NGRef: SU4313
OSMap: LR196
Type: Roman Burg, Port

Roads
NNE (11) to Venta Belgarvm
ESE (24) to Magnvs Portvs (Bosham Harbour, West Sussex)
Possible road: WNW (5) to Nvrsling (Hampshire)
ESE (28) to Fishbovrne

Clausentum - The Enclosure

The small Roman town of Bitterne appears in the Antonine Itinerary of the late-second century as the first station on Iter VII, entitled "the route from Chichester to London", where it appears as Clausentum, twenty miles from the southern terminus of the itinerary at Noviomagus Regnorum (Chichester, Sussex), the civitas capital of the Regnenses tribe, and ten miles from the next stopover at Venta Belgarum (Winchester, Hampshire) the capital town of the Belgae. The identification of the Clausentum entry with Bitterne is, however, unsure, and this station in the Seventh Itinerary may equally be associated with a possible Roman site at Wickham in Hampshire, which also roughly matches the distances stated in the Itinerary.

An entry in the obscure seventh-century work, the Ravenna Cosmology (R&C#29) has also been associated with the Bitterne settlement. In this document the station Clauimo appears between the entries for Durocendum (Chew Stoke, Avon), and the unknown station Morionio.

The Roman name of the settlement and port at Bitterne is most definitely Latin in origin, from the verb claudo 'to enclose', meaning literally, the enclosing, or an enclosed place.

The Clausentum Roman Fortifications

"Bitterne is a spit of land projecting into the river Itchen across its base is an ancient fortification consisting of a ditch, earthwork and wall; on its tip is a triangular walled enclosure with a ditch to landward. The outer wall was 9 feet thick, with bonding-courses, an earthen mound behind it, and towers at its ends. The walls of the triangular enclosure, which was about 51 acres in extent, seem to be Roman work of the late third or fourth century, and may represent a citadel built for a seaport town at a period when Saxon raids began to make such towns unsafe (Roman London, PP.77-78 ; V.C.H. Hants)." (Collingwood 1930 p.53)

An internal area of 8 acres is quite small for a fortified town, but Clausentum must have warrented the expenditure of so much labour and materials because of its proximity to the wealthy and prosperous tribal city of Venta Belgarum which it served as a sea-port. It may also have served in a military role as a secure port on the south coast of Britain, which may also explain the funding of such a project.

The Epigraphy of Roman Bitterne

Altar to the Goddess Ancasta

DEAE ANCASTAE GEMINVS MANI VSLM

"To the goddess Ancasta, Geminus Mani[lius] willingly and deservedly fulfills his vow."

(RIB 97; altarstone)

An altarstone dedicated to the goddess Ancasta (vide supra) the only entries recorded in Volume I of the R.I.B. for the Bitterne settlement itself, this deity being otherwise unknown throughout the Roman empire. However, a good number of Roman milestones or honorific pillars have been uncovered here which record the various re-surfacing operations undertaken on the coastal road throughout the 2nd and 3rd centuries (vide infra).

Roman Milestones from Clausentum

Milestone of Commodus, Severus, or Caracalla, found Within the Town Walls

TRIB POT XVIII VIAS IN RVINAM VESTVSTATE CONLABSVDINIM RESTITVIT

"In the eighteenth year of the emperor's rule, the roads, rendered unuseable through old age and in a ruinous state, were restored."

(RIB 2228; honorific pillar; dated: c.180-217AD)

Milestone of Emperor Gordian III

IMP C M ANT GORDIANO P FE AVG R P B I

"For Imperator Caesar Marcus Antonius Gordianus Pius Felix Augustus,¹ undertaken by the public works of the Belgae.²"

(RIB 2222; milestone; dated: 238-244AD)

  1. The boy-emperor Gordian III was raised to power by the praetorian guard in May 238AD aged only thirteen. He was murdered near Circesium in Mesopotamia in February 244, a month after his nineteenth birthday.
  2. This is based on the tentative expansion: R[ei] P[ublicae] B[elgarum] I[nstituit]. The Belgae tribe inhabited Hampshire and parts of Wiltshire and Avon.

Milestone of Gordian re-used for Tetricus

IMP CAES M AN GORDIANO IPM C EX SVVIO TERICVS P F AVG
"For Imperator Caesar Marcus Antonius Gordianus.¹" "For Imperator Caesar Gaius [Pius] Esuvius Tetricus Pius Felix [Invictus] Augustus.²"

(RIB 2224 (primary); dated: 238-244AD)

(RIB 2224 (secondary); dated: 271-273AD)

  1. Gordian III - (see note#1 above).
  2. Tetricus - The last emperor of the breakaway "Gallic Empire", was installed at Bordeaux in Spring 271AD. He made his like-named son co-ruler by the Summer of 273, bestowing upon him the title Caesar. The Tetricii, father and son, were defeated in battle at Trier in the Summer of 274 by forces of the legitimate emperor Aurelian, who, instead of ordering that the usurpers be killed, instead pardoned them both.

Milestone of Emperor Trebonianus Gallus and his son Volusianus

IMP C GALLO ET VOLVSIANO AVG

"For their imperial Caesars Gallus and Volusianus the Augusti.¹"

(RIB 2223; milestone; dated: 251-253AD)

  1. Imperator Caesar Gaius Vibius Trebonianus Gallus Pius Felix Invictus Augustus was proclaimed Augustus in June 251AD upon the death of emperor Decius in battle against the Goths. He and his son, Gaius Vibius Volusianus, ruled jointly until they were both murdered by their own soldiers in camp at Interamna, 50 miles north of Rome in August 253.

Milestones of Emperor Tetricus of the "Gallic Empire"

IMP C G PIO ESVIO TETRICO P F AG IMP CAES G AESVIO TETRICO P F AVG
"For Imperator Caesar Gaius [Pius] Esuvius Tetricus Pius Felix [Invictus] Augustus.¹"

(RIB 2225; milestone; dated: 271-273AD)

(RIB 2226; milestone; dated: 271-273AD)

  1. Tetricus - (see RIB 2224, note#2 above).

Milestone of Emperor Aurelian

IMP CAES LVCIO DOMITIO AVRELIANO

"For Imperator Caesar Lucius Domitius Aurelianus.¹"

(RIB 2227; milestone; dated: 273-275AD)

  1. Aurelian came to power after the emperor Claudius II died of the plague at Sirmium in August 270AD, hailed emperor by the Roman armies on the Danube frontier. He forced Claudius' son Quintillus, acclaimed emperor by the praetorians, into suicide after a reign of as little as 17 days. Aurelian was later murdered by the praetorian guard at Coenofrurium during September or August 275 and his body quickly buried.

Click here for the Romano-British Walled Towns page

See: The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);
The Archaeology of Roman Britain by R.G. Collingwood (Methuen, London, 1930).
All English translations, including any inherent mistakes, are my own.