NGRef: SD4761
OSMap: LR97
Type: Fort

Roads
NE (4) to Caton
NE (12) to Calacvm (Burrow in Lonsdale, Lancashire)
S (21) to Walton Le Dale (Lancashire)

Calunium - The Place on the River Lune

The fourth/fifth century Notitia Dignitatum has an Alione between the entries for GLANNOVENTA (Ravenglass, Cumbria) and BREMETENACVM (Ribchester, Lancashire), while the seventh century Ravenna Cosmography (R&C#112) list a Calunio between CAMBODVNVM (Slack, West Yorkshire) and GALAVA (Ambleside, Cumbria). Considering the placement of these individual entries in their respective itineraries it is possible that the Calunio of the R.C. and the Alione of the ND both refer to the same geographical location, and that the location involved was Roman Lancaster. Epigraphic evidence has been found at Lancaster which may support this premise (see Gods below).

Attention should also be paid to the Roman milestone found four miles to the north-east of Lancaster on the road to CALACVM (Burrow in Lonsdale; RIB 2272), which suggests that the Roman name for Lancaster began with the letter L; perhaps Lunium?

The modern name first appears in the Domesday Book of 1086AD where it appears Loncastre, a compound of a river-name (Welsh/Gaelic possibly meaning 'healthy, pure') and Old English cæster or 'old Roman fort'. The full meaning of the modern name then, is 'the Roman fort on the River Lune'. It is very likely that the Latin name has the same derivation.

The Lancaster Fort

IMP NERVAE TRAIANO CAES AVG GER DAC COS... IMP... L...

"Emperor Nerva Trajanus Caesar Augustus Germanicus Dacius, consul [...] hailed imperator in the field [...] L[...]"

(RIB 604; 102-17AD)

The building inscription displayed above, no doubt dates to the first incarnation of the fort, which was evidently built during one of the many revolts in the north of England instigated by the rebellious Brigantes tribe. By the latter part of the third century, some restoration work was undertaken by the resident garrison, not upon the fort itself, but seemingly upon the bath-house and local governmental buildings outside the military installation (vide RIB 605 infra).

That the Lancaster fort had a Flavian (i.e. Agricolan) predecessor, although probable, is not proven. The barrack-blocks of the fort were burnt in late-Hadrianic/early-Antonine times, but the samian pottery record shows uninterrupted coverage from Trajanic and Hadrianic through to Antonine times, and there is nothing to suggest that this particular fire within the Lancaster fort was anything but accidental. There is evidence of rebuilding perhaps during the Severan period, and a later inscription dated to 262-6AD shows that building continued. A large fort is thought to have been built at Lancaster around 343, at the same time as the Saxon Shore Forts were being built in south-east England.

By the fourth century the garrison cavalry unit had been withdrawn and replaced by a smaller infantry batallion, which meant that to make the fort defensible it had to be reduced in size. During this operation the constructors levelled the site then dug-out the defensive ditch for the new fort, cutting through the ruins of the old bath-house as they did so (vide summus).

The Numismatic Evidence

A large number of coins have been recovered from the Lancaster environs; 64 during excavations in the late 1920's, 272 from casual finds and another 34 from the Mitchell's Brewery excavation of 1988; a total of 370 Roman coins, of which 42 are silver denominations, the remaining all being copper issues. The coins range from republican silver issues (pre 44BC) to those of Honorius (Imp. 395-423AD).

The Garrison Units

Ala Gallorum Sebosiana - The Wing of Sebusian Gauls

... ... OB BALINEVM REFECT ET BASILICAM VETVSTATE CONLABSVM A SOLO RESTITVTAM EQ ALAE SEBVSSIAN POSTVMIANAE SVB OCTAVIO SABINO V C PRAESIDE N CVRANTE FLA AMMAVSIO PRAEF EQ D D XI KAL SEPTEM CENSORE II ET LEPIDO II COS

"[...] for the refurbishment of the bath-house, and the Basilica which had collapsed through age, rebuilt from the ground by the cavalrymen of the Sebussian Wing of Postumus¹ under Octavius Sabinus the most illustrious of men, supervised and administered by Flavius Ammausius, prefect of cavalry, dated eleven days before the Kalends of September,² when the consuls were Censorinus for the second time and Lepidus (also) for the second time.³"

(RIB 605; building inscription; 262-6AD)
  1. The Postumus in question was the founder and emperor of the break-away Gallic Empire between 260 and his death in 269.
  2. The 22nd of August.
  3. The consuls in question are those of the Gallic empire, hence the date cannot be identified with much accuracy, but is believed to be sometime between 262AD and 266.

The Sebusiani or Segusiani were a people who lived in the Loire valley of Gaul, and are mentioned by Caesar in his Gallic Wars (book I, chap.10), also by the historian Pliny (book IV, c.18). This unit are also attested at Lancaster on undated lead sealing (RIB 2411.88; not shown) and tiles also undated (RIB 2465.2; also not shown). Of particular note is the altar dedicated by an ex Decurion (vide RIB 600 infra) and the undated tombstone of a cavalryman (vide infra), both of which may represent men serving in this unit.

DIS MANIBVS L IVL APOLLINARIS TREVER AN XXX EQ ALAE AI IV H S E

"To the spirits of the departed and to Lucius Julius Apollinaris of the Treveri, thirty years old, a cavalryman of the Wing,¹ to his friends he lives on, he lies here."

(RIB 606; tombstone)

  1. Possibly the Ala Gallorum Sebosiana.

Numerus Barcariorum

DEO MARTI SABINVS PP ET MILITES A BARC S C EIVS POS

"To the god Mars, under the care of the praepositus¹ Sabinus and the soldiers of the Company of Bargemen, this was placed."

(RIB 601; altarstone; poss. 3rd C.)

  1. Literally 'the one placed first', or 'the man in charge'.

An altarstone, the text of which is given above, was found three miles (5km) upstream of the Calunium fort; undated, the style and lettering suggests the third century. The function of this irregular unit was probably military as well as naval, being in effect, marines. There was also a Numerus Barcariorum Tigrisiensium stationed at ARBEIA (South Shields, Tyne & Wear) and reported in the Notitia Dignitatum.

Cohors Tertiae Nerviorum - The Third Cohort of Nervians

Tribunus cohortis tertiae Neruiorum, Alione

"The tribune of the Third Cohort of Nervians at Alione."

(Notitia Dignitatum xl.53; 4th/5th C.)

If we accept that the Lancaster fort should be identified with the Alione entry in the Notitia Dignitatum (vide supra), then this document provides us with the name of the fourth-century garrison, the Fourth Cohort of Nervians. This five-hundred strong infantry regiment were recruited from among the men of the Nervii tribe from central Belgica.

SERVIVS VALERIVS CENTVRIO ... ...

"Servius Valerius, Centurion [...]"

(RIB 608)

The noteworthy inscription on stone shown above, perhaps a building dedication, mentions a centurion, this rank was not used in the cavalry so it is possible that this man was attached to the Nervian infantry regiment, or less-likely, to the Company of Bargemen known also to have been stationed here at Lancaster. The presence of the Fourth Cohort of Nervians at the Lancaster fort is not substantiated by any other epigraphic evidence from the site.

The Gods of Calunium

DEO SANCTI MARTI COCIDIO VIBENIVS LVCIVS B F COS VSLM

"To the sacred god Mars Cocidius, Vibenius Lucius, beneficiarius consularis,¹ willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow."

(RIB 602; altarstone)

  1. An officer on the personal staff or bodyguard of the consular governor; he had considerable clout.

Five Roman altarstones have been recovered from Lancaster, one dedicated to the Roman war god Mars (vide RIB 601 supra), another to Mars Cocidius a conflation of the classical god and a popular Germanic god of war (vide supra), and one also to the iron-age god Ialanus (vide infra). The inscriptions on the remaining two altarstones are totally undecipherable (RIB 603 et 607; not shown).

The River-God Ialanus

DEO IALANO CONTRE SANCTISSIMO IVLIVS IANVARIVS EM EX DEC V S

"To the most sacred and inimical god Ialanus, Julius Januarius, Emeritus,¹ former Decurion,² has fulfilled his vow."

(RIB 600; altarstone)

  1. Veteran soldier.
  2. Officer in charge of a squadron of cavalry, the equivalent of a centurion in an infantry regiment.

The altarstone RIB 600, the text and translation of which is shown above, possibly provides evidence which supports the identification of Lancaster with the Calunio entry of the Ravenna Cosmography. The similarity between the words Ialanus and the Aliona of the Notitia Dignitatum should also be noted.

It is very likely that Ialanus, the 'most sacred and inimical god' referred to on this stone, was a river-god, the same river-god who has lent his name over the years to this beautiful place at the mouth of the River Lune.

Other Roman Inscriptions from the Neighbourhood

The Ashton-with-Stodday Roman Milestones

IMP C M IVL PHILIPPO PIO FEL AVG N IMP C D N GAIO MESSIO QVINTO DECIO TRAIANO PIO FELICI INVICTO AVG

"For Imperator Caesar Marcus Julius Phillipus Pius Felix, our Augustus.¹"

"For our lord Imperator Caesar Gaius Messius Quintus Decius Trajanus Pius Felix Invictus Augustus.²"

(RIB 2270; dated: 244-249AD)

(RIB 2271; dated: 249-251AD)

  1. Philip the Arab, the praetorian commander of the 19 year old emperor Gordian III, who became emperor in February 244AD after the soldiers chose him in preference to Gordian, who was then executed. Philip was killed in battle at Beroea in Macedonia sometime during Sept/Oct 249AD.
  2. The emperor Decius, who succeeded Philip the Arab following his death in battle, and was himself killed in battle against the Goths at Abrittus in Moesia some 20 months later in June 251.

In addition to the epigraphic evidence from the environs of Lancaster itself, two milestones or honorific pillars both dated to the mid-third century have been discovered near Ashton with Stodday, about 3 miles south of Lancaster beside the Roman road to Walton-le-Dale; these are both shown above. Also, there is a suspected Romano-British shrine at Cockersand Moss, about seven miles south-south-west of Lancaster at the mouth of the River Lune.

See: The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);
Roman Coins from North-West England by David Shotter (Lancaster 1990) pp.14-20.
All translations, including any inherent mistakes, are my own.

Calunium Related Lynx

Lancaster City Museum page from AboutBritain.com
A modern map of Cockersand Abbey is provided by
the superb WebSite streetmap.co.uk An Absolutely Ace Place!