NGRef: SK583045
OSMap: LR140
Type: British Civita, Capital, Probable Vexillation Fort

Roads
WSW (16) to Mandvessedvm
SE (15) to Medbovrne (Leicestershire)
Fosse Way: NNE (14) to Vernemetvm (Willoughby-on-the-Wolds, Nottinghamshire)
Fosse Way: SW (12) to Venonis

Ratae Coritanorum - Ratae of the Coritani

"Next to these¹ are the Coritani, among whom are the towns: Lindum² 18*40 56�, Ratae 18*00 55�."
  1. The Cornovii of Staffordshire, Shropshire, Cheshire and Hereford & Worcester.
  2. The later Roman Colonia at Lincoln.
Above quote from Ptolemy's Geography of the early-second century

The Roman name for Leicester appears twice in the Antonine Itinerary of the late-second century; in Iter VI, "the route from London to Lincoln", the town Ratas is listed 12 miles from Venonis (High Cross, Leicestershire) and 13 miles from Vernemetum (Willoughby, Nottinghamshire); and in Iter VIII, "the route from York to London", the Leicester station is named Ratis, again listed 12 miles from Willoughby, though this time only 12 miles from High Cross, all stations appearing in reverse order to that in the Sixth Itinerary.

Leicester also appears in the Ravenna Cosmology as Rate Corion Eltauori or Ratae Corieltavorum (R&C#92 & 93), between the entries for Condate (Northwich, Cheshire) and Lectoceto (Wall, Staffordshire). This entry suggests that the tribal name should be the Corieltavi or Corieltavauri, but this seventh century work cannot be relied upon to supply the correct spelling.

Military Diploma Recording Citizenship Won on a Dacian Battlefield

IMP CAES DIV NERV F NERVA TRAI AVG GER DAC
PONT MAX TR P XIIII IMP VI COS V PP
PEDITIBVS ET EQVITIBVS QVI MILITANT IN COH I
BRITTONVM M VLPIA TORQVATA P F C R QVAE
EST IN DACIA SVB D TERENTIO SCAVRIANO QVORVM
NN SVBSCRIPTA SVNT PIE ET FIDELITER EXPEDITIONE
DACICA FVNCTIS ANTE EMERITA STIPEDIA CIV R DEDIT
A D III IDVS AVG
DARNITHETHI
L MINICIO NATALE
Q SILVANO GRANIANO
COS
PEDITI
M ULPIO ADCOBROVATI F NOVANTICONI RATIS

"For the emperor Caesar Nerva Trajanus Augustus Germanicus Dacicus, son of the divine Nerva, High Priest, holding tribunician power for the fourteenth time, hailed Imperator in the field six times, consul five times, Father of his Country.¹ To the foot-soldiers and horse-soldiers serving in the First Ulpian Cohort of Loyal and Faithful Britons, one-thousand strong, citizens of Rome, awarded with torques, who are in Dacia under [the governor] Decimus Terentius Scaurianus, and whose names are here appended, for loyal and faithful service in the Dacian campaign, before the completion of their military service, are hereby granted Roman citizenship.

On the third day before the ides of August.²
At Darnithethis

When Lucius Minicius Natalis and Quintus Silvanus Granianus were Consuls.²

To the foot-soldier

Marcus Ulpius Novantico, son of Adcobrovatus, of Ratae."

(Burn 71; bronze military diploma from Dacia)
  1. The emperor Trajan took the title Pater Patriae in 98AD, was consul for the fifth time in 103 (sixth time in 112), and held the powers of a tribune of the plebs for the fourteenth time from December 109 until December 110.
  2. The date of the diploma is the Eleventh of August, and Natalis and Granianus were consules suffecti in the latter half of 106AD (a.u.c.859). This discrepancy of four years between the date of the Dacian campaigns and the date of his actual release from the military may possibly be due to Novantico wanting to complete his term of service, even though he had been granted citizenship, perhaps in order to collect a more substantial pension.
  3. The location of this Dacian battlefield site remains unknown.

The Civitas Capital of the Coritani

The Roman town in its heyday covered around 100 acres (40 Ha), and is the confirmed civitas capital of the Coritani tribe of Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and east Derbyshire. The reason why Leicester, which is situated in the extreme south-western corner of the Coritanian realm, was made the administrative centre of the tribe is probably due to the positioning of the legionary fortress and later Roman colonia at Lincoln in the Coritani heartlands.

"It is doubtful if Leicester was a pre-Roman settlement since all the early pottery on which this supposition is based could well have been introduced by the army." (Dudley & Webster, p.112)

Column Shaft Dedicated to Mercury

MERCVR PROP

"Set up for Mercury."

(RIB 244; column shaft)

There are only two Latin inscriptions on stone recorded in the R.I.B. for Leicester, a columnn dedicated to the god Mercury (vide supra), and a much-damaged tombstone which reads ...RA... ...ISTRA... ... VIXIT AN X... (RIB 245; tombstone). A.R. Burn has also catalogued two inscriptions on other materials, both of which are reproduced below.

A Tiler's Mark

PRIMVS FECIT X

"Primus has made ten."

(Burn 54; mark made onto wet clay tile)

An Ancient Leicester Love Token?

VERECVNDA LVDIA LVCIVS GLADIATOR

"Verecunda the gamestress and Lucius the gladiator."

(Burn 55; text inscribed on potsherd broken in antiquity)

Probable Claudian Vexillation Fortress

Ratae has been identified as the possible location of an early Claudian Vexillation Fortress. A stamped tile of the Eighth Legion has been found at Leicester, which is thought to have been imported from the continent during the early stages of the Roman occupation of Britain. A Vexillation of this legion is known to have accompanied the emperor Claudius during his brief visit in 43AD, and their fortress on the continent was probably somewhere on the Rhine, from where it seems, they were instructed to bring a number of thier own roofing tiles. Likewise, the lead seal recovered from Leicester stamped L[egio] XXV "[Property of] the Twenty-Fifth Legion", was probably transported across the Oceanus Britannicus and merely records the source of other surplus stock imported from the continent. However, another seal stamped LE[gio] XIV "[Property of] the Fourteenth Legion", may indicate the actual occupiers of the suspected Claudian vexillation fortress.

Other finds which point to Ratae being the site of an early campaign base are a legionary belt-plate in excellent condition, and a decorated helmet cheek-piece of a kind usually associated with auxiliary cavalry which was found near to the site of the Jewry wall Museum in central Leicester.

Other Roman Sites in the Area

An early Hadrianic milestone has been uncovered at Thurmaston about two miles north of the Ratae settlement (SK6007), the text of which is shown and translated below. Another milestone at Thrussington about eleven miles north-north-east of Leicester (SK6420) is available on the RBO Willoughby page.

The Thurmaston Milestone

IMP CAES DIVI TRAIAN PARTH F DIVI NER NEP TRAIAN HADRIAN AVG P P TRIB POT IV COS III A RATIS M II

"For the emperor Caesar Trajanus Hadrianus Augustus, son of the divine Trajan Parthicus, grandson of the divine Nerva, Father of the Fatherland, holding tribunician power for the fourth time, consul three times.¹ Two miles to Ratae."

(RIB 2244; milestone; dated: 119-120AD)

  1. The emperor Hadrian was consul for the third (and last) time in 119AD, and held the powers of a tribune of the plebs for the fourth time from December 119 to December 120. He was, however, not named Pater Patriae until 128.

In addition to the milestones mentioned above there are a couple of known Romano-British villa's nearby; one only ½ mile to the west in the Leicester suburbs (SK5704) and another 5½ miles north at Ridgeway (SK5612) between Leicester and Loughborough. There are also a couple of pottery kilns close by, one at Desford (SK4703) and another at Shilton Heath (SP4597), both positioned to either side of the road running westwards to Mancetter.

Click here for the Romano-British Walled Towns page

See: The Towns of Roman Britain by John Wacher (2nd Ed., BCA, London, 1995) pp.343-362 & fig.154;
Chronicle of the Roman Emperors by Chris Scarre (Thames & Hudson, London, 1995);
The Coritani by Malcolm Todd (Sutton, London, 1973);
The Romans in Britain - An Anthology of Inscriptions by A.R. Burn (Blackwell, Oxford, 1969);
The Roman Conquest of Britain by Graham Webster & Donald R. Dudley (Batsford, London, 1965);
The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965).
All English translations, including any inherent mistakes, are my own.