NGRef: NZ 112 675
OSMap: Hadrian's Wall, LR88.
Type: Wall Fort, Fort, Minor Settlement, Temple Or Shrine
Wall: E (7) to Condercvm (Benwell, Tyne & Wear)
Wall: W (7) to Onnvm (Halton Chesters, Northumberland)

Vindobala - 'White Strength'

The Romano-British name for the Rudchester fort is recorded in two of the major classical geographical works, the Notitia Dignitatum of the late-fourth/early-fifth centuries and the Ravenna Cosmography (R&C#145) of the seventh century. In these documents the name is recorded as Uindobala and Vindovala respectively, and in both cases the name appears between the entries for the neighbouring Wall forts at Condercum (Benwell, Tyne & Wear) and Onnum (Halton Chesters, Northumberland).

Plan of Vindobala Fort

The fort itself covers an area of about 4½ acres (c.1.8 ha), measuring 515 feet north-south by 385 feet east-west (157 x 117 m), and has a standard 'playing-card' outline. The praetentura of the fort is positioned forward of the line of the Wall, with both ends of the via principalis opening out onto the north side. Excavation has outlined a tumultuous history for the fort; towards the end of the second century it was burned to the ground and was rebuilt shortly afterwards only to be abandoned a century later, the defences were later restored (c.370AD) and the fort reoccupied until the end of Roman rule in Britain at the beginning of the fifth century.

The Roman Military at Vindobala

"For the god [Mithras], Sentius Castus, centurion of the Sixth Legion makes this offering."
(RIB 1398; altarstone)

The name of the original unit which occupied this fort is unknown, but excavation has revealed that the Hadrianic garrison was a cohors quingenaria equitata, a mixed auxiliary cohort of both infantry and cavalry with a nominal five-hundred men. The fort was originally built by the soldiers of the Roman legions, perhaps by detachments of the Sixth Victorious Legion who were stationed at the legionary fortress at York. A few 'centurial stones' have been uncovered at the fort, which record building work undertaken by individual legionary centuries, although the actual legionary unit to which they belong is open to conjecture.

During excavations over the years at Rudchester a number of animal bones have been uncovered which give some indication to the varied diet enjoyed by the soldiers stationed here. The remains included those of Ox, Sheep, Pig and Red Deer; the latter animal very likely being hunted and killed for sport and to supplement the military diet. In addition, Oysters were recovered from the site, also Edible Snails.


Centurial Stones From Rudchester

"The Ninth Cohort, century of Quintus Pedius." "The sixth Cohort, century of Aprilis." "The century of Arrius [built this]." "[The century] of Nemius.¹"
(RIB 1400) (RIB 1401) (RIB 1402) (RIB 1403)
  1. The reading of this stone is uncertain.
Tribunus cohortis primae Frixagorum, Uindobala
"The tribune of the First Cohort of Frisians at Vindobala."
(Notitia Dignitatum xl.36; 4th/5th C.)

The Notitia Dignitatum tells us that the fourth century garrison at Vindobala was Cohors I Frisiavonum, who were recruited from a tribe inhabiting what is now The Netherlands. It is thought that this unit were numbered among the large auxiliary force which accompanied governor Petilius Cerealis to Britain in 71AD. The unit appears to have remained stationed at the Rudchester fort for the majority of Roman rule in Britain.

The Gods of Roman Rudchester

The Vindobala Mithraeum

Inscription Togo-Translation RIB
DEO INVICTO MYTRAE P AEL TITVLLVS PRAE V S L L M "To the Invincible god Mytras, the prefect Publius Aelius Titullus, gladly, willingly and deservedly fulfills his vow." 1395
DEO SOLI INVIC TIB CL DECMVS CORNEL ANTONIVS PRAEF TEMPL RESTIT "To the Invincible Sun god, the prefect Tiberius Claudius Decimus Cornelius Antonius restores this temple." 1396
SOLI APOLLINI ANICETO MITHRAE APONIVS ROGATIANVS "For Sol Apollo Anicetus Mithras,¹ Aponius Rogatianus [makes this offering]." 1397
  1. This inscription bears the names of the gods from four different theologies, respectively; Roman, Greek, Germanic and Persian.

The only deity positively attested at Rudchester is Mithras, the Persian sun god, who was also worshipped by the Romans as Apollo or Sol (the sun). There are three texts on stone listed in the R.I.B. which bear his name, and he is inferred on another (vide Legio VI Victrix supra); all of these inscriptions are reproduced above. Also of interest is a dedicatory inscription to an unknown god (vide infra).

Dedication to an Unknown God

"[To the god ...] Julius [Di]ogenes¹ [...] fulfilled with gladness."
(RIB 1399; dedicatory inscription)
  1. The restoration of the dedicator's name is purely conjectural.

Tombstones from Roman Rudchester

"To the spirits of the departed and Aurelius [...]marinis, who lived for [...] years."
(RIB 1404; tombstone)

To date, two tombstones have been recovered from the Rudchester site, unfortunately, neither of which name a garrison unit. Both texts are reproduced here.

"[...] to you, who would be freed from the Earth."
(RIB 1405; tombstone)

Roman Milestone from Welton near Mile-Castle 17

"For Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius [Severus] Antoninus Pius Felix Augustus,¹ greatest in Adiabene and Parthica, greatest in Britain, holding the powers of a tribune for the sixteenth time, consul four times, twice hailed Imperator on the field of battle.² [Under] Gaius Julius Marcus, the pro-praetorian legate of the emperor.³"
(RIB 2298; milestone; dated: 213AD)
  1. Caracalla - The eldest son of the emperor Septimius Severus, was named Caesar in 195 and raised to joint Augustus alongside his father in January 198. He and his father were granted the victory titles Britannicus Maximus as they overwintered at York during 209/210. He adopted his father's name Severus upon his accession in February 211AD. The further title Germanicus Maximus was assumed in late 213. He was murdered at Carrhae in Mesopotamia in April 217.
  2. Caracalla was hailed Imperator for the second time in 207AD, he was consul for the fourth (and final) time for the year starting 1st January 213, he had held tribunicia potestas for the sixteenth time from 10th December 212.
  3. Building work undertaken during the tenure of governor Gaius Julius Marcus is attested at the eastern end of the Wall at Newcastle and South Shields, also at forts situated half-a-day's march north of the Wall at Netherby, Risingham and High Rochester.

Vindobala Today

The modern B6318 road follows the line of the Rudchester fort's 'principal street' (via principalis), along the course of General Wade's Military Road, unfortunately built upon the Wall's original foundations after the Jacobite rebellion in the early 1750's. Most of the stones from the fort were robbed in the eighteenth century to build a substantial extension to Rudchester Hall, which stands about one-hundred yards from the south-eastern corner, in the area between the fort and the vallum.

Admission Free Car Parking
All that can be seen of the Rudchester fort today is the outline of its defences in the fields to either side of the B6318.
Rudchester on a late August morning,
viewed from the site of Mile Castle 14,
just to the west of the fort.

Vindobala Bibliography

See: Hadrian's Wall Map and Guide by the Ordnance Survey (Southampton, 1989);
Hadrian's Wall in the Days of the Romans by Ronald Embleton and Frank Graham (Newcastle, 1984) pp.67-72;
The Roman Military Diet by R.W. Davies, in Britannia ii (1971) pp.122-142;
Temples in Roman Britain by M.J.T. Lewis (Cambridge 1966);
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. Togodumnus

Vindobala Related Lynx

Link to maps of the area from: StreetMap Old-Maps MultiMap

Roman Name

Ravenna Cosmography: Vindovala

Page Citation: Kevan White (2018) "Roman Britain: VINDOBALA - RUDCHESTER"