Was Hadrian’s Wall awash with cider?

Now, be honest: you’re thinking that I am positively potty, aren’t you? Everybody knows cider was introduced into Britain by the Normans, and that beforehand there was beer (the famed cervesa of the Vindolanda Tablets); imported (and natively grown) wine, of course; and possibly some mead too. But Roman cider? You’ve got to be joking!

One of my cider varieties

One of my cider varieties

I must declare an interest, here. When I lived in the Scottish Borders, I had a small (very small: on espaliered dwarf root stock) orchard and I grew my own apples in order to make cider (or cyder, since it only contained apples, with none of the chemical hotch-potch some producers add). Boosted by windfalls from neighbours (who, as a cider-maker, I rapidly learned soon tire of endless apple pies) and with a little added piquancy (and, importantly, tannin) from wild, hedgerow crab apples down by the old airfield (the one where Wojtek the bear used to live), I made passable cider. I once even managed to secure a few kilos of Kingston Black (a god amongst cider apple varieties): small, ugly, tannin-laden fruits that had a sort of tardis trick with the amount of rich, red juice they produced. That juice turned into a cider to die for. However, I digress – you get the picture: I have an interest in cider, in more ways than one.

Some of my apples

Some of my apples

Anyway, my quest for Roman cider in Northern Britain started out with light-hearted intent, sparked tangentially by a item on a television news programme, but serious evidential questions lie at the root of all this flippant alcoholic speculation, as will hopefully become apparent.

Why might there have been cider on Hadrian’s Wall? Because the most important ingredient necessary for the presence of cider was there. No, not apples (don’t be silly, that much is obvious); I mean cider-lovers.

Underground strongroom at Great Chesters

Useful cellarage at Great Chesters?

The auxiliary units based in Britain were drawn from all over the Empire except, as was policy, from Britain itself. The infantry cohorts, cavalry alae, and part-mounted cohorts came from a variety of peoples, and the mounted components in Britain contained a high proportion of Gallic and Spanish units. In fact, along Hadrian’s Wall, there were Asturian alae at Benwell (I Hispanorum Asturum) and Chesters (II Asturum), and an Asturian part-mounted cohort (cohors II Asturum) at Great Chesters. It has even been suggested that the Roman name of Chesters – Cilurnum – was derived from the Asturians’ home region, rather than an existing local placename. To these might be added the cohors I fida Vardullorum, a double-strength, part-mounted unit that pops up at Castlecary on the Antonine Wall, at Corbridge, Lanchester, Cappuck (possibly), and finally at the Hadrian’s Wall outpost fort of High Rochester in the 3rd century. The Vardulli came from the Aquitanian Basque region around modern Gipuzkoa, where there is still a tradition of cider production and consumption. We can be less certain where the cohors II Vasconum were deployed (they only show up on diplomas, not inscriptions), but the Vascones were neighbours of the Vardulli in northern Spain, so I think we might suspect them too of a fondness for the fermented apple.

A thirsty Asturian from Chesters

A thirsty Asturian from Chesters

And so to the news item. Amidst disturbing coverage of the proposed new anti-abortion law in Spain, Channel 4 News went to Asturias, where a group of women were singing protest songs against the new bill whilst drinking their favourite tipple: their local sidra. Now I’ve sampled Spanish cider and, like German Apfelwein, it can hold its own against British ciders and, at its best, give our finest a run for their money (perhaps just being pipped at the post; I couldn’t resist that…). I even have a friend from the north of Spain whose family had been growing cider apples since way back into the apple-blossomed mists of time. I nosed through a few of my history-of-cider books, most of which are more folklorish than factual (as is so much ‘popular history’; we ancient historians are rather fastidious about what we require as evidence), but all of which agreed on the antiquity of the Asturian love of cider, pre-dating even the Romans. A little bit of research on the web sort of confirmed that rather fuzzy view (the web is so good at sort-of-confirming vague things in a non-specific, word-of-mouthish way), but did not provide hard-and-fast evidence (I need citations, not guff). Then I hit pay dirt (rather appropriate, in an archaeological sort of way).

Asturian cavalrymen's tombstone

An Asturian dreaming of his cider?

For we do indeed have some literary evidence: Pliny the Elder (after whom, I discovered, a beer is named, but that is irrelevant) comes to our aid, specifically NH XIV.19. He tells us how both apples and pears could make an alcoholic drink (cider and perry respectively, although whether true perry pears were known is another matter). Strabo (IV.3.7) describes how the mountain Spaniards (which included the Cantabrians and Asturians) drank zytho and it has been argued that this is linked to the Greek Σίχερα, Latin sicera, and thus ultimately sidra. It should be noted that sicera, with the sense of a non-specific intoxicating drink, is claimed by various other modern beverages, not just cider!

Thus it seems that some form of cider was at least known from Roman literary sources. What about archaeology? That’s harder. You see, apples are entimophilous, which means you need insects to pollinate them and that means they do not contribute to the pollen rain: that’s the stuff that drops out of the sky, possibly giving you hay-fever in passing, but which almost exclusively derives from wind-pollinated plants. That in turn means that you can look as hard as you like through all the peat cores and pollen samples taken along Hadrian’s Wall (and there’s quite a few now), but apples just will not show up unless a tree was right next to the coring site. They are, as someone once said, A Known Unknown. So can environmental archaeology help us at all? Luckily it can. Apple pips could theoretically survive through waterlogging (as at sites like Vindolanda or Carlisle) and by carbonisation (where they are accidentally burned and turned to charcoal). Find apple pips and you have apple consumption. Crab apples are neither edible nor a good source of cider by themselves, so pips from a Roman site ought to be cultivars grown for consumption in one way or another.

The label from the back of my ciders

The label from the back of my ciders

Unfortunately, environmental archaeology has only really taken off after Benwell, Chesters, and Great Chesters were excavated, so any hope of proving apple consumption at those sites is forlorn. We may be able to use comparative data from other neighbouring sites, however. Excavations at Vindolanda and Carlisle have already been mentioned as possible sources of waterlogged material and Carlisle (Howard-Davis 2009, 524) has produced evidence for the consumption of both apples and pears.

The sub-literary evidence provides some interesting confirmation. Vindolanda Tablet 302 includes a request for ‘a hundred apples, if you can find nice ones’ in the same sentence as other foodstuffs, like beans, chickens, and eggs. The editors suggest this concerns the acquisition of food for the commanding officer’s house, so these would perhaps be more likely to be dessert apples, rather than intended for cider making, but it makes the point: apples were readily available for that fort, even if not necessarily grown there, and in relative bulk.

Apples.

Apples. Yum!

So where does this leave us? As in so many details of life in Roman Britain there are things the novelist can invent and the ancient historian and archaeologist can only dream of verifying. Was cider only introduced to Britain by the Normans or could Roman auxiliaries have been quaffing it merrily? Despite the lack of fossil pollen evidence (and at least you have learned why there is likely to be none), there were clearly cultivated apples available on the northern frontier, and there were as many as five auxiliary units with the best part of 3000 men from a land with a cider-making and -consuming tradition that (allegedly) pre-dated the Romans. There appear to be good grounds to at least suspect that cider, like many of the soldiers (when opportunity arose), may have been drunk in the vicinity of Hadrian’s Wall. Yes, I’ll drink to that. Waes hael! (or should that be gayolá!?)

Postscript

Now I hesitate to mention this, and please don’t tell the French, but it is a commonplace that some of the British garrison troops who never made it back to Britannia after the usurpation of Magnus Maximus in AD 383 may have settled in Brittany. (It is an incidental, but colourful, detail that Maximus himself hailed from Gallaecia, a region in north-west Spain that included Asturia.) If the stranded troops brought a love of cider with them, could that not be the origin of Normandy and Brittany cidre and that eventual Norman (re)introduction of cider to Britain? I’d best not say any more; there’s a chap with a baguette and a mean look in his eye heading this way…


Howard-Davis, C. (2009) The Carlisle Millennium Project 1998–2001. Volume 2 The Finds, Lancaster

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PLV Inscriptions (Great Chesters to Carvoran)

Introduction

The bulk of the inscriptions from this sector derive from 19th- and 20th-century excavation and 20th-century consolidation work on the curtain wall, mostly in the region of Walltown Crags.

Inventory

RIB 1754: coh(ortis) V / c(enturia) Sexti Proc(uli) (‘Fifth Cohort, century of Sextus Proculus (built this)’). Centurial stone found before 1909 near Milecastle 44. Source: RIB I p.549

RIB 1755: coh(ortis) III [c(enturia)] / Seni[lis] (‘Third Cohort, century of Senilis’). Centurial stone found 1904 in debris near Milecastle 44. Source: RIB I p.550

RIB 1756: coh(ortis) VII / [c(enturia) ..]XI[..]IAN[.] (‘Seventh Cohort, century of (…)’). Centurial stone found before 1732 at Allollee farm cow shed. Source: RIB I p.550

RIB 1757: coh(ortis) VIII / c(enturia) Secci (‘Eighth cohort, the century of Seccius (built this)’). Centurial stone found in Wall debris near Milecastle 44. Source: RIB I p.550

RIB 1758: c(enturia) Maxi(mi) (‘the century of Maximus (built this)’). Centurial stone found in Wall debris near Milecastle 44. Source: RIB I p.550

RIB 1759: co[h(ortis) (‘… cohort …’). Centurial stone found before 1732 at Allolee farm. Source: RIB I p.550

RIB 1760: c(enturia) Mari Dex(tri) (‘the century of Marius Dexter (built this)’). Centurial stone found before 1873 near the Wall, then built into Allolee farm. Source: RIB I p.550

RIB 1761: c(enturia) Valeri / Veri (‘the century of Valerius Verus (built this)’). Centurial stone found before 1873 near the Wall, then built into Allolee farm. Source: RIB I p.551

RIB 1762: [Leg(ionis)] XX V(aleriae) V(ictricis) / [c(o)h]o(rtis) X / [|(centuria) Iul]i Flo/[ren]tini (‘the Twentieth Legion Valeria Victrix, Tenth Cohort, century of Iulius Florentinus (built this)’). Centurial stone found in 1892 at Mucklebank Turret. Source: RIB I p.551

RIB 1763

RIB 1763

RIB 1763: coh(ortis) I c(enturia) / Fl(avi) Cre(scentis) (‘First Cohort, century of Flavius Crescens (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1892 on the SE corner of Turret 44b. Source: RIB I p.551

RIB 1764: coh(ortis) VIII / c(enturia) Secci (‘Eighth Cohort, century of Seccus’). Centurial stone found before 1873 at Low Town farm. Source: RIB I p.551

RIB 1765: c(enturia) Mu/nati / Max(imi) (‘century of Munatius Maximus (built this)’). Centurial stone found before 1732 near Walltown. Now lost. Source: RIB I p.552

RIB 1766: coh(ortis) V / c(enturia) Val(eri) / Maximi (‘Fifth Cohort, the century of Valerius Maximus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1807 at Walltown. Source: RIB I p.552

RIB 1767: …v(otum)] / s(olvit) l(ibens) l(aetus) m(erito) (‘gladly, willingly, and deservedly fulfilled a vow’). Altar found before 1716 near Walltown. Now lost. Source: RIB I p.552

RIB 1768: coh(ortis) III / |(centuria) Socelliana (‘Third Cohort, the former century of Socellius (built this)’). Centurial stone found in 1757, probably near Turret 44b. Now lost. Source: RIB I pp.552-3

RIB 1769: coh(ortis) III / c(enturia) Ferroni / Vegeti (‘Third Cohort, the century of Ferronius Vegetus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1939 E of Walltown quarry. Source: RIB I p.553

RIB 1770: c(enturia) Cl(audi) Au/gus[t]a(ni) (‘the century of Claudius Augustanus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1939 E of Walltown quarry. Source: RIB I p.553

RIB 1771: c(enturia) Mar/i Dext(ri) (‘the century of Marius Dexter (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1939 E of Walltown Quarry. Source: RIB I p.553

RIB 1772: c(o)ho(rtis) VI c(enturia) / Lepidiana (‘Sixth Cohort, the former century of Lepidius (built this)’). Centurial stone found in 1948 E of Turret 45b. Source: RIB I p.553

RIB 1773: coh(ortis) III / c(enturia) [IIOIIV] (‘Third Cohort, the century of… (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1883 near Turret 45b. Source: RIB I p.553

RIB 1774: coh(ortis) V / c(enturia) Iuli Vale(ntis) (‘Fifth Cohort, the century of Iulius Valens (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1885 between Turret 45a and 45b. Source: RIB I p.553

RIB 3377: coh(ortis) V / c(enturia) Val(erii) / Rufini (‘Fifth Cohort, the century of Valerius Rufinus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1980 near Turret 45a. Source: RIB III p.353

RIB 3378: leg(ionis) XX V(aleriae) V(ictricis) / c(o)ho(rtis) X / c(enturia) Fl(avi) Nor/ici (‘From the Twentieth Legion, Fifth Cohort, the century of Flavius Noricus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 7.63m W of Turret 45a. Source: RIB III p.354

RIB 3379: coh(ortis) VI / c(enturia) Caledo(ni) / Secundi (‘Sixth Cohort, the century of Caledonius Secundus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1959 47.28m W of Turret 45a, fallen from S face. Source: RIB III pp.354-5

RIB 3380: X (’10’). Building stone found 1987 96m W of Turret 45a in situ on the N face. Source: RIB III p.355

RIB 3381: X (’10’). Building stone found 1987 98m W of Turret 45a in situ on the N face. Source: RIB III p.355

RIB 3382: coh(ortis) I c(enturia) / Libonis (‘First Cohort, the century of Libo’). Building stone found 1987 95.16m W of Turret 45a in rubble from the S face. Source: RIB III p.356

RIB 3383: c(enturia) Ulpi Vo/lusiini (‘the century of Ulpius Volusiinus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1960 96.28m W of Turret 45a in rubble on N side of Wall. Source: RIB III p.356

RIB 3384: VIII (‘8’). Building stone found 1960 96.28m W of Turret 45a in rubble on N side of Wall. Source: RIB III pp.356-7

RIB 3385: c(enturia) Caledon(i) / Secundi (‘the century of Caledonius Secundus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1959 137.4m W of Turret 45a. Source: RIB III p.358

RIB 3386: coh(ortis) III / c(enturia) Maximi (‘Third Cohort, the century of Maximus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1960 between Turrets 45a and b. Source: RIB III p.358

RIB 3387: coh(ortis) III / c(enturia) Max(imi) Ter(e)n(ti) (‘Third Cohort, the century of Maximus Terentius (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1960 151m W of Turret 45a. Source: RIB III p.359

RIB 3388

RIB 3388

RIB 3388: coh(ortis) III / c(enturia) O[…] (‘Third Cohort, the century of O(…) (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1960 160m W of Turret 45a. Source: RIB III p.360

RIB 3389: c(enturia) Mari / Dext(ri) (‘the century of Marius Dexter (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1960 245.2m W of Turret 45a fallen from S face. Source: RIB III p.360

RIB 3390: c(enturia) Val(eri) Veri (‘the century of Valerius Verus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1960 287.3m W of Turret 45a fallen from S face. Source: RIB III p.361

RIB 3391: coh(ortis) II / c(enturia) Laetiani (‘Second Cohort, the century of Laetianus (built this)’). Centurial stone found 1960 295.5m W of Turret 45a. Source: RIB III p.361

Analysis

These inscriptions almost exclusively derive from the building work of the Twentieth Legion and this is reflected in the number of inscriptions with very detailed geolocational information. The issue of the allocation of centurial inscriptions has been dealt with elsewhere, but the sample provided by this and subsequent consolidated sections provides a detailed insight into the cohorts and centuries of the Twentieth Legion working here.

The Jarrow Inscription

Two fragments of a 2nd-century AD Latin inscription (RIB 1051a and b) discovered in St Paul’s church at Jarrow in 1782 may throw important light on Hadrian’s visit to Britain in AD 122.

RIB 1051a

RIB 1051a

RIB 1051a: [Divorum] omnium fil[ius] / [Imp(erator) Caesar Traianus] Hadr[ianus] / [Augustus imposit]a necessitat[e imperii] / [intra fines conser]vati divino pr[aecepto] / [… c]o(n)s(ul) II[I …] (‘Son of all the divine emperors, Emperor Caesar Trajan Hadrian Augustus, once the need to maintain the empire within limits had been placed upon him by divine authority… consul for the third time…’). Dedication found 1782 at St Paul’s church, Jarrow. Now in the GNM. Source: RIB I pp.349-51

RIB 1051b

RIB 1051b

RIB 1051b: diffusis [barbaris et] / provinc[ia reciperata(!)] / Britannia ad[didit limitem inter] / utrumque O[ceani litus …] / exercitus pr[ovinciae … fecit] / sub cur[a A(uli) Platori Nepotis leg(ati) Aug(usti) pr(o) pr(aetore)] (‘After the barbarians had been scattered and the province of Britain recovered, he added a frontier… between both Ocean’s shores. The army of the province built this… under Aulus Platorius Nepos, Emperor’s propraetorian legate’). Dedication found 1782 at St Paul’s church, Jarrow. Now in the GNM. Source: RIB I pp.349-51

Dated to after AD 119 (the year in which Hadrian held office as consul for the third time), the fragments were interpreted by Ian Richmond and R.P. Wright in their publication as parts of one text, separated by about seven lines of missing text. Richmond and Wright restored the inscription to include mention of Hadrian’s eponymous Wall, although that restoration remains speculative and, indeed, contentious. The first section (1051a) contains Hadrian’s names. so clearly belongs at the beginning, whilst the second (1051b), recording the governor’s name, should come at the end. What came between, however, is anybody’s guess, assuming both pieces belonged to the same text (and that is by no means certain). What is clear is that mention is being made of the exercitus Britannicus doing something, and it is not unreasonable to suppose that that something was building the Wall.

Eric Birley¹ was sceptical of Richmond and Wright’s claim for the stones being Hadrianic (mainly on the style of the lettering), preferring a Severan date for them, reasoning that it may have marked that emperor’s reconstruction of the Wall as the occasion for the dedication. Nevertheless, his son Tony Birley has pointed out² that Cantarelli suggested as far back as 1898 that the text may record part of a speech by Hadrian, given to the troops during his visit to Britain. Was this the address illustrated on the exercitus Britannicus coins he issued? Was it also at this occasion that the discharge of veterans from fifty auxiliary units occurred, recorded on a diploma as 17th July 122? We have no way of knowing for sure, for the time being, but these are, at the very least, interesting possibilities.

1. Research on Hadrian’s Wall (1962) 159.
2. Hadrian, the Restless Emperor (1997) 331-2 n.16.

PLV Inscriptions (Housesteads)

Introduction

There are three principal zones of inscription recovery at Housesteads: the fort itself, the civil settlement, and a religious area around Chapel Hill. Whilst these largely reflect areas of antiquarian interest and archaeological exploration, it has to be said that Chapel Hill does seem to have a prominence that is more than purely topographical.

Inventory

RIB 1576

RIB 1576

RIB 1576: Deabus / Alaisia/gis Bau/dihilli(a)e / et Friaga/bi et n(umini) Aug(usti) / n(umerus) Hnau/difridi / v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito) (‘For the goddesses Alaisiagae, Baudihilia, and Friagabis, and to the divine power of the Emperor, the unit of Hnaudrifidus gladly and deservedly fulfilled a vow’). Altar found 1920 on the N slope of Chapel Hill. Source: RIB I p.501

RIB 1577

RIB 1577

RIB 1577: Cocidio [et] / Genio pr[ae]/sidi Vale/rius m(iles) l[e]/g(ionis) VI v(ictricis) p(iae) f(idelis) v(oto) p(osuit) (‘For Cocidius and the spirit of the garrison, Valerius, a soldier of the Sixth Legion Victrix Pia Fidelis set this up from a vow’). Altar found 1822 E of the mithraeum. Source: RIB I p.502

RIB 1578

RIB 1578

RIB 1578: Deo / Silvano / Cocidio / Q(uintus) Florius / Maternus / praef(ectus) coh(ortis) / I Tung(rorum) / v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito) (‘For the god Silvanus Cocidius, Quintus Florius Maternus, prefect of the First Cohort of Tungrians, willingly and deservedly fulfilled a vow’). Altar found 1854 in the SW corner of the fort. Source: RIB I p.502

RIB 1579

RIB 1579

RIB 1579: Diis Deabusque se/cundum interpre/tationem oracu/li Clari Apollinis/ coh(ors) I Tungrorum (‘For the gods and goddesses according to the oracle of Clarian Apollo, the First Cohort of Tungrians (set this up)’). Altar found before 1808 at Housesteads. Source: RIB I p.502

RIB 1580

RIB 1580

RIB 1580: Herculi / coh(ors) I Tungror(um) / mil(liaria) / cui praeest P(ublius) Ael(ius) / Modestus prae(fectus) (‘For Hercules the First Cohort of Tungrians, which is commanded by Publius Aelius Modestus, prefect (set this up)’). Altar found before 1728 at Housesteads. Source: RIB I p.503

RIB 1581: I(ovi) O(ptimo) M(aximo) / [… (‘For Jupiter Best and Greatest…’). Altar found in 1852 in a north gate guard chamber (but which one?!). Now lost. Source: RIB I p.503

RIB 1582

RIB 1582

RIB 1582: I(ovi) O(ptimo) M(aximo) / milites / leg(ionis) II A[ug(ustae)] / [… (‘For Jupiter Best and Greatest the soldiers of the Second Legion Augusta…’). Altar found before 1854 on the hillside S of Milecastle 37. Source: RIB I p.503

RIB 1583

RIB 1583

RIB 1583: I(ovi) O(ptimo) M(aximo) / et deo Cocidio / Genioq(ue) hui(u)s / loci mil(ites) leg(ionis) / II Aug(ustae) agentes / in praesidio / v(otum) s(olverunt) l(ibentes) m(erito) (‘For Jupiter Best and Greatest and the god Cocidius and the spirits of this place, the soldiers of the Second Legion Augusta, acting as the garrison, willingly and deservedly fulfilled a vow’). Altar found in 1898 in the mithraeum. Source: RIB I p.503

RIB 1584

RIB 1584

RIB 1584: I(ovi) O(ptimo) M(aximo) / et numinibus / Aug(ustorum) coh(ors) I / T[un]gror(um) / cui praeest / Q(uintus) Iul(ius) Maxi/mus praef(ectus) (‘For Jupiter Best and Greatest and the divinity of the Emperors, the First Cohort of Tungrians, which is commanded by Quintus Iulius Maximus, prefect (set this up)’). Altar found in 1702 on Chapel Hill. Source: RIB I p.504

RIB 1585

RIB 1585

RIB 1585: I(ovi) O(ptimo) M(aximo) / et numinibus Aug(ustorum) / coh(ors) I Tungr[orum] / cu[i] prae(e)st Q(uintus) Iulius / […]sus praef(ectus) / v(otum) [s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito)] (‘For Jupiter Best and Greatest and the divinities of the Emperors, the First Cohort of Tungrians which is commanded by Quintus Iulius […]sus, prefect, willingly and deservedly fulfilled a vow’). Altar found before 1726 at the foot of the hill south of Housesteads. Source: RIB I p.504

RIB 1586

RIB 1586

RIB 1586: I(ovi) O(ptimo) M(aximo) / et Numinibus / Aug(ustorum) coh(ors) I Tu/ngrorum / mil(liaria) cui praee/st Q(uintus) Verius / Superstis / prae[fec]tus (‘For Jupiter Best and Greatest and for the divinities of the Emperors, the First Cohort of Tungrians, one thousand strong, which is commanded by Quintus Verius Superstis (set this up)’). Altar found 1702 at the foot of Chapel Hill. Source: RIB I pp.504-5

RIB 1587: I(ovi) O(ptimo) [M(aximo)] / et numinibus / […] / […] / […] / […]rius / [.]upe[…] / [p]raefectu[s] (‘For Jupiter Best and Greatest and the divinities… [.]upe[…], prefect…’). Altar found in the early 19th century at Housesteads. Source: RIB I p.505

RIB 1588

RIB 1588

RIB 1588: I(ovi) O(ptimo) M(aximo) / [et numinibus A]ug(ustorum) / […] / […] / […] / [p]raefectu[s] (‘For Jupiter Best and Greatest and the divinities of the Emperors … prefect …’). Altar found before 1733 at the foot of the hill south of Housesteads. Source: RIB I p.505

RIB 1589: I(ovi) O(ptimo) M(aximo) / pro salute / Desidieni Ae/[mi]liani praef/[ecti] et sua su[or]/[u]m posuit vot/[um]q(ue) soluit libe/ns Tusco et Bas/so co[(n)s(ulibus)] (‘For Jupiter Best and Greatest, for the well-being of Desidienius Aemilianus, prefect, both his and his family’s, (?) set this up and willingly fulfilled a vow in the consulship of Tuscus and Bassus’). Altar found before 1602 at Housesteads. The consular date is AD 258. Source: RIB I p.506

RIB 1590: Marti [… (‘For Mars…’). Altar base found 1708 at Housesteads. Now lost. Source: RIB I pp.506-7

RIB 1591

RIB 1591: Deo / Marti Quint(us) / Florius Ma/ternus praef(ectus) / coh(ortis) I Tung(rorum) / v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito) (‘For the god Mars, Quintus Florius Maternus, prefect of the First Cohort of Tungrians, willingly and deservedly fulfilled a vow’). Altar found before 1717 on Chapel Hill. Source: RIB I p.507

RIB 1592

RIB 1592: D[e]/o Sancto M/art[i] votum / pos{si}uit Vi/[tali]anus (‘For the sacred god Mars, vi[…]anus set up a vow’). Altar found before 1853 at Housesteads. Source: RIB I p.507

RIB 1593

RIB 1593: Deo / Marti / Thincso / et duabus / Alaisiagis / Bed(a)e et Fi/mmilen(a)e / et n(umini) Aug(usti) Ger/m(ani) cives Tu/ihanti / v(otum) s(olverunt) l(ibentes) m(erito) (‘For the god Mars Thincsus and the two Alaisiagae, Beda and Fimmilena, and to the divinity of the Emperor, the Germans, citizens of the Tuihante, willingly and deservedly fulfilled a vow’). Pillar found in 1883 at the foot of the N slope of Chapel Hill. Source: RIB I pp.507-8

RIB 1594

RIB 1594: Deo / Marti et duabus / Alaisiagis et n(umini) Aug(usti) / Ger(mani) cives Tuihanti / cunei Frisiorum / Ver(covicianorum) Se(ve)r(iani) Alexand/riani votum / solverunt / libent[es] / m(erito) (‘For the god Mars and the two Alaisiagi, and the divinity of the Emperor, the Germans, citizens of the Tuihanti, of the cuneus of Housesteads Frisians of Severus Alexander, willingly and deservedly fulfilled a vow’). Altar found in 1883 at the foot of the N slope of Chapel Hill. Source: RIB I p.508

RIB 1595: Marti / et Vic/toriae / [… (‘For Mars and Victory…’). Altar fragment found 1898 in the mithraeum. Source: RIB I p.509

RIB 1596

RIB 1596: Deo / [M]arti et / Victoriae / et Numinib(us) Aug(ustorum) / sub cura Lic[i]ni / [.]IVIC[…] II / […]V[…]IS IS VALLVTI / ALPIBAIIRISI / [.]I[.]I[…]SIC[..] /VS […]VIVIOB / […]NDICII / […] cus(tos) arm(orum) / […]SD[…]T (‘For the god Mars and Victoria and the divinities of the Emperors under the command of Licinius … custos armorum‘). Altar found early 19th century at Housesteads. Source: RIB I p.509

RIB 1597

RIB 1597: Deo M(arti) / Calve(…) / Ger(manus) (‘For the god Mars, Calve(…), a German (set this up)’). Altar found 1898 in Building XIII. Source: RIB I p.509

RIB 1598: [Ma]tribus / coh(ors) I Tungr/[or]u[m] (‘For the mother goddesses, the First Cohort of Tungrians …’). Altar found before 1727 at Housesteads. Now lost. Source: RIB I p.509

RIB 1599

RIB 1599: Deo / Soli Invi/cto Myt(h)rae / Saeculari / Litorius / Pacatianus / b(ene)f(iciarius) co(n)s(ularis) pro / se et suis v(otum) s(olvit) / l(ibens) m(erito) (‘For the Invincible Sun, Mithras, Lord of Ages, Litorius Pacatianus, beneficiarius consularis, for himself and his own, willingly and deservedly fulfilled a vow’). Altar found in 1822 in the mithraeum. Source: RIB I p.510

RIB 1600

RIB 1600: Primary text: De[o Secondary text: Deo Soli / Invicto Mit(h)/rae Saeculari / Publ(icius) Proculi/nus c(enturio) pro se / et Proculo fil(io) / suo v(otum) s(oluit) l(ibens) m(erito) / D(ominis) N(ostris) Gallo et / Volusi(a)no co(n)s(ulibus) (‘Primary text: For the god Secondary text: For the god, invincible sun, Mithras, Lord of Ages, Publicius Proculinus centurion, for himself and his son Proculus, willingly and deservedly fulfilled a vow in the consulship of Our Lords Gallus and Volusianus’). Altar found in 1822 in the mithraeum. The consular date is AD 252. Source: RIB I pp.510-11

RIB 1601

RIB 1601: D(eo) Soli / Herion / v(otum) l(ibens) m(erito) (‘For the sun god, Herion willing and deservedly (fulfilled) a vow’). Altar found 1822 in the mithraeum. Source: RIB I p.511

RIB 1602: Deo / Hueteri / Superstes [et] / Regulu[s] / v(otum) s(olverunt) l(ibentes) [m(erito)] (‘For the god Hueteris, Supersitis and Regulus willingly and deservedly fulfilled a vow’). Found 1910 in either the NE or NW angle tower. Source: RIB I p.511

RIB 1603

RIB 1603: Deo / Huitri / Aspuanis / pro et suis / vot(um) / sol(vit) (‘For the god Huitris, Aspuanis, for himself and his own, fulfilled a vow’). Found 1898 in Building VI. Source: RIB I p.511

RIB 1604

RIB 1604: Deo / Veterib/us votu/m (‘For the god Veteris, a vow’). Altar found 1898 in Building VI. Source: RIB I p.511

RIB 1605: [Dib]us / Vete/[ri]bus (‘For the gods the Veteres’). Altar found 1931–2 in the granaries. Source: RIB I p.512

RIB 1606: Veter/ibus / [p]osuuit A/ure(lius) Vict(or) v(otum) (‘For the Veteres, Aurelius Victor set this up a vow’). Altar found in 1931 between S gate and Building I in vicus. Source: RIB I p.512

RIB 1607: Dibus [… (‘For the gods…’). Altar fragment found in 1931 at the W end of Building 2 in vicus. Source: RIB I p.512

RIB 1608: De[o… (‘For the god…’). Altar found 1931 in the vicus. Source: RIB I p.512

RIB 1609: …] / c(enturio) / leg(ionis) VI V(ictricis) P(iae) F(idelis) / v(otum) s(oluit) l(aetus) l(ibens) m(erito) (‘…centurion of the Sixth Legion Victrix Pia Fidelis, gladly, willingly, and deservedly fulfilled a vow’). Altar found before 1703 on Chapel Hill. Now lost. Source: RIB I p.513

RIB 1610: …]/LIA[…] / Aug(usti) l(ibertus) (‘… freedman of the Emperor’). Altar fragment found before 1874 at Housesteads. Source: RIB I p.513

RIB 1611: …]EN V / […]AL et N/[…]IM T AE/[…] […] BVT[..]/[…]O MF[.] (‘… and …’). Altar fragment found at Housesteads before 1874. Source: RIB I p.513

RIB 1612a & b: Imp(eratoribus) Ca[es(aribus) L(ucio) Se]pt(imio) [Severo] / [Pio P]ert(inaci) [et M(arco) Aur(elio) Antonino] / [Pio Augg(ustis) (‘For the Emperor-Caesars Lucius Septimius Severus Pius Pertinax Augustus and Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Pius Augustus‘). Dedication fragment found 1898 in the HQ building. Source: RIB I p.513

RIB 1612c: Imp(eratoribus) Ca[es(aribus) L(ucio) Se]pt(imio) [Severo] / [Pio P]ert(inaci) [et M(arco) Aur(elio) Antonino] / [Pio Augg(ustis) (‘For the Emperor-Caesars Lucius Septimius Severus Pius Pertinax Augustus and Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Pius Augustus‘). Dedication fragment found 1931 in the S granary. Source: RIB I p.513

RIB 1612d: Imp(eratoribus) Ca[es(aribus) L(ucio) Se]pt(imio) [Severo] / [Pio P]ert(inaci) [et M(arco) Aur(elio) Antonino] / [Pio Augg(ustis) (‘For the Emperor-Caesars Lucius Septimius Severus Pius Pertinax Augustus and Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Pius Augustus‘). Dedication fragment found before 1874 at Housesteads. Source: RIB I p.513

RIB 1613: D(ominis) [n(ostris) Diocletiano et] / Ma[ximiano (‘For our lords Diocletian and Maximian…’). Dedication found before 1903 at Housesteads. Source: RIB I p.514

RIB 1614: [I]mp(erator)… (‘For the Emperor…’). Fragment of a dedication found before 1874 at Housesteads. Source: RIB I p.514

RIB 1615: …]no / […… (‘? (Antoninus or Hadrianus?)’). Fragment of a dedication found before 1857 at Housesteads. Source: RIB I p.514

RIB 1616: …] / Iul(ius) S[…] / d(ecreto) vica[norum] (‘…Iulius S[…] by decree of the vicus inhabitants’). Dedication found 1931 in Vallum ditch fill. Source: RIB I p.514

RIB 1617: …]A NE I .. H[… (‘?’). Building stone found before 1873 at Housesteads. Now lost. Source: RIB I p.514

RIB 1618: D(is) M(anibus) / Anicio / Ingenuo / medico / ord(inario) coh(ortis) / I Tungr(orum) / vix(it) an(nos) XXV (‘For the immortal shades, Anicius Ingenuus, medicus ordinarius of the First Cohort of Tungrians, lived 25 years’). Tombstone found before 1814. Source: RIB I pp.514-15

RIB 1619: D(is) M(anibus) / Hurmio / Leubasni / mil(iti) coh(ortis) I / Tungror(um) / b(ene)f(iciario) praef(ecti) / Ca[l]pur[ni]us(?) / her(es) f(aciendum) c(uravit) (‘For the immortal shades, for Hermius Leubasnus, soldier of the First Cohort of Tungrians, beneficiarius of the prefect, Calpurnius, his heir, set this up’). Tombstone found before 1717 at Housesteads. Now lost. Source: RIB I p.515

RIB 1620: [D(is)] M(anibus) / […]P[…] / […]ANL[.]MPR[.]E[.] / [..]enioni Venocari / Grato Fersionis / Romulo Alimahi / Simili Daili / Mansuetio Senicionis / Pervinc(a)e Quartionis / heres procuravit Delf/inus Rautionis ex G(ermania) s(uperiore) (‘For the immortal shades… son of Venocarus, Gratus, sone of Fersio, Romulus, son of Alimahus, Similis, sone of Dailus, Mansuetius, son of Senicio, Pervinca, daughter of Quartio, their heir Delfinus, son of Rautio, from Uppper Germany, had this set up’). Tombstone found 1702 ¼ mile from Housesteads (W, S, or E?). Source: RIB I p.516

RIB 1621: AV[…] / Meni[…] / filiae […]/ni coni[ugi] / M(arcus) Aurel(ius) C[…] / vi{c}xit a[nnos] / XXXVII (‘To Au[…] Meni[…], daughter of…, M(arcus) Aur(elius) C[…] (set this up) to his wife, she lived 37 years’). Tombstone found before 1822 at Housesteads. Source: RIB I p.516

RIB 1622: …]uli/us heres vixi(t) / an(n)os XXX (‘…]ulius, heir (set this up), lived 30 years’). Tombstone found before 1822 at Housesteads. Source: RIB I p.516

RIB 1623: …]DV[…] / […]HVIN[.]/[…]VM INGI/[…] ARIVLOF/[…]TVS (‘?’). Tombstone found before 1873 at Housesteads. Source: RIB I p.517

RIB 1624: Impe/rator (‘Emperor’). Building stone found 1898 on building in NE quarter. Source: RIB I p.517

RIB 1625: Aur(elius) / scal(psit?) (‘Aurelius chiselled this (?)’). Building stone found 1898 on building in NE quarter. Source: RIB I p.517

RIB 1626: [..]MTAT / OESN (‘?’). Building stone found on S wall of HQ near SW corner in 1898. Source: RIB I p.517

RIB 1627: ]…RTIRI…[ (‘?’). Building stone found before 1873 at Housesteads. Now lost. Source: RIB I p.517

RIB 1628: MARII (‘?’). Building stone found 1751 on Chapel Hill. Now lost. Source: RIB I p.517

RIB 1629: [pe]datura / […]uci (‘Length in feet built by…’). Building stone found before 1922 at Housesteads. Source: RIB I p.518

RIB 1630: …]I Geredis S[… (‘?’). Building stone found W of the granaries in 1922. Source: RIB I p.518

RIB 1631; […]nus fecit (‘… made (this)’). Building stone found 1831 in the vicus. Source: RIB I p.518

RIB 3325: Im[p(eratori) Caes(ari) divi Traian(i) Parth)(ici) fil(io)] / d[ivi Ner(vae) nep(oti) Traian(o) Hadriano Aug(usto)] / coh[ors…] / mi[l(iaria) …] (‘For the Emperor Caesar Hadrian Augustus, sone of the divine Trajan Parthicus, grandson of the divine Nerva, the… cohort… a thousand strong…’). Dedication found 1961 in Building XV. Source: RIB III pp.316-17

RIB 3326: coh(ors) I Tu(ngrorum) / D (‘First Cohort of Tungrians (built this)’). Building stone found 1986 on N wall of S granary 6.6m from E end. Source: RIB III p.317

RIB 3327: c(enturia) Camian[a] (‘the former century of Camianus (built this)’). Building stone found in 1976 in Chalet 8 of Barrack XIII. Source: RIB III p.318

RIB 3328: Cunaris (‘Cunaris’). Building stone found 1976 unstratified in Barrack XIII. Source: RIB III p.518

RIB 3329: […]AD[…] (‘?’). Building stone found 1990 in S face of fort wall. Source: RIB III p.319

RIB 3330: [D(is)] M(anibus) S[…] / […] vixi[t] / […] / […]OSTI{…] (‘For the immortal shades, S[…] lived…’). Tombstone fragment found 1961 in Building XV. Source: RIB III p.319

Analysis

An interesting variety of deities are represented by the altars from Housesteads, many of which come from Chapel Hill, in the civil settlement to the south of the fort. Ever-popular Cocidius is present (1577–8 and 1583), although out-numbered by Mars (1590–7), Mithras (1599–1600), and the Veteres (in all his/her/their forms: 1602–6).

A particularly intriguing dedication (1574) is the one to Clarian Apollo, which chimes with nine other examples from the Empire and may be connected with the Antonine plague of AD 165, brought back to Britain from the East by soldiers returning from the wars there.

Inscriptions record the presence of Germans (1620), at least one of them a soldier (1619), accompanied by Germanic deities – Mars Thincsus (1593) and the goddesses Alaisiagae, Baudihilia, and Friagabis (1576 and 1594) – and this relates to the presence of auxiliaries from the thousand-strong* First Cohort of Tungrians (1578–80, 1584–6, 1591, 1598, 1618–19, and 3326), who are still recorded as the garrison unit at Housesteads in the Late-Roman Notitia Dignitatum and had previously been based not far away, at Vindolanda. However, whilst the garrison of Hadrian’s Wall is usually depicted as being made up entirely of auxiliary cohortes and alae, one inscription (1583) records the presence of legionaries of II Augusta as ‘agentes in praesidio‘ (‘acting as the garrison’), suggesting that their presence at Housesteads was a stop-gap measure, and that is not the only mention of legionaries. The Second Legion occur again (1582) and the Sixth twice (1577 and 1609). The occasion for this legionary substitution may well have been the removal of auxiliary garrisons from Hadrian’s Wall to the Antonine Wall (the First Cohort of Tungrians turn up at Castlecary and Cramond). Later, irregular units – the cuneus of Frisians (1594) and the numerus of Hnaudifidus (1576) – are based at Housesteads, probably accompanying the Tungrians.

* The term milliaria, whilst technically meaning one thousand strong, is a generalisation, for we know such a unit had ten centuries of 80 men. It would thus have been nearer 800 strong, assuming all centuries were up to strength, which is unlikely. Vindolanda Tablet 154 shows that the Tungrians had only 752 men and six centurions when it was written, c. AD 92–7, suggesting that a shortage of centurions was not only a Hadrianic problem.

Wall Mile 80

We shall make our way through Bowness to the bus turning area and small car park at the west end of the village. From here we can survey the vast estuary that is the Solway Firth and think on our journey.

Bowness and the remains of the railway bridge embankment

Bowness and the remains of the railway bridge embankment

To the west are the remains of the bridge that used to carry the Solway Junction Railway across the water to Scotland (and, before it was dismantled, the occasional drunken reveller – seeking to bypass national drinking laws – to their watery doom). According to Bishop Nicholson, writing in 1707, the terminus of the Wall lay a quarter of a mile west of the village and other writers confirm his observation. To the north, across the estuary, lies what is now Scotland but was in Roman times Caledonia: no Picts were harmed in the making of this mural barrier, they were almost certainly not around until long after it was constructed; the Picts’ Wall was a local term that came to be used to describe the Wall in the post-Roman period. To the east is the low drumlinoid we have just left that provides the slightly elevated platform for the fort of Bowness-on-Solway.

This is as good a place as any to reflect one last time how the emperor Hadrian’s visit to Britain in AD 122 (now immortalised as the route number of the Hadrian’s Wall bus) led to the construction of this massive monument, unique in form in the Roman world. Why did he do it? In the Historia Augusta, his biographer offers a simple explanation: ‘he was the first to construct a wall, eighty miles in length, which was to separate the barbarians from the Romans’ (HA Hadrian, 11).

Bowness and the west end of Hadrian's Wall

Bowness and the west end of Hadrian’s Wall

Epilogue [haiku]

There you have it: Hadrian’s Wall. I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey. Except… that is not necessarily the end. In fact, there is much more to come!

Wall Mile 79

Wall Mile 79 [HB 366]

Our last mile of the Wall to the south-east of Bowness fort is a field boundary, some way to the south of the Trail, which wends its way along the shore road. Carry on walking and, as the road curves to the right and signs warn that the road can flood in high tides, we can look across a field gate, some 335m west of Milecastle 79 (NY 233 624), you can look south across the field to the hedge line that represents the course of the wall, where there is even a trace of the ditch (not that you can tell it from your vantage point).

Wall Mile 79 from the air

Wall Mile 79 from the air

Part of the curtain wall was still standing up to 6ft high here when first William Hutton, then John Skinner only a few weeks later, walked past in 1801, but it is now long gone.

Approaching Bowness

Approaching Bowness

Arriving at Bowness, if you are desperate to get your ‘passport’ stamped at the incongruous little shed that lurks off the main street (or just want a view over the estuary and some appreciation of the drumlinoid upon which the fort and village sit), follow the brown signs down the path to the right just after entering the village. Having admired the wildlife mosaics (and fighting off the feeling of anti-climax that greets our monumental effort of having got this far), we may carry on. Return to the main street and turn right towards the centre of the settlement. Some 90m on, to our left, we pass a red-sandstone byre with a blocked door, over which is a weathered Roman altar. The stone of the buildings, unsurprisingly, derives from the fort and the curtain wall.

Byre in Bowness with a Roman altar

Byre in Bowness with a Roman altar

Bowness-on-Solway fort (MAIA) [HB 367–70]

The fort of Maia lies beneath the village of Bowness. The significance of its location, apart from the conveniently raised ground of the drumlinoid, is that it is (or was) the lowest fording point of the Solway Firth. As William Camden observed, ‘at every ebbe the water is so low that the borderers and beast-stealers may easily wade over.’ The remains of the fort were evident when Camden visited in 1599 (‘tracts of streetes, ruinous walles, and an haven now stopped up with mud’), but there is now nothing to be seen of its fabric.

Part of the northern side of the fort has been lost to erosion, but it has been estimated that it occupied 2.8ha (7 acres) and identification of the site of the south gate has shown that the fort faced south-west. Excavation on the eastern defences in 1988 revealed that the primary grey clay rampart was cut back to allow the insertion of a sandstone defensive wall on a cobblestone foundation. The V-shaped ditch was found to be 4.5m wide and 2m deep. The fort housed a milliary unit (around 800 infantrymen), a fact betrayed not only by its size but also from the now-illegible inscription on that altar just mentioned, set up by the tribunus Sulpicius Secundianus to the emperors Gallus and Volusianus (AD 251–3). Another inscription, now in Carlisle, but this time in verse on an altar, records an offering by a trader that implies the lettering was originally gilded. The Notitia Dignitatum does not record a commander or garrison for the fort. Excavations near the west gate have shown that the first phase was of turf and timber, contemporary with the Turf Wall, and it was subsequently reconstructed at least twice in stone.

A noticeboard on the side of the King’s Arms has a plan, together with some useful information. The notional site of Milecastle 80 lies just to the west of our position outside the pub.

Milecastle 80 [Not mentioned in the HB; haiku]

Bowness from the air

Bowness from the air

Milecastle 80 has not been found. It is assumed to have been demolished to make way for Bowness fort, so it will only ever have been made of turf and timber (since it would have been part of the initial Turf Wall system).

Wall Mile 78

Wall Mile 78 [HB 363–4]

The path meanders amongst some woodland, and we can occasionally glimpse remnants of the canal surviving as a reed-bedecked ditch just to our left. The course of the Wall lies beneath the road beyond those soggy bits. A prostrate oak forest was found some way beneath the curtain wall when the canal was being dug in 1823, a remnant of inundation during a Holocene sea-level change. Soon, we pass through a kissing gate and reach the point where we part company with the course of the Wall ditch and the route of the Port Carlisle Railway.

The Trail on the old railway line

The Trail on the old railway line

We weave around the back of some houses and discover the sea-lock of the former Carlisle Canal. We cross this and carry on down the lane, admiring the red sandstone quay of Port Carlisle (or Fisher’s Cross as it used to be called). The Wall now makes an abrupt 68° turn almost due west, near the location of Turret 78B. Off to our left, beyond the playground, the bowling green car park sits on the site of the old railway station, a line of stone flags betraying the edge of the platform.

The site of Turret 78b

The site of Turret 78b

Exiting the lane onto the coast road, we head off to the west (or right, as we call it in the trade), remembering to stay on the same side as the oncoming traffic and exercising ridiculous amounts of care as we go. Over to our left, just past the terrace of houses, note how the land slopes down to the road. The Wall is running upon that slightly higher ground. As ever, an attacker would be disadvantaged, for – having crossed the estuary – they would have to run uphill to the Wall. The road bends gently round to the right and we arrive unceremoniously at the site of  our penultimate milecastle, number 79. It is located off in the distance, the line of the Wall now being marked by a hedgerow in the shimmering heat-haze we almost certainly won’t be contending with.

In many ways, we are about to embark upon the least satisfactory of all the Wall miles, with no Wall and stuck on an unsympathetic, if vaguely picturesque, road. This is just one of the disadvantages of walking east to west, as we shall find in that, our final Wall mile (although we are probably going to have to admit that it’s a bit late now to turn back).

Milecastle 79 (Solway House) [HB 364–6; haiku]

Milecastle 79, somewhere up there, in the distance, honest!

Milecastle 79, somewhere up there, in the distance, honest!

Milecastle 79 was excavated in 1949 (by Ukrainians from the Lockerbie POW camp) and in 1999, when both the Turf Wall milecastle and its stone successor were examined. Unusually, this was a square milecastle, since (your will recall) most are either ‘short axis’ (broader east–west) or ‘long axis’ longer north–south.