NGRef: NY038372
OSMap: LR89
Type:

Roads
military road: NNE (7.5) to Beckfoot (Beckfoot, Cumbria)
military road: SSW (5) to Bvrrow Walls (Burrow Walls, Cumbria)
Possible Road: ENE (15) to Old Carlisle (Old Carlisle, Cumbria)
SE (6) to Papcastle (Papcastle, Cumbria)

Alauna [Carvetiorum] - The Beautiful Place (of the Carvetii)

Not listed in Ptolemy's Geography, the Antonine Itinerary or the Notitia Dignitatum, the only classical geographical source for the name of the Roman fort and settlement at Maryport is an entry in the Ravenna Cosmography (R&C#118). The station Alauna appears in this document between Gabrosentum (Moresby, Cumbria) and Bibra (Beckfoot, Cumbria). The modern town was founded in the late eighteenth century and named Mary Port, after the wife of the landowner and industrialist Humphrey Senhouse who built the harbour here in 1762.

It is possible that the Roman name for the fort and settlement at Maryport is derived from a word (Welsh/Gaelic) which described its location, perhaps meaning 'beautiful, wonderful' (q.v. Gaelic alainn(e) 'elegant, beautiful, splendid'). A plausible alternative, given the many altarstones found on the site, is that the name may be derived from a word (Welsh/Gaelic) for 'shrine' or 'altar' (q.v. Welsh allor (plural allorau) 'altar(s)'). The suffix Carvetiorum is used to distinguish this particular site from others, also named Alauna in Roman times, and qualifies this town as belonging to the tribal lands of the Carvetii.

The Alauna Fort

N.G.Ref Dimensions Area
NY038372 c.525 x 525 ft
(c.160 x 160 m)
c.6½ acres
(c.2.58 ha)

The site of the Maryport fort overlooking the Solway Estuary is certainly picturesque but the Roman remains are less than spectacular, especially when compared with the magnificence of sites such as Hardknott or Housesteads. The earthworks of the fort and associated vicus settlement of Alauna were out-of-bounds for essential groundskeeping during my visit in April 2004 but the reconstruction of a Roman watch-tower in the grounds of the Senhouse Roman Museum did, however, offer a limited view of the fort's defences with the civil settlement beyond.

VEXIL LEG II AVG ET XX V V FECERVNT
'Vexillations of the Second Augustan Legion
and the Twentieth Legion Valiant and Victorious
have made (this)'
(RIB 852; building inscription)

The fort at Maryport formed part 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 fort is considerably larger than that necessary to accommodate the units which have been attested here. This surplus area has suggested to some scholars that Maryport may have been the administrative centre for the whole of the Western Sea Defences, but this cannot be proven.

Building Inscriptions from the Second and Third Centuries

IMP CAES TRAIANO HADRIANO... LEG XX GORD
For Imperator Caesar Trajanus Hadrianus¹ [...] The Twentieth Legion Gordiana²
(RIB 851; dated: 117-138AD) (RIB 854; dated: 238-244AD)
  1. The emperor Hadrian, who ruled from August 117AD, upon the death of his adoptive father Trajan, until July 138 when he died from natural causes at Baiae.
  2. The honourific title, of a short-lived Roman dynasty, was employed from 238 to 244AD.

The fort was built by legionaries from both the Second and Twentieth legions (vide RIB 852 supra), very likely at sometime during the reign of the emperor Hadrian (vide RIB 851 supra). Some building work was undertaken by the auxiliary regiment Cohors I Hispanorum (RIB 855; not shown) and possibly by their successors Cohors I Delmatarum (vide RIB 850 infra). There was another spate of building in the middle of the third-century, this time by detachments from the Twentieth Legion (RIB 854 etiam supra).

Building Inscription of Cohors I Hispanorum

COH I HISP FECIT
'The First Cohort of Spaniards have made (this).'
(RIB 855)

During excavations over the years at the Maryport fort a number of mollusc shells have been uncovered, including those of Oyster, Mussel and Edible Snail. (See the article: The Roman Military Diet by R.W. Davies, in Britannia II (1971) pp.122-142).

The Alauna Garrison Units

IOVI AVG M CENSORIVS M FIL VOLTINIA CORNELIANVS > LEG X FRETENSIS PRAEFECTVS COH I HISP EX PROVINCIA NARBONEN DOMO NEMAVSO VSLM Jovi Augusto Marcus Censorius Marci Filii Voltinia Cornelianus Centurio Legionis Decimae Fretensis Praefectus Cohortis Primae Hispanorum ex Provincia [Gallia] Narbonensis Domo Nemauso Votum Solvit Libens Merito.
'To Majestic Jupiter, Marcus Censorius Cornelianus,¹ son of Marcus, of the Voltinian voting tribe, Centurion of the Trustworthy Tenth Legion, Prefect of the First Cohort of Spaniards, from Nemausus² in the province of Narbonensis [Gaul], willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow.'
(RIB 814; altarstone)
  1. Judging from his titles, it would seem that Marcus Censorius was justly proud of having worked his way up through the ranks; the First Cohort of Spaniards was likely his first command.
  2. Nîmes, Languedoc, Southern France.
RIB823 - see text on right

The most frequently attested unit at Maryport - and probably the first to occupy the fort - was Cohors I Hispanorum Equitata, a five-hundred strong part-mounted unit recruited from amongst the tribes of the Roman Spanish provinces. The Notitia Dignitatum indicates that by the turn of the fifth century, the unit had been moved on to Vxelodvnvm (Stanwix, Cumbria). Of the twenty-three altars to Jupiter found at Maryport (vide infra), ten are inscribed with the name of this regiment and a further six were dedicated by men known to have commanded the unit, which likely indicates that they were stationed here for a substantial period.

Altar to Jupiter Dedicated by the Tribune Marcus Maenius Agrippa

I O M COH I HISP CVI PRAE M MAENIVS AGRIP TRIB POS
'For Iupitter Optimus Maximus,¹ the First Cohort of Spaniards under the command of tribune Marcus Maenius Agrippa have placed [this stone].'
(RIB 823; altarstone)
  1. This man was later to become Prefect in command of the British Fleet, the Classis Britannica (CIL xi.5632).
PRO SALVTE IMP CAES ANTONINI AVG PII P P
PAVLVS P F PALATINA POSTVMIVS ACILIANVS
PRAEF COH I DEMATAR
'For the health of the Emperor Caesar Antoninus Augustus Pius, Father of his Country,
Paulus Postumius Acilianus, son of Publius, of the Palatine voting tribe,
Prefect of the First Cohort of Delmatians [set this up].'
(RIB 850; 138-61AD)

The second auxiliary unit identified at Maryport was Cohors I Delmatarum, a five-hundred strong infantry unit of Delmatae tribesmen from the Adriatic coast of modern Croatia. This regiment is attested on a number of inscriptions, two of them being positively dated to the reign of Antoninus Pius in the period 138-61AD (vide supra etiam infra).

IOVI OPTIMO MAXI CAPITOLINO PRO SALVT [IMP CAES] ANTONINI AVG PII POSTVMIVS ACILIANVS PRAEF COH I DELM
To Jupiter Best and Greatest, for the well-being of (the emperor Caesar) Antoninus Augustus Pius, Postumius Acilianus, prefect of the First Cohort of Dalmatians [set this up].
(RIB 832; 138-61AD)
RIB838 - see text on left
MARTI MILITARI COH I BAESTASIORVM
C R CVI PRAEEST VLPIVS TITIANVS PRAEF
V S L L M
'To Mars of the Soldiers, the First Cohort of Baetasians,
citizens of Rome, commanded by the Prefect Ulpius Titianus,
gladly, willingly and deservedly fullfilled their vow.'
(RIB 838; altarstone)

Another auxiliary regiment which occupied the Maryport fort was Cohors I Baetasiorum, a five-hundred strong infantry unit of the Baetasii tribe from the area to the immediate west of Novaesium in Germania Inferior (Neuss, Westfalen, West Germany). This unit was originally stationed at the Bar Hill fort in the middle of the Antonine Wall, and moved to Maryport during the late Antonine period. The experience gained in the maritime environment here on the Cumbrian coast was later to see the unit posted to the Saxon-Shore fort at Regulbium (Reculver, Kent).

D M ...TOTIRIIL..ON ...NTISS ...M... ... IVS I I IN COH III NERVIORVM IVL SENECIANVS PONENDVM PRO CONDICIONE LOCI CVRAVIT
'To the spirits of the departed [...] the Third Cohort of Nervians,
Julius Senecianus [...] lying here as stipulated in the district he cared for.'
(RIB 879.A; tombstone; JRS lvii (1967), 204, no. 14)

The translation of the last five words on this tombstone would seem to indicate that the person interned - probably not Julius Senecianus who is likely the dedicator - requested in his will that his memorial stone be placed at Maryport, therefore, we cannot presume that Cohors III Nerviorum were ever stationed here.

Iuppiter Optimus Maximus

I O M
COH I HISP EQ
CVI PRAEEST
L ANTISTIVS L F
QVIRINA LVPVS
VERIANVS PRAEF
DOMV SICCA
EX AFRICA
Iovi Optimo Maximo
Cohors Primae Hispanorum Equitata
Cui Praeest
Lucius Antistius Lucio Filio
Quirina Lupus
Verianus Praefectus
Domu Sicca
Ex Africa
'To Jupiter Greatest and Best,
the First Cohort of Spaniards, part-mounted,
under the command of the Prefect
Lucius Antistius Lupus Verianus,
son of Lucius, of the Quirine voting tribe,
from Sicca in Africa (set this up).'
(RIB 816; altarstone)

The usual place you would expect to find altars dedicated to Jupiter was in the principia or regimental headquarters building in the centre of the fort, but at Alauna no less than twenty-three altar-stones dedicated to the god Jupiter Best and Greatest were found buried at regular intervals beneath the parade-ground outside the camp. It is thought that there was only one active altar to Jupiter Optimus Maximus beside the parade-ground at any given moment, and a new one was perhaps dedicated by the unit commander each year, at which time the old altar was ceremoniously buried beneath the parade-ground so as to prevent desecration. This procedure possibly took place on the 3rd January, when the troops renewed their 'Oath of allegiance' to the emperor and state.

Other Gods Attested in Alauna

GENIO LOCI FORTVN REDVCI ROMAE AETERN ET FATO BONO
G CORNELIVS PEREGRINVS TRIB COHOR EX PROVINCIA MAVR CAESA
DOMO SALDIS DEC V S L L M
'To the Genius of this place, Fortune the Homebringer, Eternal Rome, and Good Fate
Gaius Cornelius Peregrinus, Tribune of the Cohort, Decurion of his home town of Saldae
in the province of Mauretania Caesariensis,² gladly, willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow.'
(RIB 812; altarstone)
  1. This altar is dedicated to a number of deities; the local spirit or genius, to the goddesses Fortuna, Roma and Fata Bona. The dedicator is obviously 'hedging his bets!'.
  2. Saldae near modern Bejaia, Northern Algeria.

The back of this particular altar stone was inscribed with the graffito VOLANTI VIVAS, perhaps the precursor of the modern day anonimity 'Kilroy was here!'

ΑΣΚΛΕΠΙΟΙ ΑΥΛΟΣ ΕΓΝΑΤΙΟΣ ΠΑΣΤΟΡ ΕΘΗΚΕΝ
'To Asclepius,¹ Aulus Egnatius Pastor² set this up.'
(RIB 808; dedication slab; in Greek)
  1. Ασκλεπιος = Æsculapius, the god of medicine, a son of Apollo.
  2. The dedicator has the three names indicative of Roman citizenship but no official titles, either military or magisterial, which suggests that he was a privatus or civilian, quite possibly a physician.
HELSTRIVS NOVELLVS PRAEFECTVS NVMINI VOLCANI POS
Helstrius Novellus, Prefect, set this up by the divine will of Vulcan.
(RIB 846; altarstone)
BELATVCADRO IVL CIVILIS OPT VSLM
'To Belatucadrus,¹ Julius Civilis, Optio
willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow.'
(RIB 809; altarstone)
  1. A iron-age war god, often associated with Mars.
  2. An orderly or non-commissioned officer whose duties were primarily administrative. They were assigned one per century and ranked junior to the centurion.

More Tombstones From Alauna

Inscription Togo-Translation RIB
DIS MANIBVS VIREI PAVLINI To the spirits of the departed and to Vireius Paulinus. 859
D M INGEN VI AN X IVL SIMPLEX PATER F C To the spirits of the departed and to Ingenuus, who lived ten years, Julius Simplex his father set this up. 860
RIANORIX VIXIT ANNOS ... Rianorix, lived [...] years. 862
SPVRCIO VIXXIT ANNOS LXI To Spurcius, who lived sixty-one years. 863
D M LVCA VIX ANNIS XX To the spirits of the departed and Luca, who lived twenty years. 867

The Suspected Temple Buildings at Maryport

Probable Mithraeum - Maryport 1

"A building excavated in 1880, 165 yards east of the fort at Maryport ... is of such a plan that it is difficult to believe it is not a Mithraeum, in view of its close resemblance to Carrawburgh (period 2) ... The entrance lay on the east, leading through a narthex into a chamber paved with slabs in places, and ending in an alcove. Overall the building measured 46 ft. by 25 ft. with freestone walls averaging 2 ft. 6 in. thick : the west wall of the alcove had collapsed bodily outside. ... A pedestal stood beside the outer door, an altar to jupiter just outside the alcove, ... Further away, in the cemetery proper, a stone shaft carved with a head of snakes, if correctly interpreted as a Mithraic memorial, strengthens the identification of our building as a Mithraeum." (Lewis, 1966, pp.106/7)

Possible Circular Temple - Maryport 2

Lying beside Temple#1, this perfectly circular building has walls 2½ feet wide with an outside diameter of 34 feet; a central post-hole once held the main roof pillar and there is evidence to suggest that the roof was supported by five radiating beams and the weight of the roof was transmitted to the ground by means of five external buttresses, three of which survived on the north and west. Its single entrance was on the north-east and a statue or altar base lay just outside. Excavations in the area revealed an illegible altarstone, two carved stone heads, and five Roman coins ranging from the early-late 2nd century, also a small statuette of the 'Mother Goddesses', perhaps an indication as to whom this suspected temple may have been dedicated (Lewis, 1966).

Latest Archaeological Investigations at Maryport

A magnetometric survey conducted in 2000 revealed the outline of the principia or regimental headquarters building in the centre of the fort with a clearly defined strongroom in the building's back range, while outside the defences a substantial vicus settlement was seen to extend for at least 330 yards (300m) along the road to the north-east (Britannia, 2001).

Bibliography and Links

See: The Archaeology of Roman Britain by R.G. Collingwood (Methuen, London, 1930);
The Roman Inscriptions of Britain - Vol.1 - Inscriptions on Stone by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);
Temples in Roman Britain by M.J.T. Lewis (Cambridge 1966);
Chronology of the Ancient World by E.J. Bickerman (Thames & Hudson, London, 1980);
Chronicle of the Roman Emperors by Chris Scarre (Thames & Hudson, London, 1995);
Britannia xxxii (2001) pp.337-9 & fig.13 p.338;
All English translations, including any inherent mistakes, are my own.
Togodumnus

Alauna Related Lynx

Senhouse Roman Museum Maryport

Link to maps of the area from: StreetMap Old-Maps MultiMap