On the Trail of Mud

Preparing Connecting Light

Preparing Connecting Light

A recent coast-to-coast trudge (or should that be splodge) along the Wall gave pause for thought in the aftermath of a thoroughly unusual summer. As we squelched along, we passed the teams readying the Connecting Light installation that was part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad (treasured moment: man with dysfunctional balloon bellowing into a mobile phone ‘get me someone with a leaf blower!’). When visitor numbers are rumoured to be drastically down this year – in part borne out by how few walkers we passed coming the other way compared to previous years – this event promised to be an incentive to bring in the punters. Sure enough, it made the national news with a vengeance (even though nobody we spoke to seemed quite sure what exactly was happening) and hopefully the lonely guy up on Sewingshields Crags wrestling with the balloon support and his instruction leaflet eventually got some help.

Mud, cows, and walkers intermingling west of Newtown

Mud, cows, and walkers intermingling west of Newtown

Mud with stile

Mud with stile

Ironically, it may not necessarily be a bad thing that numbers are down. The Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail (to give it its slightly clumsy full title) is looking a little sorry for itself. One of the strongest arguments in favour of the Trail was that it promised a much higher level of monitoring and maintenance than had been the case before it sprang fully formed from the forehead of the (as it was then) Countryside Commission back in 2003. There is even a code (Every Footstep Counts) advising on the best way not to cause damage. Normally, when walking it, one invariably encounters somebody somewhere doing something to it. Plastic matting, bark chippings, and stone flags provide relief to the soggier areas, diversions allow eroded portions to recuperate, and a little love is generally strewn about the landscape. This is not just a matter of making life easier for walkers, or even protecting the flora and fauna from abuse by too many passing feet, but because there is a monument to consider. No, I am not going to call it a heritage asset; the over-militarisation of the ‘heritage’ vocabulary (how soon before erosion is labelled ‘collateral damage’?) helps nobody and serves only to obfuscate and distance when what is needed is clarification and explanation. The monument – you know, that Wall thingy – is vulnerable. One has only to cite The Tale of the Dutch Bankers to show that. Grass grows back, but monuments don’t.

Small lake near Milecastle 17

Small lake near Milecastle 17

Normally, there are well-known moist bits. Most of these are reinforced with matting and flags, but this year is exceptional. Areas previously a tad damp underfoot are now awash in mud. Huge lakes have appeared forcing impromptu diversions by walkers (one west of Newtown was big enough to float a small flotilla). Animal poaching (whereby the soil structure is broken down into a hoofprint-pocked squelchy gloop enhanced with ‘natural products’) only serves to make it worse. To this walker, frankly, things looked slightly out of control. Of course, a couple of weeks of burning sunshine could easily make the problem disappear fairly rapidly. However, the realist cannot help but wonder how likely such a turn of events is at the end of September.

The Picts didn’t know it, but Hadrian’s Wall has a soft underbelly. The easternmost 12 miles of it are fine, protected by the urban and suburban armour of a city plonked on top of it. It becomes increasingly vulnerable as we move westwards, however. Now, the Wall does not enjoy an even distribution of visitors: most people, quite naturally, go to the best bits, in the Central Sector (between, say, Steel Rigg and Housesteads). The analysis of visitor figures confirms this, and the powers-that-be break these down into the self-explanatory ‘amblers, ramblers, and scramblers’. Consequently, this is where most attention is paid to the upkeep of the Trail. Many of the ramblers, however, venture further, and it is here, roughly between Milecastles 12 to 36 and 40 to 80, that the monument is arguably most vulnerable. Unlike the Picts (well, the Caledones, really), the Trail does not pose a uniform threat to the Wall.

Footpath specialists (and, yes, there are such people) like to talk of ‘pinch-points’ and ‘lines of desire’ to describe the ways in which paths control our behaviour (and, conversely, how we sometimes rebel against them). Outwith the Central Sector, where walkers tend to trudge along to the south of the curtain wall (or whichever field boundary is squatting on top of it), a fair amount of the HWP is on the berm, between the curtain wall and the ditch and, by and large, this poses little or no threat to the monument. In one or two places, however, the path flirts dangerously with the rubble spread of the curtain wall: Limestone Corner is one example, but so too is the first half of Wall Mile 33. West of Milecastle 33, the modern field wall is set back to the south of the line of the wall and the HWP meanders across the berm and rubble spread of the wall, depending upon where the gungiest bits and least troublesome walking are to be found. This is where lines of desire kick in (quite literally). Often inspired by animal trails, they follow the easiest route for the walker (human or animal). At Milecastle 33 (excavated in 1935/6 by F. G. Simpson and others – you can still see the spoil heap, usually covered in bracken, to the south), the Trail is carried across the west wall of the fortlet by means of wooden steps. However, gloop at the base of the steps is causing walkers to invent their own diversions. Quicker than you can say ‘has Antinoös gone for another swim?’, unconsolidated walls could suffer damage.

This is the compromise that has to be made: if we want largely unfettered access to a unique monument like Hadrian’s Wall (that most heterodox of Roman frontiers), then we must be prepared to make sacrifices. At the very least, we need to think about where we are walking (and how many would-be Kevin Costners do you see prancing about on top of the curtain wall, despite requests not to do so in the literature, on notices, and so on?) and perhaps, at the other extreme, we must be prepared for the Trail to be closed to give it a little breathing space and some time to recover. The pressure from ramblers is down in the winter (walking the Trail is actually discouraged out of season), but the ground is soggy and grass will not grow back until the spring. Much will depend upon the coming winter’s weather.

The Trail on the line of the Vallum west of Glasson

The Trail on the line of the Vallum west of Glasson

So, next time you consider walking Hadrian’s Wall, whether it be for a stroll, a breath of fresh air, or even to raise money for charity dressed as Russell Crowe on his way to a toga party, bear in mind the many and varied factors influencing the way you interact with that 2,000-year-old piece of military hardware and remember that every footstep really does count.

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PLV Inscriptions (Rudchester)

Introduction

An important group of four altars comes from the mithraeum to the south-west of the fort, in the civil settlement. The other stones were found reused in the vicinity.

Inventory

RIB 1395

RIB 1395

RIB 1395: Deo Invicto / Mytrae P(ublius) Ae(lius) / Titullus prae(fectus) / v(otum) s(olvit) l(aetus) l(ibens) m(erito) (‘For the Invincible God Mithras, Publius Aelius Titullus, prefect, gladly, willingly, and deservedly fulfilled a vow’). Altar found 1844 in the mithraeum at Rudchester. Source: RIB I pp.454-5

RIB 1396

RIB 1396

RIB 1396: Deo Soli Invic(to) / Tib(erius) Cl(audius) Dec(i)mus / Cornel(ius) Anto/nius praef(ectus) / templ(um) restit(uit) (‘For the invincible sun god, Tiberius Claudius Decimus Antonius, prefect, restored the temple’). Altar found 1844 in the mithraeum at Rudchester. Source: RIB I p.455

RIB 1397

RIB 1397

RIB 1397: Soli / Apollini / Aniceto / [Mithrae] / Apon[i]us / Rogatianus / [… (‘For the sun god Apollo Anicetus Mithras, Aponius Rogatianus…’). Altar found 1844 in the mithraeum at Rudchester. Source: RIB I p.455

RIB 1398

RIB 1398

RIB 1398: Deo / L(ucius) Sentius / Castus / (centurio) leg(ionis) VI d(ono) p(osuit) (‘For the god, Lucius Sentius Castus, centurion of the Sixth Legion set this up as a gift’). Altar found 1844 in the mithraeum at Rudchester. Source: RIB I p.456

RIB 1399: …]ulius [… / …]ogenes [… / sol]uit felic[iter] (‘…]ulius […]ogenes …successfully fulfilled…’). Found 1875 in a wall at Rudchester. Source: RIB I p.456

RIB 1400: coh(ortis) III[I] / c(enturia) Pedi Qui(nti) (‘Fourth cohort, the century of Pedius Quintus (built this)’). Centurial stone found around 1875 in a wall at Rudchester. Source: RIB I p.457

RIB 1401: [c]oh(ortis) VI / c(enturia) Aprilis (‘the sixth cohort, century of Aprilis (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1848 at Rudchester. Source: RIB I p.457

RIB 1402

RIB 1402

RIB 1402: c(enturia) Arri (‘the century of Arrius (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1875 in a wall at Rudchester. Source: RIB I p.457

RIB 1403: NEMI (‘?’). Found before 1852 near Rudchester. Source: RIB I p.457

RIB 1404: [D(is) M(anibus)] / Aur(eli) […]/rini [vi]/xit [an]/nis […] (‘For the immortal shades and Aurelius […]rinus, he lived […] years…’). Tombstone found 1810 at Rudchester. Source: RIB I p.457

RIB 1405: …] / [si]t tib[i / terra] levis (‘…may the soil rest lightly upon you’). Tombstone found 1789 at Rudchester. Source: RIB I p.458

Analysis

The four inscribed altars (RIB 1395–8; an additional, small, uninscribed one was recovered in 1844) reflect the elite nature of the adherents of the cult of Mithras, three of them being set up by unit commanders, the fourth (possibly) by a centurion (who, given that he explicitly states he was from the Sixth Legion, may have been in temporary command of the unit based there). Although the mithraeum was first found in 1844, it was not properly excavated until 1953.

None of the inscriptions from Rudchester records the fact, but the fort was garrisoned by the cohors I Frisiavonum in the 4th century (and probably in the 3rd century too); the earliest unit based there is unknown.

Other stones, such as the centurial stones RIB 1400–2, may have come from the Wall near the fort (Arrius was certainly active near Benwell). The two tombstones, on the other hand, almost certainly derive from the civil settlement of the fort itself.

Hadrian’s Wall Inscriptions (Benwell to Rudchester)

Introduction


This section covers Wall Miles 6 to 13, nearly all of which (i.e. WM8–13) is now beneath the Military Road. Many are unprovenanced, usually having been rebuilt into another structure, but some were recovered from the Wall during the construction of the road in 1751. Unfortunately, the locations of these stones were not accurately recorded.

Inventory

RIB 1353: VIAT (‘…]VIAT[…’).  Found 1807 built into a house near MC7. Now lost.  Source: RIB I p.446

RIB 1354

RIB 1354

RIB 1354: c(enturia) Here/nniani (‘The century of Herennianus (built this)’). Centurial stone found before 1732 beside the road at Denton. Now lost. Source: RIB I p.446

RIB 1355: N (‘N’). Building stone found before 1789. Now lost. Source: RIB I p.446

RIB 1356: c(enturia) Iuli / Rufi (‘The century of Iulius Rufus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1804 near Denton Hall. Source: RIB I p.447

RIB 1357: c(enturia) Iuli / Rufi (‘The century of Iulius Rufus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1804 near Denton Hall. Source: RIB I p.447

RIB 1358

RIB 1358

RIB 1358: leg(ionis) II Aug(ustae) / coh(ors) I / fec(it) (‘Second Legion First Cohort built this’). Building stone found 1869 near Denton Hall. Source: RIB I p.447

RIB 1359: l(egionis) II Aug(ustae) / c(o)ho(rs) VIII / fec(it) (‘Second Legion Eighth Cohort made this’). Building stone found 1716 in East Denton. Source: RIB I p.447

RIB 1360

RIB 1360

RIB 1360: leg(ionis) / II Aug(ustae) co/h(ors) VIII (‘Second Legion Eighth Cohort (built this)’). Building stone found 1725 at Denton Wood House. Source: RIB I p.448

RIB 1361: c(enturia) Tu[lli] (‘The century of Tullius (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1936 on north mound of Vallum. Source: RIB I p.448

RIB 1362: c(enturia) Val(eri) Fl(avi) (‘Century of Valerius Flavus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1934 on north mound of Vallum. Source: RIB I p.448

RIB 1363: c(enturia) Val(eri) Fl(avi) (‘Century of Valerius Flavus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1934 on north mound of Vallum. Source: RIB I p.448

RIB 1364: c(enturia) Pro(culi) (‘Century of Proculus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1934 on north mound of Vallum. Source: RIB I p.448

RIB 1365: c(oh(ortis) I / Dacor(um) / c(enturia) Ael(i) Dida(e) (‘First Cohort of Dacians the century of Aelius Dida (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1936 on north mound of Vallum. Source: RIB I p.449

RIB 1366

RIB 1366

RIB 1366: Iov/i O(ptimo) M(aximo) / [… (‘For Jupiter Best and Greatest…’). Altar found 1822 on the Wall west of Denton Hall. Source: RIB I p.448

RIB 1367: c(enturia) Atisi (‘The century of Atisius (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1953. Source: RIB I p.448

RIB 1368: c(enturia) Avi/di Rufi (‘The century of Avidius Rufus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1904 in main road west of lane to Newburn. Source: RIB I p.448

RIB 1369: c(enturia)] / Iuli Pri[…] (‘century of Iulius Primus’). Centurial stone found before 1851 in West Denton. Source: RIB I p.449

RIB 1370: VIII (‘8’). Building stone found 1929 in Milecastle 9. Source: RIB I p.450

RIB 1371: VIIII (‘9’). Building stone found 1929 in Milecastle 9. Source: RIB I p.450

RIB 1372: X (’10’). Building stone found 1929 in Milecastle 9. Source: RIB I p.450

RIB 1373

RIB 1373

RIB 1373: c(enturia) p(rimi) p(ili) (‘century of the first centurion (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1794 in a stable in Walbottle. Source: RIB I p.450

RIB 1374

RIB 1374

RIB 1374: c(enturia) Iuli Pro/culi (‘century of Iulius Proculus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1906 200 yds W of Engine Inn. Source: RIB I p.450

RIB 1375: coh(ortis) V[… / c(enturia) Iuli Iuv(enalis?) (‘The fifth(/sixth/seventh) cohort, the century of Iulius Iuvenalis’). Centurial stone found 1789 near Walbottle. Source: RIB I pp.450-1

RIB 1376

RIB 1376

RIB 1376: c(enturia) Pere/grini (‘century of Peregrinus’). Centurial stone found 1794 slightly east of Walbottle on south mound of Vallum. Source: RIB I p.451

RIB 1377: c(enturia) Muci. / .EN (‘the century of Mucius … (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1732 in a cow shed in Walbottle. Source: RIB I p.451

RIB 1378

RIB 1378

RIB 1378: F]elix… (‘Felix…’). Building stone found 1857 at Walbottle. Source: RIB I p.451

RIB 1379: a) I b) III c) V d) VII[ e) VIII f) IX (‘a) 1 b) 3 c) 5 d) 7(or 8/9) e) 8 f) 9’). Building stones found 1732 in field walls near Walbottle. Source: RIB I p.451

RIB 1380

RIB 1380

RIB 1380: c(enturia) Car[… (‘The century of Car[…’). Centurial stone found in 1864 at Milecastle 10. Source: RIB I p.451

RIB 1381: V (‘5’). Building stone found before 1732 in Throckley. Source: RIB I p.452

RIB 1382: X (’10’). Building stone found before 1732 in Throckley. Source: RIB I p.452

RIB 1383: C (‘C’ or ‘100’). Building stone found 1926 at Great Hill, near Heddon. Source: RIB I p.452

RIB 1384: R (‘R’). Building stone found 1926 at Great Hill, near Heddon. Source: RIB I p.452

RIB 1385: leg(ionis) XX / V(aleriae) V(ictricis) / coh(ors) IV (‘Twentieth Legion Valeria Victrix (built this)’). Building stone found 1807 in the vicarage at Heddon and now lost. Source: RIB I p.452

RIB 1386: c(enturia) Iul(i) / Ruf(i) (‘The century of Iulius Rufus’). Centurial stone found 1807 in the vicarage at Heddon and now lost. This centurion is also recorded in RIB 1356 & 1357. Source: RIB I p.452

RIB 1387: c(enturia) Fl(avi) As/[… (‘The century of Flavius As[…’). Centurial stone found in church at Heddon-on-the-Wall. Source: RIB I p.453

RIB 1388: leg(ionis) VI [V]i/ct(ricis) P(iae) F(idelis) re[f]/ecit coh(ors) X (‘From the Sixth Legion Victrix Pia Fidelis the tenth cohort rebuilt this’). Building stone found (probably near Heddon-on-the-Wall) during construction of the Military Road in 1751. Now missing. Source: RIB I p.453

RIB 1389: leg(io) VI V(ictrix) P(ia) / F(idelis) ref(ecit) Te/r(tullo) et Sac(erdote) co(n)s(ulibus) / S(…) F(…) (‘The Sixth Legion Victrix Pia Fidelis rebuilt this in the consulship of Tertullus and Sacerdos. S(…) F(…)’). Building stone found (probably near Heddon-on-the-Wall) during construction of the Military Road in 1751. Now missing. The consular date is AD 158. Source: RIB I p.453

RIB 1390: leg(ionis) XX V(aleriae) V(ictricis) / coh(ors) VIII (‘Twentieth Legion Valeria Victrix, eighth cohort’). Building stone found (probably near Heddon-on-the-Wall) during construction of the Military Road in 1751. Now missing. Source: RIB I p.453

RIB 1391: leg(ionis) XX V(aleriae) V(ictricis) / coh(ortis) X [c(enturia)] prin(cipis prioris) (‘From the Twentieth Legion Valeria Victrix, tenth cohort, the century of the princeps prior (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1751 during construction of the Military Road, probably near Heddon. Source: RIB I p.453

RIB 1392: coh(ors) pr/ima DC . L (‘First cohort…’]. Building stone found 1751 during construction of the Military Road, probably near Heddon. Source: RIB I p.454

RIB 1393: XIII (’13’). Building stone found before 1952 at Heddon. Source: RIB I p.454

RIB 1394: Cl(audius) · P[… (‘Claudius…’). Found 1932 at Heddon North Lodge. Source: RIB I p.454

RIB 3286: I (‘1’). Building stone found 1930 in Newburn. Source: RIB III p.287

RIB 3287: II (‘2’). Building stone found 1930 in Newburn. Source: RIB III p.287

RIB 3288: + (‘+’). Building stone found 1930 in Newburn. Source: RIB III p.287

Analysis

There is much that can be made from this disparate bunch of mural chisellings. The bulk of the inscriptions from this section fall into the categories of centurial or building stones, with some quarry marks thrown in for good measure. Amongst the centurial stones, there is also an apparent division between legionary centurions (building the curtain wall itself) and auxiliary centurions working on the Vallum.

The Wall sector between Milecastle 6 (just before Benwell) and around Turret 11b (just before Heddon) has traditionally been assigned to legio II Augusta (Birley 1961, 257), with legio XX Valeria Victrix building Turret 11b to around Milecastle 17, based upon the evidence of the building stones. If correct, this would suggest that Iulius Rufus (RIB 1356-7, 1386), Avidius Rufus (RIB 1368), Iulius Primus (RIB 1369), Iulius Proculus (RIB 1374), and Iulius Iuvenalis (RIB 1375) were all centurions of II Augusta, evidently belonging to cohortes I, VIII, and V[… (the primus pilus mentioned in RIB 1373 was the centurion commanding cohors I in a legion; cf RIB 1358). Two inscriptions referring to reconstruction work by legio VI Victrix (one dated to AD 158) presumably relate to their repairing original shoddy construction work (by legio XX?!) after the retreat from the Antonine Wall.

A group of centurial inscriptions from the Vallum (RIB 1361-5, 1376) indicate construction work there by auxiliaries, specifically from cohors I Aelia Dacorum (RIB 1365). This puts the lie to the old chestnut about construction work always being undertaken by legionaries (partly inspired by the images on Trajan’s Column) and this appears to be confirmed by part of Hadrian’s address to troops at Lambaesis (in modern Algeria), where he mentions troops of a mixed cohort building walls and digging ditches. It also presumably meant the legions could carry on constructing the curtain wall and its associated structures whilst the auxiliaries worked on the Vallum.

Some centurions’ names occur more than once. Iulius Rufus (RIB 1356-7, 1386) is found at both Denton and near Heddon (if the same centurion, it indicates leapfrogging by work gangs of the same legion). Avidius Rufus is encountered again to the west of Carrawburgh fort (RIB 1567 and possibly 1564-5).

Finally, the altar (RIB 1366) may originally have come from Milecastle 8 (since, outwith forts and their civil settlements, altars on the Wall usually only occur at milecastles).

References

Birley, E. (1961), Research on Hadrian’s Wall, Kendal