NGRef: SY6990
OSMap: LR194
Type: Probable Town

Roads
NNW (23) to Ilchester
WNW (34) to Whitley Castle (Whitley Castle, Northumberland)
ENE (19) to Vindocladia
S (5) to Jordan Hill (Dorset)
SW (2) to Maiden Castle
ENE (19) to Shapwick
NNW (19) to West Coker
WNW (34) to Mvridvnvm

The first classical mention of the name for the Dorchester Roman settlement occurs in the Antonine Itinerary of the late second century. The fifteenth (and last) itinerary deals with south-west England, and details the road-route between Calleva (Silchester, Hampshire) and Isca Dumnoniorum (Exeter, Devon). In Iter XV the station Durononvaria is listed 8 miles from Vindocladia (Badbury, Dorset) and 36 miles from Muridunum (nr. Honiton, Devon). This entire itinerary has been mistakenly copied onto the beginning of Iter XII at sometime in the distant past.

The final mention of Roman Dorchester possibly occurs in the Ravenna Cosmology of the seventh century, where the name Purocoronauis (R&C#6) is listed between Tamaris (Plymouth, Devon) and the unidentified station Pilais. This station has also been identified with the Dumnonian hillfort at Carn Brea in Cornwall.

The earliest classical work which details the geography of Roman (i.e. post-Iron-Age) Britain is that of Claudius Ptolemaeus which was produced in the early-second century. Ptolemy gives the name of only a single town in the territory of the Durotriges, named Dunium, which has been equated with the captured hillfort at Hod Hill. This perhaps indicates that the Durotriges were under Roman military jurisdiction for quite some time before their own tribal administrative centre was established, also perhaps, that Roman rule over the tribe was administered from the auxiliary fort built in the north-west corner of the old hillfort.

The later Romano-British town was fed by an aqueduct which ran for seven miles from the old hillfort in the north-west, around Frampton closely following the contour lines on the modern O/S maps of the area. It followed the south side of the valley as a chalk-cut, clay-lined channel, 1.5m wide by 0.9m deep, and was probably capable of delivering around 55 million litres/day. It is best seen between grid references SY:671917 and SY:674914, where it forms a terrace.

There are three inscriptions on stone recorded in the R.I.B. for Dorchester, only one of which is readable, the tombstone RIB 188 (vide supra), the other texts being too fragmentary to be of any use (RIB 189 & 188; not shown).

The Tombstone of a Dumnonian Husband and Father

... CARINO CIVI DOMNONIO ANN L RVFINVS ET CARINA ET AVITA FILI EIVS ET ROMANA VXOR F C

"[To the shades of the departed] Carinus, a citizen of the Dumnonii,ยน fifty years old. Rufinus, Carina and Avita his children and Romana his wife saw to the making (of this memorial)."

(RIB 188; tombstone)

  1. The diplomatic contact between the Durotriges and their neighbours the Dumnonii of Devon and Cornwall is uncertain, but this text lends support to the idea that relationships were amicable.

The Godmanstone Inscription

Reputed to be from Godmanstone in Dorset the exact origin of this stone is, however, unknown, but was perhaps from Forston which lies a little to the south along the road between Godmanstone and Dorchester. One of the giant hill-figures of the English southern counties lies only 4 miles further north along this road outside the village of Cerne Abbas.

Altar to Juppiter Optimus Maximus

I O M TITINEIVS PINES LEG XX V V VSLM

"To Jupiter Best and Greatest, Titineius Pineus of the Twentieth Legion Valiant and Victorious willingly and deservedly fulfills his vow."

(RIB 190a; altarstone; JRS lv (1965), p.220, no.1)

Excavations at Dorchester in 1970

Excavations were conducted at several locations throughout the town in 1970:

Click here for the RBO Romano-British Walled Towns page

See: The Towns of Roman Britain by John Wacher (2nd Ed., BCA, London, 1995) pp. & fig.145;
Britannia ii (1971) pp.279, 281 & graffito p.295;
The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965).
All English translations, including any inherent mistakes, are my own.