NGRef: NY 890 862
OSMap: LR80
Type: Fort, Minor Settlement, Camp
NNW (7) to Blakehope (Northumberland)
Dere Street: NNW (10) to Bremenivm (High Rochester, Northumberland)
Dere Street: NNW (4) to Dargves
Dere Street: SSE (13) to Onnvm (Halton Chesters, Northumberland)
Dere Street: SSE (13) to Portgate
Dere Street: SSE (15) to Corstopitvm (Corbridge, Northumberland)

Habitancum - The Property of Habitus' People

The Habitancum/Risingham Fort
viewed from the north-east

The fort at Risingham lies in open farmland just south of the River Rede immediately west of the A68, which here departs from the line of Dere Street, the Roman road crossing the river valley just west of the fort. The only visible stone remains lie at the north-eastern corner angle, but the outlines of many buildings are easily discernable beneath a mantle of turf in the fort's interior, as are the ditches of the defensive circuit on all sides. During a visit to the site in 2004 a piece of Roman pottery was recovered from a mole-hill in the praetentura of the fort, a 'black coarse-ware' rim sherd (see below), as yet undated.

The Fort's Eastern Defences
viewed looking north

The only classical reference to the Risingham fort is an obscure and tentative entry in the Ravenna Cosmology (R&C#184) of the seventh century, Eburo caslum, which is listed between the entries for Trimontium (Newstead, Borders) and Bremenium (High Rochester, Northumberland). We are fortunate, however, that in the considerable amount of epigraphic evidence collected from the Risingham site - fifty-six inscriptions on stone alone - the actual name of the station occurs on two separate stone inscriptions; an undated altar to Mogons (vide RIB 1225 infra), and a dedicatory inscription dateable to the early-third century (vide infra).

The etymology of the Latin name for the Risingham fort given in Place-Names of Roman Britain is rather obscure, but seems to consist of three parts: Habit from the Roman surname Habitus, -anc meaning unclear, but possibly indicating familial or group ownership (along the same lines as the common Anglo-Saxon place-name component -ingas, 'people'), -ium a common Latin place-name suffix denoting ownership. The name may be rendered as 'belonging to the people of Habitus' and possibly indicates that the fort was built on land which had originally been cleared for occupation by a man called Habitus (Rivet & Smith, pp.371-2).

Dedication to the Spirits of our Ancestors

IMP CAES DIVI SEPT SEVERI PII ARABICI ADIABENICI PARTHICI MAXIMI BRITANNICI MAXIMI FILIO DIVI ANTONINI PII GERMANICI SARMATICI NEPOTI DIVI ANTONINI PII PRONEPOTI DIVI HADRIANI ABNEPOTI DIVI TRAIANI PARTICHI ET DIVI NERVAE ABNEP M AVRELIO ANTONINO PIO FEL AVG PARTHICO MAXIMO BRITANNICO MAXIMO GERMANICO MAXIMO TRIB POTESTATE XVI IMPERATORI II PATRI PATRIE PRCONSVLI PRO PIETATE AC DEVOTIONE COMMVNI ET IVLIAE DOMNAE PIAE FEL AVG MATRI AVGVSTI NOSTRI ITEM CASTRORVM SENATVS HAC PATRIE PRO PIETATE HAC DEVOTIONE COMMVNI CVRANTE [G JVLIO MARCO] LEG AVGG PR PR COH I VANGIONVM ITEM RAETI GAESATI ET EXPLORATORES HABITANCENSES POSVERVNT D N M Q EORVM "For Imperator Caesar, son of the divine Septimius Severus Pius highest in Arabia, Adiabene and Parthica, highest in the Britains, grandson of the divine Antoninus Pius Germanicus Sarmaticus, great-grandson of the divine Antoninus Pius, great-great-grandson of the Divine Hadrian, great-great-grandson of the divine Trajanus Parthicus and the divine Nerva,¹ Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Pius Felix Augustus, highest in Parthica, highest in Britain, highest in Germany, holding tribunician power for the sixteenth time,² hailed Imperator twice,³ Father of the Fatherland, proconsul, for the loyalty and devotion of the general public and for Julia Domna Pia Felix Augusta, mother of our Emperor, likewise (named Mother) of the Strongholds by the senate (and) of the Fatherland by way of the loyalty (of the people). Attended by (Gaius Julius Marcius?), pro-praetorian legate of the Emperors, the First Cohort of Vangiones (including) the companies of Raetians, Gaesati and the Scouts from Habitancum, have erected this to the spirits of their ancestors."
(RIB 1235; 213AD)
  1. Here ends the emperor Caracalla's genealogy; the text continues with his curriculum vitae.
  2. Caracalla held tribunician power for the sixteenth time during the year starting 10th December 212AD.
  3. A great distinction for a Roman general after a significant victory was to be hailed on the field of battle by his own troops with the chant "Im-per-a-tor! Im-per-a-tor!"; the original meaning of the word, therefore, simply indicated a victorious Roman general. Caracalla was hailed Imperator for the first time in Jabuary 198AD, for the second time sometime during 207 and for a third time in September 213. The victory title Germanicus Maximus was acquired in the summer of 213.

The Habitancum Fort

N.G.Ref Dimensions Area
NY 8903 8621 c. 443 x 384 feet
(135 x 117 m)
c. 4 acres
(c. 1.6 ha)

The fort measures about 443 feet from north-west to south-east, by about 384 feet transversely (135 x 117 metres) and covers an area of almost 4 acres (c. 1.6 ha).

The Interior of the Fort
looking towards the south-east
The North-East Corner Angle
The only visible stone remains

Despite the large number of inscriptions uncovered at Risingham only four of the texts on stone have been firmly dated, all of which were commissioned in the first two decades of the third century; a building inscription dated 205-8AD (RIB 1234; not shown); a dedicatory inscription to the Ancestral Spirits dated 209AD (vide infra) and two altars of the Imperial cult dated between 211-217AD (RIB 1236 et 1237; both not shown).

Building Stone from the Risingham Fort
"The Sixth Victorious Legion, Loyal and Faithful, made this."
(RIB 1239)

The legionary building inscription shown above very likely dates to the original founding of the fort, but exactly when that was remains difficult to establish.

Building Stone from the Risingham Fort
"The First Cohort of Vangiones made this under the direction of the Tribune Julius Paullus."
(RIB 1241)

The Garrison Units

"To the spirit of the Emperor, the Fourth Cohort of Gauls, part-mounted, made this."
(RIB 1227)

Recorded on two inscriptions from the Risingham area, the dedicatory inscription shown above and also on a tombstone of a soldier from the regiment (vide RIB 1249 infra), this part-mounted unit was originally recruited from amongst the various tribes of the Gallic provinces, modern France. The Fourth Cohort of Gauls is attested on several stones from Vindolanda (Chesterholm, Northumberland) dating from the early third century through to the fourth, where it is also recorded in the Notitia Dignitatum; the unit therefore had to be stationed at Risingham sometime before the third century. The regiment is recorded on two undated tombstones from Templeborough in South Yorkshire, which was clearly an earlier posting, and a couple of undated altarstones from Camboglanna (Castlesteads, Cumbria), on Hadrian's Wall. A detachment of the unit is also recorded on another undated building inscription recovered from Bremenium (High Rochester, Northumberland), the next station along the Roman road north into the Scottish Borders.

"To the hallowed god Hercules the Unconquered, Lucius Aemilius Salvianus, tribune of the First Cohort of Vangiones, willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow."
(RIB 1215; altarstone)

This unit is attested on twelve stones from the Habitancum fort, some of which have been positively dated to the period 205-217AD (vide RIB 1235 supra; 209AD). This auxiliary regiment was part-mounted with a complement of a nominal one-thousand troops, originally levied from the Vangiones tribe of Germania Superior, who inhabited the Hessen region of West Germany, on the western banks of the Rhine between the Mosel and the Saar. One of their major towns was Moguntiacum, named after the Germanic mountain god Mogons who has two altars dedicated here at Risingham (vide 1225 infra).

The unit is recorded on two undated stones from Hadrian's Wall; at Condercum (Benwell, Tyne & Wear; RIB 1328) on an altar to the god Antenociticus under the command of the prefect Cassianus, and on the undated tombstone of Fabia Honorata, daughter of the tribune Fabius Honoratus from Cilurnum (Chesters, Northumberland; RIB 1482).

Numerus Exploratorum Habitancenses

"... by means of the First Cohort of Vangiones and the Company of Exploratores,¹ restored (this building) from its foundations."
(RIB 1243)
  1. The nearest modern equivalent would be the Reconnaissance Corps.

This irregular unit is attested on three stone texts, one of them dated to 209AD (vide RIB 1235 supra), which confirms their presence at the Habitancum fort during the campaigns of the emperor Septimius Severus into Scotland. Other units of exploratores are known, from inscriptions at the neighbouring fort of Bremenium (High Rochester, Northumberland; RIB 1262; 238-44AD). The Notitia Dignitatum also names two other numeri exploratori at Lavatris (Bowes, Durham) and Portus Ardaoni (Portchester, Hampshire).

"A detachment of the (Second)¹ Cohort of Nervians made this."
(RIB 1240)
  1. The actual numeral is lost but may have been I or II.

This unit is recorded at Risingham only on this single damaged inscription. Also attested on other lone inscriptions at Segedunum (Wallsend, Tyne & Wear; RIB 1303) and Brocolitia (Carrawburgh, Northumberland; RIB 1538) along Hadrian's Wall, and also at Vindolanda (Chesterholm, Northumberland; RIB 1683) on the Stanegate.

The Gods

Altar to Jupiter Best and Greatest
"To Jupiter Best and Greatest, (raised by) the detachments of Germans and Raetians on whom the responsibility for this was bestowed,¹ by Julius Victor,² tribune of the First Cohort of Vangiones."
(RIB 1217; altarstone)
  1. Based on the expansion; GRQCA = Germani Raeti quorum curam agit.
  2. Another altar (RIB 1216; not shown) bears almost exactly the same lettering, though dedicated by the tribune Aemilius Aemilianus.

Many altars to the gods have been recovered from the fort and its immediate neighbourhood; five to Jupiter Optimus Maximus including two dedicated to Jupiter Dolichenus, three to Fortuna and another three to Hercules including one to 'Hercules the Unconquered' (vide RIB 1215 supra), two to Victorious Mars with a third one possible, two to Moguns, and single altars to Diana, Cocidius, the Gods of the Locale, the Overseas Mother Goddesses, and the Spirit of the Emperor.

Altars to Various Deities

Inscription Translation RIB
DIS CVLTORIBVS HVIVS LOCI IVL VICTOR TRIB "To the gods who inhabit this place, Julius Victor, tribune (erected this)." 1208
FORTVNAE REDVC IVLIVS SEVERINVS TRIB EXPLICITO BALINEO VSLM "To Fortune the Homebringer, Julius Severinus the Tribune willingly and deservedly fulfills his vow, upon completion of the bath-house." 1212
MARTI VICTORI IVL PVBL PIVS TRIB VSLM "To Victorious Mars, Julius Publius Pius, tribune, willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow." 1221
MATRIBVS TRAMARINIS IVL VICTOR VSLM "To the Mother Goddesses across the sea, Julius Victor willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow." 1224
DEO MOGONITO CAD... ET N D N AVG M G SECVNDINVS B F COS HABITANCI PRIMA STAT PRO SE ET SVI POSVIT "To the god Mogons Cad[...],¹ and the divine spirit of our Lord the Emperor, Marcus Gavius? Secundinus, on his first posting as Beneficiarius Consularis² at Habitancum, placed (this) for himself and his household." 1225
  1. Mogons was a Germanic mountain god. The suffix beginning Cad- is peculiar to Risingham in Britain, where it appears on one other altar (RIB 1226; not shown).
  2. Treasurer of the consular governor.
Dedication to the Nymphs
"A forewarning in a soldier's dream commanded that this altar be placed by she who is married to Fabius so that the Nymphs are venerated."
(RIB 1228; altarstone)
Altar to the Goddess Diana

... RIB 1209 ...

The Settlement

Potsherd from the Habitancum Fort
part of the rim of a 'black coarse-ware' pot
recovered from a mole-hill in the praetentura

The existence of a settlement outside the fort is confirmed by the discovery of several civilian tombstones, along with the usual crop of military ones which one might expect to find outside any permanent Roman military establishment.

Tombstone of Aurelia Quartilla
"To the sacred spirits of the departed and to Aurelia Quartilla, who lived for thirteen years four months and twenty-two days, Aurelius Quartinus placed this for his daughter."
(RIB 1251; tombstone)

Military and Civilian Tombstones from Risingham

Inscription Translation RIB
D M AEMILIANVS ANNORVM X "To the spirits of the departed and Aemilianus, ten years old." 1246
... IVL VICTOR SIG VIX AN LV "[...] Julius Victor, signifer,¹ he lived for fifty-five years." 1247
D M SATRIVS HONORATVS VIXIT ANNIS V MESIBVS VIII "To the spirits of the departed and Satirus Honoratus, (who) lived for five years eight months." 1248
... MIL COH IIII GAL STI XIIII DEF VIXSIT AB XXXXIIII "[...] a soldier of the Fourth Cohort of Gauls, died after serving fourteen years out of the forty-four he lived." 1249
D M S AVR LVPVLE MATRI PIISSIME DIONYSIVS FORTVNATVS FILIVS S T T L "To the sacred spirits of the departed and to Aurelia Lupula, most dedicated mother, Dionysius Fortunatus her son, placed (her remains) here within the gentle earth." 1250
D M BLESCIVS DIOVICVS FILIAE SVAE VIXSIT ANVM I ET DIE XXI "To the spirits of the departed and to the sweet daughter of Blescius Diovicus, who lived for one year and twenty-one days." 1254
  1. Standard bearer.

Other Nearby Sites

Two Marching Camps and Milestone at Four Laws

There are two superimposed marching camps at Swine Hill, Four Laws, only 2½miles (4km) south-south-east of the Habitancum fort along Dere Street, lying about 60 yards west of the road (national grid reference NY90458253). The earlier and larger of the two camps measures some 168m east-west by 174m north-south and covers an area of about 6 acres (2.4ha), with three gates, each protected by internal clavicula defenses, positioned centrally in the east side and off-set towards the east on the north and south sides, no gateway being apparent on the west; the camp evidently faced Dere Street to the east.

The second camp is positioned within the north-eastern corner of the first, re-using the defences of its predecessor in its own defensive perimeter on the north and east, though with a very much weaker rampart and ditch. This camp has only two gates, both of which are positioned in the eastern rampart and protected by internal titulum defensive works. The dimensions of this camp are about 60 x 60 metres, an area of only 0.6 acres (0.3ha).

A Roman milestone was discovered along Dere Street a little to the south of the marching camps at Waterfalls (NY9181), but no more details are available.

Milestone from Waterfalls, Dere Street, Northumberland

"For Imperator Caesar Galerius Valerius Maximianus Pius Felix¹"
(RIB 2293; milestone; dated: 305-311AD)
  1. The emperor Galerius had been appointed Caesar in March 293AD and became joint Augustus along with Constantius I in May 305 following the abdication of Diocletian and Maximian. He was to jointly rule the empire with four other men until his death from natural causes in May 311.

Marching Camp at West Woodburn

Less than a mile north of the Risingham fort is a substantial marching camp in farmland at West Woodburn in Redesdale (NY89578742). This has only its eastern and northern sides recorded, together with the north-eastern corner-angle, and parts of the south-eastern and north-western angles. The south-western half of the camp has been ploughed out but from the recorded remains an area of 27 acres (11ha) seems quite possible, enough to house half a legion or about three thousand men. The camp appears to be almost square in outline with the two known gateways positioned in the centres of the north and east defences, both protected by external tituli.

Habitancum Bibliography and Links

See: Chronicle of the Roman Emperors by Chris Scarre (Thames & Hudson, London, 1995);
Place Names of Roman Britain by A.L.F. Rivet & Colin Smith (Batsford, London, 1979);
The Roman Inscriptions of Britain - Vol.1 - Inscriptions on Stone by R.G. Collingwood & R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);
All English translations, including any inherent mistakes, are my own. Togodumnus
Link to maps of the area from: StreetMap Old-Maps MultiMap

Roman Name

Ravenna Cosmography: Eburo caslum

Page Citation: Kevan White (2018) "Roman Britain: HABITANCVM - RISINGHAM"