Type: Fort, Milestone
|Coastal road: SE (36) to Cardiff (South Glamorgan)
NE (11) to Coelbren (West Glamorgan)
Sarn Helen: NE (7.5) to Hirfynydd
Possible road: W (11) to Levcarvm (Loughor, West Glamorgan)
The Roman name for the fort and probable harbour ar Neath appears only in the Antonine Itinerary of the mid-2nd century. Within Iter XII, entitled "the route from Moridunum [Carmarthen, Dyfed] to Viroconium [Wroxeter, Shropshire]", this document records the station Nido located 15 miles equidistant from both Leucarum (Loughor, West Glamorgan) and Bomium (Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan). The name may be related to the latin word nidus, 'nest, eyrie', but the meaning is unclear.
|SS747977||c.525 x 525 ft
(c.160 x 160 m)
Although the presence of a Roman garrison fort at Neath had always been known from historical itineraries and various Romano-British finds from the local area, the actual position of the fort was not known until 1949, when the foundations of Roman military buildings were uncovered during initial clearance operations for a new housing estate. Excavations were immediately conducted by V.E. Nash-Williams who uncovered part of the south-eastern gateway of a stone-built 2nd-century fort. Further trial trenches revealed the location of the south-east and south-west ramparts, also a latrine in the southern corner-angle. The following year (1950) the south-western defences were sectioned and the south-eastern gateway was located and confirmed by excavation. The northern corner-angle was investigated by Swinbank in 1958, who distinguished three periods of construction in the stone-built angle tower thus revealed. The positions of the north-east and north-west ramparts were confirmed during gas mains-laying operations in 1954, 1958 and 1962.
These excavations allow us to extrapolate the ground-plan of the fort with reasonable accuracy. The defences formed an almost perfect square with rounded angles and centrally placed gateways in each side, aligned north-east to south-west and measuring 525 feet (c.160 m) across the ramparts, which thus enclosed about 6¼ acres (c.2.5 ha). These defences exhibited at least two construction phases:
The remains of the south-western gateway is preserved behind railings beside the Neath Abbey Road, and the south-eastern gateway is similarly situated at the corner of Roman Way beside the railway embankment. The line of the ramparts are still just visible on the grammar school playing field to the west as a slight rise of only 2 feet (c.0.6 m).
The area enclosed within the ramparts was large enough to have comfortably housed a regiment of auxiliary cavalry with a nominal 500 troopers, an Ala Quingenaria, or a mixed unit of infantry and horse, a cohors milliaria equitata with a nominal strength of one-thousand soldiers and troopers, however, there is also the possibility that the fort housed more than one regiment. The presence of no unit has yet been confirmed.
Finds uncovered over the years include a variety of tiles used for roofing, flooring and heating, pieces of an early (1st-century) amphora, fragments of Samian tableware ranging from Flavian to Hadrianic in date, kitchenware pottery sherds were mostly late-1st/early-2nd century but one or two pieces were demonstrably Antonine in date. Six coins were also found, ranging from Augustus (Imp. 23B.C. - A.D.14) to Trajan (Imp. A.D.98-117).
The original turf and timber fort was probably founded during the governorship of Julius Frontinus sometime during the period A.D.74 to 78, with the defences being replaced in stone sometime around the turn of the 2nd century according to Nash-Williams, but both Swinbank and Dr. Simpson believe the fort was abandoned and subsequentle re-occupied and re-built in the 2nd century. There is no evidence of military occupation after the Antonine period, and it appears that the fort was abandoned by the late-2nd century, although the inclusion of Nido in the Antonine Itinerary suggest that the site retained some form of civilian occupation until perhaps the early-3rd.
A number of Roman milestones have been found on the coastal road to Cardiff; to the immediate south-west of the Nidum fort at Melincryddan (SS7496; vide infra), and others further along the same stretch of road at Aberafon (SS7588), Port Talbot (SS7887), Margam (SS8184) and Pyle (SS8282). In the text below, the emperors full name and titles have been added in translation, displayed within [square brackets] for clarification.
|IMP CES DIOCLETIANO AVG|
"Imperator Caesar [Gaius Aurelius Valerius] Diocletianus [Pius Felix Invictus] Augustus¹"
(RIB 2257; milestone; dated: 284-286AD)