Portus Lemanis

Fort, Port and Probable Settlement

Not one of the original Claudian bridgeheads, but possibly an important safe-harbour on the perilous journey along the South coast of Britain to Vectis (Isle of Wight) and the Claudian port at Noviomagus (Chichester, Sussex). Also further round the coast to the Cornish Tin-mining centre at Ictis (St. Michael’s Mount). The ancient iron-mining district of the South Downs lay to the west of the port, and it is possible – though not proven – that these industries were administrated from Dover nearby.

Entries in the Classical Geographies

The Roman name for the Lympne fort is first mentioned in the Antonine Itinerary in the late-second century. The Fourth Itinerary of this work is entitled “the route from Londinium to the port of Lemanis – sixty-eight thousand paces”. The entry Portus Lemanis is listed in Iter IV sixteen miles from the cantonal capital of Cantium at Durovernum (Canterbury, Kent).

Lympne next appears in the Notitia Dignitatum of the late-fourth century, under the direct command of “the Count of the Saxon Shore in Britain”. In this document, the entry for Lemannis is listed between the entries for the other Saxon Shore forts at Dubris (Dover, Kent) and Branodunum (Brancaster, Norfolk). The full N.D. entry is shown below.

The last classical geography to mention the Saxon Shore fort at Lympne is the Ravenna Cosmology (R&C#70) compiled in the seventh century. This document records the name as Lemanis between the entries for Dover and an unidentified station named Mutuantonis.

The Military Units of Lemannis

RIB66 - Altar dedicated to Neptune

[...]PTV[...]
ARAM
L AVFIDIVS
PANTERA
PRAEFECT
CLAS BRIT
To Neptune, Lucius Aufidius Pantera, prefect of the British Fleet, (set up this) altar.
For L. Aufidius Panthera see CIL iii p. 1978 = CIL xvi dipl. 76, Stein in PIR² no. 1391. Starr dates this about a.d. 135.

Numerus Turnacensium – The Company of Turnacenses

Praepositus numeri Turnacensium, Lemannis

“The Leader of the Company of Turnacenses at [Portus] Lemannis.”

(Notitia Dignitatum xxviii.15; 4th/5th C.)

The ‘Saxon Shore’ Fort

Lympne (Fig. 11c) is to-day chiefly remarkable for its ruined condition; huge fragments of its walls lie scattered at various angles, many yards away from their original positions, owing to the slipping of the wet clayey ground. The walls are 14 feet thick and stand in places 23 feet high ; they have tile bonding-courses and cylindrical bastions with chambers inside them. The main gate is 11 feet wide, with projecting towers, and there are several posterns. The shape is an irregular pentagon and the area between 9 and 10 acres.” (Collingwood, p.53)

References for Portvs Lemanis

  • The Cantiaci by Alec detsicas (Sutton, London, 1987);
  • The Romans in Britain – An Anthology of Inscriptions by A.R. Burn (Blackwell, Oxford, 1969);
  • 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;
  • The Archaeology of Roman Britain by R.G. Collingwood (1930).

Map References for Portvs Lemanis

NGRef: TR1134 OSMap: LR179/189

Roman Roads near Portvs Lemanis

N (14) to Dvrovernvm Possible Coastal Road: W (8) to Folkestone (Kent) Probable Road: SW (36) to Hastings (East Sussex) WNW (26) to Maidstone (Kent) Trackway: ENE (13) to Portvs Dvbris (Dover, Kent)