Castlecary Fort

Antonine Wall Fort and Fort

The Romans first built a camp here possibly during the fourth campaign season of governor Agricola around 81AD. Evidence of this period comes in the form of first-century glass and samian pottery, first-century bronze coins and ‘pre-Hadrianic’ pottery. Emplacements for the use of ballistae, onagri and other such Roman artillery have been identified within the ramparts.

Within the ramparts the Antonine fort at Castlecary measures 455 feet from WSW to ENE by 350 feet transversely (139 x 107 m) enclosing an area of 3½ acres (c.1.4 ha). The fort rampart was constructed of stone, unlike the turf-built Wall itself, the footings of which were 8 ft. (2.4 m) wide, set upon a foundation of boulders 9 ft wide and up to 3 ft deep (2.7 x 0.9 m).

Excavated in 1902, the Castlecary fort was one of several – including Balmuildy and Rough Castle – which were found to show signs of devastation during the middle of the second century.

The Epigraphic Evidence

RIB2156 - Centurial stone of Antonius Aratus

From the sixth cohort, the century of Antonius Aratus (built this).
CHO VI
𐆛 ANTO
ARATI
No commentary.

Roman Legionary Forces Attested at Castlecary

RIB2146 - Altar dedicated to Fortuna

To Fortune detachments of the Second Legion Augusta and Sixth Legion Victrix Pia Fidelis gladly and willingly set this up.
FORTVNAE
VEXILLA
TIONES
LEG II AVG
LEG VI VIC
P F P L L
No commentary.

RIB2148 - Altar dedicated to Mercury

To the god Mercury soldiers of the Sixth Legion Victrix Pia Fidelis, being citizens of Italy and Noricum, set up this shrine and statuette, gladly, willingly, and deservedly fulfilling their vow.
DEO
MERCVRIO
MILITES LEG VI
VICTRICIS PIE F
ED ET SIGILLVM
CIVES ITALICI
ET NORICI
V S L L M
6.  This late appearance of Italian soldiers serving in a legion is noteworthy. For further comment see Birley, Festschrift 1 (1952) i 178. Addenda from RIB+add. (1995): Mann has suggested (Hermes 91 (1963), 487-8) that the unusual combination of cives Italici et Norici indicates a detachment of Legion II Italica, which was recruited from Italians in 165 and then stationed in Noricum. The problem is that the Antonine Wall is now thought to have been abandoned in the early 160s.

RIB2151 - Dedication to an unknown god or goddess

Gaius Julius Speratus, by tribe a Mattiacan, ... of the Sixth Legion Victrix Pia Fidelis, gladly, willingly, and deservedly fulfilled his vow.
G IVL SP[...]
RATVS N
MAT VE[.]
LEG VI V [...]
F
V S L L M
No commentary.

RIB2151 - Dedication to an unknown god or goddess

Gaius Julius Speratus, by tribe a Mattiacan, ... of the Sixth Legion Victrix Pia Fidelis, gladly, willingly, and deservedly fulfilled his vow.
G IVL SP[...]
RATVS N
MAT VE[.]
LEG VI V [...]
F
V S L L M
No commentary.

RIB2149 - Altar dedicated to Neptune

To the god Neptune the First Loyal Cohort of Vardullians, Roman citizens, part-mounted, a thousand strong, (set this up) under the command of Trebius Verus, the prefect.
DEO
NEPTVNO
COHORS I
FID VARDVL
C R EQ ↀ
CVI PRAEST
TREBIVS
VERVS PR
AEF
It is rare for a milliary cohort to be commanded by a prefect; cf. RIB 2104 (Birrens). Addenda from RIB+add. (1995): Note that both the milliary Tungrian cohorts were regularly commanded by prefects at Housesteads, Castlesteads and Birrens, the likeliest explanation being that they were each divided: see Davies, PSAS 108 (1976-7), 168-73; Speidel, Brit. 12 (1981), 11. The prefect may be the [...] Verus who commanded the cohort at the time of the fragmentary Colchester diploma (RIB 2401.12), issued perhaps in A.D. 159. See Roxan's discussion there and in Brit. 11 (1980), 335-7, and Birley Fasti, 121-3 and Rom. Govt. Brit., 151.

RIB2154 - Fragmentary dedication

No translation

[...]HBAT
This has been interpreted as co]h(ors) Bat(avorum). Cohors I Batavorum is known at Carrawburgh and Carvoran, on Hadrian's Wall, but the omission of the numeral is unusual and throws doubt on the accuracy of the reading R.P.W.

RIB2155 - Honorific Building Inscription of the First Cohort of Tungrians

For the Emperor Caesar Titus Aelius Antoninus Augustus Pius, father of his country, the First Cohort of Tungrians, a thousand strong, built this.
IMP CAES T AEL ANT
AVG PIO P P
COH I TVNGRO
RVM FECIT ↀ
In l. 4 the sign for one thousand has been interpreted to mean that this unit built 1,000 feet (or paces) of the work. It is more likely to be the epithet milliaria, qualifying cohors; normally it would precede fecit. The inscription probably belonged to an important building.

The Gods of Roman Castlecary

RIB2147 - Altar dedicated to the Mother Goddesses

To the Mother Goddesses the soldiers of a detachment (or detachments) ..
MATRIB
MILITES
VEXILL[...]IO
[...]
The Earl of Wigton also had from Castlecary the lower part of an altar (RIB 2152) which Sibbald thought was part of the same inscription. Horsley, however, examined them carefully and concluded that they came from separate inscriptions. As the original stones are lost, it seems better to accept Horsley rather than Sibbald.

RIB2152 - Fragmentary dedication

... Britons ... gladly, willingly, and deservedly paid the vow.
BRITTON
V S L L M
Horsley thought that it did not belong to RIB 2147 (see this for discussion).It is highly unlikely that the Brittones, in whatever case they were mentioned, belonged to a unit serving in this province (see S. N. Miller, Roman Occupation of S. W. Scotland 217 n. 2), but Brittones were levied in the north and this text may have something to do with officials connected with them (cf. CIL xiii 6592, ILS 9184).

Material Evidence from Castlecary

The Dateable Pottery Evidence

The pottery recovered from the site implies (sporadic?) occupation from Flavian to Antonine times. There are two notable pieces of first-century decorated ware; a fragment with ovulo of a type also found at Pompeii and dated c.75-90AD, also a fragment with a ‘trident tongue’ design dated c.90-110. A piece of samian ware of Form 27 bears the stamp of the Flavian-Trajanic potter L. Ter- Sec-. There are examples of nine Antonine potters stamps: Draucus on a piece of Form 31, and eight Form 33 sherds by the potters Aestivus, Albinus, Cintusmus, Cracuna, Priscus, Sacirapo, Cadgatus and Libertus; the last two potters were formerly identified as Flavian.

The Numismatic Evidence

Only seven coins have been recovered from Castlecary, a denarius of Mark Antony, an as of Nero, 2 denarii of Trajan and 3 coins of Hadrian.

Other Notable Finds

Fragments of a straight Roman military trumpet known as a tuba have been found within the confines of the Castlecary defences. The conical tube of thinly-worked bronze had almost completely fragmented, but the much thicker metal in the bronze mouthpiece survived.

Classical References to Castlecary (Pexa?)

The Seventh century Ravenna Cosmography, a document compiled by an Italian monk using earlier military records, lists ten names of forts “joined together along a straight track where Britain is at its very thinnest from ocean to ocean”. If  we only include forts in excess of 2 acres in size (including eliminating forts beyond the Wall plus Falkirk and Inveravon, then the Latin name for Castlecary would be Pexa.

References for Castlecary

  • The Roman Wall in Scotland by Sir George MacDonald (Oxford, 2nd Ed. 1934) pp.241-252;
  • The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);
  • The Roman Occupations of Scotland by B.R. Hartley in Britannia iii (1972) pp.1-55;
  • Britannia xiv (1983) p.288; A Survey of the Coin Finds from the Antonine Wall by Richard Abdy in Britannia xxxiii (2002) pp.189-217.

Roman Roads near Castlecary

Antonine Wall: E (2.25) to Seabegs (Central) Antonine Wall: W (2.5) to Westerwood (Strathclyde)