NGRef: NY2546
OSMap: LR85
Type: Fort, Minor Settlement
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Old Carlisle Fort and Vicus
(From Higham & Jones, p.61, fig.29)
Roads
SW (6) to Blennerhasset (Cumbria)
ENE (10) to Lvgvvalivm (Carlisle, Cumbria)
Possible Road: WSW (15) to Maryport (Maryport, Cumbria)

The Roman name for the Old Carlisle fort first appears in the Notitia Dignitatum as Maglone, between the entries for BRAVONIACVM (Kirkby Thore, Cumbria) and MAGIS (Burrow Walls, Cumbria). The site has also been tentatively equated with a compound entry in the Ravenna Cosmology (R&C#120-21), Maio-Olerica, which occurs between BIBRA (Beckfoot, Cumbria) and DERVENTIO (Papcastle, Cumbria).

The Old Carlisle Fort

Between the ramparts the Roman fort of Maglona measures about 935 ft. from east to west by 610 ft. transversely (c.285 x 185 m), giving an internal occupation area of about 13 acres (c.5.3 ha); the arrangements of the gateways and internal buildings apparent on aerial photographs taken in the late-1940's by Prof. J.K. St. Joseph prove, beyond doubt, that the fort faced due east. It was apparently purposefully built to house an Ala Quingenaria, a squadron of auxiliary cavalry having a nominal five-hundred troopers, and as such, was considerably larger than a fort housing an equivalent number of infantry. This was not only due to the need to house the squadron's horses in addition to the troopers, but also because the soldiers themselves, being the auxiliary élite, demanded more spacious and luxurious accommodation than their foot-slogging counterparts in the infantry cohorts. (JRS 1951 p.54 & pl.iv.1.)

... PRO SALVTE IMP DOMINI NOSTRI M AVR ANTONINI PII FELICIS AVG SVB G IVL MARCO LEG EIVS CVR ... PRAF ALA AVG ... POSVIT IMP ANTONINO AVGVSTO IIII ET BALBINO II COS

"[...] for the health of the emperor our lord Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Pius Felix Augustus, under Gaius Julius Marcus, his legate charged [...] prefect of the Augustan Wing [...] placed this (when) the Emperor Antoninus Augustus for the fourth time, and Balbinus for the second time, were consuls.¹"

(RIB 905; building inscription; 213AD)

  1. The emperor Caracalla and Decimus Caelius Calvinus Balbinus were consules ordinarii 213AD (a.u.c. 966). Caracalla had been consul in 202 with his father Septimius Severus, and in 205 and 208 with his brother Geta. Balbinus was himself emperor for a brief period during the turbulent year of 238, which saw the violent deaths of five wearers of the purple.

Seven dated stones have been recovered from Maglona ranging from 188 to 244AD, which indicate a flurry of activity around the time of the Severan campaigns into Scotland and the period thereafter.

The Dateable Stones from Old Carlisle

Altar to an unknown god (RIB 903; 185AD)
Altar to Jupiter (RIB 893; 188AD)
Altar to Jupiter (RIB 894; 191AD)
Dedicatory inscription (RIB 905; 213AD)
Altar to the Mother Goddesses (RIB 901; 222-35AD)
Altar to Jupiter (RIB 897; 242AD)
Altar to Jupiter (RIB 899; 238-44AD)

Neither the fort nor the civil settlement have been excavated as yet, which probably explains the absence of any of the usual legionary building inscriptions. These will no doubt crop-up once the site is put under the trowel, but until then, speculation predominates the early history of the site.

The Garrison Units

Ala Augusta ob virtutem appellata - The Augustan Wing, so named by reason of their virtue

I O M ALA AVG OB VIRTVT APPEL CVI PRAEEST TIB CL TIB FI CLAVDIA IVSTINVS PRAEF FVSCIANO II SILANO II COS

"For Jupiter Best and Greatest, the Ala Augusta ob virtutem appellata, commanded by the prefect Tiberius Claudius Justinus, son of Tiberius, of the Claudian voting tribe, when the consuls were Fuscianus for the second time and Silanus [also] for the second time.¹"

(RIB 893; altarstone; dated: 188AD)

  1. Publius Seius Fuscianus and Marcus Servilius Silanus were consuls - both for the second time - in 188AD (a.u.c. 941).

This regiment is known from inscriptions at several other cavalry forts. The full title - 'the Augustan Wing, so named by reason of their virtue' - is very likely the name by which the Ala Augusta Gordia were once known.

I O M ALA AVG OB VIRTVTEM APPELLATA CVI PRAE EST P AEL PVB F SERGIA MAGNVS D MVRSA EX PANNON INFERIORE PRAEFEC APRONIANO ET BRA COS

"To Jupiter Best and Greatest, the Augustan Wing, so named by reason of their virtue, whose commander is the prefect Publius Aelius Magnus Decimus Mursa, son of Publius, of the Sergian voting tribe, from Pannonia Inferior.¹ (Erected when) Apronianus and Bradua were consuls.²"

(RIB 894; altarstone; 191AD)

  1. A small but troublesome province on the west bank of the Danube; their major population centre and legionary base was Aquincum, modern Budapest in western Hungary.
  2. Opilius Pedo Apronianus and Marcus Valerius Bradua Mauricus were consules ordinarii 191AD (a.u.c. 944).
... CVI PRAEEST SEPTIMENVS RVSTICVS PREF MATERNO ET BRA DVA COS

"[...] under the command of Septimenus Rusticus the prefect, when Maternus and Bradua were consuls.¹"

(RIB 903; altarstone; dated: 185AD)

  1. Tiberius Claudius Maternus and Marcus Appius Bradua Regillius Atticus were ordinary consuls for the year 185AD (a.u.c. 938).

Ala Augusta Gordia - Gordian's Own Augustan Wing

I O M PRO SALVTE IMPERATORIS M ANTONI GORDIANI P F INVICTI AVG ET SABINIAE FVRIAE TRANQVILAE CONIVGI EIVS TOTAQVE DOMV DIVIN EORVM ALA AVG GORDIA OB VIRTVTEM APPELLATA POSVIT CVI PRAEST AEMILIVS CRISPINVS PREF EQ NATVS IN PRO AFRICA DE TVSDRO SVB CVRA NONII PHILIPPI LEG AVG PRO PRETO ATTICO ET PRAETEXTATO COS

"To Jupiter Optimus Maximus, for the health of the commander-in-chief Marcus Antonius Gordianus Pius Felix, Invincible Augustus, and for Sabinia Furia Tranquila his wife (and) the entirety of the divine house, the August Gordian Wing thus named by reason of their virtue, placed this, under the command of the cavalry prefect Aemilius Crispinus, a native of Tusdro¹ in the province of Africa, under the administration of Nonius Phillipus, pro-praetorian legate, (when) Atticus and Praetextatus were consuls.²"

(RIB 897; altarstone; 242AD)
  1. Possibly the city of Turzo in Africa Propria mentioned by Ptolemy.
  2. Gaius Vettius Gratus Atticus Sabinianus and Gaius Asinius Lepidus Praetextatus were consules ordinarii 242AD (a.u.c.995).

The Ala Augusta Gordia is recorded on several dated stones recovered from the Old Carlisle area, ranging from 185 to 244ADAD. They were probably stationed at CILVRNVM (Chesters, Northumberland) on Hadrian's Wall sometime during the Hadrianic period, then apparently moved to LVGVVALIVM (Carlisle, Cumbria; RIB 946) where they are attested immediately prior to their first known presence here at Old Carlisle.

Numerus Solensium - The Company of Solenses

Praefectus numeri Solensium Maglone

"The Prefect of the Company of Solenses at Maglona"

(Notitia Dignitatum xl.28; 4th/5th C.)

This unit is identified only in the above reference and unsupported by epigraphic evidence from the site. They were an irregular auxiliary unit, probably part-mounted, who formed the garrison at Old Carlisle towards the end of the fourth century, coming under the overall command of the Duke of the Britains - sub Ducis Britanniarum as this document phrases it. It is possible that this regiment may be connected with Solentia insula, a small island which lies off the Adriatic coast of Dalmatia, now Šolta in Croatia.

The Civil Settlement

TANCORIX MVLIER VIGSIT ANNOS SEGSAGINTA

"Tancorix a wife, who lived for sixty years."

(RIB 908; tombstone)

For a long time the only epigraphic evidence for the existence of a civil settlement or vicus at Old Carlisle was the tombstone of a native woman named Tancorix (vide supra). Confirmation beyond expectation came in the form of a series of air photographs taken in a time of drought during 1977-8 which revealed an 'extended vicus' surrounding the Maglona fort. In addition, an altarstone to the gods Jupiter and Vulcan is dedicated by the Vicani Maglonarum or 'the villagers of Maglona, which both confirms the Roman name of the Old Carlisle fort also its official status as a vicus.

The settlement core lay along the militarily important Carlisle-Papcastle road outside the south-east corner of the fort, with several outlying farms linked by ditched trackways, including a large agricultural complex overlooking the Wiza Beck to the south. The settlement at Maglona expanded over time, no doubt helped by the presence - and spending-power - of five-hundred well-paid troopers, and eventually grew to be larger in area than its parent fort, in fact, the vicus at Old Carlisle was larger than some Roman walled towns.

Temple of Jupiter and Vulcan Dedicated by the Villagers of Maglona

I O M ET VLK PRO SALVTE D N M ANTO GORDIANI P F AVG VIK MAG ARAM A COL A V D

"To Iupitter Optimus Maximus and Vulcan,¹ for the well-being of our lord Marcus Antoninus Gordianus Pius Felix Augustus,² the villagers of Maglona³ dedicate this temple and collonade as a votive offering."

(RIB 899; altarstone; dated: 238-244AD)

  1. Jupiter was the king of the Roman pantheon and Vulcan was his crippled weaponsmith.
  2. The emperor Gordian III ruled from May 238AD following the assassination of the emperors Pupienus and Balbinus by the praetorians, until he was himself murdered by his own praetorian prefect Philip the Arab in Mesopotamia in February 244.
  3. The Vik[enses] Mag[lonarum].

The Gods of Maglona

DEABVS MATRIBVS PRO SALVTE M AVR ALEXANDRI P F AVG ET IVLIAE MAMEAE MATR D N ET CASTR ET SENATVS ET POPVLI ROM

"To the Mother Goddesses, for the health of Marcus Aurelius Alexander Pius Felix Augustus and for Julia Mamea, Mother of our Lord, and the Strongholds, and the Senate, and the people of Rome."

(RIB 901; dedicatory inscription; 222-35AD)

Several altars to the gods have been uncovered from both the fort and the immediate environs of the vicus; there are at least seven dedicated to Jupiter (vide RIB 894 supra), the ruler of the Roman pantheon and a god commonly worshipped among the military, three altars to the Germanic war god Belatucader, often associated with the Roman war god Mars, who has two altars dedicated to him. There are single altars to the demi-god Hercules, to Eternity (vide RIB 886 infra) and also to the Roman goddess of War, Bellona, who used to prepare the chariot of Mars before he rode to battle.

Altars to Deities of War

Inscription Togo-Translation RIB
DEO BELATVCADRO SANCTO AVR TASVLVS VET VSLM

"To the divine god Belatucader, Aurelius Tasulus, veteran, willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow."

887
DEAE BELLONAE RVFINVS PRAEF EQ ALAE AVG ET LATINIANVS FIL

"To the goddess Bellona, Rufinus, the prefect of horse of the Ala Augusta, and Latinianus his son [placed this]."

890
GENIO AVR MARTI ET AVR S EBVRACIO PRO SE ET SVIS V S L L M

"To the Genius of Mars the Golden-Haired,¹ and to Sextus Aurelius Eburacius,² for himself and his family, (who) willingly, gladly and deservedly fulfilled his vow."

891
  1. Most would have opted for the expansion AUR[igae] 'the charioteer' instead of AUR[icomus], but consider the following note.
  2. The order of the dedicators names seem to have been re-arranged, possibly in order to emphasise the name Aurelius, which cognomen was often applied to fair-haired people signifying a "golden" appearance.

Dedicatory Inscription to Aeterna

DEAE AETERNAE TEMPLVM L VATERIVS MARCELLVS PRAEF REST

"For the goddess Eternity, the prefect Lucius Vaterius Marcellus restores this temple."

(RIB 886)

  1. The inscription may also be read: "The goddesses of eternity ...", though this is less likely.

Milestone from Old Carlisle, Cumbria

IMP CAES M IVL PHILIPPO PIO FELICI AVG ET M I IVLIO PHILIPPO NOBILIS SIMO CAESA TR P COS

"For Imperator Caesar Marcus Julius Phulippus Pius Felix Augustus¹ and Marcus Julius [Severus] Philippus Junior, the most noble Caesar. [Bearers of] tribunician power, consuls."

(RIB 2286; milestone; dated: 247AD or 248)

  1. The emperor Philip the Arab and his like-named son were consuls for the years 247AD and 248 (a.u.c.1000 & 1001).
See: Chronicle of the Roman Emperors by Chris Scarre (Thames & Hudson, London, 1995);
Peoples of Roman Britain - The Carvetii by Nicholas Higham & Barri Jones (Gloucester 1985);
Chronology of the Ancient World by E.J. Bickerman (Thames & Hudson, London, 1980);
The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);
Air Reconnaissance of North Britain by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. xli (1951) pp.52-65;
Atlas of the Greek and Roman World in Antiquity by Nicholas G.L. Hammond (Bristol Classical Press);
All English translations, including any inherent mistakes, are my own.