NGRef: SD0895
OSMap: LR96
Type: Fort

Roads
possible road: NW (9) to Tvnnocelvm (nr. Braystones, Beckermet, Cumbria)
Iter X: ENE (7.5) to Hardknott (Hardknot, Cumbria)

Glannoventa - The Market on the Shore

The Roman fort at Ravenglass possibly represents the southern extremity of the 'Western Sea Defences', a line of forts and watch-towers strung along the north-western coastline of Cumbria; a western extension of Hadrian's Wall. The Roman name is supposed to be formed from the Welsh/Gaelic words glan/glenn 'bank, shore or landing' and venta 'market, trading-station'; another translation might be 'the Trading Port'.

Although the name implies the existence of a small settlement at least, no evidence has been found in corroboration.

Classical and Epigraphic Evidence

Ravenglass is mentioned in three (out of the four) classical geographical documents, being omitted from the Geography of Ptolemy. The name appears as Clanoventa at the start of Iter X of the Antonine Itinerary, which runs between Ravenglass and Whitchurch in Shropshire, the entry is reported eighteen Roman miles away from the second station GALAVA (Ambleside, Cumbria). A similar name, Glannibanta occurs in the Notitia Dignitatum of the fourth/fifth centuries (vide infra). The Ravenna Cosmology entry Cantiventi (R&C#115), has also been identified with the Ravenglass fort, which in this document is listed between MEDIOBOGDVM (Hardknot, Cumbria) and the unidentified Iuliocenon entry.

A single inscription on stone has been found at Ravenglass (RIB 795), but the text is unrecorded and the stone is now lost. The only other epigraphic evidence recovered from the area is a bronze diploma and a stamped lead seal which are discussed below.

The Glannoventa Garrison

Cohors Primae Aelia Classica - the First Cohort of the Aelian Fleet

Lead sealing has been found at the fort impressed with the stamp of Cohors I Aelia Classica (RIB 2411.94; not shown), and a fragmenary military diploma belonging to a veteran of this unit and dated to 158AD was also found in close proximity to the fort (Britannia xxvi 1995, pp.389-90 footnote). It is possible that this unit comprised the original garrison of Glannoventa. The name of this auxiliary regiment is translated the First Cohort of the Aelian Fleet, which likely proves the Romans made use of the natural safe-harbour formed by the triple confluence of the Rivers Irt, Mite and Esk; the fort itself being positioned between the protecting banks of the latter two streams and assailable only on the north-east. The regiment is also attested at the nearby fort of Tunnocelum in the Notitia Dignitatum.

Cohors Primae Morinorum - The First Cohort of Morini

Tribunus cohortis primae Morinorum, Glannibanta

"The tribune of the First Cohort of Morini at Glannibanta."

(Notitia Dignitatum xl.52; 4th/5th C.)

The Notitia Dignitatum tells us that the fourth-century garrison of the Ravenglass fort was the First Cohort of Morini (vide supra). This auxiliary infantry unit contained a nominal five-hundred soldiers recruited from the Morini tribe, who inhabited the coastal region of Belgica province around the busy seaport of Gesoriacum (Boulogne, France). It was from the territories of this tribe that the Roman invasions of Britain conducted by both Caesar and Claudius had been initiated.

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