OSMap: Hadrian's Wall, OL43, LR87.
Type: Wall Fort, Fort, Minor Settlement, Temple Or Shrine, Bath House
The Mouth of the River Ffraw
used as a safe harbour during Roman Times
(Photograph taken in May 2005)
|Wall: E (3.5) to Cilvrnvm (Chesters, Northumberland)
Wall: W (5) to Vercovicivm (Housesteads, Northumberland)
Military Way: W (2.25) to Coesike
Hadrian's Wall: ENE (1) to Limestone Corner
The fort at Carrawburgh lies in open moorland in the Tynedale district of Northumberland, just over one mile west of Mile Castle 30 and the northernmost point of the Wall. The site was partially excavated by John Clayton in the late nineteenth century, who uncovered a military bath-house outside the west gate of the fort in 1873, and three years later the south-west interval tower of the fort itself. Clayton also discovered Coventina's Well, a shrine to a iron-age water goddess, during the course of his nearby 1876 excavations. A temple of the god Mithras was found here in 1949, which discovery was followed a decade later by the uncovering of yet another shrine, this one dedicated to the local water nymphs.
The first mention of the Roman name for the Carrawburgh Wall-fort appears in the Notitia Dignitatum of the late-4th/early-5th centuries, wherein the station Procolitia occurs between the entries for Cilurnum (Chesters, Northumberland) and Borcovicium (Housesteads, Northumberland). Carrawburgh also appears in the seventh century Ravenna Cosmography, this time as Brocoliti (R&C#148), again listed between Celunnum (Chesters) and Velurtion (Housesteads).
The Roman name for the Carrawburgh fort then, was Brocolitia, which was probably based on the original name (Welsh/Gaelic) for the area and is possibly translated 'Badger Holes'; if this is the case, then it is very likely that the area was once home to a substantial community of these nocturnal omnivores.
Compare modern Gaelic; broc, bruic badger, toll, tuill hole. Welsh; broch badger, twll, tyllu hole, hollow.
There are 48 Latin inscriptions currently recorded in the R.I.B. for Carrawburgh, comprising 31 altars and votive stones, 5 building inscriptions (1 damaged and undateable), 4 centurial stones and 6 tombstones and funerary inscriptions. This total includes two stones added since the RIB was first published.
|1550||Hadrianic?||B.I. of Coh I Aquitanorum|
|1563b||122-138AD||B.I. of Coh I Tungrorum|
|1544||213-222AD?||altar to Mithras by Coh I Batavorum|
|1553||237AD||B.I. of Coh I Batavorum|
|...DIVI NERVAE ADNEP¹ M AVR ANTONINO PIO FEL AVG PARTHICO MAX BRIT MAX|
|"[For the Imperator Caesar, son of the divine Marcus Aurelius, grandson of the divine Antoninus, great-grandson of the divine Hadrian, great-great-grandson of the divine Trajan,²] (great-¹)great-great-grandson of the divine Nerva, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Pius Felix Augustus,³ greatest in Parthica, greatest in Britain."|
|(RIB 1551; dated: c.210-213AD?)|
|NYMPHIS VEXILLATIO LEG VI VIC|
|"To the Nymphs, a detachment of the Sixth Victorious Legion [dedicates this]."|
|(RIB 1547; base)|
The Sixth Legion was never permanently stationed at the Carrawburgh fort, but was primarily responsible for its construction. Four building inscriptions have been unearthed which record the work of individual legionary centuries on the fabric of the fort, and have thus been termed 'centurial stones'; three of these are detailed below. It is unusual, however, to find a legionary altarstone at a fort which was not actually garrisoned by legionary cohorts. I am inclined to believe that the altar to the water-nymph Coventina shown above, was dedicated by a vexillatio of the Sixth who had been charged with repairs to the fort possibly during the late-second century, following the withdrawal from the Antonine Wall in Scotland and the recommissioning of Hadrian's Wall.
|> ALEXANDRI||> THRVPONIANA P XXIIII||> ANTONIRVS|
|"The century of Alexander [made this]."||"The century of Thruponian [has made] twenty-four paces [of rampart]."||"[Made by] the century of Antonirus."|
|(RIB 1554)||(RIB 1556)||(RIB 1555)|
|IMP CAES TRAIANO HADRIANO AVG COS COH I TVNGR FEC|
|"For Imperator Caesar Trajanus Hadrianus Augustus, Consul, the First Cohort of Tungrians have made [this]."|
|(RIB 1563b; JRS lvi (1966), p.218, no.5; dated: 122-138AD)|
|... ...V... LEG AVG PR PR COH I AQVITANORVM FECIT SVB ...IO NEPOTE PRAEF|
|"[...] legate of the emperor with pro-praetorian power, the First Cohort of Aquitanians made this, under the prefect [Jul]ius? Nepos."|
|(RIB 1550; Hadrianic?)|
|DEAE COVENTINE COH I CVBERNORVM AVR CAMPESTER V P L A|
|"To the goddess Coventina, the First Cohort of Cugerni [under] Aurelius Campester, proudly and willingly placed this offering."|
|(RIB 1524; altarstone)|
|DE CONVETI VOT RETVLIT MAVS OPTIO CHO P FRIXIAV|
|"To the goddess Coventina, a vow has been repaid by Maus, Optio¹ in the First Cohort of Frisians."|
|(RIB 1523; altarstone)|
|GENIO HVVS LOCI TEXAND ET SVN E VEX COHOR II NERVIORVM|
|"To the Guardian Spirit of this place, the Taexandri and the Sunici serving in the detachment of the Second Cohort of Nervians [dedicate this]."|
|DEAE COVENTINE P...ANVS MLCHO VRETORVM.... VOTVM LIBES ANIMOR ET POSIVIT|
|"To the goddess Coventina, P[ublius? ...]anus, a soldier of the Fifth Cohort of Raetians [...] an offering freely and sincerely set up."|
|(RIB 1529; altarstone)|
|IMP CAES G IVLIV VERO MAXIMINO P F AVG GERM MAX DAC MAX SARM MAX PONT MAX TR P III IMP VI COS PROCOS P P ET G IVLIO VERO MAXIMO GER MAX DAC MAX SARM MAX NOB CAES NOS SVB ...VCCIANO V C LEG AVG PR PR COH I BATAVORVM FECIT CVRANTE BVRRIO ...STO PRAEF PERPETVO ET CORNELIANO COS|
|"For the the Imperator Caesar Gaius Julius Verus Maximinus Pius Felix Augustus,¹ greatest in Germany, Dacia and Sarmatia, High Priest, holding tribunician power three times, hailed Imperator six times, consul, proconsul, Father of His Country, and for Gaius Julius Verus Maximus, greatest in Germany, Dacia and Sarmatia, most-noble Caesar. We, the First Cohort of Batavians, have made this, during [the administration of governor ... T]uccianus,² the most illustrious of men, legate of the emperor with propraetorian power, under the supervision of the prefect Burrius [...]stus, in the consulship of Perpetuus and Cornelianus.³"|
|(RIB 1553; dated: 237AD)|
There are ten Latin inscriptions from Carrawburgh which mention this unit, two of which can be dated to the early-third century. There are six altarstones and votive stones; a dedication and an altarstone to the water-nymph Coventina (1534 & 1535), another two altars to the god Mithras (vide RIB 1544 & 1545 infra), one of which may be dated to between 213AD and 222, there is also a single altarstone to the goddess Fortuna (1536) and one more dedicated to the Nymphs (vide RIB 1563a infra). In addition to the religious stones there is a building inscription which can be positively dated to the year 237AD (RIB 1553 supra), two tombstones of a Bucinator and a Signifer (1559 & 1560 respectively), also another damaged funerary inscription (1562). The texts of all of these stones are shown on this page.
|DEAE COVVENTINAE T D... COSCONIANVS PR COH I BAT L M||COVVENTI AELIVS TERTIVS PREF COH I BAT VSLM|
|"For the Goddess Couventina, Titus D[...] Cosconianus, prefect of Cohors Primae Batavorum, freely and deservedly [gives this]."||"To Couventia, Aelius Tertius, prefect of the First Cohort of Batavi, willingly and deservedly fulfils a vow."|
|(RIB 1534)||(RIB 1535; altarstone)|
|FORTVNAE COH I BATAVOR CVI PRAEEST M FLACCINIVS MARCELLVS PRAE|
|"To Fortuna. The First Cohort of Batavians, commanded by the prefect Marcus Flaccinius Marcellus [dedicated this]."|
|(RIB 1536; altarstone)|
|D M S LONGINI... BVC COH I BAT ...||To the sacred spirits of the departed [and] Longini[us? ...] Bucinator¹ of the First Cohort of Batavi [...]"||1559|
|D M ...S MILENI SIGNIFERO COHOR I BATAVORVM||"To the spirits of the departed [...]s Milenius, Signifer² of the First Cohort of Batavi."||1560|
|... COH I BAT ... ET HILARIO HEREDES F C||"[...] the First Cohort of Batavi [...] and Hilarius his heirs saw to the making [of this]."||1562|
|Tribunus cohortis primae Batauorum, Procolitia|
|"The tribune of the First Cohort of Batavi at Procolitia"|
|(Notitia Dignitatum xl.39; 4th/5th C.)|
Carrawburgh was the first infantry fort on the Wall's central section, and housed a succession of auxiliary units which have been identified from epigraphic evidence; the original Hadrianic garrison was Cohors I Aquitanorum, followed by Cohors I Cugernorum towards the end of the second century, and finally, Cohors I Batavorum who occupied the fort during the third and fourth centuries and are mentioned in the Notitia Dignitatum.
The fort was built across the vallum, clearly post-dating both vallum and Wall, and covers an area of about 3½ acres (1.5 ha), a typical size for an auxiliary infantry fort. The north rampart of the fort either utilized the Wall itself, which was here built in narrow-gauge upon a broad base, or was built parallel with the Wall but detached from it; as both constructs now lie beneath the modern B6318 road - having been demolished by General Wade during the building of his infamous military road in the eighteenth century - the question will remain unanswered until someone authorises the expense of digging up the road. Even then, we will probably never be enlightened.
A small civil settlement or vicus occupied the low-lying marshy ground outside the south-west corner of the fort, where the remains of no less than three temples have been found; a mithraeum dedicated to the god Mithras, a nymphaeum dedicated to the local water deities, and a sacred well dedicated to the iron-age water goddess Coventina. All three of these temples are associated with a small tributary stream of Meggie's Dene Burn, which issues from a spring consecrated to Coventina and runs beside the fort past the Mithraeum and the nymphaeum to the south-west, to empty into the River South Tyne near the Stanegate fort at Newbrough, three miles to the south.
|...PAVDI REGVLO VIXIT ANNIS XXXIIII ET ...ATENCTE CONIVGI PIE VIX AN XXX ET ...IANE FILE EORVM VIXIT D ... FILIO EORVM ...VDIVAITI FIL ...PAHICE ...|
|"[...]paudi regulus thirty-four years of age, and [...]atencte his loyal wife who lived for thirty years, and [...]iane their daughter who lived [...] days, [and to ...] their son [...]udiuaiti the son [...] peaceful [...]."|
|(RIB 1558; tombstone)|
|D M AEL COMINDO ANNORVM XXXII NOBILIANVS DEC CONIVGI CARISSIM P|
|"To the shades of the departed Aelia Comindos, thirty-two years old. Nobilianus the decurion, placed this for a most-lovely wife."|
|(RIB 1561; tombstone)|
Aside from the ten dedications to Coventina three stones of Mithras and two others dedicated to the Nymphs, which are all dealt with in separate sections below, many other deities are also represented at Carrawburgh. There are two dedicated to the goddess Fortuna (1536/1537), the former by Coh I Bat, two to the Mother Goddesses (1540/1541), two to the goddess Minerva (1542/1543), two to the Germanic warrior-god Vheterus (1548/1549), two to the Local Guardian Spirit, one by a detachment of Coh II Ner (1538), the other by Coh I Bat shared with the Nymphs (1563a), single altarstones to the god Mercury (1539) and the god Belatucader (1521), also an altarstone bearing a completely obliterated text (1520; not shown).
|DEO BELLETI CAVRO LVNARIS|
|"For the god Belatucader, Lunaris [made this]."|
|(RIB 1521; altarstone)|
|DAE FOR VITALIS FECIT LIB MER|
|"For the goddess Fortune, Vitalis freely and deservedly made [this offering]."|
|(RIB 1537; altarstone)|
|D M D TRANQVILLIA SEVERA PRO SE ET SVI S VSLM|
|"To the god Mercury Dolius,¹ Tranquillia Severa willingly and deservedly fulfils a vow for herself and her family."|
|(RIB 1539; altarstone)|
|MATRIBVS ALBINIVS QVART MIL D||MATRIBVS COMMVN|
|"To the Mothers, the soldier Albinus Quartus donates this."||"To the Mother [Goddesses] of the settlement."|
|(RIB 1540; altarstone)||(RIB 1541; altarstone)|
|MINERVAE QVINTVS ARCHITECT VSLM||DIE MINERVE VENICO PR S P S S|
|"To Minerva, Quintus the architect willingly and deservedly fulfills a vow."||"To the goddess Minerva, Venicus the prefect fulfilled this undertaking with his own funds.¹"|
|(RIB 1542; altarstone)||(RIB 1543; altarstone)|
|DEO VETERI VOTVM VCCVS V L||DIBVS HVITERIBVS|
|"An offering for the god Vheterus. Uccus, a veteran of the legions."||"For the Huiterian gods."|
|(RIB 1548; altarstone)||(RIB 1549; altarstone)|
Noted by Horsely in 1786 and excavated in 1876 by John Clayton, this forty foot square temple housed a natural well-spring, situated in the centre of the building and enclosed by a low stone receptacle with an interior dimension of about seven feet square. The temple building was roofed-over and contained a large number of carved stone altars, which were presumably arranged against the inside walls of the structure.
There are ten altarstones to the water-nymph Coventina, including those dedicated by four auxiliary infantry units; Coh V Raetorum (vide RIB 1529 supra), Coh I Batavorum (vide RIB 1534 & 1535 supra), Coh I Cugernorum (vide RIB 1524 supra) and Coh I Frisiavonum (vide RIB 1523 supra), plus two other undefined stones (RIB 1527 infra & 1534 supra) and two clay incense burners (RIB 1530/1531 etiam infra).
|DEAE CONVENTINAE BELLICVS VSLM||"To the goddess Coventina, Bellicus willingly and deservedly fulfills a vow."||1522|
|DIE COVENTINE ARELIVS CROTVS GERMAN||"For the goddess Coventina, Arelius Crotus the German [made this]."||1525|
|DEAE NIMFAE COVENTINE MADVHVS GERM POS PRO SE ET SVIS VSLM||"To the goddess, the nymph Coventina, Maduhus the German, placed this for himself and his family, willingly and deservedly fulfilling a vow."||1526|
|DAE COVEN VINOMATHVS VSLM||"For the goddess Coventina, Vinomathus willingly and deservedly fulfils a vow."||1528|
|DEAE COVETINE CROTVS VT LBES SOLVI PRO M SA||"For the goddess Coventina, Crotus and his freedmen, fulfilled for the health of the soldiers."||1532|
|DEAE SANC COVONTINE VINCENTIVS PRO SALVTE SVA V L L M D||"For the most-holy goddess Coventina. Vicentius, for her well-being, an offering freely, gladly and deservedly given."||1533|
|GABIVNS IF EL CSI SATVRNI||COVETINA AGVSTA VOTV MANIBVS SVIS SATVRNINVS FECIT GABINIVS|
|"On this side of the Infernal (region) and the Elysian (fields).¹ Gabinius. Saturninus."||"Coventina Augusta. Offering to your shades. Saturninus and Gabinius have made this."|
|(RIB 1530)||(RIB 1531)|
|NIMPHAE COVENTINAE ...TIANVS DECVRIO ...SLE...V ... M|
|"To the Nymph Coventina [...]tianus the decurion [...] a vow [fulfilled freely and] deservedly."|
The well itself was found to contain a vast collection of Roman coins and other votive objects, a number of which were stolen during a weekend raid upon the excavation site; the remaining coins, mostly bronze denominations numbering 13,487 in total. Amongst the coins recovered were over three hundred brass aes of emperor Antoninus Pius, commemorating the pacification of the north of Britain following the 155AD revolt, and depicting Britannia with her head bowed and banner lowered. The well continued to receive votive offerings until the latter part of the fourth century.
The remains of the Mithraeum were discovered during the dry summer of 1949, lying within a hollow in normally boggy ground outside the southern defences of the fort, where the top portions of three altars were seen protruding out from the grass. The site was completely excavated the following year and was found to be a Mithraic temple, in an excellent state of preservation, with its three altars still upright and in position, and each bearing a dedicatory inscription by a third-century commander of the nearby fort's garrison.
All three altarstones bear dedicatory inscriptions to the god Mithras, two are dedicated by men from Cohors Primae Batavorum, and one stone can be dated to the years 213-222AD.
Altar to Mithras (RIB 1545)
Altarstones to the God Mithras
Excavation has revealed that the temple was first erected early in the third century and altered several times before being destroyed, probably by northern barbarians who took advantage of the unrest caused by the Roman usurpers Carausius and Allectus, who withdrew a large proportion of the Wall garrison south c.296AD in order to sustain their rebellion. Rebuilt shortly afterwards during the visit of the legitimate emperor Constantius who campaigned in the north of Britain, the temple was finally demolished early in the fourth century, possibly by the pious followers of a new religious sect which was then becoming popular, Christians.
|NYMPHIS T GN
LOCI • M • HISPNS
MODESTINVS • PAE
COH • T • BAT • PO SE
ET SVIS • L • M
|Nymphis et Genio
Loci Marcus Hispanius
Cohortis Primae Batavorum pro se
et suis libens merito (posuit)
|"To the Nymphs and the Genius
of this place, Marcus Hispanius
of the First Cohort of Batavians, on behalf of himself
and his (family), willingly and deservedly (set this up)."
|(RIB 1563a; JRS li (1961), p.193, no.9; altarstone)|
This shrine was discovered in 1957 to the immediate rear of the Mithraeum. Excavations by Dr. D.J. Smith in 1960 revealed a small altar resting on a pedestal, a stone-lipped well and an apsidal stone bay. The lightweight nature of the structural remains suggest that it was not intended to support a roof, and was open to the air. The altar is carved from sandstone and bears the same inscription front and rear, obviously meant to be read from either side, again suggesting that it stood in the centre of an open shrine. The Brocolitia Nymphaeum was probably built sometime during the third century and seemingly fell into disuse early in the fourth. There are two altarstones dedicated to the Water Nymphs at Carrawburgh, one by a detachment of Leg VI Victrix (vide RIB 1547 supra), which was uncovered at Coventina's shrine, and the other by Coh I Bat shared with the Guardian Spirit (vide RIB 1563a supra) found at the site of the Nymphaeum.
|Brocolitia/Carrawburgh Roman Fort|
|Nothing can now be seen of the bath-house excavated by Clayton in 1873, and the interval tower uncovered in 1876 is now largely overgrown. Of the forts defences the northern side now lies beneath the modern B6318, while the remaining ramparts are visible as raised earthworks in the field beside the road. The positions of the south, east and west gateways are easily discernable, though no internal buildings remain to be seen. The line of the vallum is seen to descend the hill from Carraw Farm in the west and seemingly to pass through the centre of the fort and disappear over the hill to the east; a clear visible indication that the fort was built across and thus post-dates the vallum earthwork.|
|Little is now visible of the shrine to Coventina, though a large number of the altars and votive offerings recovered from the site by Clayton are currently on display at the nearby Chesters Museum.|
|The restored Temple of Mithras represents the principal visible remains at Brocolitia, though the altars which adorn the temple on the Tynedale Moors are all replicas. The original altars are housed within a full sized reconstruction of the interior of the Carrawburgh Mithraeum on display at the Museum of Antiquities in Newcastle upon Tyne.|
|Nothing remains to be seen of the Temple of the Nymphs, though the dedicatory altar is currently on display at the Chesters Museum nearby.|