Brocolitia (Carrawbrough) Fort
Fort and Wall Fort
Brocolitia – ‘Badger Holes’ – The fort at Carrawburgh lies in open moorland in the Tynedale district of Northumberland, just over one mile west of Mile Castle 30 and the northernmost point of the Wall. The site was partially excavated by John Clayton in the late nineteenth century, who uncovered a military bath-house outside the west gate of the fort in 1873, and three years later the south-west interval tower of the fort itself. Clayton also discovered Coventina’s Well, a shrine to a iron-age water goddess, during the course of his nearby 1876 excavations. A temple of the god Mithras was found here in 1949, which discovery was followed a decade later by the uncovering of yet another shrine, this one dedicated to the local water nymphs.
Classical References for Brocolitia
The first mention of the Roman name for the Carrawburgh Wall-fort appears in the Notitia Dignitatum of the late-4th/early-5th centuries, wherein the station Procolitia occurs between the entries for Cilurnum (Chesters, Northumberland) and Borcovicium (Housesteads, Northumberland). Carrawburgh also appears in the seventh century Ravenna Cosmography, this time as Brocoliti (R&C#148), again listed between Celunnum (Chesters) and Velurtion (Housesteads).
The Roman name for the Carrawburgh fort then, was Brocolitia, which was probably based on the original name (Welsh/Gaelic) for the area and is possibly translated ‘Badger Holes’; if this is the case, then it is very likely that the area was once home to a substantial community of these nocturnal omnivores.
Compare modern Gaelic; broc, bruic badger, toll, tuill hole. Welsh; broch badger, twll, tyllu hole, hollow.
There are 48 Latin inscriptions currently recorded in the R.I.B. for Carrawburgh, comprising 31 altars and votive stones, 5 building inscriptions (1 damaged and undateable), 4 centurial stones and 6 tombstones and funerary inscriptions. This total includes two stones added since the RIB was first published.
The Dateable Inscriptions
RIB1551 - Inscription
[... ]O PIO [...]
[...] M[...]X B[...]
The Garrison Units of Brocolitia
Legio Sextae Victrix – The Sixth Victorious Legion (2nd century AD)
This legion was not permanently stationed here, one of its vexillations was probably busy with construction work in the fort. A total of four inscriptions from Brocolitia are known that refer to the Legion. An altar dedicated to Coventina had been donated by soldiers of the Sixth. Furthermore, three centurial stones from this section of Hadrian’s Wall are known, which were set by this legion. Perhaps another vexillation had been assigned to the fort for repairs during the late second century, possibly after the retreat from Antonine Wall and the associated reoccupation of Hadrian’s Wall.
RIB1547 - Dedication to the Nymphs
Cohors Primae Tungrorum – The First Cohort of Tungri (2nd century AD)
A cohort of the Tungrians from eastern Belgica . Today the landscapes of Brabant and Hainaut in Belgium. It is likely that this unit was divided between the castles of Carrawburgh and Chesterholm ( Vindolanda on Stanegate ). It stood between 139 and 161 on Antonine Wall in the castles of Cramond and Castlecary. After the Antonine Wall was abandoned, it was moved to Housesteads Fort ( Vercovicium ) and stood there until the end of the fourth century. The presence of this unit in Brocolitia is known from an altar inscription for Hadrian, donated between 122 and 138.
RIB1554 - Centurial stone of Alexander
RIB1556 - Centurial stone of the Thruponian century
RIB1555 - Centurial stone of Antonius Rusticus
Cohors Primae Aquitanorum – The First Cohort of Aquitani (2nd century AD)
This cohort was originally recruited from various Aquitaine tribes in Gaul. Men from today’s regions of Guyenne and Gascogne in south-west France. The force had a nominal strength of five hundred men ( cohors peditata quingenaria ). You must have provided the first crew for Carrawburgh. The cohort was posted to the Pennines in the small fort of Brough on Noe around the middle of the second century . It is therefore also possible that one of their vexillations was in an as yet undiscovered camp near Bakewell. In late antiquity, it stood in the Saxon coastal fort Brancaster ( Branodunum ), on the north-west coast of Norfolk . The unit is known for Brocolitia only from an inscription found on site. It is a fragment of a stone tablet that was found in the north-east corner of the fort in 1833. According to the inscription, the tablet was placed by this unit under their commandant Cornelius 130.
RIB1550 - Inscription
[...  ]R COH I AQVIT
Cohors Primae Cugernorum – The First Cohort of Cugerni (2nd century AD)
The unit had a strength of 500 men and was recruited from the Cugerni tribe in the Germania Inferior province . They settled in what is now the Meuse department and on the Rhine . Carrawburgh could have been their first base on Hadrian’s Wall. In the middle of the 2nd century it was probably moved further north, to Newbridge near Cramond in Scotland. After abandoning the Antonine Wall, she occupied the Newcastle camp ( Pons Aelius ). The unit is known from an altar inscription for the goddess Coventina found on site. It was donated by one of its commanders, Aurelius Campester.
P[osuit] L[ibens] A[nimo].”]
Cohors Primae Frisiavonum – The First Cohort of Frisiavones (2nd century AD)
The cohort had a strength of 500 men and was originally recruited from the Frisian tribe. Their settlement area extended over the Noordbrabant, a landscape in the Netherlands, south of the Meuse . The presence of the cohort in Brocolitia is known from an altar donated by an optio named Mausaeus after fulfilling a vow to the goddess Coventina. The unit was relocated to Rudchester ( Vindobala ) in the 3rd century .
RIB1523 - Altar dedicated to Coventina
LIT MAVS ❦
Cohors Secundae Nerviorum – The Second Cohort of Nervii (2nd century AD)
The troops were originally made up of recruits from the Nervier tribe in the Gallia Belgica province (now Belgium, Hainaut region). She arrived in Britain with the army of Quintus Petillius Cerialis in 71, along with five other Belgian cohorts. The unit is also mentioned on an undated building inscription from the warehouse at High Rochester ( Habitancum ), where it was assigned to the cohors IV Gallorum for construction work. The cohort also camped for some time in Fort Wallsend ( Segedunum ). The troops are named on an undated altar inscription dedicated to the genius of the camp.
RIB1538 - Altar dedicated to the Genius loci
VEX COHOR II NERVIOR
Cohors Quintae Raetorum – The Fifth Cohort of Raeti (2nd century AD)
The troops were recruited in the province of Raetia , which stretched across western Austria, south-eastern Germany and eastern Switzerland. This cohort is first mentioned for Britain on a military diploma of 122. The diploma enumerated all units of the Northern Army under the governor Aulus Platorius Nepos. The further activities of the Raeter are not known. An altarpiece dedicated to Coventina by a soldier named Publius testifies to the presence of this troop in Brocolitia .
RIB1529 - Altar dedicated to Coventina
NVS ML CHO [.]
[.] TTOIN [...]
[.] VOTVM [...]
R ET POSIVIT
Cohors Primae Batavorum – The First Cohort of Batavi (3rd to 5th century AD)
The soldiers of this troop originally came from the Lower Rhine. Their settlement area was around the current cities of Rotterdam , Sleidrecht , Geldermalsen and Tiel , all in what is now the Netherlands . In Britain it has been traceable since 122 AD. This cohort also had riders in its ranks ( cohors equitata ). The Batavians were considered to be specialists in river crossings in full armor. The earliest inscriptions date from the first quarter of the 3rd century. Ten inscriptions from Brocolitia are known that name this unit, they date between 213 and 237. Two gravestone inscriptions mention a horn player ( Bucinator ) and a standard bearer ( Signifer ) who had served in this cohort. One of their commanders, Domitius Cosconianus, donated an altar for Coventina around 140. From the Notitia dignitatum , troop list of the Dux Britanniarum , the rank of its commanding officer, a tribune , is known for the Procolitia of the 4th century . Since the troops appear in this late antique document, they could have stood here until the withdrawal of the Roman army from Hadrian’s Wall.
There are ten Latin inscriptions from Carrawburgh which mention this unit, two of which can be dated to the early-third century.
RIB1553 - Inscription
[...   ...]R MAX
[...  ... ] MAX
[ ...  ]RCOS
[... ] ⟦[... ]⟧ ⟦MAXI⟧
[...] CAES N SVB
VCCIANO V C LEG
Tombstones of Soldiers in the First Batavian Cohort
RIB1559 - Fragmentary funerary inscription
BVC C[...   ...]
RIB1560 - Fragmentary funerary inscription
COHOR I BAT
RIB1562 - Fragmentary funerary inscription
HEREDES F C
The Carrawburgh Entry in the Notitia Dignitatum
The Auxiliary Infantry Fort
Carrawburgh was the first infantry fort on the Wall’s central section, and housed a succession of auxiliary units which have been identified from epigraphic evidence; the original Hadrianic garrison was Cohors I Aquitanorum, followed by Cohors I Cugernorum towards the end of the second century, and finally, Cohors I Batavorum who occupied the fort during the third and fourth centuries and are mentioned in the Notitia Dignitatum.
Plan of the Brocolitia Fort
The fort was built across the vallum, clearly post-dating both vallum and Wall, and covers an area of about 3½ acres (1.5 ha), a typical size for an auxiliary infantry fort. The north rampart of the fort either utilized the Wall itself, which was here built in narrow-gauge upon a broad base, or was built parallel with the Wall but detached from it; as both constructs now lie beneath the modern B6318 road – having been demolished by General Wade during the building of his infamous military road in the eighteenth century – the question will remain unanswered until someone authorises the expense of digging up the road. Even then, we will probably never be enlightened.
The Remains of the Infantry Fort
References for Brocolitia
- 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.117-121;
- Hadrian’s Wall History Trails Guidebook IV by Les Turnbull (Newcastle, 1974), pp.26-28; 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).
Map References for Brocolitia
NGRef: NY 858 712 OSMap: Hadrian’s Wall, OL43, LR87.