NGRef: NY6326
OSMap: LR91
Type: Fort, Minor Settlement, Camp


Roman Bronze Hound
from Kirkby Thore
Roads
SE (5) to Appleby
Maiden Way: N (15) to Whitley Castle (Whitley Castle, Northumberland)
SE (12) to Verteris (Brough-under-Stainmore, Cumbria)
W (7) to Brocavvm
SE (7) to Castrigg
SE (1.5) to Crackenthorpe

The name of this fort appears as Brovonacis in Iter II of the Antonine Itinerary, where it is said to lie 14 Roman miles from VOREDA (Old Penrith) and 13 miles from VERTERIS (Brough Castle). The Notitia Dignitatum of the 4th/5th century gives the name as Braboniaco, where it occurs between the entries for VERTERIS and MAGLONA (Old Carlisle). The fort at Kirkby Thore has also been identified with the Ravonia entry of the Ravenna Cosmology (R&C#123), which occurs between the entries for DERVENTIO (Papcastle) and BREMETENACVM VETERANORVM (Ribchester, Lancashire).

The Bravoniacum Garrison

An Unknown Cavalry Ala

FEL[ice] EQ[uitati] L..... AVRELIVS MARCVS DEC[urionem] ALAE
V[otum] S[olvit] L[ibens] L[aetus] M[erito]

"For the Luck of the Cavalry, L[...] ... Aurelius Marcius, Decurion of the Wing,
gladly, willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow."

(RIB 765; base plinth)

Although thirteen inscriptions on stone have been recorded at Kirkby Thore, there is no epigraphic evidence which unequivocally names any garrison unit, but we are given a clue in the text above, which was inscribed upon the base of a statue or altar, the upper part of which is now lost. This provides fairly clear evidence that the Bravoniacum fort was home to a squadron of auxiliary cavalry or an Ala Quingenaria, a five-hundred strong unit generally commanded by a Praefectus.

Numerus Syrorum Saggitariorum?

FORTVNAE BALN[eari] N[umenus] M[ilitum] S[usceptum] S[olvit] G[aius] CALEDIVS FRONTINVS NOIV[s]?

"To Fortuna Balnearis,¹ and the Spirit of the Soldiers, in order that you take him into your protection Gaius Caledius Frontinus Noius has fulfilled his vow."

(RIB 764; altarstone)

  1. 'Fortune of the Baths?' This aspect of the goddess Fortuna is unique to Kirkby Thore.

Such are the inaccuracies of epigraphic expansion that the letters N M S S in the above inscription may also be construed to read Numerus Militum Syrorum Sagittariorum, which means 'the irregular unit of Syrian archers'. The trailing letters of the inscription NOIV are also open to alternate interpretation, for instance NOnis IVnius/IVlius or 'on the Nones of June/July' (5th June/ 7th July). Unfortunately, there is no chance for a modern study of this altarstone, as it has since become lost.

FORTVNAE BALN[eari] N[umerus] M[ilitum] S[yrorum] S[agittariorum cui praeest] G[aius] CALEDIVS FRONTINVS NOIV[s posuit].

"To Fortuna Balnearis, the Company of Archers from Syria
(commanded by) Gaius Caledius Frontinus Noius (set this up)."

(RIB 764; alternate reading)

Numerus Defensorum - The Defending Company

Praefectus numeri defensorum, Braboniaco

"The prefect of the Defensive Squadron at Braboniacum."

(Notitia Dignitatum xl.27; 4th/5th C.)

The only unit of whose identity we can be assured is that listed in the Notitia Dignitatum which gives the late fourth century garrison as the Numerus Defensorum, an irregular unit whose name is roughly translated as 'The Protection Squadron'.¹ This unit was commanded by a Prefect, under the overall command of the Duke of the Britains.

  1. Interestingly this unit could be translated into German as Schütz-Staffel, the same name as the infamous S.S. of nationalist Germany.

The Gods of Bravoniacum

Altars to Belatucader and Fortuna

DEO BELATVCADRO LIB VOTVM FECIT ... IOLVS FORTVNAE SERVATRICI ANTONIA STRATONIS EX VISO

"To the god Belatucader this offering has been freely made [...] Jolus.¹"

"To Fortune the Deliverer, Antonia Stratonice [dedicates this], as the result of a vision."

(RIB 759; altarstone)

(RIB 760; altarstone)

  1. The final word of this text is very likely one of the dedicator's names.

Of the thirteen inscribed stones found at Kirkby Thore, seven are altarstones. There are two dedicated to the goddess Fortuna (RIB 760 et 764), another two to the god Jupiter, one of them shared with Serapis (RIB 761 et 762), and there are single altars to the bucolic Italian god Silvanus (RIB 763), the iron-age war god Belatucader (RIB 759) and another damaged altarstone which is missing the name of the deity (RIB 766; not shown). In addition there is a statue or altar base dedicated to Felicity or luck (RIB 765).

Altars to Jupiter and Silvanus

I O M RIR... IOVI SERAPI L ALFENVS PAL... DEO SILVANO ... AEL... V S

"For Jupiter Best and Greatest RIR[...]¹"

"To Jupiter and Serapis, Lucius Alfenus Pal[... fulfills his vow]."

"To the god Silvanus [...] Aelius [...] fulfills his vow."

(RIB 761; altarstone)

(RIB 762; altarstone)

(RIB 763; altarstone)

  1. I have no idea what the ending of this inscription may be.

A Couple of Roman Tombstones

D M G ATTONI...

"To the shades of the departed Gaius Attonius [...]"

(RIB 768; tombstone)

There are three Roman tombstones from Kirkby Thore, all of them damaged; two are shown here.

... FILIA CRESC IMAGNIFRI

"[...] the daughter of Crescens, the Imaginifer.¹"

(RIB 769; tombstone)

  1. The imaginifer was a senior standard-bearer to whom was given the privilege/responsibility of carrying a standard from which a painted image of the emperor was suspended.

Other Roman Sites in the Area

There are a number of Roman marching camps close by the fort in Kirkby Thore (NY6225) and another at Crackenthorpe (NY6523) a couple of miles along the road to the south-east. Three Roman milestones have also been discovered; one at Temple Sowerby (NY6126; vide RIB 2285a infra) a couple of miles to the north-west, another at Hangingshaw (NY6821; RIB 2284) a mile beyond the Crackenthorpe marching camp, also one more at Braugham (RIB 2285).

Building Stone from Appleby Bridge, 4 miles SE of Kirkby Thore
origin unknown, probably Kirkby Thore

IXIT...IVCIMV BDVNVIXIO OSI...VIIΛC

(RIB 789; found 1732 built into Appleby Bridge, now lost; text restored)

Milestone from Temple Sowerby, Cumbria

This stone is one of only two Roman milestones in Britain which remain in situ, the other famous example being at Vindolanda on the Stanegate military road in Northumberland. Standing about 4½ feet (c.1.4m) in height, the milestone lies in an iron security cage beside a layby on the north side of the modern A66, ½ mile (800m) north-west of Temple Sowerby.

IMP CAES MAR CASIANIO LATINIANIO POSTIMO AVG PIO FELICI R P C CAR

"For Imperator Caesar Marcus Casianius Latinianius Postumus Augustus Pius Felix.¹ [Erected by] the public works of the Carvetian state.²"

(RIB 2285a; JRS lv (1965), p.224, no.11; milestone; dated: 260-269AD)

  1. Postumus was a Batavian nobleman, the Roman governor of Germany who became the first emperor of the short-lived 'Gallic Empire' in Autumn A.D.260 when he was hailed emperor by the legions on the Rhine following the capture of the emperor Valerian by the Persians. He was murdered by his own soldiers shortly after capturing Moguntiacum (Mainz) from Laelianus in February 269 when he refused them permission to ransack the city.
  2. Based on the expansion R[es] P[ublicae] C[ivitas] CAR[vetiorum]. The Carvetii tribe inhabited north-west England, occupying mainly the modern county of Cumbria; Bravoniacum lay close to their south-eastern border.
See: A Guide to the Roman Remains in Britain by Roger J.A. Wilson (Constable, 2002, 4th Ed.);
Chronicle of the Roman Emperors by Chris Scarre (Thames & Hudson, London, 1995);
Chronology of the Ancient World by E.J. Bickerman (Thames & Hudson, London, 1980);
The Shell guide to British Archaeology by Jacquetta Hawkes (Michael Joseph, 1986);
The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);
Air Reconnaissance of North Britain by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. xli (1951) pp.52-65.
All translations, including any inherent mistakes, are my own.

Bravoniacum Related Lynx

Bridge End Farm Kirkby Thore, CA10 1UZ. Tel: 017683 61362