Vindobala/vindovala

Fort, Minor Settlement, Temple Or Shrine and Wall Fort

Vindobala – 'White Strength'

The Romano-British name for the Rudchester fort is recorded in two of the major classical geographical works, the Notitia Dignitatum of the late-fourth/early-fifth centuries and the Ravenna Cosmography (R&C#145) of the seventh century. In these documents the name is recorded as Uindobala and Vindovala respectively, and in both cases the name appears between the entries for the neighbouring Wall forts at Condercum (Benwell, Tyne & Wear) and Onnum (Halton Chesters, Northumberland).

The fort itself covers an area of about 4½ acres (c.1.8 ha), measuring 515 feet north-south by 385 feet east-west (157 x 117 m), and has a standard 'playing-card' outline. The praetentura of the fort is positioned forward of the line of the Wall, with both ends of the via principalis opening out onto the north side. Excavation has outlined a tumultuous history for the fort; towards the end of the second century it was burned to the ground and was rebuilt shortly afterwards only to be abandoned a century later, the defences were later restored (c.370AD) and the fort reoccupied until the end of Roman rule in Britain at the beginning of the fifth century.

The Roman Military at Vindobala

RIB1398 - Altar dedicated to Mithras

DEO
L SENTIVS
CASTVS
LEG VI D P
To the God, Lucius Sentius Castus, (centurion) of the Sixth Legion, set this up as a gift.
Birley observes that ‘the greatest concentration of Casti and Castae is to be found in CIL viii’, and by ‘preference would assign an African origin to the centurion’.

During excavations over the years at Rudchester a number of animal bones have been uncovered which give some indication to the varied diet enjoyed by the soldiers stationed here. The remains included those of Ox, Sheep, Pig and Red Deer; the latter animal very likely being hunted and killed for sport and to supplement the military diet. In addition, Oysters were recovered from the site, also Edible Snails.

Centurial Stones From Rudchester

COH VIIII > PEDI QVI
COH VI > APRILIS
> ARRI
[>] NEMI
“The Ninth Cohort, century of Quintus Pedius.”
“The sixth Cohort, century of Aprilis.”
“The century of Arrius [built this].”
“[The century] of Nemius.¹”
(RIB 1400)
(RIB 1401)
(RIB 1402)
(RIB 1403)
  1. The reading of this stone is uncertain.

Cohors Primae Frisiavonum – The First Cohort of Frisiavones

Tribunus cohortis primae Frixagorum, Uindobala
“The tribune of the First Cohort of Frisians at Vindobala.”
(Notitia Dignitatum xl.36; 4th/5th C.)

The Notitia Dignitatum tells us that the fourth century garrison at Vindobala was Cohors I Frisiavonum, who were recruited from a tribe inhabiting what is now The Netherlands. It is thought that this unit were numbered among the large auxiliary force which accompanied governor Petilius Cerealis to Britain in 71AD. The unit appears to have remained stationed at the Rudchester fort for the majority of Roman rule in Britain.

The Gods of Roman Rudchester

The Vindobala Mithraeum

  1. This inscription bears the names of the gods from four different theologies, respectively; Roman, Greek, Germanic and Persian.

The only deity positively attested at Rudchester is Mithras, the Persian sun god, who was also worshipped by the Romans as Apollo or Sol (the sun). There are three texts on stone listed in the R.I.B. which bear his name, and he is inferred on another (vide Legio VI Victrix supra); all of these inscriptions are reproduced above. Also of interest is a dedicatory inscription to an unknown god (vide infra).

RIB1399 - Fragmentary dedication

[...]VLIVS [...]
[...]OGENES [...]
[...]VIT FELIC[...]
...]ulius ...]ogenes ... successfully fulfilled ..
No commentary.

RIB1404 - Funerary inscription for Aurelius . . .rinus

[...]
AVR [...]
RINI [...]
XIT [...]
NIS [...]
To the spirits of the departed (and) of Aurelius ...rinus he lived ... years ..
No commentary.

RIB1405 - Fragmentary funerary inscription

[...]
[...]T TIB[...]
[...] LEVIS
... may the earth lie lightly on thee.
Bruce (LS) tentatively assigned it to Benwell. Cowen identifies it with Brand’s stone.The leaf-stop may mark the vertical axis of the stone.

RIB2298 - Milestone of Caracalla

IMP CAES M AVR
[...  ]NTONINO
[... ]CI AVG ARAB
ADIAB P[...]RT MAXIM
O BRIT MAXIMO
TRIB P[...] XVI COS IIII
IM[...] II G IVL MARCO
LEG A[...]G P[...] P[...]
For the Emperor Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Pius Felix Augustus, conqueror of Arabia, conqueror of Adiabene, Most Great Conqueror of Parthia, Most Great Conqueror of Britain, in his 16th year of tribunician power, consul for the fourth time, twice acclaimed Imperator, (set up) while Gaius Julius Marcus was the emperor’s propraetorian legate.
Caracalla, 1 Jan.-9 Dec. 213.

Vindobala Today

The modern B6318 road follows the line of the Rudchester fort's 'principal street' (via principalis), along the course of General Wade's Military Road, unfortunately built upon the Wall's original foundations after the Jacobite rebellion in the early 1750's. Most of the stones from the fort were robbed in the eighteenth century to build a substantial extension to Rudchester Hall, which stands about one-hundred yards from the south-eastern corner, in the area between the fort and the vallum.

Rudchester
All that can be seen of the Rudchester fort today is the outline of its defences in the fields to either side of the B6318.
Rudchester on a late August morning, viewed from the site of Mile Castle 14, just to the west of the fort.

References for Vindobala/vindovala

Hadrian's Wall Map and Guide by the Ordnance Survey (Southampton, 1989); Hadrian's Wall in the Days of the Romans by Ronald Embleton and Frank Graham (Newcastle, 1984) pp.67-72; The Roman Military Diet by R.W. Davies, in Britannia ii (1971) pp.122-142; 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). Hadrian's Wall Map and Guide by the Ordnance Survey (Southampton, 1989); Hadrian's Wall in the Days of the Romans by Ronald Embleton and Frank Graham (Newcastle, 1984) pp.67-72; The Roman Military Diet by R.W. Davies, in Britannia ii (1971) pp.122-142; 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). Hadrian's Wall Map and Guide by the Ordnance Survey (Southampton, 1989); Hadrian's Wall in the Days of the Romans by Ronald Embleton and Frank Graham (Newcastle, 1984) pp.67-72; The Roman Military Diet by R.W. Davies, in Britannia ii (1971) pp.122-142; 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). Hadrian's Wall Map and Guide by the Ordnance Survey (Southampton, 1989); Hadrian's Wall in the Days of the Romans by Ronald Embleton and Frank Graham (Newcastle, 1984) pp.67-72; The Roman Military Diet by R.W. Davies, in Britannia ii (1971) pp.122-142; 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).

Roman Roads near Vindobala/vindovala

Wall: E (7) to Condercvm (Benwell, Tyne & Wear) Wall: W (7) to Onnvm (Halton Chesters, Northumberland)