Iceni, Imensa for Tamesis. The 'Itinerary' itself reads indiscriminately Segeloco and Ageloco, Lagecio and Legeolio; and examples might be multiplied indefinitely. In Nennius, particularly, the names are so disguised that, with two or three exceptions, their identification is the merest guess-work; Lunden is unmistakable, and Ebroauc is obviously York; but who shall say what places lie hid under Meguaid, Urnath, Guasmoric, and Celemon? And if this corruption is bad amongst the names, it absolutely runs riot amongst the numbers, both in Ptolemy and the 'Itinerary,' so that the degrees of the former and the distances of the latter are alike grievously untrustworthy guides. Ptolemy, for example, says that the longest day in London is 18 hours, an obvious mistake for 17, as the context clearly shows. There is further the actual equation of error in each authority: Ptolemy, for all his care, has confused Exeter (Isca Damnoniorum) with the more famous Isca Silurum (Caerleon-on-Usk); and there are blunders in his latitude and longitude which cannot wholly be ascribed to textual corruption. Still another difficulty is that then, as now, towns quite remote from each other bore the same name, or names very similar. Not only were two called Isca, but three were Venta, two Calleva, two Segontium, and no fewer than seven Magna; while Durobrivae is only too like to Durocobrivae, Margiodunum to Moridunum, Durnovaria to Durovernum, etc. The last name even gets confounded with Dubris by transcribers.

B. 3.—In all the lists we are struck by the extraordinary preponderance of northern names. Half the sites given by Ptolemy lie north of the Humber, and this is also the case with the Ravenna list, while in the 'Notitia' the proportion is far greater. In the last case this is due to the fact that the military garrisons, with which the catalogue is concerned, were mainly quartered in the north, and a like explanation probably holds good for the earlier and later lists also. Nennius, as is to be expected, draws most of his names from the districts which the Saxons had not yet reached; all being given with the Celtic prefix Caer (=city).

B. 4.—Amid all these snares the most certain identification of a Roman site is furnished by the discovery of inscriptions relating to the special troops with which the name is associated in historical documents. When, for example, we find in the Roman station at Birdoswald, on the Wall of Hadrian, an inscription recording the occupation of the spot by a Dacian cohort, and read in the 'Notitia' that such a cohort was posted at Amboglanna per lineam Valli, we are sure that Amboglanna and Birdoswald are identical. This method, unfortunately, helps us very little except on the Wall, for the legionary inscriptions elsewhere are found in many places with which history does not particularly associate the individual legions thus commemorated.204 However, the special number of such traces of the Second Legion at Caerleon, the Twentieth at Chester, and the Sixth at York, would alone justify us in certainly determining those places to be the Isca, Deva, and Eboracum given as their respective head-quarters in our documentary and historical evidence.

B. 5.—In the case of York another proof is available; for the name, different as it sounds, can be traced, by a continuous stream of linguistic development, through the Old English Eorfowic to the Roman Eboracum. In the same way the name of Dubris has unmistakably survived in Dover, Lemannae in Lympne, Regulbium in Reculver. Colonia, Glevum, Venta, Corinium, Danum, and Mancunium, with the suffix "chester,"205 have become Colchester, Gloucester, Winchester, Cirencester, Doncaster, and Manchester. Lincoln is Lindum Colonia, Richborough, Ritupis; while the phonetic value of the word London has remained absolutely unaltered from the very first, and varies but slightly even in its historical orthography.

B. 6.—With names of this class, of which there are about thirty, for a starting-point, we can next, by the aid of our various lists (especially Ptolemy's, which gives the tribe in which each town lies, and the 'Itinerary'), assign, with a very high degree of probability, some thirty more—similarity of name being still more or less of a guide. For example, when midway between Venta (Winchester) and Sorbiodunum (Sarum) the 'Itinerary' places Brige, and the name Broughton now occupies this midway spot, Brige and Broughton may be safely assumed to be the same. This method shows Leicester to be the Roman Ratae, Carlisle to be Luguvallum, Newcastle Pons Aelii, etc., with so much probability that none of these identifications have been seriously disputed amongst antiquaries; while few are found to deny that Cambridge represents Camboricum,206 Huntingdon (or Godmanchester) Durolipons, Silchester Calleva, etc. A list of all the sites which may be said to be fairly certified will be found at the end of this chapter.

B. 7.—Beyond them we come to about as many more names in our ancient catalogues of which all we can say is that we know the district to which they belong, and may safely apply them to one or other of the existing Roman sites in that district; the particular application being disputed with all the heat of the odium archaeologicum. Thus Bremetonacum was certainly in Lancashire; but whether it is now Lancaster, or Overborough, or Ribchester, we will not say; Caesaromagum was certainly in Essex; but was it Burghstead, Widford, or Chelmsford? And was the original Camalodunum at Colchester, Lexden, or Maldon?

B. 8.—And, yet further, we find, especially in the Ravenna list, multitudes of names with nothing whatever to tell us of their whereabouts; though nearly all have been seized upon by rival antiquaries, and ascribed to this, that, and the other of the endless Roman sites which meet us all over the country.207

B. 9.—For it must be remembered that there are very few old towns in England where Roman remains have not been found, often in profusion; and even amongst the villages such finds are exceedingly common wherever excavations on any large scale have been undertaken. Thus in the Cam valley, where the "coprolite" digging208 resulted in the systematic turning over of a considerable area, their number is astounding, proving the existence of a teeming population. Many thousands of coins were turned up, scarcely ever in hordes, but scattered singly all over the land, testifying to the amount of petty traffic which must have gone on generation after generation. For these coins are very rarely of gold or silver, and amongst them are found the issues of every Roman Emperor from Augustus to Valentinian III. And, besides the coins, the soil was found to teem with fragments of Roman pottery; while the many "ashpits" discovered—as many as thirty in a single not very large field—have furnished other articles of domestic use, such as thimbles.209 Even horseshoes have been found, though their use only came in with the 5th century of our era.210

B. 10.—Now there is no reason for supposing that the Cam valley was in any way an exceptionally prosperous or populous district in the Roman period. It contained but one Roman town of even third-class importance, Cambridge, and very few of the "villas" in which the great landed proprietors resided. The wealth of remains which it has furnished is merely a by-product of the "coprolite" digging, and it is probable that equally systematic digging would have like results in almost any alluvial district in the island. We may therefore regard it as fairly established that these districts were as thickly peopled under the Romans as at any other period of history, and that the agricultural population of our island has never been larger than in the 3rd and 4th centuries, till its great development in the 19th.


Fortification of towns late—Chief Roman centres—London—York—Chester—Bath—Silchester
—Remains there found—Romano-British handicrafts—Pottery—Basket work—Mining—Rural
life—Villas—Forests—Hunting dogs—Husbandry—Britain under the Pax Romana

C. 1.—The profound peace which reigned in these rural districts is shown by the fact that Roman weapons are the rarest of all finds, far less common than the earlier British or the ensuing Saxon.211 At the same time it is worthy of note that every Roman town which has been excavated has been found to be fortified, often on a most formidable scale. Thus at London there still remains visible a sufficiently large fragment of the wall to show that it must have been at least thirty feet high, while that of Silchester was nine feet thick, with a fosse of no less than thirty yards in width. And at Cirencester the river Churn or Corin (from which the town took its name Corinium) was made to flow round the ramparts, which consisted first of an outer facing of stone, then of a core of concrete, and finally an earthen embankment within, the whole reaching a width of at least four yards. It is probable, however, that these defences, like those of so many of the Gallic cities, and like the Aurelian walls of Rome itself; belong to the decadent period of Roman power, and did not exist (except in the northern garrisons and the great legionary stations, York, Chester, and Caerleon) during the golden age of Roman Britain.212

C. 2.—Their circuit, where it has been traced, furnishes a rough gauge of the comparative importance of the Roman towns of Britain. Far at the head stands London, where the names of Ludgate, Newgate, Aldersgate, Moorgate, Bishopsgate, and Aldgate still mark the ancient boundary line, five miles in extent (including the river-front), nearly twice that of any other town.213 And abundant traces of the existence of a flourishing suburb have been discovered on the southern bank of the river. To London ran nearly all the chief Roman roads, and the shapeless block now called London Stone was once the Milliarium from which the distances were reckoned along their course throughout the land.214

C. 3.—The many relics of the Roman occupation to be seen in the Museum at the Guildhall bear further testimony to the commercial importance of the City in those early days, an importance primarily due, as we have already seen, to the natural facilities for crossing the Thames at London Bridge.215 The greatness of Roman London seems, however, to have been purely commercial. We do not even know that it was the seat of government for its own division of Britain. It was not a Colony, nor (in spite of the exceptional strength of the site, surrounded, as it was, by natural moats)216 does it ever appear as of military importance till the campaign of Theodosius at the very end of the chapter.217 In the 'Notitia' it figures as the head-quarters of the Imperial Treasury, and about the same date we learn that the name Augusta had been bestowed upon the town, as on Caerleon and on so many others throughout the Empire, though the older "London" still remained unforgotten.218

C. 4.—But, so far as Britain had a recognized capital at all, York and not London best deserved that name. For here was the chief military nerve-centre of the land, the head-quarters of the Army, where the Commander-in-Chief found himself in ready touch with the thick array of garrisons holding every strategic point along the various routes by which any invader who succeeded in forcing the Wall would penetrate into the land. At York, accordingly, the Emperors who visited Britain mostly held their court; beginning with Hadrian, who here established the Sixth Legion which he had brought over with him, possibly incorporating with it the remains of the Ninth, traces of which are here found. And here it remained permanently quartered to the very end of the Roman occupation, as abundant inscriptions, etc. testify. One of these, found in the excavations for the railway station, is a brass tablet with a dedication (in Greek) to The Gods of the Head Praetorium [theois tois tou haegemonikou praitoriou], bearing witness to the essential militarism of the city.

C. 5.—A Praetorium, moreover, was not merely a military centre. It was also, as at Jerusalem, a Judgment Hall; and here, probably, the Juridicus Britanniae219 exercised his functions, which would seem to have been something resembling those of a Lord Chief Justice. Precedents laid down by his Court are quoted as still in force even by the Codex of Justinian (555). One of these incidentally lets us know that the Romans kept up not only a British Army, but a British Fleet in being.220 The latter, probably, as well as the former, had its head-quarters at York, where the Ouse of old furnished a far more available waterway than now. Even so late as 1066 the great fleet of Harold Hardrada could anchor only a few miles off, at Riccall: and there is good evidence that in the Roman day the river formed an extensive "broad" under the walls of York itself. As at Portsmouth and Plymouth to-day, the presence of officers and seamen of the Imperial Navy must have added to the military bustle in the streets of Eboracum; while tesselated pavements, unknown in the ruder fortresses of the Wall, testify to the softer side of social life in a garrison town.

C. 6.—Chester [Deva] was also a garrison town, the head-quarters of the Twentieth Legion; so was Caerleon-upon-Usk [Isca], with the Second. A detachment was almost certainly detailed from one or other of these to hold Wroxeter [Uriconium], midway between them;221 thus securing the line of the Marches between the wild districts of Wales and the more fertile and settled regions eastward. And the name of Leicester records the fact (not otherwise known to us) that here too was a military centre; probably sufficient to police the rest of the island.222

C. 7.—Gloucester, Colchester, and Lincoln, as being Colonies, may have been also, perhaps, always fortified, and possibly garrisoned. But in the ordinary Romano-British town, such as London, Silchester, or Bath,223 the life was probably wholly civilian. The fortifications, if the place ever had any, were left to decay or removed, the soldiery were withdrawn or converted into a mere gendarmerie, and under the shield of the Pax Romana, the towns were as open as now. And as little as now did they look forward to a time when each would have to become a strongly-held place of arms girded in by massive ramparts, yet destined to prove all too weak against the sweep of barbarian invasion.

C. 8.—On most of these sites continuous occupation for many subsequent ages has blotted out the vestiges of their Roman day. Every town has a tendency literally to bury its past; and the larger the town the deeper the burial. Thus at London the Roman pavements, etc. found are some twenty feet below the present surface, at Lincoln some six or seven, and so forth. To learn how a Roman town was actually laid out we must have recourse to those places which for some reason have not been resettled since their destruction at the Anglo-Saxon conquest, such as Wroxeter and Silchester, where the remains accordingly lie only a foot or two below the ground. The former has been little explored, but the latter has for the last ten years been systematically excavated under the auspices of the Society of Antiquaries, the portions unearthed being reburied year by year, after careful examination and record.224

C. 9.—The greater part of the site has thus been already (1903) dealt with; proving the town to have been laid out on a regular plan, with straight streets dividing it, like an American city, into rectangular blocks. Twenty-eight of these have, so far, been excavated. They are from 100 to 150 yards in length and breadth, arranged, like the blocks in a modern town, with houses all round, and a central space for gardens, back-yards, etc. The remains found (including coins from Caligula to Arcadius) prove that the site was occupied during the whole of the Roman period. Originally it was, in all probability, one of the towns built for the Britons by Agricola225 on the distinctive Roman pattern, with a central forum, town hall, baths, temples, and an amphitheatre outside the city limits.

C. 10.—The forum was flanked by a vast basilica, no less than 325 feet in length by 125 in breadth, with apses of 39 feet radius.226 A smaller edifice of basilican type is generally supposed to have been a Christian church. It stands east and west, and consists of a nave 30 feet long by 10 broad, flanked by 5-feet aisles, with a narthex of 7 feet (extending right across the building) at the east end, and at the west an apse of 10 feet radius, having in the centre a tesselated pavement 6 feet square, presumably for the Altar.227

C. 11.—The main street of Silchester ran east and west, and may have been the main road from London to Bath; while that which crosses it at the forum was perhaps an extension of the Icknield Way from Wallingford to Winchester. A third road led straight to Old Sarum,228 and there may have been others. Silchester lies about half-way between Reading and Basingstoke.

C. 12.—The relics of domestic life found indicate a high order of peaceful civilization. Abundance of domestic pottery (some of it the glazed ware manufactured at Caistor on the Nen), many bones of domestic animals (amongst them the cat),229 finger-rings with engraved gems, and the like, have been discovered in the old wells230 and ashpits. More remarkable was the unearthing (in 1899) of the plant of a silver refinery,231 showing that the method employed was analogous to that in vogue amongst the Japanese to-day, and that bone-ash was used in the construction of the hearths.232 The houses were mainly built of red clay (on a foundation wall of flint and mortar) filled into a timber frame-work and supported by lath or wattle. The exterior was stamped with ornamental patterns, as in modern "parjetting" (which may thus very possibly be an actual survival from Roman days). This clay has in most cases soaked away into a mere layer of red mud overlying the pavements; but in 1901 there was unearthed a house in which a fortunate fire had calcined it into permanent brick, still retaining the parjetting and the impress of wattle and timber. But the whole site has not provided a single weapon of any sort or kind, and the construction of the defences clearly shows that they formed no part of the original plan on which the place was laid out.233 They were probably, as we have said, added at the break up of the Pax Romana.

C. 13.—With the exception of the silver refinery above mentioned, nothing has appeared to tell us what handicrafts were practised at Silchester; but such industries formed a noteworthy feature of Romano-British life. Naturally the largest traces have been left in connection with that most imperishable of all commodities, pottery. The kilns where it was made are frequently met with in excavations; and individual vases, jugs,234 cups, and amphorae (often of very large dimensions) constantly appear. Many of these are beautifully modelled and finished, and not unseldom glazed in various ways. But there is no evidence that the delicate "Samian" ware235 was ever manufactured in Britain, though every house of any pretensions possessed a certain store of it. The indigenous art of basket-making236 also continued as a speciality of Britain under the Romans, and the indigenous mining for tin, lead, iron, and copper was developed by them on the largest scale. In every district where these metals are found, in Cornwall, in Somerset, in Wales, in Derbyshire, and in Sussex, traces of Roman work are apparent, dating from the very beginning of the occupation to the very end. The earliest known Roman inscription found in Britain is one of A.D. 49 (the year before Ostorius subdued the Iceni) on a pig of lead from the Mendips,237 and similar pigs bearing the Labarum, i.e. not earlier than Constantine presumably, have been dredged up in the Thames below London.238 Inscriptions also survive to tell us of a few amongst the many other trades which must have figured in Romano-British life,—goldsmiths, silversmiths, iron-workers, stone-cutters, sculptors, architects, eye-doctors, are all thus commemorated.239

C. 14.—But then, as always, the life of Britain was mainly rural. The evidence for this unearthed in the Cam valley has already been spoken of, and in every part of England the "villas" of the great Roman landowners are constantly found. Hundreds have already been discovered, and year by year the list is added to. One of the most recent of the finds is that at Greenwich in 1901, and the best known, perhaps, that at Brading in the Isle of Wight. Here, as elsewhere, the tesselated pavements, the elaborate arrangements for warming (by hypocausts conveying hot air to every room), the careful laying out of the apartments, all testify to the luxury in which these old landlords lived. For the "villa" was the Squire's Hall of the period, and was provided, like the great country houses of to-day, with all the best that contemporary life could give.240 And, like these also, it was the centre of a large circle of humbler dependencies wherein resided the peasantry of the estate and the domestics of the mansion.241 The existence amongst these of huntsmen (as inscriptions tell) reminds us that not only was the chase, then as now, popular amongst the squirearchy, but that there was a far larger scope for its exercise. Great forests still covered a notable proportion of the soil (the largest being that which spread over the whole Weald of Sussex)242, and were tenanted by numberless deer and wild swine, along with the wolves, and, perhaps, bears,243 that fed upon them.

C. 15.—Hence it came about that during the Roman occupation the British products we find most spoken of by classical authors are the famous breeds of hunting-dogs produced by our island. Oppian244 [A.D. 140] gives a long description of one sort, which he describes as small [baion], awkward [guron], long-bodied, rough-haired, not much to look at, but excellent at scenting out their game and tackling it when found—like our present otter-hounds. The native name for this strain was Agasseus. Nemesianus245 [A.D. 280] sings the swiftness of British hounds; and Claudian246 refers to a more, formidable kind, used for larger game, equal indeed to pulling down a bull. He is commonly supposed to mean some species of mastiff; but, according to Mr. Elton247 mastiffs are a comparatively recent importation from Central Asia, so that a boarhound of some sort is more probably intended, such as may be seen depicted (along with its smaller companion) on the fine tesselated pavement preserved in the Corinium Museum at Cirencester.248 Whatever the creature was, it is probably the same as the Scotch "fighting dog," which figures in the 4th century polemics as a huge massive brute of savage temper249 and evil odour,250 to which accordingly controversialists rejoice in likening their ecclesiastical opponents.251 Jerome incidentally tells us that "Alpine" dogs were of this Scotch breed, which thus may possibly be the original strain now developed into the St. Bernard.

C. 16.—But the existence of such tracts of forest, even when very extensive, is quite compatible (as the present state of France shows us) with a highly developed civilization, and a population thick upon the ground. And that a very large area of our soil came to be under the plough at least before the Roman occupation ended is proved by the fact that eight hundred wheat-ships were dispatched from this island by Julian the Apostate for the support of his garrisons in Gaul. The terms in which this transaction is recorded suggest that wheat was habitually exported (on a smaller scale, doubtless) from Britain to the Continent. At all events enough was produced for home consumption, and under the shadow of the Pax Romana the wild and warlike Briton became a quiet cultivator of the ground, a peaceful and not discontented dependent of the all-conquering Power which ruled the whole civilized world.

C. 17.—In the country the husbandman ploughed and sowed and reaped and garnered,252 sometimes as a freeholder, oftener as a tenant; the miller was found upon every stream; the fisher baited his hook and cast his net in fen and mere; the Squire hunted and feasted amid his retainers (who were usually slaves); his wife and daughters occupied themselves in the management of the house. The language of Rome was everywhere spoken, the literature of Rome was read amongst the educated classes; while amongst the peasantry the old Celtic tongue, and with it, we may be sure, the old Celtic legends and songs, held its own. Intercourse was easy between the various districts; for along every great road a series of posting-stations, each with its stud of relays, was available for the service of travellers. In the towns were to be found schools, theatres, and courts of justice, with shops of every sort and kind, while travelling pedlars supplied the needs of the rural districts. No one, except actual soldiers, dreamt of bearing arms, or indeed was allowed to do so,253 and the general aspect of the land was as wholly peaceful as now. But every one had to pay a substantial proportion of his income in taxes, in the collection of which there was not seldom a notable amount of corruption, as amongst the publicans of Judaea. In the bad days of the decadence this became almost intolerable;254 but so long as the central administration retained its integrity the amount exacted was no more than left to every class a fair margin for the needs, and even the enjoyments, of life.


The unconquered North—Hadrian's Wall—Upper and Lower Britain—Romano-British coinage—Wall
of Antoninus—Britain Pro-consular.

D. 1.—The weak point of all this peaceful development was that the northern regions of the island remained unsubdued. It was all very well for the Roman Treasury, with true departmental shortsightedness, to declare (as Appian255 reports) that North Britain was a worthless district, which could never be profitable [euphoron] to hold. The cost would have been cheap in the end. All through the Roman occupation it was from the north that trouble was liable to arise, and ultimately it was the ferocious independence of the Highland clans that brought Roman Britain to its doom. The Saxons, as tradition tells us, would never have been invited into the land but for the ravages of these Picts; and, in sober history, it may well be doubted whether they could ever have effected a permanent settlement here had not the Britons, in defending our shores, been constantly exposed to Pictish attacks from the rear.

D. 2.—Thus our earliest notice of Britain in this period tells us that Hadrian (A.D. 120), our first Imperial visitor since Claudius (A.D. 44), found it needful (after a revolt which cost many lives, and involved, as it seems, the final destruction of the unlucky Ninth Legion, which had already fared so badly in Boadicea's rebellion256) to supplement Agricola's rampart, between Forth and Clyde, with another from sea to sea, between Tynemouth and Solway, "dividing the Romans from the barbarians."257 This does not mean that the district thus isolated was definitely abandoned,258 but that its inhabitants were so imperfectly Romanized that the temptation to raid the more civilized lands to the south had better be obviated. The Wall of Hadrian marked the real limit of Roman Britain: beyond it was a "march," sometimes strongly, more often feebly, garrisoned, but never effectually occupied, much less civilized. The inhabitants, indeed, seem to have rapidly lost what civilization they had. Dion Cassius describes them, in the next generation, as far below the Caledonians who opposed Agricola, a mere horde of squalid and ferocious cannibals,259 going into battle stark-naked (like their descendants the Galwegians a thousand years later),260 having neither chief nor law, fields nor houses. The name Attacotti, by which they came finally to be known, probably means Tributary, and describes their nominal status towards Rome.

D. 3.—How hopeless the task of effectually incorporating these barbarians within the Empire appeared to Hadrian is shown by the extraordinary massiveness of the Wall which he built261 to keep them out from the civilized Provinces262 to the southwards. "Uniting the estuaries of Tyne and Solway it chose the strongest line of defence available. Availing itself of a series of bold heights, which slope steadily to the south, but are craggy precipices to the north, as if designed by Nature for this very purpose, it pursued its mighty course across the isthmus with a pertinacious, undeviating determination which makes its remains unique in Europe, and one of the most inspiriting scenes in Britain."263 Its outer fosse (where the nature of the ground permits) is from 30 to 40 feet wide and some 20 deep, so sloped that the whole was exposed to direct fire from the Wall, from which it is separated by a small glacis [linea] 10 or 12 feet across. Beyond it the upcast earth is so disposed as to form the glacis proper, for about 50 feet before dipping to the general ground level. The Wall itself is usually 8 feet thick, the outer and inner faces formed of large blocks of freestone, with an interior core of carefully-filled-in rubble. The whole thus formed a defence of the most formidable character, testifying strongly to the respect in which the valour of the Borderers against whom it was constructed was held by Hadrian and his soldiers.264

D. 4.—This expedition of Hadrian is cited by his biographer, Aelius Spartianus, as the most noteworthy example of that invincible activity which led him to take personal cognizance of every region in his Empire: "Ante omnes enitebatur ne quid otiosum vel emeret aliquando vel pasceret." His contempt for slothful self-indulgence finds vent in his reply to the doggerel verses of Florus, who had written:
Ego nolo Caesar esse,     ["To be Caesar I'd not care,
Ambulare per Britannos,     Through the Britons far to fare,
Scythicas pati pruinas.     Scythian frost and cold to bear."]

Hadrian made answer:
Ego nolo Florus esse,     ["To be Florus I'd not care,
Ambulare per tabernas,     Through the tavern-bars to fare,
Cimices pati rotundas.     Noxious insect-bites to bear."]

To us its special interest (besides the Wall) is found in the bronze coins commemorating the occasion, the first struck with special reference to Britain since those of Claudius. These are of various types, but all of the year 120 (the third Consulate of Hadrian); and the reverse mostly represents the figure so familiar on our present bronze coinage, Britannia, spear in hand, on her island rock, with her shield beside her.265 This type was constantly repeated with slight variations in the coinage of the next hundred years; and thus, when, after an interval of twelve centuries, the British mint began once more, in the reign of Charles the Second, to issue copper, this device was again adopted, and still abides with us. The very large number of types (approaching a hundred) of the Romano-British coinage, from this reign to that of Caracalla, shows that Hadrian inaugurated the system of minting coins not only with reference to Britain, but for special local use. They were doubtless struck within the island; but we can only conjecture where the earliest mints were situated.

D. 5.—Twenty years after Hadrian's visit we again find (A.D. 139) some little trouble in the north, owing to a feud between the Brigantes and Genuini, a clan of whom nothing is known but the name. The former seem to have been the aggressors, and were punished by the confiscation of a section of their territory by Lollius Urbicus, the Legate of Antoninus Pius; who further "shut off the excluded barbarians by a turf wall" (muro cespitio submotis266 barbaris ducto). The context connects this operation with the Brigantian troubles; but it is certain that Lollius repaired and strengthened Agricola's rampart between Forth and Clyde. His name is found in inscriptions along that line,267 and that of Antoninus is frequent. This work consisted of a vallum some 40 miles in length, from Carriden to Dumbarton, with fortified posts at frequent intervals. It is locally known as "Graham's Dyke," and, since 1890, has been systematically explored by the Glasgow Archaeological Society. It is in the strictest sense "a turf wall"—no mere grass-grown earthwork, but regularly built of squared sods in place of stones (sometimes on a stone base). Roman engineers looked upon such a rampart as being the hardest of all to construct.


Commodus Britannicus—Ulpius Marcellus—Murder of Perennis—Era of military turbulence
—Pertinax—Albinus—British Army defeated at Lyons—Severus—Caledonian war—Severus
overruns Highlands.

E. 1.—It may very probably be owing to the energy of Lollius that Britain, "Upper" and "Lower" together as it seems, as inscriptions tell us, was about this date ranked amongst the Senatorial Provinces of the Empire, the Pro-consul being C. Valerius Pansa. That it should have been made a Pro-consulate shows (as is pointed out on p. 142) that they were now considered amongst the more peaceful governorships. In fact, though some slight disturbances threatened at the death of Antoninus (A.D. 161), the country remained quiet till Commodus came to the throne (A.D. 180). Then, however, we hear of a serious inroad of the northern barbarians, who burst over the Roman Wall and were not repulsed without a hard campaign. The Roman commander was Ulpius Marcellus, a harsh but devoted officer, who fared like a common soldier, and insisted on the strictest vigilance, being himself "the most sleepless of generals."268 The British Army, accordingly, swore by him, and were minded to proclaim him Emperor,[2] a matter which all but cost him his life at the hands of Commodus; who, however, contented himself with assuming, like Claudius, the title of Britannicus, in virtue of this success.[2] The further precaution was taken of cashiering not only Ulpius but all the superior officers of this dangerous army; men of lower rank and less influence being substituted. The soldiers, however, defeated the design by breaking out into open mutiny, and tearing to pieces the "enemy of the Army," Perennis, Praefect of the Praetorian Guards, who had been sent from Rome (A.D. 185) to carry out the reform.269

E. 2.—This episode shows us how great a solidarity the Army of Britain had by this time developed. It was always the policy of Imperial Rome to recruit the forces stationed throughout the Provinces not from the natives around them, but from those of distant regions. Inscriptions tell that the British Legions were chiefly composed of Spaniards, Aquitanians, Gauls, Frisians, Dalmatians, and Dacians; while from the 'Notitia' we know that, in the 5th century, such distant countries as Mauretania, Libya, and even Assyria,270 furnished contingents. Britons, in turn, served in Gaul, Spain, Illyria, Egypt, and Armenia, as well as in Rome itself.

E. 3.—The outburst which led to the slaughter of Perennis was but the dawn of a long era of military turbulence in Britain. First came the suppression of the revolt A.D. 187 by the new Legate,271 Pertinax, who, at the peril of his life, refused the purple offered him by the mutineers,272 and drafted fifteen hundred of the ringleaders into the Italian service of Commodus;273 then Commodus died (A.D. 192), and Pertinax became one of the various pretenders to the Imperial throne; then followed his murder by Julianus, while Albinus succeeded to his pretensions as well as to his British government; then that of Julianus by Severus; then the desperate struggle between Albinus and Severus for the Empire; the crushing defeat (A.D. 197) of the British Army at Lyons, the death of Albinus,274 and the final recognition of Severus275 as the acknowledged ruler of the whole Roman world.

E. 4.—Of all the Roman Emperors Severus is the most closely connected with Britain. The long-continued political and military confusion amongst the conquerors had naturally excited the independent tribes of the north. In A.D. 201 the Caledonians beyond Agricola's rampart threatened it so seriously that Vinius Lupus, the Praetor, was fain to buy off their attack; and, a few years later, they actually joined hands with the nominally subject Meatae within the Pale, who thereupon broke out into open rebellion, and, along with them, poured down upon the civilized districts to the south. So extreme was the danger that the Prefect of Britain sent urgent dispatches to Rome, invoking the Emperor's own presence with the whole force of the Empire.

E. 5.—Severus, in spite of age and infirmity,276 responded to the call, and, in a marvellously short time, appeared in Britain, bringing with him his worthless sons, Caracalla277 and Geta278—"my Antonines," as he fondly called them,279 though his life was already embittered by their wickedness,—and Geta's yet more worthless mother, Julia Domna. Leaving her and her son in charge south of Hadrian's Wall, Severus and Caracalla undertook a punitive expedition280 beyond it, characterized by ferocity so exceptional281 that the names both of Caledonians and Meatae henceforward disappear from history. The Romans on this occasion penetrated further than even Agricola had gone, and reached Cape Wrath, where Severus made careful astronomical observations.282

E. 6.—But the cost was fearful. Fifty thousand Roman soldiers perished through the rigour of the climate and the wiles of the desperate barbarians; and Severus felt the north so untenable that he devoted all his energies to strengthening Hadrian's Wall,283 so as to render it an impregnable barrier beyond which the savages might be allowed to range as they pleased.284

E. 7.—In what, exactly, his additions consisted we do not know, but they were so extensive that his name is no less indissolubly connected with the Wall than that of Hadrian. The inscriptions of the latter found in the "Mile Castles" show that the line was his work, and that he did not merely, as some have thought, build the series of "stations" to support the "Vallum." But it is highly probable that Severus so strengthened the Wall both in height and thickness as to make it285 far more formidable than Hadrian had left it. For now it was intended to be the actual limes of the Empire.


Severus completes Hadrian's Wall—Mile Castles—Stations—Garrison—Vallum—Rival theories
—Evidence—Remains—Coins—Altars—Mithraism—Inscription to Julia Domna—"Written Rock"
on Gelt—Cilurnum aqueduct.

F. 1.—It is to Severus, therefore, that we owe the final development of this magnificent rampart, the mere remains of which are impressive so far beyond all that description or drawing can tell. Only those who have stood upon the heights by Peel Crag and seen the long line of fortification crowning ridge after ridge in endless succession as far as the eye can reach, can realize the sense of the vastness and majesty of Roman Imperialism thus borne in upon the mind. And if this is so now that the Wall is a ruin scarcely four feet high, and, but for its greater breadth, indistinguishable from the ordinary local field-walls, what must it have been when its solid masonry rose to a height of over twenty feet; with its twenty-three strong fortresses286 for the permanent quarters of the garrison, its great gate-towers287 at every mile for the accommodation of the detachments on duty, and its series of watch-turrets which, at every three or four hundred yards, placed sentinels within sight and call of each other along the whole line from sea to sea?

F. 2.—Of all this swarming life no trace now remains. So entirely did it cease to be that the very names of the stations have left no shadow of memories on their sites. Luguvallum at the one end, and Pons Aelii at the other, have revived into importance as Carlisle and Newcastle,288 but of the rest few indeed remain save as solitary ruins on the bare Northumbrian fells tenanted only by the flock and the curlew. But this very solitude in which their names have perished has preserved to us the means of recovering them. Thanks to it there is no part of Britain so rich in Roman remains and Roman inscriptions. At no fewer than twelve of these "stations" such have been already found relating to troops whom we know from the 'Notitia' to have been quartered at given spots per lineam valli. A Dacian cohort (for example) has thus left its mark at Birdoswald, and an Asturian at Chesters, thereby stamping these sites as respectively the Amboglanna and Cilurnum, whose Dacian and Asturian garrisons the 'Notitia' records. The old walls of Cilurnum, moreover, are still clothed with a pretty little Pyrenaean creeper, Erinus Hispanicus, which these Asturian exiles must have brought with them as a memorial of their far-off home.

F. 3.—Many such small but vivid touches of the past meet those who visit the Wall. At "King Arthur's Well," for example, near Thirlwall, the tiny chives growing in the crevices of the rock are presumably descendants of those acclimatized there by Roman gastronomy. At Borcovicus ("House-steads") the wheel-ruts still score the pavement; at Cilurnum the hypocaust of the bath is still blackened with smoke, and at various points the decay of Roman prestige is testified to by the walling up of one half or the other in the wide double gates which originally facilitated the sorties of the garrisons.

F. 4.—- The same decay is probably the key to the problem of the "Vallum," that standing crux to all archaeological students of the Wall. Along the whole line this mysterious earthwork keeps company with the Wall on the south, sometimes in close contact, sometimes nearly a mile distant. It has been diversely explained as an earlier British work, as put up by the Romans to cover the fatigue-parties engaged in building the Wall, and as a later erection intended to defend the garrison against attacks from the rear. Each of these views has been keenly debated; the last having the support of the late Dr. Bruce, the highest of all authorities on the mural antiquities. And excavations, even the very latest, have produced results which are claimed by each of the rival theories.289

F. 5.—Quite possibly all are in measure true. The "Vallum" as we now see it is obviously meant for defence against a southern foe. But the spade has given abundant evidence that the rampart has been altered, and that, in many places at least, it at one time faced northwards. Though not an entirely satisfactory solution of the problem, the following sequence of events would seem, on the whole, best to explain the phenomena with which we are confronted. Originally a British earthwork290 defending the Brigantes against the cattle-lifting raids of their restless northern neighbours, the "Vallum" was adapted291 for like purposes by the Romans, and that more than once. After being thus utilized, first, perhaps, by Agricola, and afterwards by Hadrian (for the protection of his working-parties engaged in quarrying stone for the outer fortifications), it became useless when the Wall was finally completed,292 and remained a mere unfortified mound so long as the Roman power in Southern Britain continued undisturbed.

But when the garrison of the Wall became liable to attacks from the rear, the "Vallum" was once more repaired, very probably by Theodosius,293 and this time with a ditch to the south, to enable the soldiers to meet, if needful, a simultaneous assault of Picts in front and Scots294 or Saxons behind. Weak though it was as compared to the Wall, it would still take a good deal of storming, if stoutly held, and would effectually guard against any mere raid both the small parties marching along the Military Way295 from post to post, and the cattle grazing along the rich meadows which frequently lie between the two lines of fortification.

F.6.—As we have said, the line of country thus occupied teems with relics of the occupation. Coins by the thousand, ornaments, fragments of statuary, inscriptions to the Emperors, to the old Roman gods, to the strange Pantheistic syncretisms of the later Mithraism296, to unknown (perhaps local) deities such as Coventina, records of this, that, and the other body of troops in the garrison, personal dedications and memorials—all have been found, and are still constantly being found, in rich abundance. Of the whole number of Romano-British inscriptions known, nearly half belong to the Wall.297

F.7.—As an example of these inscriptions we may give one discovered at Caervoran (the Roman Magna), and now in the Newcastle Antiquarian Museum,298 the interpretation of which has been a matter of considerable discussion amongst antiquaries. It is written in letters of the 3rd century and runs as follows:—

Here we have ten very rough trochaic lines:
Imminet Leoni Virgo caelesti situ
Spicifera, justi inventrix, urbium conditrix;
Ex quis muneribus nosse contigit Deos.
Ergo eadem Mater Divum, Pax, Virtus, Ceres,
Dea Syria, lance vitam et jura pensitans.
In caelo visum Syria sidus edidit
Libyae colendum: inde cuncti didicimus.
Ita intellexit, numine inductus tuo,
Marcus Caecilius Donatianus, militans
Tribunus in Praefecto, dono Principis.
This may be thus rendered:
O'er the Lion hangs the Virgin, in her place in heaven,
With her corn-ear;—justice-finder, city-foundress, she:
And in them that do such office Gods may still be known.
She, then, is the Gods' own Mother, Peace, Strength, Ceres, all;
Syria's Goddess, in her Balance weighing life and Law.
Syria sent this Constellation shining in her sky
Forth for Libya's worship:—thence we all have learnt the lore.
Thus hath come to understanding, by the Godhead led,
Marcus Caecilius Donatianus
Serving now as Tribune-Prefect, by the Prince's grace.
F. 8.—These obscure lines Dr. Hodgkin refers to Julia Domna, the wife of Severus, the one Emperor that Africa gave to the Roman world. He was an able astrologer, and from early youth considered himself destined by his horoscope for the throne. He was thus guided by astrological considerations to take for his second wife a Syrian virgin, whose nativity he found to forecast queenship. As his Empress she shared in the aureole of divinity which rested upon all members of the Imperial family. This theory explains the references in the inscription to the constellation Virgo, with its chief star Spica, having Leo on the one hand and Libra on the other, also to the Syrian origin of Julia and her connection with Libya, the home of Severus. It may be added that Dr. Hodgkin's view is confirmed by the fact that this Empress figures, on coins found in Britain, as the Mother of the Gods, and also as Ceres. The first line may possibly have special reference to her influence in Britain during the reign of Severus and her stepson299 Caracalla (who was also her second husband), Leo being a noted astrological sign of Britain.300 The inscription was evidently put up in recognition of promotion gained by her favour, though the exact interpretation of Tribunus in praefecto requires a greater knowledge of Roman military nomenclature than we possess. Dr. Hodgkin's "Tribune instead of Prefect" seems scarcely admissible grammatically.

F. 9.—Another inscription which may be mentioned is that referred to by Tennyson in 'Gareth and Lynette' (l. 172), which
                                 "the vexillary
Hath left crag-carven over the streaming Gelt." 301

This is one of the many such records in the quarries south of the Wall telling of the labours of the fatigue-parties sent out by Severus to hew stones for his mighty work, and cut on rocks overhanging the river. It sets forth how a vexillatio302 of the Second Legion was here engaged, under a lieutenant [optio] named Agricola, in the consulship of Aper and Maximus (A.D. 207);303 perhaps as a guard over the actual workers, who were probably a corvée of impressed natives.

F. 10.—Yet another inscription worth notice was unearthed in 1897, and tells how a water supply to Cilurnum was brought from a source in the neighbourhood through a subterraneous conduit by Asturian engineers under Ulpius Marcellus (A.D. 160). That this should have been done brings home to us the magnificent thoroughness with which Rome did her work. Cilurnum stood on a pure and perennial stream, the North Tyne, with a massively-fortified bridge, and thus could never be cut off from water; it was only some six acres in total area; yet in addition to the river it received a water supply which would now be thought sufficient for a fair-sized town.304 Well may Dr. Hodgkin say that "not even the Coliseum of Vespasian or the Pantheon of Agrippa impresses the mind with a sense of the majestic strength of Rome so forcibly" as works like this, merely to secure the passage of a "little British stream, unknown to the majority even of Englishmen."


Death of Severus—Caracalla and Geta—Roman citizenship—Extended to veterans—Tabulae
honestae, missionis
—Bestowed on all British provincials.

G.I.—This mighty work kept Severus in Britain for the rest of his life. He incessantly watched over its progress, and not till it was completed turned his steps once more (A.D. 211) towards Rome. But he was not to reach the Imperial city alive. Scarcely had he completed the first stage of the journey than, at York, omens of fatal import foretold his speedy death. A negro soldier presented him with a cypress crown, exclaiming, "Totum vicisti, totum fuisti. Nunc Deus esto victor."305 When he would fain offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, he found himself by mistake at the dark temple of Bellona; and her black victims were led in his train even to the very door of his palace, which he never left again. Dark rumours were circulated that Caracalla, who had already once attempted his father's life, and was already intriguing with his stepmother, was at the bottom of all this, and took good care that the auguries should be fulfilled. Anyhow, Severus never left York till his corpse was carried forth and sent off for burial at Rome. With his last breath he is said solemnly to have warned "my Antonines" that upon their own conduct depended the peace and well-being of the Empire which he had so ably won for them.306

G. 2.—The warning was, as usual, in vain. Caracalla and Julia were now free to work their will, and, having speedily got rid of her son Geta, entered upon an incestuous marriage. The very Caledonians, whose conjugal system was of the loosest,307 cried shame;308 but the garrison of the Wall which kept them off was, as we have seen, officered by Julia's creatures, and all beyond it was definitely abandoned,309 not to be recovered for two centuries.310 The guilty pair returned to Rome, and a hundred and thirty years elapsed before another Augustus visited Britain.311

G. 3.—They left behind them no longer a subject race of mere provincials, but a nation of full Roman citizens. For it was Caracalla, seemingly, who, by extending it to the whole Roman world, put the final stroke to the expansion, which had long been in progress, of this once priceless privilege; with its right of appeal to Caesar, of exemption from torture, of recognized marriage, and of eligibility to public office. Originally confined strictly to natives of Rome and of Roman Colonies, it was early bestowed ipso facto on enfranchised slaves, and sometimes given as a compliment to distinguished strangers. After the Social War (B.C. 90) it was extended to all Italians, and Claudius (A.D. 50) allowed Messalina to make it purchasable ("for a great sum," as both the Acts of the Apostles and Dion Cassius inform us) by provincials.

G. 4.—And they could also earn it by service in the Imperial armies. A bronze tablet, found at Cilurnum,312 sets forth that Antoninus Pius confers upon the emeriti, or time-expired veterans, of the Gallic, Asturian, Celtiberian, Spanish, and Dacian cohorts in Britain, who have completed twenty-five years' service with the colours, the right of Roman citizenship, and legalizes their marriages, whether existing or future.313 As there is no reason to suppose that such discharged soldiers commonly returned to their native land, this system must have leavened the population of Britain with a considerable proportion of Roman citizens, even before Caracalla's edict. Besides its privileges, this freedom brought with it certain liabilities, pecuniary and other; and it was to extend the area of these that Caracalla took this apparently liberal step, which had been at least contemplated by more worthy predecessors314 on philanthropic grounds. Any way, Britain was, by now, in the fullest sense Roman.



Aballaba = Watch-cross
Branodunum = Brancaster
Braboniacum = Ribchester
Brige = Broughton
Caesaromagum = Chelmsford
Calcaria = Tadcaster
Calleva = Silchester
Camboricum = Cambridge
Cataractonis = Catterick
Clausentum = Southampton
Colonia = Colchester
Concangium = Kendal
Devonis = Devonport
Dictis = Ambleside
Durobrivis = Rochester
Durolipons = Godmanchester
Durnovernum = Canterbury
Etocetum = Uttoxeter
Gobannium = Abergavenny
Isca Damnoniorum = Exeter
Isurium = Aldborough (York)
Longovicum = Lancaster
Lugovallum = Carlisle
Magna = Caervoran
Mancunium = Manchester
Moridunum = Seaton
Muridunum = Caermarthen
Olikana = Ilkley

Pons Aelii = Newcastle
Pontes = Staines
Procolitia = Carrawburgh
Regnum = Chichester
Segedunum = Wall's End
Spinae = Speen (Berks)
Vindoballa = Rutchester
Vindomara = Ebchester
Vindolana = Little Chesters


Alaunus Fl. = Tweed
Belisama Est. = Mouth of Mersey
Cunio Fl. = Conway
Setantion Est. = Mouth of Ribble
Seteia Est. = Mouth of Dee
Tava Est. = Firth of Tay
Tuerobis Fl. = Tavy VARAR EST. = MORAY FIRTH
Vedra Fl. = Wear


Epidium Pr. = Mull of Cantire
Herculis Pr. = Hartland Point
Noranton Pr. = Mull of Galloway
Orcas Pr. = Dunnet Head
Taexalum Pr. = Kinnaird Head

N.B.—Many of these names vary notably in our several authorities: e.g. Manna is also written Mona, Monaoida, Monapia, Mevania.

[189] See p. 117.

[190] All highways were made Royal Roads before the end of the 12th century, so that the course of the original four became matter of purely antiquarian interest.

[191] Where it struck that sea is disputed, but Henry of Huntingdon's assertion that it ran straight from London to Chester seems the most probable.

[192] The lines of these roads, if produced, strike the Thames not at London Bridge, but at the old "Horse Ferry" to Lambeth. This may point to an alternative (perhaps the very earliest) route.

[193] Guest ('Origines Celticae') derives "Ermine" from A.S. eorm=fen, and "Watling" from the Welsh Gwyddel=Goidhel=Irish. The Ermine Street, however, nowhere touches the fenland; nor did any Gaelic population, so far as is known, abut upon the Watling Street, at any rate after the English Conquest. Verulam was sometimes called Watling-chester, probably as the first town on the road.

[194] The distinction between "Street" and "Way" must not, however, be pressed, as is done by some writers. The Fosse Way is never called a Street, though its name [fossa] shows it to have been constructed as such; and the Icknield Way is frequently so called, though it was certainly a mere track—often a series of parallel tracks (e.g. at Kemble-in-the-Street in Oxfordshire)—as it mostly remains to this day.

[195] This may still be seen in places; e.g. on the "Hardway" in Somerset and the "Maiden Way" in Cumberland. See Codrington, 'Roman Roads in Britain.'

[196] Camden, however, speaks of a Saxon charter so designating it near Stilton ('Britannia,' II. 249).

[197] The whole evidence on this confused subject is well set out by Mr. Codrington ('Roman Roads in Britain').

[198] It is, however, possible that the latter is named from Ake-manchester, which is found as A.S. for Bath, to which it must have formed the chief route from the N. East.

[199] See p. 144. Bradley, however, controverts this, pointing out that the pre-Norman authorities for the name only refer to Berkshire.

[200] Thus Iter V. takes the traveller from London to Lincoln viâ Colchester, Cambridge, and Huntingdon, though the Ermine Street runs direct between the two. The 'Itinerary' is a Roadbook of the Empire, giving the stages on each route set forth, assigned by commentators to widely differing dates, from the 2nd century to the 5th. In my own view Caracalla is probably the Antoninus from whom it is called. But after Antoninus Pius (138 A.D.) the name was borne (or assumed) by almost every Emperor for a century and more.

[201] See p. 237.

[202] Ptolemy also marks, in his map of Britain, some fifty capes, rivers, etc., and the Ravenna list names over forty.

[203] The longitude is reckoned from the "Fortunate Isles," the most western land known to Ptolemy, now the Canary Islands. Ferro, the westernmost of these, is still sometimes found as the Prime Meridian in German maps.

[204] Thus the north supplies not only inscriptions relating to its own legion (the Sixth), but no fewer than 32 of the Second, and 22 of the Twentieth; while at London and Bath indications of all three are found.

[205] The Latin word castra, originally meaning "camp," came (in Britain) to signify a fortified town, and was adopted into the various dialects of English as caster, Chester, or cester; the first being the distinctively N. Eastern, the last the S. Western form.

[206] Amongst these, however, must be named the high authority of Professor Skeat. See 'Cambs. Place-Names.'

[207] Pearson's 'Historical Maps of England' gives a complete list of these.

[208] This industry flourished throughout the last half of the 19th century. The "coprolites" were phosphatic nodules found in the greensand and dug for use as manure.

[209] These are of bronze, with closed ends, pitted for the needle as now, but of size for wearing upon the thumb.

[210] There seems no valid reason for doubting that the horseshoes found associated with Roman pottery, etc., in the ashpits of the Cam valley, Dorchester, etc., are actually of Romano-British date. Gesner maintains that our method of shoeing horses was introduced by Vegetius under Valentinian II. The earlier shoes seem to have been rather such slippers as are now used by horses drawing mowing-machines on college lawns. They were sometimes of rope: Solea sparta pes bovis induitur (Columella), sometimes of iron: Et supinam animam gravido derelinquere caeno Ferream ut solam tenaci in voragine mula (Catullus, xvii. 25). Even gold was used: Poppaea jumentis suis soleas ex auro induebat (Suet., 'Nero,' xxx.). The Romano-British horseshoes are thin broad bands of iron, fastened on by three nails, and without heels. See also Beckmann's 'History of Inventions' (ed. Bohn).

[211] This is true of the whole of Britain, even along the Wall, as a glance at the cases in the British Museum will show. There may be seen the most interesting relic of this class yet discovered, a bronze shield-boss, dredged out of the Tyne in 1893 [see 'Lapid. Sept.' p. 58], bearing the name of the owner, Junius Dubitatus, and his Centurion, Julius Magnus, of the Ninth Legion.

[212] The wall of London is demonstrably later than the town, old material being found built into it. So is that of Silchester.

[213] York was not three miles in circumference, Uriconium the same, Cirencester and Lincoln about two, Silchester and Bath somewhat smaller.

[214] Roman milestones have been found in various places, amongst the latest and most interesting being one of Carausius discovered in 1895, at Carlisle. It had been reversed to substitute the name of Constantius (see p. 222.). It may be noted that the earliest of post-Roman date are those still existing on the road between Cambridge and London, set up in 1729.

[215] See p. 117. When the existing bridge was built, Roman remains were found in the river-bed.

[216] The Thames to the south, the Fleet to the west, and the Wall Brook to the east and north.

[217] See p. 233. The city wall may well be due to him.

[218] See p. 233.

[219] On this functionary, see article by Domaszewski in the 'Rheinisches Review,' 1891. His appointment was part of the pacificatory system promoted by Agricola.

[220] An archigubernus (master pilot) of this fleet left his property to one of his subordinates in trust for his infant son. The son died before coming of age, whereupon the estate was claimed by the next of kin, while the trustee contended that it had now passed to him absolutely. He was upheld by the Court. Another York decision established the principle that any money made by a slave belonged to his bonâ fide owner. And another settled that a Decurio (a functionary answering to a village Mayor in France) was responsible only for his own Curia.

[221] Inscriptions of the Twentieth have been found here.

[222] Legra-ceaster, the earliest known form of the name, signifies Camp-chester (Legra = Laager). In Anglo-Saxon writings the name is often applied to Chester. This, however, was the Chester, par excellence, as having remained so long unoccupied. In the days of Alfred it is still a "waste Chester" in the A.S. Chronicle. The word Chester is only associated with Roman fortifications in Southern Britain. But north of the wall, as Mr. Haverfield points out, we find it applied to earthworks which cannot possibly have ever been Roman. (See 'Antiquary' for 1895, p. 37.)

[223] Bath was frequented by Romano-British society for its medicinal waters, as it has been since. The name Aquae (like the various Aix in Western Europe) records this fact. Bath was differentiated as Aquae Solis; the last word having less reference to Apollo the Healer, than to a local deity Sul or Sulis. Traces of an elaborate pump-room system, including baths and cisterns still retaining their leaden lining, have here been discovered; and even the stock-in-trade of one of the small shops, where, as now at such resorts, trinkets were sold to the visitors.(See 'Antiquary,' 1895, p. 201.)

[224] Similar excavations are in progress at Caergwent, but, as yet, with less interesting results. Amongst the objects found is a money-box of pottery, with a slit for the coins. A theatre [?] is now (1903) being uncovered.

[225] See II. F. 4; also Mr. Haverfield's articles in the 'Athenaeum' (115, Dec. 1894), and in the 'Antiquary' (1899, p. 71).

[226] Mr. Haverfield notes ('Antiquary,' 1898, p. 235) that British basilicas are larger than those on the Continent, probably because more protection from weather was here necessary. Almost as large as this basilica must have been that at Lincoln, where sections of the curious multiple pillars (which perhaps suggested to St. Hugh the development from Norman to Gothic in English architecture) may be seen studding the concrete pavement of Ball Gate.

[227] A plan of this "church" is given by Mr. Haverfield in the 'English Hist. Review,' July 1896.

[228] An inspection of the Ordnance Map (1 in.) shows this clearly. It is the road called (near Andover) the Port Way.

[229] See p. 46.

[230] The water supply of Silchester seems to have been wholly derived from these wells, which are from 25 to 30 feet in depth, and were usually lined with wood. In one of them there were found (in 1900) stones of various fruit trees (cherry, plum, etc.), the introduction of which into Britain has long been attributed to the Romans, (See Earle, 'English Plant Names.') But this find is not beyond suspicion of being merely a mouse's hoard of recent date.

[231] Roman refineries for extracting silver existed in the lead-mining districts both of the Mendips and of Derbyshire, which were worked continuously throughout the occupation. But the Silchester plant was adapted for dealing with far more refractory ores; for what purpose we cannot tell.

[232] See paper by W. Gowland in Silchester Report (Society of Antiquaries) for 1899.

[233] A glance at the maps issued by the Society of Antiquaries will show this. The massive rampart, forming an irregular hexagon, cuts off the corners of various blocks in the ground plan.

[234] The well-known Cambridge jug of Messrs. Hattersley is a typical example.

[235] "Samian" factories existed in Gaul.

[236] See p. 43.

[237] TI. CLAVDIVS CAESAR AVG. P.M. TRIB. P. VIIII. IMP, XVI. DE BRITAN. This was found at Wokey Hole, near Wells.

[238] Haverfield, 'Ant.' p. 147.

[239] See 'Corpus Inscript. Lat.' Vol. VII.

[240] A specially interesting touch of this old country house life is to be seen in the Corinium Museum at Cirencester—a mural painting whereon has been scratched a squared word (the only known classical example of this amusement):


[241] The word mansio, however, at this period signified merely a posting-station on one or other of the great roads.

[242] Selwood, Sherwood, Needwood, Charnwood, and Epping Forest are all shrunken relics of these wide-stretching woodlands, with which most of the hill ranges seem to have been clothed. See Pearson's 'Historical Maps of England.'

[243] Classical authorities only speak of bears in Scotland. See P. 236.

[244] Cyneget., I. 468.

[245] Ibid. 69.

[246] In II. Cons. Stilicho, III. 299: Magnaque taurorum fracturae colla Britannae.

[247] 'Origins of English History,' p. 294.

[248] A brooch found at Silchester also represents this dog.

[249] Symmachus (A.D. 390) represents them as so fierce as to require iron kennels (Ep. II. 77).

[250] Prudentius (contra Sab. 39): Semifer, et Scoto sentit cane milite pejor.

[251] Proleg. to Jeremiah, lib. III.

[252] Flavius Vopiscus (A.D. 300) tells us that vine-growing was also attempted, by special permission of the Emperor Probus.

[253] The Lex Julia forbade the carrying of arms by civilians.

[254] See Elton's 'Origins,' p. 347.

[255] Proem, v.

[256] See Fronto,'De Bello Parthico', I. 217. The latest known inscription relating to this Legion is of A.D. 109 [C.I.L. vii. 241].

[257] Spartianus (A.D. 300), 'Hist. Rom.'

[258] About a fifth of the known legionary inscriptions of Britain have been found in Scotland.

[259] See p. 233.

[260] At the Battle of the Standard, 1138.

[261] That Hadrian and not Severus (by whose name it is often called) was the builder of the Wall as well as of the adjoining fortresses is proved by his inscriptions being found not only in them, but in the "mile-castles" [see C.I.L. vii. 660-663]. Out of the 14 known British inscriptions of this Emperor, 8 are on the Wall; out of the 57 of Severus, 3 only.

[262] Hadrian divided the Province of Britain [see p. 142] into "Upper" and "Lower"; but by what boundary is wholly conjectural. All we know is that Dion Cassius [Xiph. lv.] places Chester and Caerleon in the former and York in the latter. The boundary may thus have been the line from Mersey to Humber; "Upper" meaning "nearer to Rome."

[263] Neilson, 'Per Lineam Valli,' p.I.

[264] See further pp. 203-212.

[265] The figure has been supposed to represent Rome seated on Britain. But the shield is not the oblong buckler of the Romans, but a round barbaric target.

[266] So Tacitus speaks of "Submotis velut in aliam insulam hostibus" by Agricola's rampart. And Pliny says, "Alpes Gcrmaniam ab Italia submovent."

[267] Corpus Inscript. Lat, vii. 1125.

[268] Dio Cassius, lxxii. 8.

[269] Aelius Lampridius, 'De Commodo,' c. 8.

[270] Inscriptions in the Newcastle Museum show that bargemen from the Tigris were quartered on the Tyne.

[271] Dio Cassius, lxxii. 9.

[272] Julius Capitolinus, 'Pertinax,' c. 3.

[273] Orosius, 'Hist' 17.

[274] Herodian, 'Hist.' iii. 20.

[275] Lucius Septimus Severus.

[276] Herodian, 'Hist. III.' 46. He is a contemporary authority.

[277] Also called Bassianus. His throne name was Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Pius.

[278] Publius Septimus Geta Antoninus Pius.

[279] Aelius Spartianus, 'Severus,' c. 23.

[280] Dion Cassius, lxxvi. 12.

[281] Severus gave as a mot d'ordre to his soldiers the "No quarter" proclamation of Agamemnon. ('Iliad,' vi. 57): [ton mêtis hupekphugoi aipun olethron].

[282] Dion Cassius, lxxvi. 12.

[283] See p. 195.

[284] Aurelius Victor (20) makes him (as Mommsen and others think) restore Antonine's rampart: "vallum per xxxii. passuum millia a mari ad mare." But more probably xxxii. is a misreading for lxxii.

[285] The very latest spade-work on the Wall (undertaken by Messrs. Haverfield and Bosanquet in 1901) shows that the original wall and ditch ran through the midst of the great fortresses of Chesters and Birdoswald, which are now astride, so to speak, of the Wall; pointing to the conclusion that Severus rebuilt and enlarged them. In various places along the Wall itself the stones bear traces of mortar on their exterior face, showing that they have been used in some earlier work.

[286] This is the number per lineam valli given in the 'Notitia.' Only twelve have been certainly identified. They are commonly known as "stations."

[287] Antiquaries have given these structures the name of "mile-castles." They are usually some fifty feet square.

[288] The familiar name of "Wallsend" coals reminds us of this connection between the Tynemouth colliery district and the Wall's end.

[289] So puzzling is the situation that high authorities on the subject are found to contend that the work was perfunctorily thrown up, in obedience to mistaken orders issued by the departmental stupidity of the Roman War Office, that in reality it was never either needed or used, and was obsolete from the very outset. But this suggestion can scarcely be taken as more than an elaborate confession of inability to solve the nodus.

[290] It should be noted that the "Vallum" is no regular Roman muris caespitius like the Rampart of Antoninus, though traces have been found here and there along the line of some intention to construct such a work (see 'Antiquary,' 1899, p. 71).

[291] In more than one place the line of fortification swerves from its course to sweep round a station.

[292] Near Cilurnum the fosse was used as a receptacle for shooting the rubbish of the station, and contains Roman pottery of quite early date.

[293] See p. 233.

[294] See p. 232.

[295] The existing military road along the line of the Wall does not follow the track of its Roman predecessor. It was constructed after the rebellion of 1745, when the Scots were able to invade England by Carlisle before our very superior forces at Newcastle could get across the pathless waste between to intercept them.

[296] Mithraism is first heard of in the 2nd century A.D., as an eccentric cult having many of the features of Christianity, especially the sense of Sin and the doctrine that the vicarious blood-shedding essential to remission must be connected with a New Baptismal Birth unto Righteousness. The Mithraists carried out this idea by the highly realistic ceremonies of the Taurobolium; the penitent neophyte standing beneath a grating on which the victim was slain, and thus being literally bathed in the atoning blood, afterwards being considered as born again [renatus]. It thus evolved a real and heartfelt devotion to the Supreme Being, whom, however (unlike Christianity), it was willing to worship under the names of the old Pagan Deities; frequently combining their various attributes in joint Personalities of unlimited complexity. One figure has the head of Jupiter, the rays of Phoebus, and the trident of Neptune; another is furnished with the wings of Cupid, the wand of Mercury, the club of Hercules, and the spear of Mars; and so forth. Mithraism thus escaped the persecution which the essential exclusiveness of their Faith drew down upon Christians; gradually transforming by its deeper spirituality the more frigid cults of earlier Paganism, and making them its own. The little band of truly noble men and women who in the latter half of the 4th century made the last stand against the triumph of Christianity over the Roman world were almost all Mithraists. For a good sketch of this interesting development see Dill, 'Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western Empire.'

[297] Of the 1200 in the 'Corpus Inscript. Lat.' (vol. vii.), 500 are in the section Per Lineam Valli.

[298] 'Corpus Inscript. Lat.' vol. vii., No. 759.

[299] Some authorities consider him to have been her own son.

[300] See p. 126.

[301] The Gelt is a small tributary joining the Irthing shortly before the latter falls into the Eden.

[302] Polybius (vi. 24) tells us that in the Roman army of his day a vexillum or manipulum consisted of 200 men under two centurions, each of whom had his optio. Vegetius (II. 1) confines the word vexillatio to the cavalry, but gives no clue as to its strength.

[303] On this inscription see Huebner, C.I.L. vii. 1. A drawing will be found in Bruce's 'Handbook to the Wall' (ed. 1895), p. 23.

[304] The name Cilurnum may be connected with this wealth of water. In modern Welsh celurn = caldron.

[305] "All hast thou won, all hast thou been. Now be God the winner." (These final words are equivocal, in both Latin and English. They might signify, "Now let God be your conqueror," and "Now, thou conqueror, be God," i. e. "die"; for a Roman Emperor was deified at his decease.) Spartianus, 'De Severo,' 22.

[306] Aelius Spartianus, 'Severus,' c. 22.

[307] See p. 46.

[308] Dio Cassius, lxxvi. 16.

[309] Ibid. lxxvii. I.

[310] In 369. See p. 230.

[311] Constans in 343. See p. 230.

[312] See Bruce, 'Handbook to Wall' (ed. 1895), p. 267.

[313] Such tablets, called tabulae honestae missionis ("certificates of honourable discharge"), were given to every enfranchised veteran, and were small enough to be carried easily on the person. Four others, besides that at Cilurnum, have been found in Britain.

[314] None of the above-mentioned tabulae found are later than A.D. 146, which, so far as it goes, supports the contention that Marcus Aurelius was the real extender of the citizenship; Caracalla merely insisting on the liabilities which every Roman subject had incurred by his rise to this status.

[315] See pp. 175, 176. Only those fairly identifiable are given; the certain in capitals, the highly probable in ordinary type, and the reasonably probable in italics. For a full list of Romano-British place-names, see Pearson, 'Historical Maps of England.'


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