NGRef: NS7978
OSMap: LR64
Type: Antonine Wall Fort, Fort

Roads
Antonine Wall: E (2.25) to Seabegs (Central)
Antonine Wall: W (2.5) to Westerwood (Strathclyde)

The Romans first built a camp here possibly during the fourth campaign season of governor Gnaeus Julius Agricola around 81AD. Evidence of this period comes in the form of first-century glass and samian pottery, first-century bronze coins and 'pre-Hadrianic' pottery. Emplacements for the use of ballistae, onagri and other such Roman artillery have been identified within the ramparts.

Within the ramparts the Antonine fort at Castlecary measures 455 feet from WSW to ENE by 350 feet transversely (139 x 107 m) enclosing an area of 3½ acres (c.1.4 ha). The fort rampart was constructed of stone, unlike the turf-built Wall itself, the footings of which were 8 ft. (2.4 m) wide, set upon a foundation of boulders 9 ft wide and up to 3 ft deep (2.7 x 0.9 m).

Excavated in 1902, the Castlecary fort was one of several - including Balmuildy and Rough Castle - which were found to show signs of devastation during the middle of the second century.

The Epigraphic Evidence

Centurial Stone Recording Building Work at the Fort

CHO VI > ANTOARATI

"The sixth cohort, century of Antonius Aratus [made this]."

(RIB 2156)

There have been eleven inscriptions on stone recovered from the Castlecary fort and subsequently recorded in the R.I.B.. Nine of the eleven are altarstones and six mention military units; all but one of these texts are shown on this page.

Roman Legionary Forces Attested at Castlecary

Altar to Fortuna by Detachments from the Sixth and the Second Legions

FORTVNAE VEXILLATIONES LEG II AVG LEG VI VIC P F P L L

"To Fortuna, the detachments from the Second Augustan Legion and the Sixth Victorious Legion, Loyal and Faithful, gladly and freely place this."

(RIB 2146; altarstone)

Altar to Mercurius by Soldiers of the Sixth Legion

DEO MERCVRIO MILITES LEG VI VICTRICIS PIE F AEDEM ET SIGILLVM CIVES ITALICI ET NORICI V S L L M

"To the god Mercury, the soldiers of the Sixth Victorious Legion, Loyal and Faithful, made this temple and its reliefs, gladly, willingly and deservedly in fulfillment of their vow."

(RIB 2148; altarstone)

Altar to the Mother Goddesses from a Vexillation of the Sixth

G IVL SPERATVS N MAT VE... LEG VI V P F V S L L M

"Giaus Julius Speratus and the detachment of the Sixth Victorious Legion, Loyal and Faithful, to the divine spirits of the mother [goddesses], willingly, gladly and deservedly fulfill their vow."

(RIB 2151; altarstone)

Peregrine Auxiliary Units at Castlecary

Cohors Primae Vardullorum - The First Cohort of Vardulli

DEO NEPTVNO COHORS I FID VARDVL C R EQ M CVI PRAEST TREBIVS VERVS VERVS PRAEF

"To the god Neptune, the First Cohort of Vardulli, Citizens of Rome, part-mounted, one-thousand strong, under the command of the prefect Trebius Verus."

(RIB 2149; altarstone)

Cohors Primae Batavorum - The First Cohort of Batavi

COH I BAT

"The First Cohort of Batavians [dedicates this]."

(RIB 2154; altarstone)

Cohors Primae Tungrorum - The First Cohort of Tungri

IMP CAES T AEL ANT AVG PIO P P COH I TVNGRORVM FECIT M

"For Imperator Caesar Titus Aelius Antoninus Augustus Pius, Father of his Country, the First Cohort of Tungrians made this record."

(RIB 2155; dated: 139-61AD)

This one-thousand strong auxiliary infantry unit was very-likely split between the fort here on the Antonine Wall and another fort at Cramond (vide RIB 2135) on the south bank of the Firth of Forth.

The Gods of Roman Castlecary

Altar to the Mother Goddesses

MATRIB MILITES VEXILLATIO ...

"To the Mother Goddesses, the soldiers of the detachment [...]"

(RIB 2147; altarstone)

There are nine inscribed altarstones dedicated to various deities; one to the goddess Fortune (RIB 2146), one to the Messenger god Mercury (RIB 2148), another to Neptune the god of the sea (RIB 2149), and one to the Mother Goddesses (RIB 2147), maybe two (RIB 2151); also perhaps one dedicated to Britannia (RIB 2152).

Possible Altar to Britannia

BRITTON... V S L L M

"To Britain [...] willingly, gladly and deservedly fulfilling a vow."

(RIB 2152; altarstone)

There is one altarstone which reads DEAE or simply "for the goddess" (RIB 2150), evidently in honour of an unknown female deity, also another altarstone to an unknown god or goddess dedicated by Cohors Primae Batavorum (RIB 2154 supra), while the remaining altarstone remains difficult to decipher (RIB 2153; not shown).

Material Evidence from Castlecary

The Dateable Pottery Evidence

The pottery recovered from the site implies (sporadic?) occupation from Flavian to Antonine times. There are two noteable pieces of first-century decorated ware; a fragment with ovulo of a type also found at Pompeii and dated c.75-90AD, also a fragment with a 'trident tongue' design dated c.90-110. A piece of samian ware of Form 27 bears the stamp of the Flavian-Trajanic potter L. Ter- Sec-. There are examples of nine Antonine potters stamps: Draucus on a piece of Form 31, and eight Form 33 sherds by the potters Aestivus, Albinus, Cintusmus, Cracuna, Priscus, Sacirapo, Cadgatus and Libertus; the last two potters were formerly identified as Flavian.

The Numismatic Evidence

Only seven coins have been recovered from Castlecary, a denarius of Mark Antony, an as of Nero, 2 denarii of Trajan and 3 coins of Hadrian.

Other Notable Finds

Fragments of a straight Roman military trumpet known as a tuba have been found within the confines of the Castlecary defences. The conical tube of thinly-worked bronze had almost completely fragmented, but the much thicker metal in the bronze mouthpiece survived.

See: The Roman Wall in Scotland by Sir George MacDonald (Oxford, 2nd Ed. 1934) pp.241-252;
The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);
The Roman Occupations of Scotland by B.R. Hartley in Britannia iii (1972) pp.1-55;
Britannia xiv (1983) p.288;
A Survey of the Coin Finds from the Antonine Wall by Richard Abdy in Britannia xxxiii (2002) pp.189-217.
All English translations, including any inherent mistakes, are my own.