Calunium (Lancaster) Fort

Fort

Calunium  is the name of the Roman Fort in Lancaster, also known as Wery WallGalacum, Calunium or Calvnivm , is the modern name given to ruined former Roman fort atop Castle Hill in Lancaster.

Classical references for Calunium

The fourth/fifth century Notitia Dignitatum has an Alione between the entries for Glannoventa (Ravenglass, Cumbria) and Bremetenacvm (Ribchester, Lancashire), while the seventh century Ravenna Cosmography (R&C#112) list a Calunio between Cambodvnvm (Slack, West Yorkshire) and Galava (Ambleside, Cumbria). Considering the placement of these individual entries in their respective itineraries it is possible that the Calunio of the R.C. and the Alione of the ND both refer to the same geographical location, and that the location involved was Roman Lancaster. Epigraphic evidence has been found at Lancaster which may support this premise (see Gods below).

Attention should also be paid to the Roman milestone found four miles to the north-east of Lancaster on the road to Calacvm (Burrow in Lonsdale; RIB 2272), which suggests that the Roman name for Lancaster began with the letter L; perhaps Lunium?

The modern name first appears in the Domesday Book of 1086AD where it appears Loncastre, a compound of a river-name (Welsh/Gaelic possibly meaning ‘healthy, pure’) and Old English cæster or ‘old Roman fort’. The full meaning of the modern name then, is ‘the Roman fort on the River Lune’. It is very likely that the Latin name has the same derivation.

RIB604 - Inscription

To the Emperor Nerva Trajan Caesar Augustus Germanicus Dacicus, consul ... acclaimed Imperator ..
IMP NER[...]
TRAIANO [...]
AVG [...]
C[...]
[...]
For Trajanic inscriptions in the north see RIB 464 (Chester) of A.D. 102-17, and RIB 665 (York) of A.D. 107-8.

That the Lancaster fort had a Flavian (i.e. Agricolan) predecessor, although probable, is not proven. The barrack-blocks of the fort were burnt in late-Hadrianic/early-Antonine times, but the samian pottery record shows uninterrupted coverage from Trajanic and Hadrianic through to Antonine times, and there is nothing to suggest that this particular fire within the Lancaster fort was anything but accidental. There is evidence of rebuilding perhaps during the Severan period, and a later inscription dated to 262-6AD shows that building continued. A large fort is thought to have been built at Lancaster around 343, at the same time as the Saxon Shore Forts were being built in south-east England.

By the fourth century the garrison cavalry unit had been withdrawn and replaced by a smaller infantry batallion, which meant that to make the fort defensible it had to be reduced in size. During this operation the constructors levelled the site then dug-out the defensive ditch for the new fort, cutting through the ruins of the old bath-house as they did so (vide summus).

The Numismatic Evidence

A large number of coins have been recovered from the Lancaster environs; 64 during excavations in the late 1920’s, 272 from casual finds and another 34 from the Mitchell’s Brewery excavation of 1988; a total of 370 Roman coins, of which 42 are silver denominations, the remaining all being copper issues. The coins range from republican silver issues (pre 44BC) to those of Honorius (Imp. 395-423AD).

The Garrison Units of Calunium

RIB605 - Inscription

[For the Emperor ... Postumus ...] on account of the bath-house rebuilt and the basilica restored from ground-level, when fallen in through age, for the troopers of the Sebosian Cavalry Regiment, Postumus' Own, under Octavius Sabinus, of senatorial rank, our governor, and under the charge of Flavius Ammausius, prefect of cavalry dedicated on August 22nd in the consulship of Censor and Lepidus, both for the second time.
[...]
[...] BALINEVM REFECT
[...] BASILICAM VETVSTATE CONLABSVM
A SOLO RESTITVTAM EQ ALAE SEBVSSIAN
[...][...]V[...]Í¡AÍ¡E SVB OCTAVIO SABINO V C
PRAESIDE N CVRANTE FLA AMMAV
SIO PRAEF EQ DD XI KAL SEPTEM
CENSORE II ET LEPIDO II COS
22 August of some year between a.d. 262 and 266 (incl.). This pair of consuls belonged to the Gallic Empire (Birley, Cumb. Westm. AAST 2nd Ser. 36 (1936) 5). Addenda from RIB+add. (1995): The archaeological context is discussed by Shotter in Jones and Shotter, Roman Lancaster (1988), 208-11 with Pl. 31. For a leaden sealing and stamped tiles of the ala Sebosiana at Lancaster, see RIB 2411.88 and RIB 2465.1-2.

The Sebusiani or Segusiani were a people who lived in the Loire valley of Gaul, and are mentioned by Caesar in his Gallic Wars (book I, chap.10), also by the historian Pliny (book IV, c.18). This unit are also attested at Lancaster on undated lead sealing (RIB 2411.88; not shown) and tiles also undated (RIB 2465.2; also not shown). Of particular note is the altar dedicated by an ex Decurion (vide RIB 600 infra) and the undated tombstone of a cavalryman (vide infra), both of which may represent men serving in this unit.

RIB606 - Funerary inscription for Lucius Julius Apollinaris

To the spirits of the departed: Lucius Julius Apollinaris, a Treveran, ... aged 30, trooper of the Cavalry Regiment Augusta, lies buried here.
DIS MANI
BVS
L IVL APOL
LINARIS
TREVER AN
XXX EQ AL
AE AV[...]
H [   ]
6, 7.  Huebner says this was not ala Sebosiana, though a Trever probably belonged to a Gallic contingent. West suggests ala Augusta, and Watkin inclines to agree. Birley (Cumb. Westm. AAST 2nd Ser. xlvi (1946) 136 n.) thinks that the unit was probably ala Afrorum. Addenda from RIB+add. (1995): For the question of which ala Augusta is meant, see Edwards loc. cit.; Breeze, Austen and Breeze, Arch. Ael. 5th Ser. 7 (1979), 119-22; Jones and Shotter, Roman Lancaster (1988), 214-5.

RIB601 - Altar dedicated to Mars

To the god Mars, Sabinus the commander and the men of the unit of lightermen under his command erected (this altar).
DEO
MART[...]
SABINV[...]
PP ET MILIT[...]
N BARC S C EIIVS PO[...]
Sabinus is hardly to be identified with Octavius Sabinus, governor of Britain (RIB 605). Barcarii: Lightermen from the River Tigris; Not. Dign. Occ. xl 22. Addenda from RIB+add. (1995): The unit should not be identified with the Numerus Barcariorum Tigrisiensium: see Shotter, Brit. 4 (1973), 206-9, who notes (from Mann) ILS 9227, an eq(ues) al(a)e ... magi(s)ter barcarioru(m).

An altarstone, the text of which is given above, was found three miles (5km) upstream of the Calunium fort; undated, the style and lettering suggests the third century. The function of this irregular unit was probably military as well as naval, being in effect, marines. There was also a Numerus Barcariorum Tigrisiensium stationed at Arbeia (South Shields, Tyne & Wear) and reported in the Notitia Dignitatum.

Cohors Tertiae Nerviorum – The Third Cohort of Nervians

Tribunus cohortis tertiae Neruiorum, Alione

“The tribune of the Third Cohort of Nervians at Alione.”

(Notitia Dignitatum xl.53; 4th/5th C.)

If we accept that the Lancaster fort should be identified with the Alione entry in the Notitia Dignitatum (vide supra), then this document provides us with the name of the fourth-century garrison, the Fourth Cohort of Nervians. This five-hundred strong infantry regiment were recruited from among the men of the Nervii tribe from central Belgica.

RIB608 - Inscription

No translation

SERVIVS VALERIVS
CENTVRIO [...]
[...]
Haverfield regards the reading as corrupt. Addenda from RIB+add. (1995): Delete. It was a pipeclay(?) figurine (now RIB 2456.8).

The Gods of Calunium

RIB602 - Altar dedicated to Mars Cocidius

To the holy god Mars Cocidius Vibenius Lucius, beneficiarius of the governor, willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow.
DEO
SANCTO MARTI
COCIDIO VIBENIVS
LVCIVS BF COS
V S L M
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.

Five Roman altarstones have been recovered from Lancaster, one dedicated to the Roman war god Mars (vide RIB 601 supra), another to Mars Cocidius a conflation of the classical god and a popular Germanic god of war (vide supra), and one also to the iron-age god Ialanus (vide infra). The inscriptions on the remaining two altarstones are totally undecipherable (RIB 603 et 607; not shown).

The River-God Ialanus

The altarstone RIB 600, the text and translation of which is shown above, possibly provides evidence which supports the identification of Lancaster with the Calunio entry of the Ravenna Cosmography. The similarity between the words Ialanus and the Aliona of the Notitia Dignitatum should also be noted.

It is very likely that Ialanus, the ‘most sacred and inimical god’ referred to on this stone, was a river-god, the same river-god who has lent his name over the years to this beautiful place at the mouth of the River Lune.

Other Roman Inscriptions from the Neighbourhood

The Ashton-with-Stodday Roman Milestones

IMP C M IVL PHILIPPO PIO FEL AVG N:

“For Imperator Caesar Marcus Julius Phillipus Pius Felix, our Augustus.¹”

IMP C D N GAIO MESSIO QVINTO DECIO TRAIANO PIO FELICI INVICTO AVG:

“For our lord Imperator Caesar Gaius Messius Quintus Decius Trajanus Pius Felix Invictus Augustus.²”

IMP C M IVL PHILIPPO PIO FEL AVG N:

(RIB 2270; dated: 244-249AD)

IMP C D N GAIO MESSIO QVINTO DECIO TRAIANO PIO FELICI INVICTO AVG:

(RIB 2271; dated: 249-251AD)

  1. Philip the Arab, the praetorian commander of the 19 year old emperor Gordian III, who became emperor in February 244AD after the soldiers chose him in preference to Gordian, who was then executed. Philip was killed in battle at Beroea in Macedonia sometime during Sept/Oct 249AD.
  2. The emperor Decius, who succeeded Philip the Arab following his death in battle, and was himself killed in battle against the Goths at Abrittus in Moesia some 20 months later in June 251.

In addition to the epigraphic evidence from the environs of Lancaster itself, two milestones or honorific pillars both dated to the mid-third century have been discovered near Ashton with Stodday, about 3 miles south of Lancaster beside the Roman road to Walton-le-Dale; these are both shown above. Also, there is a suspected Romano-British shrine at Cockersand Moss, about seven miles south-south-west of Lancaster at the mouth of the River Lune.

References for Calvnivm?

  • The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);
  • Roman Coins from North-West England by David Shotter (Lancaster 1990) pp.14-20.

Roman Roads near Calvnivm?

NE (4) to Caton NE (12) to Calacvm (Burrow in Lonsdale, Lancashire) S (21) to Walton Le Dale (Lancashire)