Camboglanna (Castlesteads) Fort

Fort, Minor Settlement, Temple Or Shrine and Wall Fort

Camboglanna was a Roman auxiliary fort in north-west England and was part of the chain of fortresses on Hadrian’s Wall.

COH IIII HASTA POS > MARCIANA
“The Fourth Cohort [under] the Hastatus Posterior¹ the Century of Marcianus [made this].”
(RIB 2001; ansate building-stone)

  1. The Hastatus Posterior was the fourth-highest ranking centurion in a Roman Legion, usually serving in the First Cohort but in this instance seemingly placed in temporary command of the Fourth Cohort during construction work at the Castlesteads fort. The name of the legion in which Marcianus served is not recorded.

The small fort at Castlesteads is thought to have been added to the fortifications on Hadrian’s Wall at the same time as the Vallum was built. The fort is unique, as it is the only garrison fort which is detached from the Wall itself and lies a short distance to the south, between the Wall and the Vallum. The fort’s northern defences are roughly aligned with the line of the Hadrianic barrier, which here bows out north-westwards away from the direct line taken by the Vallum, which here runs from east-north-east to west-south-west.

The Wall fort is thought to have been preceeded by another fort of turf-and-timber built upon a different alignment, traces of which have been found by excavation beneath the south-eastern Hadrianic foundations during the 1930’s. It appears likely that the presence of this earlier encampment may have influenced the placing of the Hadrianic fort away from the line of the barrier wall.

The north-western side of the fort platform has succumbed over the passage of time to the eroding effects of the Cam Beck, giving the surviving platform a rectangular outline, although it is thought that Camboglanna was originally square in plan, measuring about 400 feet (c.122m) on each side and covering an area of about 3¾ acres (c.1.5ha).

The remains of an extra-mural military bath-house were excavated beside the Cam Beck about 220 yards (c.200m) north of the fort in 1741. It is thought that the fort’s parade ground may have been in the area about 330 yards (c.300m) north of the fort, just south of the site of Turret 56b, where a number of martial altarstones have been recovered (namely RIB 1979, 1981 and 1991).

Classical References to Castlesteads

The Roman names of the fort at Castlesteads and the neighbouring fort to the east along the Wall at Birdoswald, have been the subject of intense debate over the years. There are a number of ancient documentary and epigraphic sources which name these forts: the Ravenna Cosmography, the Notitia Dignitatum, a couple of Roman Souvenirs and an indirect reference on an Altarstone to Silvanus.

The Ravenna Cosmography places an entry named Banna between Esica (Great Chesters, Northumberland) and Uxelludamo (Stanwix, Cumbria). We know from archaeological evidence that there are two large forts on the Wall between these sites, namely Castlesteads and Birdoswald, but unfortunately there is nothing in the Cosmography to indicate which of these two forts is to be identified with the Banna entry.

The waters of investigation are further muddied by the appropriate section of the Notitia Dignitatum, which lists between Magnis (Carvoran, Northumberland), and Petrianis (Stanwix, Cumbria) the entry: Tribunus Cohortis Primae Aeliae Dacorum Amboglanna, Tribune of the First Aelian Cohort of Dacians at Camboglanna. Again, we could not be sure whether the Amboglanna entry refered to the fort at Birdoswald or the fort at Castlesteads.

The question seemed to have been settled with the discovery of a decorated bronze drinking-vessel at Rudge in Wiltshire and another similar vessel at Amiens in France. These artifacts, thought to have been Souvenirs of the Wall, list the names of places along the line of Hadrian’s Wall from west to east, they were: Uxelodunum (Stanwix, Cumbria), Camboglan[ni]s, Banna and Esica (Great Chesters); these pieces of souvenir cookware indicated that the name of Castlesteads fort was Camboglanna and that of the Birdoswald fort Banna.

The initial lack of epigraphic evidence from either of these two sites meant that this view became firmly ingrained into the history books produced over much of the twentieth century. It was not until the latter part of the last century that extensive excavations were conducted at the Birdoswald site and these unearthed evidence that the garrison was the First Aelian Cohort of Dacians, which is the unit associated with the name Camboglanna in the N.D.. This discovery seemingly overturned the evidence from the Rudge and Amiens artifacts and once more opened the discussion over the naming of these two forts.

Adding further fuel to the Banna / Camboglanna controversy, an altarstone to Silvanus the Roman god of the forest (RIB1905) was subsequently found at the Birdoswald fort, dedicated by a group calling themselves the Venatores Bannienses, or ‘the Hunters of Banna‘. It is very likely that these men formed an irregular auxiliary cavalry unit garrisoned at Birdoswald sometime during the fourth century, from which posting their unit name was derived.

The eminent Roman historian M.W.C. Hassall in 1976 suggested that the confusion is all caused by a lacuna in an early manuscript of the Notitia Dignitatum and all confusion could be avoided with a small restoration of said text, which should be read as follows:

This small and intuitive amendment was later championed in The Place-Names of Roman Britain by A.L.F. Rivet and Colin Smith (Batsford, London, 1979) and seems to have settled the matter – until the next piece of controversial evidence turns up.

Camboglanna – The Crooked Glen

The first mention of the Castlesteads fort is contained within the Notitia Dignitatum, the ‘Register of Dignitaries’ of the late-4th/early-5th centuries. In this document Castlesteads is listed as Amboglanna, between the entries for Magnis (Carvoran, Northumberland) and Petrianis (Stanwix, Cumbria).

The fort is also mentioned in the seventh century Ravenna Cosmography, where it is seemingly listed twice; the first and most-likely entry is named Gabaglanda (R&C#131), and occurs between Magnis (Carvoran, Northumberland) and Vindolande (Chesterholm, Northumberland), whereas the second entry Cambroianna (R&C#167), is listed between the unidentified stations Locatreve and Smetri.

The accepted name Camboglanna could be Welsh/Gaelic in origin and if so would translate as ‘Crooked Glen’, which refers, no doubt, to the fort’s spectacular setting overlooking the valley of the Cam Beck, a convoluted tributary stream of the River Irthing.

 

The Legionary Presence

RIB2000 - Building inscription of the Sixth Legion

LEG VI V
F
The Sixth Legion Victrix built this.
No commentary.

The presence of the Sixth Legion at Castlesteads may be attested by a building stone (RIB 2000) found in 1732 near the eastern gateway of the fort.

RIB1999 - Inscription

IV [5]
M [...]
CV[...]A L[...]
LEG AVG P P COH II
TVNG POSVIT
under the charge of ..., emperor’s propraetorian legate, the Second Cohort of Tungrians set this up.
This text dates presumably to the third century, when this cohort was stationed at Castlesteads.As there is insufficient room in ll. 1, 2 for expressing an emperor with his titles, which in the third century were often elaborate, it seems probable that there was a complementary slab on which the emperor had been recorded, cf. RIB 1914 (Birdoswald) R.P.W.
  1. The short-lived Gordian dynasty lasted from the accession of Gordian I in January 238AD until the murder of Gordian III in February 244.

The presence of the Twentieth Legion appears to be attested by an inscribed slab (RIB 1999) recovered from a hypocaust at Castlesteads. In the text the legion is styled Gordiana or Gordian’s Own, which was awarded to/adopted by units to show alligence to this emperor. The slab also mentions the third-century garrison unit Cohors Secundae Tungrorum (see below), and from the restored text it appears that the building work may have been carried out by this auxiliary unit under the supervision of a senior centurion on secondment from the Twentieth.

The Garrison Units

Cohors Quartae Gallorum – The Fourth Cohort of Gauls

RIB1979 - Altar dedicated to Jupiter Optimus Maximus

I O M
COH IIII GAL
LORVM EQ
CVI PR[...]S[...]
CA[.]S [...]
R [...]
To Jupiter, Best and Greatest, the Fourth Cohort of Gauls, part-mounted, (set this up) under the command of ..
No commentary. Addenda from RIB+add. (1995): Stephens and Jarrett argue for a third-century date.

Two inscribed altars recovered from Castlesteads show that the earliest recorded unit at the site was Cohors IIII Gallorum Equitata, a mixed unit of infantry and horse recruited from among the many Gaulish tribes of central France. The stones contain no clues in their textual content which may be used to positively date this unit’s period of tenure, but it is generally assumed that they represented the Hadrianic garrison, although they may have been moved here during the time of Antoninus Pius (120-160AD). ????

RIB1980 - Altar dedicated to Jupiter Optimus Maximus

I O M
COH IIII
GALLORVM
C P VOLCACI
VS HOSPES
PREF EQ
To Jupiter, Best and Greatest, the Fourth Cohort of Gauls (set this up) under the command of Volcacius Hospes, prefect of cavalry.
No commentary. Addenda from RIB+add. (1995): Stephens and Jarrett argue for a third-century date.

Cohors Primae Batavorum – The First Cohort of Batavians

?
“?”
?

The second century garrison of Castlesteads was possibly Cohors I Batavorum Equitata, a one-thousand stong mixed cavalry and infantry unit originally recruited from among the Batavi tribe inhabiting an island at the mouth of the River Rhine in Belgic Gaul. This unit is also recorded on building stones recovered from Carvoran nearby.

Cohors Secundae Tungrorum The Second Cohort of Tungrians

RIB1983 - Altar dedicated to Jupiter Optimus Maximus and to the Divinities of the Emperor

[...]
ET NVMI[...]
N COH II TV[...]
GROR GOR EQ
C L CVI PRAE
EST TI C CAV
DI[...] PRA
EF INSTANTE [...]
AEL MART[...]N[...]
PRINC K IAN
I[ ...] G AVG II [...]
[...]
To Jupiter, Best and Greatest, and to the Divinities of our Emperor the Second Cohort of Tungrians styled Gordiana, part-mounted, publicly praised, under the command of Tiberius Claudius Claudianus, the prefect, (set this up) under the direction of Publius Aelius Martinus, princeps, on the 1st of January in the consulship of our Lord and Emperor Gordian, for the second time, and Pompeianus.
2.  For this expansion of N. Aug. in the singular see note to RIB 152. 10, 11.  a.d. 241. 10.  For princeps see Glossary. Addenda from RIB+add. (1995): 10.  For princeps, see also note to RIB 792.
  1. This unit also took the emperor Gordian’s name as a show of support for his rule. (see RIB 1999 by the Twentieth Legion, above).
  2. The governorship of Publius Aelius Martinus is known only from this stone.
  3. Imperator Caesar Marcus Antonius Gordianus Pius Augustus (II) and Pompeianus were consules ordinarii for the year 241AD (a.u.c. 993).

An inscription on an altarstone (RIB 1983) dated to January 1st 241AD records the Castlesteads garrison as Cohors II Tungrorum Milliaria Equitata, a one-thousand strong mixed unit of cavalry and infantry recruited from amongst the Tungri tribe inhabiting the Ardennes region of modern Belgium.

RIB1981 - Altar dedicated to Jupiter Optimus Maximus

I O M
COH II TVNGR
ↀ EQ C L CVI
PRAEEST ALB
SEVERVS PR
AEF TVNG IN
STA VIC SEVERO
PRINCIPI
To Jupiter, Best and Greatest, the Second Cohort of Tungrians, one thousand strong, part-mounted, publicly praised, under the command of Albius Severus, prefect of the Tungrians, (set this up) under the direction of Vic... Severus, princeps.
For princeps see Glossary. Addenda from RIB+add. (1995): There was a coin of Faustina the Elder in the masonry of the pedestal: Parker in Bruce, The Roman Wall, ed. 3, (1867), 221, cited by Birley, Cumb. Westm. AAST 2nd Ser. 77 (1977), 162. For princeps, see also note to RIB 792.

The Epigraphy of Roman Castlesteads

IMP CAES T AELIO HADRIANO ANTONINO AVG PIO P P COS III SVB …
“For Emperor Ceasar Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius, Father of his Country, three times consul, under […]”
(RIB 1997; restored fragment; dated 128-138AD)

There are 40 latin texts recorded in the R.I.B. for the Castlesteads fort, many of which are given and translated on this page.

Dateable Latin Inscriptions from Castlesteads

RIB # (clickable) : 1997
Date: 128-138AD
Description: building inscription of Emperor Hadrian
RIB # (clickable) : 1978
Date: 209-211AD 212-217AD
Description: altar to the Discipline of the Emperor(s)
RIB # (clickable) : 1999
Date: 238-244AD
Description: dedicatory stone of Legio XX Valeria and Coh II Tungrorum
RIB # (clickable) : 1983
Date: 1st January 241AD
Description: altar to Iupitter Optimus Maximus by Coh II Tungrorum

The Minor Settlement

Geophysical surveys conducted between 1999 and 2001 recorded the course of the Vallum passing close by the southern defences of the fort and also revealed details of a civil settlement or vicus on the southern slopes of the hill, directly opposite the south-eastern gateway of the fort where there was a causeway across the Vallum. These same surveys revealed traces of Roman field-boundaries in the area to the immediate east of the settlement.

Tombstones from the Castlesteads Vicus

Only four tombstones have been recovered from the Castlesteads area, one of which (RIB 2005) is beyond any hope of translation, being too heavily damaged; the others are shown below.

RIB2003 - Funerary inscription for Gemellus

D M
GEMELLI C A
FL HILARIO 𐆛 H F C
To the spirits of the departed (and) of Gemellus, custos armorum, Flavius Hilario, centurion, as heir had this set up.
A custos armorum was the soldier in a century or a turma responsible for the arms and armour.
  1. Based on the expansion C[ustos] A[rmorum], literally ‘the Custodian of the Armoury’. The abbreviation C A may also be expanded C[uram] A[gente], or ‘responsible for conducting [things]’ (see note#2 below).
  2. The second part of this inscription may also be translated as: ‘… His heirs saw to the making of this [memorial] through the agency of Flavius Hilario the centurion’.

RIB2004 - Fragmentary funerary inscription

[...] M
[...]IS EX
[...  ]IX AN
[...] IIIII
[...] AVR
[...]X
To the spirits of the departed ... lived ... years, 5 days ... Aurelia, his wife ..
No commentary.

RIB2006 - Fragmentary funerary inscription

[...] SOPH[...]
[..  ]ONIVGI SA[...]
[...]AE ET [...]
... to his very pure and ... wife ..
No commentary.

The Gods of Camboglanna

RIB1990 - Altar dedicated to Neptune

DEO
[...]EP
[...]
To the god Neptune ..
No commentary.

There have been twenty-one inscribed altarstones and religious texts recovered from the environs of the Castlesteads fort, comprising: seven to Jupiter Best and Greatest, including one shared with the Numinibus Augustorum (RIB 1983) and another shared with the Genius Loci (RIB 1984); three to Sol invictus / Mithras; two to Belatucader, including one shared with Minerva (RIB 1976); two to Sanguine Mars, including one shared with Num Aug (RIB 1987); two to the Mother Goddesses; also single stones dedicated to the deities Neptune (vide supra), Victory, Vanauntis, Discipline and one unknown god (RIB 1996; not shown).

Altarstones Dedicated to Jupiter

Of the seven altarstones dedicated to Jupitter Optimus Maximus the king of the Roman pantheon, five are given above as they name military units, one is given below. The remaining stone is fragmentary, only the top part surviving, which simply reads: I O M VOTVM …, ‘To Jupiter Best and Greatest a vow …’, which is hardly worth the bandwidth.

RIB1984 - Altar dedicated to Jupiter Optimus Maximus and to the Genius Loci

I O M ET G
LOCI G VE
RECVNDIVS
SEVERVS
V [...] L [...]
To Jupiter, Best and Greatest, and to the Genius of the place Gaius Verecundius Severus willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow.
No commentary.

Altarstones to Mithras the Invincible Sun

RIB1992 - Altar dedicated to the Invincible Sun-god

[...] SOLI
[...]NVICTO
SEX SEVE
RIVS SA
LVATOR
[...]RAEF
[   ] L M
To the Invincible Sun-god, Sextus Severius Salvator, prefect, willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow.
No commentary.

RIB1993 - Altar dedicated to Mithras

DE[...] SOLI
[...]CTO
M[...]R[...]E M[...]
CVS LICINIV[...]
RIPANVS
PRAEF V S [   ]
To the Invincible Sun-god Mithras, Marcus Licinius Ripanus, prefect, willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow.
Horsley thought that, like some other inscriptions in the Naworth Collection, this altar also had come from Birdoswald. As Richmond, loc. cit., and Birley, loc. cit., have shown, it presumably came from Castlesteads (cf. RIB 1992), where the unit was under a prefect and not, as at Birdoswald, under a tribune R.P.W.

RIB1976 - Altar dedicated to Belatugagrus

DEO
BELAT
VGAG
RO AR
MINERV
To the god Belatugagrus Minervalis (set up) this altar.
No commentary.

RIB1977 - Altar dedicated to Belatucadrus

DEO S BE
LATVCA[...]
RO AV D[.]
[1-2]VLLINVS
V S
To the holy god Belatucadrus ...ullinus ... in fulfilment of his vow
Hodgson thought that there was no evidence for assigning it to Castlesteads whereas Gilpin, who owned it in Horsley’s time, did.

RIB1986 - Altar dedicated to Mars

DEO SANG M
ARTI VÍ¡ENVSTIN[...]
VS LVPVS V S L M
To the holy god Mars Venustinus Lupus willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow.
No commentary.

RIB1987 - Altar dedicated to Mars and to the Divinities of the Emperor

[...]O MARTI
[   ]T N G AVG
[...] PACO
[...]VS SATV
[...]NVS
[...] EQ POSVIT
To the holy god Mars and to the Divinities of the Emperor ... Paconius Saturninus, prefect of cavalry, set this up.
For this expansion of N. Aug. in the singular see note to RIB 152.

Altarstones Dedicated to the Mother Goddesses

RIB1988 - Altar dedicated to the Mother Goddesses of all nations

[...]S
[...]RIBV[...]
OMNIVM
GENTIVM
TEMPLVM
OLIM VETVS
TATE CONLAB
SVM G IVL CV
PITIANVS 𐆛
PP RESTITVIT
To the Mother Goddesses of all nations Gaius Julius Cupitianus, centurion in command, restored their temple fallen in through age.
No commentary.

The Mother Goddesses are mentioned on a couple of altarstones, both of which are given here. The temple of the Matres lay just outside the Castlesteads fort to the south-east.

RIB1989 - Altar dedicated to the Mother Goddesses from overseas

MATRI
BVS TR[...]
MAR[...]
To the Mother Goddesses beyond the seas ..
No commentary.

RIB1978 - Altar dedicated to the Discipline of the Emperor(s)

Primary
To the Discipline of the (three) August (Emperors).
Secondary
To the Discipline of the August (Emperor).
Primary: a.d. 209-11 Severus, Caracalla, Geta; secondary: a.d. 212-17 Caracalla.For Septimius Severus as vindex et conditor Romanae disciplinae see EE vii 353, CIL viii 17870 (ILS 446) Thamugadi.

RIB1991 - Altar dedicated to the Divinities of the Emperor and to Vanauns

N AVG
DEO VANA
VNTI AVREL
ARMIGER
DEC PRINC
To the Divinities of the Emperor (and) to the god Vanauns, Aurelius Armiger, decurio princeps, (set this up).
1.  For this expansion of N. Aug. in the singular see note to RIB 152. 2–3.  The god Vanauns was, as seen here, worshipped by Tungrians, but seems to be unmatched elsewhere. A nominative form Vanauntes is also possible. 5.  For decurio princeps see Glossary. Addenda from RIB+add. (1995): 5.  The evidence for the decurio princeps comes from alae, here he was the senior decurion (of sixteen). At Castlesteads Armiger was presumably the senior decurion of a cohors equitata, but in view of the other three altars (RIB 1981, 1982 and 1983) erected by a princeps or acting-commander here, he too may have been acting-commander as well as decurion.

RIB1995 - Dedication to the Emperor’s Victory

VICT
AVG
The Emperor’s Victory.
No commentary.

Camboglanna Today

Castlesteads, Cumbria
The Castlesteads fort lies just south of the line of the Wall above the Cambeck stream in the grounds of Castlesteads House. Visitors to the Castlesteads area will be disappointed if they expect to see any remnant of Hadrian’s Wall thanks to the founding of Lanercost Priory in 1169. This project needed a massive amount of building stone and the Augustinian monks at Lanercost merrily swiped all they required from the Hadrianic rampart wall, leaving not two Roman stones in situ for many miles to east and west. Many of the Castlestead Fort’s stones were also robbed-out to be used in the fabric of the monastic retreat and all of the remaining stones from Wall and Fort were used in the construction of Castlesteads House by a rich merchant in 1779, the fort itself, since it provided a ready-made levelled area was converted into gardens. Nothing now remains to be seen of Camboglanna apart from the south-eastern side of the fort’s construction platform. All traces of the vallum were eradicated at the same time Castlesteads House was built, so, unless you have access to a magnetometric gradiometer you will not be able to see that either.

References for Camboglanna

  • Britannia xxxii (2001) p.333 & fig.12 p.335;
  • 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);
  • The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965).

Roman Roads near Camboglanna

Hadrian’s Wall: W (2.5) to Banks East Wall: E (7.5) to Birdoswald (Birdoswald, Cumbria) Wall: W (8) to Uxelodvnvm (Stanwix, Cumbria) Hadrian’s Wall: W (1.75) to Leahill