|N (30) to Ixworth
NW (16) to Long Melford (Suffolk)
Itinera V/IX: NNE (5) to Ad Ansam (Stratford St. Mary, Suffolk)
Via Devana?: NNW (21) to Wixoe (Suffolk)
Probable road: WNW (33) to Great Chesterford
Stane Street: W (15) to Braintree (Essex)
Itinera V/IX: SW (10) to Canonivm (Kelvedon, Essex)
SE (5) to Fingringhoe (Essex)
"... Farther eastward, and near the Tamesa Aestuarium¹ are the
Trinovantes² and the town Camulodunum 21*00 55°00 ..."
Colchester is situated mostly on the southern bank of the River Colne in Essex, close to the border with Suffolk. The town is mentioned in two of the British routes in the Antonine Itinerary. It first appears near the start of Iter V, "The Route from London to Carlisle on the Wall [of Hadrian]", where it is named simply Colonia, and positioned 24 miles from Caesaromagus (Chelmsford, Essex) and 35 miles from Villa Faustini (Scole, Norfolk). The Roman colony also appears in the Ninth Itinerary as Camoloduno, this time 6 miles from Ad Ansam (somewhere near Stratford St. Mary in Suffolk) and 9 miles from Canonium (Kelvedon, Essex). Iter IX is entitled "The Route from Venta Icinorum to Londinum", and details part of the same route as Iter V, filling in the Roman road-stations between the civitas capital of the Iceni tribe at Caistor St. Edmund in Norfolk, and the provincial capital at London.
Colchester is also mentioned in the Ravenna Cosmology (R&C#99), where it is named Manulodulo.Colonia and appears between the entries for Caesaromagus (Chelmsford, Essex) and Durolitum (Romford, Greater London). Like most of this seventh century document the entry for Colchester is somewhat garbled, but may be easily identified, as there were only ever four Roman colonies in Britain, and the sole example in the entire south-eastern region was at Camulodunum.
The Roman name for Colchester then, was Camulodunum, which may be a straight Romanisation of the original place-name Camulodunon, which may mean 'The Fort of Camulos'. Camulos was the iron-age War God, the meaning of whose name is 'powerful', and was associated by the Romans with their own God of War, Mars.
A monumental Roman temple was built at Camulodunum c.44AD, which grandiose structure was dedicated to the emperor Claudius himself, following the urges of his sycophantic court. The site chosen for it lay just outside the fortress to the east, in the middle of the large civilian settlement or canabae, which had assembled in the short year following the invasion, the intention was probably to forcefully remind the natives that they were now vassals of Rome. The 'Temple of the Divine Claudius' at Colchester was the first monumental Roman temple in Britain.
|DEO MARTI MEDOCIO CAMPESIVM ET VICTORIE ALEXANDRI PII FELICIS AVGVSTI NOSI DONVM LOSSIO VEDA DE SVO POSVIT NEPOS VEPOGENI CALEDO|
|"To the god of the battlefields Mars Medocius,¹ and to the victory
of [Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Severus] Alexander Pius Felix Augustus,² Lossius Veda the grandson of Vepogenus
Caledos,³ placed [this] offering out of his own [funds]."
(RIB 191; bronze ansate plate; dated: 222-35AD)
Aside from the iron-age war-god Camulos, to whom the whole settlement was dedicated in name, and the temple of the imperial cult mentioned above, there are evidences of other classical gods being worshipped in Romano-British Colchester. The only dateable inscription mentioned in the R.I.B. is a bronze ansate plate dedicated to the Roman war-god Mars, which was inscribed in the early-third century (RIB 191 supra). Also recorded is a statue or altar base dedicated to the the Sulevae (RIB 192 infra), a dedication in stone to the Spirit of the Emperor and the god Mercury (RIB 193 etiam) and two bronze plates dedicated to the classical god Silvanus (RIB 194 et 195, uterque infra).
|MATRIBVS SVLEVIS SIMILIS ATTI F CI CANT VSLM|
|"To the Sulevi mothers,¹ Similis the son of Attius, of the
Civitas Cantiacorum,² willingly and deservedly fulfills his vow."
(RIB 192; statue or altar base)
|NVMINIB AVG ET MERCV DEO ANDESCOCI VOVCO IMILCO AESVRILINI LIBERTVS ARAM OPERE MARONIO D S D|
|"To the Spirit of the Emperor and the God Mercury, Andescoci Vouco Imilco
Aesurilini,¹ freedman, [dedicates] this altar, the work of Maronius,² donated out of his own [funds]."
|DEO SILVANO CALLIRIO D CINTVSMVS AERARIVS VSLM||DEO SILVANO HERMES VSLM|
|"To the god Silvanus Callirius,¹ Decimus Cintusmus, coppersmith, willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow."||"To the god Silvanus, Hermes willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow."|
(RIB 194; bronze plate)
(RIB 195; bronze ansate plate)
|Gold stater of Cunobelin minted at Camulodunum c.10AD? This superb example of the late Ironage moneyer's art, is inscribed on the obverse with the name CVNO[belin] beneath an image of a prancing horse (perhaps a symbol of freedom), and on the reverse, the word CA MV[lodunon] inscribed to either side of an ear of wheat, a symbol of prosperity.|
The exact whereabouts of the British royal enclosure at Camulodumnum has been established recently, near Gosbeck's Farm in Cheshunt Field (TL966225). The site lies close to a gap in the western defences of the British oppidum, and has long been known as an area of some historic importance.
A large Romano-British temple was built close to the Gosbeck's Farm enclosure to the north-east (TL967226). It is possible that the temple was built on the site of a shrine to some native iron-age deity, perhaps Camulos himself, after whom the ancient British capital was named.
|Map of the Colchester Area|
|Map based on OS Landranger#168 (Colchester & Surrounding Area), with Romano-British details taken from various plans in John Wacher's The Towns of Roman Britain.|
|Features on the map are hyper-linked to the text below.|
The legionary fortress at Colchester (TL995252) was established in 43AD as the base of Legio XX Valeria during the governorship of Aulus Plautius. This was the first permanent legionary fortress to be built in Britain, and was sited near the centre of the British oppidum, about 2¼ miles (2.7km) north-east of the British royal enclosure. There are two stones from Colchester which name this legion, the tombstone of a centurion from the unit (RIB 200 infra) and the tombstone of an experienced centurion who may have been serving in the Second Legion Adiutrix when he was either discharged, or died in service (RIB 203 etiam infra).
|M FAVONI M F POL FACILIS C LEG XX VERECVNDVS ET NOVCIVS LIB POSVERVNT H S E|
|"For Marcus Favonius Facilis, son of Marcus, of the Pollentian voting
tribe, centurion of the Twentieth Legion, Verecundus and Noucius his freedmen have placed [this memorial]. He
(RIB 200; tombstone)
The reverse of this stone (supra) is inscribed T V L, which is not any recognisable formula or abbreviation, and let's face it, could mean anything.
|...LEG I (or II) ADIVTRICIS... ...AE BIS C ... ... BIS C LEG III AVG ... C LEG XX VAL VICTORIVNDVS NICAEA IN BITHYNIA MILITAVIT ANN ... VIXIT ANN ... ...|
|"[...] of Legio Primae Adiutrix¹ [...] twice centurion [...] twice
centurion of Legio Tertiae Augusta [...] centurion of Legio Vicesimae Valeria, Victoriundus, from
Nicaea in Bithynia,² with [...] years military service who lived for [...] years [...]"
(RIB 203; tombstone)
There is a well-known Roman fort sited near Brickwall Farm, Stanway (TL963227), which was built within the earthworks of the British oppidum a few hundred yards to the north-west of the royal enclosure. Two Auxiliary units have been recorded at Colchester, both of which were composed of five-hundred peregrine (i.e. non-Roman) troopers, one cavalry Ala or 'wing', and a mixed unit of horse and foot soldiers, a Cohors Equitata.
|LONGINVS SDAPEZE MATYCI F DVPLICARIVS ALA PRIMA TRACVM PAGO SARDICA ANNO XL AEROR XV HEREDES EXS TESTAM F C H S E|
|"Longinus Sdapeze, son of Matycus, Duplicarius¹ of Ala Primae
Thracum, from the country district of Sardica,² who lived for forty years, with fifteen years paid service. His
heirs set this up as stipulated in his will. He lies here."
(RIB 201; tombstone)
The First Wing of Thracians was a five-hundred strong cavalry unit recruited from among the tribes living along the lower Danube. ...
|D M AR... RE... VAL... COH I VA... QVI M... EX AERE COLLATO|
|"To the spirits of the departed and to Ar[...] Re[...] Val[...] of the
First Cohort of Vangiones, who [...] former collector of taxes."
(RIB 205; tombstone)
The Vangiones were a Belgic tribe from the upper Rhine, The First Cohort of Vangiones was a mixed unit of both horse and foot soldiers known as a cohors equitata, and were a nominal one-thousand strong (cohors milliaria), but it is possible that they had been split into two units of five-hundred cohors quingenaria at some time during the Hadrianic period. The unit is attested at Cilurnum (Chesters, Northumberland; RIB 1482) Condercum (Benwell, Tyne & Wear), both on Hadrian's Wall, also at Habitancum (Risingham, Northumberland; RIB 1215), beyond the Wall.
A colonia of army veterans was established in 49AD when the Twentieth Legion was withdrawn to a new legionary fortress at Glevum (Gloucester, the Kingsholm site). This time, Camulodunum had the honour of becoming the first Roman colony in Britain. Camulodunum was already a thriving town when it was destroyed by fire during the uprising of Boudicca in the winter of 60/61AD, this time earning it the dubious distinction of the first town razed to the ground by rebellious British tribesmen.
Following the Boudican revolt the defensive walls of the colony were rebuilt, this time of concrete faced by cut stones with brick bonding courses, 8 feet thick backed by a 20 foot wide earth bank. These defences were augmented by large rectangular corner and interval towers and pierced by four monumental gateways, one of which, the so-called Balkerne (West) Gate, became in 1913 the first Roman structure in Britain to be dated by modern excavation methods. The footings of the Balkerne Gate were found to have been built no later than c.85AD, and it is possible that this structure began life as a first century monumental archway. The town walls were completed by the early second century and enclosed an area of one hundred acres, the interior of the colonia being divided into city-blocks measuring on average about 330 feet square.
|...OS... ... MACRI... ... VS EQ R VIX AN XX V FRONTINA CONIVNX ET FLOR COGITATVS ET FLOR FIDELIS FECERVNT|
|"[...] Macri[nus] [Flor]us,¹ a knight of Rome, who lived for twenty-five
years, Frontina his wife, with Florus Cogitatus and Florus Fidelis,² have made [this memorial]."
(RIB 202; tombstone)
|D M IN HOC TVMVLO TEGVNTVR OSSA VENERABILIS IVVENIS ... CVNCTI MVCIANVM ... ERVNT SER ... ... VN ...|
|"To the spirits of the departed, within this mound are being protected the
bones of the honourable young man [...] Cunctius Muciana [...] they are overthrowing slavery¹ [...]"
(RIB 204; tombstone)
Visit the Romano-British Walled Towns page for a comparative map of Camulodunum and thirty-nine other towns in Roman Britain.