Cataractonivm

Fort, Marching or Temporary Camps and Town

Cataractonium – The Town of the Waterfall

Catterick N. Yorks. Katouraktonion c.150, Catrice 1086 ( DB ). From Latin cataracta 'waterfall', though said to be through a misunderstanding of the original place-name which is supposed to mean '(place of) battle ramparts'.” (Mills, p.73)

Catterick is named in three out of the four main Geographia; Ptolemy's Geography lists the entry Caturactonium between Vinovivm (Binchester, Durham) and Calacvm (Burrow in Lonsdale, Lancashire), while the Ravenna Cosmology (R&C#136) has the entry Cactabactonion between Lavatris (Bowes, Durham) and Ebvracvm (York, East Yorkshire).

The name also occurs no less than three times in the Antonine Itinerary;

  • Iter I – appearing as Cataractoni, 12 miles from Vinovium and 24 miles from Isvrivm (Aldborough, North Yorkshire).
  • Iter II – as Cataractone, 16 miles from Lavatris and again 24 miles from Isurium.
  • Iter V (a reverse of Iter II from London) – again as Cataractone, though in this itinerary the distance to Lavatris is reported as 18 miles, and Aldborough is referred by its full name Isurium Brigantum.

The Catterick Fort

OS National Grid Reference: SE225992
Dimensions: c.440 x 440 ft? (c.135 x 135 m?)
Area: c.4½ acres (c.1.8 ha)

… The land rises at the west end of the site to a platform of high ground near Thornbrough farm … It is unlikely that the crossing of the Swale by a Roman trunk-road would be left unguarded, but excavation alone can reveal whether this 4½-acre platform was the site of an early fort. This conjecture receives support from the street-plan just described, from which it is clear that Leeming Lane came before the town. The east to west street and the south wall are parallel, but at a little distance west of Leeming Lane this street bends northwards in a course that would bring it along the centre of the platform by Thornbrough farm. …” (J.R.S., 1953, p.90)

The Roman fort at Catterick was likely founded during the early A.D. 70's, when governor Quintus Petillius Cerialis dealt with the recently revolutionary faction of the Brigantes led by Venutius, the estranged husband of the ageing Brigantian queen Cartimandua. At the very latest, the fort must have been in place by 79, in order to guard the northern supply route of Agricola's Scottish campaigns. After an undetermined period of neglect, it would appear that the fort was recommissioned during the administration of Gnaeus Julius Verus in the aftermath of the Brigantian revolt of A.D. 155, at which time the Antonine Wall – completed a mere thirteen years previously – was abandoned and the troops pulled back to Hadrian's Wall in order to contain the unruly Brigantes.

The Garrison Units

Although no unit has been positively identified at Catterick, undated tiles found at Bainesse nearby, stamped BSAR (RIB 2479), have been tentatively identified with the above-named unit, which were known to have been stationed at Bremetenacvm (Ribchester, Lancashire; RIB 583; 238-44AD) in the mid-third century.

The Gods of Cataractonium

RIB727 - Altar dedicated to Vheteris

DEO SA
NCTO V
HETERI
PRO SAL
AVR MVCI
ANI V S L M
To the holy god Vheteris for the welfare of Aurelius Mucianus, (who) willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow.
No commentary.

RIB726 - Altar dedicated to Suria

DEAE
SVRIA
E ARA
G N O
BF
To the goddess Suria Gaius N(...) O(...), beneficiarius, (set up this) altar.
A beneficiarius was a soldier, usually a legionary, seconded for special duties by favour (beneficium) of a specific senior officer; in particular the beneficiarius consularis, an officer on the governor’s staff, who might be out-posted.

The Suspected Classical Temple

A low stone podium, in form rather like the known classical temples at Corbridge, lies on the junction of the main east-west street (with the main north-west street?) in the centre of the town. Constructed sometime in the early-3rd century. There appears to be a water cistern at one corner of the building. (Lewis 1966)

The Civil Settlement

The Roman town had the beginnings of a grid-like pattern of streets, but seems to have been only partially completed, and many of the insulae thus delineated were irregularly subdivided by smaller lanes.

Early occupation deposits of the town yielded the remains of wallnuts, an exotic tree not indigenous to these islands, and therefore probably cultivated. The walnut orchard seems to have failed early on, however, as the walnuts are absent from later deposits.

It is possible that Cataractonium boasted a theatre of some sort, as a ceramic, parti-coloured theatrical mask has been recovered from the ruins of the Roman town, though this may represent part of the collection of an ardent theatre-goer, or equally, may have belonged to a travelling dramatic group who could perform in any open space.

A superb example of Roman structural ironwork was found at Catterick, in the form of an iron beam sixty-eight inches (2 metres) in length, which was used to support a hot-water tank over a furnace in the bath-house. Another of these beams, sixty-four inches in length, has been found in the bath-house at Chedworth villa.

Beneficiarius Consularis

RIB725 - Altar dedicated to an unnamed god

DEO QVI VIAS
ET SEMITAS COM
MENTVS EST T AVR
DASSO S C F V L L M
Q VARIVS VITA
LIS F COS ARAM
SACRAM RESTI
TVIT
APRONIANO ET BRA
DVA COS
To the god who devised roads and paths Titus Aurelius Dasso, singularis consularis, gladly, willingly, and deservedly fulfilled his vow Quintus Varius Vitalis, beneficiarius of the governor, restored this sacred altar in the consulship of Apronianus and Bradua.
1–3.  Bücheler (Carm. Epigr. no. 25) observes that ll. 1-3, deo … est, contain a senarius, though perhaps not intended to be metrical. 3–4.  T. Irdas: Holder cites no other instance of a cognomen Irdas. The reading fails to provide a nomen, though Huebner interprets t as T(erentius). Yet Irdas remains so odd as to suggest that the letters are incorrectly recorded. For singularis consularis and beneficiarius see Glossary. Addenda from RIB+add. (1995): Camden’s reading is confirmed by an independent transcript in York Minster Library (Brit. xiv (1983), 349).

A Beneficiarius was an orderly who was assigned to a senior officer, and functioned as his aide rather than a personal servant and extracted from amongst the legionary troops. They were given administrative commands, mainly in quasi-military or civilian posts, such as organising the policing of a district, exacting customs duties and collecting taxes. There were also beneficiarii serving on each ship in the Roman navy, where they undertook the administrative duties for their vessel, and were third in command after the Optio and the Centurion. Their seniority when conducting official business depended on the rank of the officer they served, the highest of them being the consular governor of the province, a Beneficiarius Consularis.

The insignia of a Beneficiarius Consularis is depicted on an altar dedicated by one Tertinius Severus, a man of this rank serving in Legio VIII Augusta,¹ it consists of a disk with two circular holes pierced by a projecting spike.

  1. CIL, xiii, 7731; the stone now resides in the Musée de Liège.

BFC's Identified in Britain

Calvnivm
Lancaster, Lancashire; RIB 602; altar to Mars Cocidius by Vibenius Rufus.
Cataractonium
Catterick, North Yorkshire; RIB 725; altar by Quintus Varius Vitalis, dated 191AD vide supra.
Greta Bridge
North Yorkshire; RIB 745; altar by [G]ellinus?, BFCos of Britannia Superior.
Vinovivm
Binchester, Durham; RIB 1030 et 1031. ???
Longovicivm
Lanchester, Durham; RIB 1085; pedestal of altar to Silvanus, dedicated by Marcus Didius Provincialis.
Habitancvm
Risingham, Northumberland; RIB 1225; altar to Mogons by Gaius Secundinus, BFCos of Habitancum.
Vercovicivm
Housesteads, Northumberland; RIB 1599; altar to Sol Invictus & Mithras, by Litorius Pacatianus.
Vindolanda
Chesterholm, Northumberland; RIB 1696; altar to Silvanus by Marcus Aurelius Modestus of the Second Augustan Legion, BFCos in Britannia Superior.

The Catterick Marching Camp

There is a marching camp at Catterick Bridge (SE2399), between the River Swale and Catterick Racecourse, and partially obliterated by the latter.

References for Cataractonivm

Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names by A.D. Mills (Oxford 1998); 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); Air Reconnaissance of Southern Britain by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. xliii (1953) pp.81-97; Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names by A.D. Mills (Oxford 1998); 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); Air Reconnaissance of Southern Britain by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. xliii (1953) pp.81-97; Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names by A.D. Mills (Oxford 1998); 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); Air Reconnaissance of Southern Britain by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. xliii (1953) pp.81-97; Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names by A.D. Mills (Oxford 1998); 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); Air Reconnaissance of Southern Britain by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. xliii (1953) pp.81-97;

Map References for Cataractonivm

NGRef: SE2299 OSMap: LR99

Roman Roads near Cataractonivm

NW (6) to Carkin Moor Dere Street: N (11) to Piercebridge (Durham) NW (13) to Greta Bridge (Durham) Possible road: WSW (10) to Wensley (North Yorkshire) SSE (24) to Isvrivm (Aldborough, North Yorkshire)