NGRef: NX9821
OSMap: LR89
Type: Fort, Minor Settlement

Roads
Probable Military Road: N (6) to Bvrrow Walls (Burrow Walls, Cumbria)
possible military road: S (9) to Tvnnocelvm (nr. Braystones, Beckermet, Cumbria)

The name of the Roman station at Moresby is mentioned in two classical geographical sources; the Notitia Dignitatum, where it appears as Gabrosentum; also in the Ravenna Cosmology (R&C#117), where it is listed as Gabrocentium, between the unidentified Iuliocenon entry and Alauna (Maryport, Cumbria).

The modern name for the site first appears in a document dating c.1160AD where it is recorded as Moresceby, which means 'the Village of Maurice', a mixture of an Old French personal name and the Scandinavian suffix -by, which indicates a large farm or small village.

The Gabrosentum Fort

Built by Legio Vicesimae Valeria Victrix

IMP CAES TRAIAN HADRIANI AVG P P LEG XX V V

"For the emperor Caesar Trajanus Hadrianus Augustus, Father of the Fatherland, the Twentieth Legion, Valiant and Victorious (made this)."

(RIB 801; 128-38AD)

Moresby formed part of the 'Western Sea Defences', a line of forts and watch-towers strung along the north-western coastline of Cumbria; a continuation of Hadrian's Wall. The stone-built barrier of Hadrian itself ended at MAIA (Bowness on Solway, Cumbria) over thirty miles to the north, but a south-western extension of these defenses consisting of a single bank and ditch surmounted by a wooden palisade, is now thought to have continued from Bowness at least as far as the Gabrosentum fort. The building inscription shown above, proves that the fort was constructed sometime during Hadrianic times.

Building Inscription of Cohors Secundae Lingonum

CVRAN VALERIO VPERCO PRAEF OH II LING

"Under the direction of the prefect Valerius Upercus,
the Second Cohort of Lingones (made this)"

(RIB 800)

Two undated inscriptions (vide supra et infra) show that the fort underwent a degree of refurbishment or repair at a later stage, the building inscriptions record work undertaken by both of the auxiliary garrison units. These would have been minor repairs for the most part, as the bulk of the construction work in Roman forts was not undertaken by the auxiliary troops, but was usually carried out by the highly trained soldiers of the legions.

Inscription of Cohors Secundae Thracum

COH II TRAQ FEC

"The Second Cohort of Thracians made this."

(RIB 803)

Also recorded in stone at Moresby is the enigmatic inscription COH VII (RIB 802). Stones such as this have been recovered from all over Britain, and generally indicate work undertaken by a legionary cohort. Several stones have been recovered which bear this same legend, particularly from along Hadrian's Wall, while others carry the name of the parent legion or the centurion in command in addition to the cohort numeral, unfortunately, the Moresby stone omits the name of the parent legion, though it may have been the Twentieth (vide RIB 801 supra).

The Garrison Units

Cohors Secundae Lingonum equitata - The Second Cohort of Lingones, part-mounted

DEO SILVAN ... COH II LING CVI PRAEES G POMPEIVS M SATVRNIN...

"To the god Silvanus [...] the Second Cohort of Lingones, under the command of Gaius Pompeius Saturninus, (son of) Marcus¹ [...]"

(RIB 798; altarstone)

  1. The lone 'M' in the text has been expanded to read M[arci filius], alternately, it may represent [tribunus] M[ilitum] or military tribune.

Cohors Secundae Lingonum is recorded in stone on two undated inscriptions recovered from Moresby, a building inscription (vide RIB 800) and an altar to Silvanus (RIB 798 supra). The Second Cohort of Lingones were a part-mounted unit numbering five-hundred men, levied from the Lingones tribe of Upper Germany, now the Dijon region of France. They are also attested on stamped tiles and an undated altar (RIB 635) at Ilkley in Yorkshire, and were possibly the original Hadrianic garrison here, at Gabrosentum.

Cohors Secundae Thracum Equitata - The Second Cohort of Thracians, part-mounted

D M SMERTRIO MACRI F M COH II THRAC EQ STIP X VICSIT AN XXXV D V

"To the spirits of the departed and to Smertrius Macer, soldier of the Second Cohort of Thracians, part-mounted, lived thirty-five years, served ten, this offering is bestowed."

(RIB 804; tombstone)

The Notitia Dignitatum undoubtedly places the Second Cohort of Thracians at the Moresby fort during the late-fourth century AD. This documentary evidence is confirmed by three undated inscriptions in stone recovered from Gabrosentum; an altar to Jupiter, a building inscription and the tombstone of a soldier from the unit (vide RIB 797 infra, et RIB 803 ac 804 supra).

The Notitia Dignitatum Entry

Tribunus cohortis secundae Thracum, Gabrosenti

"The tribune of the Second Cohort of Thracians at Gabrosentis"

(Notitia Dignitatum xl.50; 4th/5th C.)

Like its predecessor this unit was part-mounted and contained a nominal five-hundred men, this time recruited from amongst the various tribes of Thracia province, inhabiting the area between the Ægean and Black Seas, a region which encompassed modern southern Bulgaria, eastern Macedonia and Turkey west of the Bosporous.

The Gods of Roman Moresby

Statue or Altar Base Dedicated to Iupitter Optimus Maximus

I O M COH II TRA EQ C P MANILIVS NEPOS PRAEF

"For Jupiter Best and Greatest, the Second Cohort of Thracians, part-mounted, under the command of the prefect Manilius Nepos (made this)."

(RIB 797; base)

Aside from the altar to the god of the forest Silvanus (vide RIB 798 supra), the only other evidence of Roman religion uncovered at Gabrosentum is a statue or altar-base dedicated to Iupitter Optimus Maximus (vide RIB 797 supra), a god commonly revered within the prinicipia of many auxiliary forts.

A Strange Damaged Dedication

... ... OP PROSPERITATEM LIMNIS NSTITVTI

"[...] on account of the prosperity of the frontier institutes."

(RIB 799)

A Building Dedication?

LVCIVM SEVERINVM ORDINATVM

"Lucius Severinus set this in order."

(RIB 805)

See: 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.