Lavatris (Bowes) Fort
Fort and Temple Or Shrine
The Roman name for the Bowes fort is well documented, being recorded in three of the major classical geographical sources. It occurs twice in the Antonine Itinerary, as Lavatris in Iter II (from Hadrians Wall to Richborough in Kent) and as Levatris in Iter V (from London to Carlisle on the Wall), in both cases appearing between the entries for Verteris (Brough Castle, Cumbria) and Cataractonivm (Catterick, North Yorkshire). The distance to Brough Castle is recorded as fourteen Roman miles whereas the distance to Catterick is variously reported as sixteen miles in Iter II and eighteen miles in Iter V.
The name appears as Lauatres in the Notitia Dignitatum, where it is listed among the forces commanded by the ‘Duke of the Britains’, between the entries for Concangis (Chester-le-Street, Durham) and Brough Castle. In the Ravenna Cosmology (R&C#135) it appears as Lavaris, between the entries for Vinovivm (Binchester, Durham) and Catterick.
The Bowes Fort
The only building inscriptions recovered from the Lavatris fort are those of auxiliary regiments, which is unusual because it is thought that all Roman auxiliary forts were built by the highly trained citizen troops of the Roman legions, not by the auxiliary soldiers themselves. In all likelyhood, the absence of any legionary stones at Bowes is probably due to the fact that they still remain to be discovered, perhaps re-used within the walls of one of the old farms in the area.
The Garrison Units
RIB739 - Dedication to the Emperor Hadrian
DIVI NERVAE NEPOTI TRAIA[...]
NO AVG PONTIFICI MAXI[...]
COS I[...] P P COH IIII Ḅ[...]
It is possible, however, that this unit may be identified with the Cohors IIII Breucorum who were known to be the garrison of Vindomora (Ebchester, Durham; RIB 1101) during the Severan campaigns of the early third century.
RIB730 - Altar dedicated to Fortune
LEG AVG PR PR
VM COH I THR
TE VAL FRON
EQ ALAE VETTO
The First Cohort of Thracians is attested on six – possibly seven – inscriptions on stone recovered from the site, two of which have dated to the end of the second century (vide supra) and the beginning of the third (vide infra). The regiment was originally recruited from among the tribes of the Roman province of Thracia, modern Bulgaria.
RIB740 - Inscription
SEVERO PIO PERTINACI
ARAB ADIAB PART MAXI
⟦ET M AVR ANTON PIO AVG⟧
ET ⟦P SEPT GETAE NOB CAES⟧ IVS
SV L ALFENI SENECIONIS LEG
AVGG PR PR COH I THRAC EQ
This auxiliary regiment has also been identified – together with Cohors I Aelia Dacorum – on a building inscription from Camboglanna (Birdoswald, Cumbria; RIB 1909; 205-208AD) that dates to a period concurrent with a stone from Bowes (vide supra); it is possible that the unit was split between the two sites, though it is more likely that the building work here at Lavatris was completed first, and the unit then moved en masse to Birdoswald.
The unit is also attested on an undated building stone from Hadrian’s Wall (Rib 1323), close to milecastle-4 in the centre of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
RIB741 - Building inscription
[...]VS AEM[...]VS [...]
[...]H I Tá¸¤ṚAC[...] INṢ
[...] ❦ FECIT
“The prefect of the Company of Scouts at Lavatris.”
The Numerus Exploratorum were an irregular, part-mounted unit and are recorded only in this single classical reference. Other units of exploratores are known from inscriptions at Bremenivm (High Rochester, Northumberland; RIB 1262) and Habitancvm (Risingham, Northumberland; RIB 1235), and another unit is reported at Portvs Ardaoni (Portchester, Hampshire) in the Notitia.
The Gods of Lavatris
Milestones from the Road West
RIB2281 - Milestone of Carus
P F AVG
“For Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Carus Pius Felix Augustus [Pontifex] Maximus³”
(RIB 2281; milestone; dated: 282-283AD)
- The emperor Florianus was the praetorian commander who took over the empire following the murder of emperor Tacitus in July 276AD, and was to rule for two months and twenty days before being murdered by his own soldiers near Tarsus in September the same year.
- The emperor Probus was the former commander of Rome’s eastern frontier who succeeded Florianus after instigating the military coup which resulted in the latter’s death. He ruled until September 282AD when he was himself murdered by his own soldiers near Sirmium.
- The emperor Carus was the praetorian commander of Probus who succeeded to the empire after engineering the latter’s death. He was “killed by lightning” near Ctesiphon on the banks of the Tigris in July/August 283AD. There is another milestone of Carus near the marching camp at Rey Cross, 5 miles to the west of the Bowes fort.
Excavations at Bowes/Lavatris
NZ993135 – The principia and buildings to the immediate north were examined in 1970 and revealed six phases of development, two in timber and four in stone, the first stone buildings appearing during the Hadrianic period. Other buildings within the central-range of the fort displayed evidence of metal-working during the 3rd century.
References for Lavatris
- Chronicle of the Roman Emperors by Chris Scarre (Thames & Hudson, London, 1995);
- Britannia ii (1971) p.251;
- The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);