NGRef: SK 583 045
Type: British Civita, Capital, Probable Vexillation Fort
|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
"Next to these¹ are the Coritani, among whom are the towns: Lindum² 18*40 56�, Ratae 18*00 55�."
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.
|(Burn 71; bronze military diploma from Dacia)|
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)
"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.
|PRIMVS FECIT X|
"Primus has made ten."
(Burn 54; mark made onto wet clay tile)
|VERECVNDA LVDIA LVCIVS GLADIATOR|
"Verecunda the gamestress and Lucius the gladiator."
(Burn 55; text inscribed on potsherd broken in antiquity)
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.
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.
|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)
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.
Ravenna Cosmography: Rate Corion; Ptolemy: Ratae; Antonine itinerary: 6-8 Ratas; Antonine itinerary: 8-8 Ratis