Caerleon: official guidebooks

Caerleon_MoW

1950 (1962)

(Sir) Mortimer Wheeler and Tessa Wheeler prepared the first official guide to the Roman amphitheatre outside the legionary fortress at Caerleon (Isca Silurum) in 1935. The couple had excavated on the site in 1926–27. This guide reappeared as the Ministry of Works paper guide in 1950. It contains the sections:

  1. Caerleon in Legend and History
  2. The Amphitheatre

A plan appears on one of the middle pages. There is a note about the legionary barrack-blocks in Prysg Field (also in State Guardianship).

caerleon_doe

1970 (1973)

This simple guide was expanded into the ‘blue’ guide with a contributions by Dr V.E. Nash Williams. This is divided into the following sections:

  1. Caerleon in legend and history
  2. The amphitheatre
  3. The Prysg Field barrack-buildings
  4. Caerllion [short summary in Welsh]

Two fold-out plans appear inside the back cover. The first two sections are essentially the same text as the 1950 guide by Wheeler; Williams contributed the discussion of the barrack-buildings.

The DOE guide has a different bilingual title inside:
Caerleon Roman Amphitheatre and Barrack Buildings
Theatre Gron Rufeinig Caerllion a Llety’r Milwyr

Caerleon_Welsh_Office

1970 (4th impress. 1980)

The Welsh Office / Y Swyddfa Gymreig produced the Official Handbook / Llawlyfr Swyddogol (blue guide) in 1980. Welsh was used on the cover, and inside the guide uses the bilingual titles that were used in the original blue guide.

The main difference is that there is an extended guide in Welsh with sections mirroring the English section: Hanes; Theatr Gron; Disgrifiad.

Caerleon_Cadw

1988

Jeremy K. Knight prepared the new Cadw guide (1988). There was a move away from it being a guide to the amphitheatre to the legionary fortress. The guide was organised in the following sections:

  • In search of Isca
  • The legion and its fortress
  • The foundation of Isca
  • The layout of the fortress
  • The Second Legion and the occupation of Caerleon

 

This was followed by a tour guide, starting with the fortress baths, followed by the amphitheatre, defences and barracks.

A fold-out plan is printed inside the rear card cover.

There is a single page summary in Welsh (Hanes; Disgrifaid).

Caerleon_Cadw_large

2003 (3rd ed.)

Knight prepared the 3rd edition (2003) in the new large format of Cadw guides. A fold-out bird’s eye view was printed inside the front card cover, and a plan inside the back cover. It is divided into two main sections: a history of Roman Isca; a tour of Roman Isca. It contained a feature on ‘Outside the walls: the civilian settlements’.

 

Legio II at Benwell

HW_2257-Edit

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’.

Caerleon: amphitheatre

caerleon9

Caerleon amphitheatre © David Gill

The amphitheatre is located outside the Roman legionary fortress at Isca Silurum (Caerleon). It was probably constructed c. AD 90.  The buttresses supporting the banks can be  clearly seen around the southern entrance that provided one of the two main access points to the arena.

The amphitheatre was excavated by (Sir) Mortimer Wheeler, who also wrote the original Ministry guidebook.

The amphitheatre is in the care of Cadw.

The Antonine Wall: Legio XX

P1100130

Cast of inscription from Hutcheson Hill, now in Chesters Museum © David Gill

In 1865 a Latin inscription (RIB 2198) was recovered at Hutcheson Hill in the western section of the Antonine Wall. Casts were made and the original was taken to the Chicago Museum where it was destroyed in the great fire of October 1871. [See also Canmore]

The inscription records a vexillatio of the 20th Legion Valeria Victrix that had constructed 3000 feet of the wall.

Another inscription, now in the Hunterian Museum, was found in 1969 near Hutcheson Hill and similarly records a vexillatio of the same legion that had constructed 3000 feet of the wall (AE 1971, no.225) [JSTOR].

A third inscription of the Twentieth Legion probably comes from near Duntocher (RIB 2199).

vexillatio of the Sixth Legion Victrix Pia Fidelis was found at Duntocher (RIB 2200). This stretch was 3240 feet.

 

 

 

 

Legionary inscription in Scotland: Abbotsford

IMG_2801-Edit

Abbotsford © David Gill

A fragmentary Latin inscription is built (at an angle) into the garden wall of Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott (RIB 2216). It was first known c. 1797 at Callendar House in Falkirk (see Canmore). This location has suggested that the inscription may have been linked to the Antonine Wall. Scott lived at Abbotsford from 1812-32.

The inscription reads: A vexi[llatio]  | of the XXI[I] legion | Primigenia.

At the top left appear to be the legs of what could be a Capricorn, the emblem of Legio XXII. This legion was posted in Upper Germany.

The Legio XXII is also attested from the Roman fort of Birrens, to the north-west of Carlisle (Canmore). An inscription attesting the presence of troops from Legio VIII Augusta and Legio XXII Primigenia was found in 1991 (Britannia 1992, 318, no. 20 [JSTOR]). It has been suggested that this inscription is Antonine in date, and probably associated with troop movements during the construction of the Antonine Wall.

High Rochester: Mars and Hercules

Newcastle_DG_93

Inscription from High Rochester, Great North Museum © David Gill

The fort at High Rochester (Bremenium) in Northumberland was one of the most northerly outposts of the Roman Empire. The inscription, now in the Great North Museum, was discovered near to the east gate of the fort c. 1776 (RIB 1284). It was then displayed in Alnwick Castle.

The Latin text records work by a unit, vexillatio, of the 20th Legion Valeria Victrix. The inscription is flanked by figures of Mars and Hercules. Below appears to be a boar, the emblem of the legion.

A building inscription for a vexillatio of the 6th Legion Pia Fidelis is also known from the site (RIB 1283).

These two units may have been posted here, not necessarily simultaneously, to reinforce the northern frontier.

Legionary Building Stone near Vindolanda

IMG_4333

Inscription found near Vindolanda © David Gill

This building stone was found in a field wall near Vindolanda by the Reverend Anthony Hedley prior to 1835 (RIB 1708). It appears to show a boar, and the inscription states the name of the unit: Legio XX V(aleria) V(ictrix).

The stone is now in the museum at Chesters Roman Fort (inv. CH256).

See a building inscription for Legio VI here.