Mumrills Fort

Fort and Marching or Temporary Camps

Mumrills is the largest known fort on the Antonine Wall, measuring internally 577 ft. east-west by 492 ft. north-south (c.176 x 150 m), with an occupation area just over 6½ acres (c.2.6 ha). There were three or four ditches on the west, two on the east, a single ditch to the south and the rampart wall formed the northern defences of the fort which was here built upon a stone base or ‘cradle’ 15 feet (c.4.6 m) wide, faced at front with blocks of clay and at the rear with rammed-earth; the ramparts of the fort itself were built of laminated layers of clay blocks set upon a stone raft about 12½ ft. (3.8 m) wide.

First-century bronze coins – usually in circulation for only a short period – have been turned up at Mumrills, along with pre-Hadrianic pottery. Though unsupported by structural evidence, these finds may indicate that the site was first occupied by the Roman military during the campaigns of governor Agricola sometime around 81AD. This hypothesis cannot currently be proven.

There are two temporary marching camps nearby at Little Kerse (NS9478) and Polmonthill (NS9478), and another close by the Mumrills fort (NS9279; vide infra), and at least two others further east at Inveravon (NS9679).

The Suspected Marching Camp at Mumrills

On the highest point of the ridge that runs east from the fort at Mumrills, and 500 ft. from the fort, a small camp has been identified (NS 920793). The south side has been eroded but the whole of the north side and most of the east and west sides remain, with a gate in each. The camp measures 140 ft. from east to west ; it may well have been a practice work.” (St. Joseph, 1958)

Epigraphic Evidence from the Mumrills Fort

Three inscriptions on stone are recorded in the R.I.B. for Mumrills, all of which are shown and translated on this page.

RIB2140 - Altar dedicated to Hercules Magusanus

Sacred to Hercules Magusanus: Valerius Nigrinus, duplicarius of the Cavalry Regiment of Tungrians, (set this up).
HERCVLI
MAGVSAN
SACRVM
VAL NIGRI
NVS DVPLI
ALAE TVN
GRORVM
3. Damaged leaf-stop before sacrvm, Stuart, R.P.W.For Hercules Magusanus cf. CIL vi 31162 (ILS 2188); CIL xiii 8492 (ILS 4630) Deutz; CIL xiii 8610, xiii 8705 (ILS 4629), CIL xiii 8771, xiii 8777 Batavi; CIL xiii 8010 Bonn; CIL xiii 10027, 212 ring.5. A duplicarius, duplarius or duplaris was soldier receiving twice the basic rate of pay, in particular the second-in-command of a turma

This stone was found in Polmont,1.6 km. south east of Mumrills fort, when constructing the Edinburgh-Glasgow Railway. The Latin of this inscription reads:

HERCVLI MAGVSAN SACRVM VAL NIGRINVS DVPLI ALAE TVNGRORVM

(RIB 2140; altarstone)

For which there are two variant translations:

“To holy Hercules Magusan¹ of Volitanio, Nigrinus Duplicarius² of the [First] Tungrian Wing³ [dedicates this].”

OR

“To holy Hercules Magusan,¹ Valerius Nigrinus, Duplicarius² of the [First] Tungrian Wing³ [dedicates this].”

For which there are two variant translations:

“To holy Hercules Magusan¹ of Volitanio, Nigrinus Duplicarius² of the [First] Tungrian Wing³ [dedicates this].”

OR

“To holy Hercules Magusan,¹ Valerius Nigrinus, Duplicarius² of the [First] Tungrian Wing³ [dedicates this].”

  1. Hercules or Herakles was a Greek hero and minor deity immortalized by the Olympian gods. The surname Magusan is unknown elsewhere in Britain, and is possibly the name of a Gallo-Belgic minor deity possessing the same qualities as his heroic Greek counterpart.
  2. A duplicarius was a long-serving trooper on double salary.
  3. The Ala Primae Tungrorum were a five-hundred strong auxiliary cavalry unit recruited from among the Tungri tribesmen of eastern Belgica. They were probably the first unit to be stationed here.

RIB2141 - Altar dedicated to the Mother Goddesses

Cassius, standard-bearer, to the Mother Goddesses [..
CASSIVS
SIGN
MATRIBVS
[...]
Since the dedicator is a signifer and Mumrills held a cavalry-garrison the Matres concerned may well have been the Campestres (see Domaszewski Religion 50).

RIB2142 - Funerary inscription for Nectovelius

To the spirits of the departed Nectovelius, son of Vindex, aged 29, of 9 years' service, a Brigantian by tribe, served in the Second Cohort of Thracians.
DIS M NECTOVELIVS F
VINDICIS AN IXXX
STIP VIIII NAT
IONIS BRIGANS
MILITAVIT IN
COH II THR
The Synopsis (1849), followed by Cat. (1892), says that this stone was found on the line of the Wall near Falkirk, and was presented in 1781 by James Colquhoun. But as the Minutes of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland for 1781 state that the inscription presented by this donor was of white marble, and in describing its origin make no mention of the Antonine Wall, it seems likely that in compiling the Synopsis a mistake was made in associating this text with the gift of 1781. (Mr. R. B. K. Stevenson kindly provided details from the Minutes.)D. Thomson, who edited the second edition of Stuart's Caledonia Romana (1852), on p. 358 n. states that this stone was found in 1834 beneath an imported quern-stone and in that year was presented by Sir Thomas Livingstone, Bart. Although the Minutes for 1834 and the printed list of donations for 1830-51 do not record this gift, it seems best to accept the record of Thomson with its circumstantial detail. Addenda from RIB+add. (1995): The formula dis m is uncommon, and of the other four instances, two or three (RIB 495, 619 and 621) are probably early second-century, but the fourth (RIB 1747) cannot be dated. E. Birley has argued (in Mavors iv, 300) that this epitaph is pre-Hadrianic, i.e. c. A.D. 100, but the chronology is difficult.

Roman Finds and Dating Evidence

During excavations over the years at the Mumrills fort a number of animal bones have been uncovered, including those of Ox, Sheep, Pig, Red Deer and Wolf; the latter animal very likely being hunted and killed for sport and as a means of pest control. The soldiers’ diet was also augmented by shellfish, as evidenced by shells of Oyster and Whelk found in quantity.

There is plenty of evidence to support an occupation during the Antonine period in the form of pottery bearing the stamps of Creciro Form 31 late-Hadrianic, Avitus Form 31 c.125-145AD, Calvinus Form 31 early/mid-Antonine, and the stamps of 39 other Antonine potters.

In all, 39 coins have been recovered form the environs of the Mumrills fort, ranging from 2 denarii of Mark Antony to a single denarius of Faustina II dated c.161-75AD, also including 10 coins of Hadrian, 7 of Antoninus Pius, 5 of Trajan and another 5 unclassified.

Classical References for Volitanio

The Roman name of the fort is Volitanio identified because Volitanio is the first main fort on the list of names along the Antonine wall starting at Carriden and supported by the inscription below. For more on the naming of forts along the Antonine wall see Saint Patrick’s birthplace & the names of the Roman forts along the Antonine Wall.

References for Volitanio

  • The Roman Wall in Scotland by Sir George MacDonald (Oxford, 2nd Ed. 1934) pp.194-214;
  • Air Reconnaissance in Britain, 1955-7 by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. xlviii (1958) p.89;
  • The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);
  • The Roman Military Diet by R.W. Davies, in Britannia II (1971) pp.122-142;
  • 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 Volitanio

Antonine Wall: W (2.25) to Falkirk (Central) Antonine Wall: E (4) to Kinneil (Central)