Fortuna and Bowes

Inscription from Bowes (Cambridge, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) © David Gill

Two inscriptions from Roman forts on the road across the Pennines are now displayed in Cambridge: one is the Brough Stone now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, and the other is an inscription from Bowes, Co. Durham, now in the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (RIB 730; D 1970.3). (For the site of the fort now occupied by a castle.)

The Bowes inscription was transferred, along with 15 other inscriptions from various sites in Britain, from the library of Trinity College to the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in 1970. The altar has been known since at least 1600 when it appeared in Camden’s Britannia. It was found at the Roman fort of Bowes (Lavatrae) to the north-west of Richmond.

The altar is dedicated to the goddess Fortuna. The dedication is made by Virius Lupus, the governor of the province (from AD 197), who restored the bath-house that had been destroyed by fire. Virius Lupus is also known from another project at Ilkley that is dated to exactly the same period (RIB 637). The garrison unit is named as the 1st Cohort of Thracians (see also RIB 740 from the governorship of L. Alfenus Senecio, 205–c. 208). The work was carried out by Valerius Fronto, the cavalry prefect of the Vettonians, based at the fort of Binchester (Vinovia) to the north-east of Bowes.

Damnatio Memoriae: The Arch of Septimius Severus

The Arch of Septimius Severus © David Gill

The Arch of Septimius Severus stands at the west end of the Roman forum. The inscriptions that appears on both sides of the arch remind us of how individuals can be erased from history. The original text would have been in bronze letters attached to the marble.

The inscription refers to the emperor Septimius Severus (in line 1) and his son Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (Caracalla) in line 3. The titles of Severus as well as his son allow the inscription to be dated to AD 203.

The Arch of Septimius Severus © David Gill
The Arch of Septimius Severus © David Gill
The Arch of Septimius Severus © David Gill

The fourth line currently reads: Optimis Fortissimisque Principibus (‘excellent and strongest princes’). The holes on line 4 show that the inscription originally read (Claridge): P. Septimio L. fil. Getae Nobiliss(imo) Caesari. Line 4 was preceded at the end of line 3 with et (as line 3 is preceded by an et at the end of line 2).

The arch was originally dedicated to Septimius Severus, Caracalla (M. Aurelius Antoninus) as Augustus and P. Septimius Geta as Caesar. In AD 212 Geta was murdered by his brother Caracalla: and Caracalla then proceeded to erase the memory of Geta from public monuments.

Maryport: Cohors I Hispanorum

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Maryport © David Gill

The Senhouse Roman Museum at the Roman fort of Maryport on the Cumbrian coast contains an extensive series of Latin inscriptions. Among them is this altar (RIB 816), found in 1870 to the north-east of the fort.  It was dedicated by the prefect of the Cohors I Hispanorum, L. Antistius Lupus Verianus, from Sicca in Africa (Numidia Proconsularis). David Breeze provisionally dates his command to 136 (and prior to 139 when the Cohors I Delmatarum arrived).

St Mawes: John Leland’s texts

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St Mawes © David Gill

The Tudor Royal Arms were placed above the main entrance to the keep at St Mawes, with the Latin text, Dieu et Mon Droit, below. Above the crest is the statement:

Semper Honos / Henrice Tuus / Laudesque Manebunt.

(Henry, your honour and praises will remain forever.)

This is one of four texts composed by the poet, antiquary and royal chaplain, John Leland (c. 1503–1552) at the request of Thomas Treffry of Fowey (a detail mentioned in Leland’s Itinerary).

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St Mawes © David Gill

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St Mawes © David Gill

On the opposite side, above the door leading from the keep to the forward bastion is another Royal Coast of Arms. Either side are two Tritons:

Semper Vivet A(n)i(m)a Re/gis Henrici Octavi / Qui An(no) 34 Sui Reg/ni Hoc Fecit Fieri.

(May the soul of King Henry Eighth, who had this built in the 34th year of his reign, live forever.)

Henry came to the throne in 1509, and this places the completion of the castle in 1543. (It was started in 1540.)

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St Mawes © David Gill

Another text is placed above the crest on the west bastion, celebrating Henry’s son, Edward (who is proclaimed on the eastern bastion as Duke of Cornwall, a title given at his baptism in 1537).

Edwardus Fama Referat Factisque Parentem.

(May Edward resemble his father in fame and deeds.)

Further texts are placed on the south (Henry, king of England, France and Ireland) and east (Edward) bastions.

Lympne: Praefectus of the British Fleet

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Inscription from Lympne © David Gill

This altar was discovered in April 1852, subsequent to the 1850 excavations of the east gate of the Roman fort at Lympne in Kent (RIB 66). The inscription shows that it was a dedication to the god Neptune, set up by L. Aufidius Pant(h)era who was serving as the praefectus of the British fleet, clas(sis) Brit(annicae).

Pant(h)era, from Umbria, served as prefect in a cavalry unit in Upper Pannonia and is named in a diploma dated to 2 July 133. He probably moved to Britannia subsequent to this date.

It appears that the altar was reused in the later Saxon Shore fort, probably dating to the second half of the third century. The altar was purchased by the British Museum from Charles Roach Smith in 1856 (inv. 1856.07-01.5026).

Legio II at Benwell

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Inscription from Benwell, Hadrian’s Wall © David Gill

A small inscription was found on the north side of the fort at Benwell on Hadrian’s Wall (RIB 1341). It was first recorded in J. Brand’s History and Antiquities of the Town and County of Newcastle upon Tyne (1789). It is now displayed in the British Museum.

The inscription records work of the Legio II Augusta (repeated on the vexillum) based at Caerleon in south Wales. To the left is a goat, and to the right Pegasus, symbols of the legion.

Other building inscriptions of the Legio II Augusta, relating to the 2nd, 4th and 10th cohorts, are known from round Benwell (RIB 1342, 1343, 1344). David Breeze (Handbook, 14th ed., 158) suggests that they come from the line of the wall around Milecastle 7 (just to the west of the fort): ‘their style suggests a late-second-century date, implying that the Wall in this sector required repair at that time’.

Whithorn: museum signs

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Whithorn Museum © David Gill

We have commented on the wonderful Historic Scotland museum at Whithorn. The old Ministry sign is displayed in addition to the new HES information board.

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Whithorn Museum © David Gill

Above the door is an inscription in both Latin and English dating to 1730 recording the benefaction of both the parish and town (donis parochiae et urbis structa).

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Whithorn Museum, inscription © David Gill

Caistor St Edmund: inscription

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Inscription from Caistor St Edmund, Norwich Castle © David Gill

In 1931 Donald Atkinson discovered a fragmentary Latin inscription cut on a piece of limestone (Collingwood, R. G., and M. V. Taylor. “Roman Britain in 1931.” The Journal of Roman Studies, 22, 1932, p. 226. JSTOR). It was found at a depth of 1 foot and 6 inches [c. 45 cm] ‘beside the road flanking the east side of the forum’. Atkinson suggested that it could be linked to the construction or refurbishment of the forum.

The inscription may have read, ADAT / SVPE (RIB 214). It can be seen in Norwich Castle Museum.

Silvanus at Corinium

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Corinium Museum © David Gill

A fragmentary altar to Silvanus was found at Circencester (Corinium) in the 19th century (RIB 104). It was dedicated by [.] Sabidius Maximus.

Anthony Birley has suggested a possible link with M. Sabidiu[s] Ma[ximus] known from an inscription found at Elbasan, Albania, on the route of the strategic Via Egnatia (AE 1937, no. 101) [JSTOR]. He served in various roles, including signifer, in the Legio IX Claudia, then as centurion in the Legio III Gallica (during the reign of Hadrian). Birley suggests that one of the Legions in which he served could be restored as the Legio I[I Augusta] (based at Caerleon).

The Thruxton mosaic

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Mosaic from Thruxton, British Museum © David Gill

The mosaic from Thruxton in north-west Hampshire was discovered in 1823 and was presented to the British Museum in 1899 [catalogue]. John Lickman’s engraving of the mosaic from the time of the discovery showed that the central roundel contained an image of Bacchus seated on a feline. This was subsequently lost through plough damage.

In the corners of the mosaic were the four seasons. An inscription appears at the top containing a name: Quintus Natalius Natalinus et Bodeni. A further line of text is known from the bottom end of the mosaic although only two letters could be read.

The mosaic appears to come from a villa, and it probably should be dated to the period 250–350.

Further information: Martin Henig & Grahame Soffe, ‘The Thruxton Roman Villa and Its Mosaic Pavement’, Journal of the British Archaeological Association 146, 1 (1993), 1-28.