The Dobunni were one of the Iron Age tribes living in the British Isles prior to the Roman invasion of Britain.
The Realm of the Dobunni according to Ptolemy
“Next to these [the Silures] are the Dobuni, and their town Corinium 18*00 54°10″
The Dobunni tribe occupied territories encompassing the modern counties of Gloucester, Avon, west Oxfordshire, north Somerset, along with parts of southern Hereford & Worcester and Warwickshire. They were a non-Belgic people occupying impressive hillforts with some Belgic influences.
The Civitas Dobunnorum The Principal Tribal Centre
Established by the Romans at the centre of a network of local roads, at it’s height the town covered more than 230 acres and was the second largest in Roman Britain. The only town ascribed to the tribe by Ptolemy, it is possible that it later became the provincial capital of Britannia Prima.
Other Sites of Importance
- Ariconivm (Weston-under-Penyard, Hereford & Worcester) – A major settlement and administrative centre of the iron mines in the Forest of Dean.
- Dvrocornovivm (Wanborough, Wiltshire) – Major settlement on Ermin Way between Corinium and Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester, Hampshire) near the border with the Atrebates.
- Glevvm (Gloucester, Gloucestershire) – The site of at least two large Roman fortresses, a Roman colonia was established here in 97AD.
- Magnis (Kenchester, Hereford & Worcester) – Small town where a milestone of emperor Numerian was found, suggesting that the Civitas Dobunnorum held sway also on the west bank of the Severn. Separated from the civitas capital Corinium by the territorium of the Roman colony at Glevum, it is possible that Kenchester was the centre of an administrative pagus.
- Salinae (Droitwich Spa, Hereford & Worcester) – Major town whose important salt industries were worth guarding by the setablishment of an Auxiliary fort.
- Vertis (Worcester, Hereford & Worcester) – Town and potteries on the east bank of the Severn, at an important strategic crossing.
- Alcester (Warwickshire) – Small walled town.
- Blackwardine (Hereford & Worcester) – Minor settlement near border with the Cornovii in the north of the canton.
- Bourton on the Water (Gloucestershire) – Major settlement on Fosse Way NE of Corinium.
- Chesterton-on-Fosse (Warwickshire) – A small walled town near the border with the Coritani in the NE of the canton.
- Cricklade (Wiltshire) – Minor settlement on Ermin Way SE of Corinium.
- Dorn (Gloucestershire) – Romano-British town on Fosse Way NE of Corinium.
- Lower Lea (nr. Swalcliffe, Oxfordshire) – minor settlement near borders with the Catuvellauni.
- Nettleton Shrub (Wiltshire) – Rural temple on the Fosse Way between Corinium and Aquae Sulis (Bath), marking the border between the Dobunni and the Belgae.
- Stretton Grandison (Hereford & Worcester) – Minor settlement and auxiliary fort.
- Tiddington (Warwickshire) – Minor industrial settlement.
- White Walls, nr. Easton Grey (Wiltshire) – Minor settlement on the Fosse Way SW of Corinium.
- Asthall (Oxfordshire) – Minor settlement on Akeman Street, between Corinium and Alchester.
- Bagendon (Gloucestershire) – Notable oppidum-style pre-Roman settlement near Corinium.
- Hereford (Hereford & Worcester) – Possible Roman settlement or posting station.
- Sutton Walls (Hereford & Worcester) – Iron Age hill fort continued to be occupied by a small community into Roman times.
- Wilcote (Oxfordshire) – Cluster of villas and possible settlement on Akeman Street, near the border with the Catuvellauni.
The iron mining district around Monmouth in the Forest of Dean, was administrated from Weston-under-Penyard. Salt production was maintained throughout the Roman period at natural brine springs in Droitwich Spa. There was a cluster of brick, tile and pottery kilns near Malvern at Leigh, Howsell and Upper Sandlin. There are numerous extremely rich villas in the area of Cirencester, a notable example being Chedworth, which includes a Romano-British temple.
Known Border Shrines
- Nettleton Shrub (Wiltshire) – Marking the border with the Belgae.
- Frilford (Oxfordshire) – On the frontier with the Atrebates.
- Woodeaton (Oxfordshire) – On the borders with the Catuvellauni.
Other Romano-British Temples
- Lydney (Gloucester) – Rural 4th century shrine of Nodens with bath-house and guest-accommodation, built inside an old Iron-Age hillfort on the north-west side of the Severn Estuary, possibly in deference to the ‘Severn Bore’, a tidal phenomenon of the Severn Estuary.
|Distribution of Coins of the Dobunni|
|The hatched area shows the approximate extent of the tribal canton.|
|From Barry Cunliffe’s Iron Age Communities in Britain (Fig.7:9, pp.101; originally sourced from D.F. Allen, 1961a/b, 1962).|
|The siting of the Belgic Oppidum at Bagendon|
|From Iron Age Communities in Britain by Barry Cunliffe (Fig.7:10, pp.103; originally sourced from Clifford, 1961).|
Dobunnic Tribal Leaders
Assembled from Numismatic Evidence
|Anted[…]||Leader of both north and south Dobunnic territories during the first decades of the first century AD. He seemed to have brought together the northern and southern factions of the tribe under a single banner for the first time since the division of the tribe in the latter half of the first century BC, during the conflict between Bodvoc and Corio. This division was seemingly promoted by their respective successors Catti[…] and Comux[…]. Anted[…] of the Dobunni appears to have been succeeded by another single Dobunnic monarch, Eisu[…], possibly his own son, c.30AD.|
|Bodvoc||Issued coin during the last decades of the first century BC. It is probable that he ruled over the northern part of the Dobunni tribe, as all of his coins have been found in that region, his contemporary, Corio appeared to have ruled over the southern part of the tribe, though some of his coins have been found in the northen territory. Whether the division of the Dobunnic kingdom was an amicable arrangement between two legitimate sons of the old king or was the result of an internecine war between members of opposing noble families, will probably never be known. Coinage distribution evidence shows that Corio possibly ruled over the entire Dobunnic kingdom for a while at least, before Bodvoc took over in the north. It is possible that Bodvoc was succeeded by Catti[…] in the north, while Corio was replaced by Comux[…] in the southern territories. A variant of his name may have been Bodvoccus or Boduoccus.|
|Catti[…]||Possibly inherited the northern Dobunnic lands from Bodvoc around the turn of the millennium, therefore contemporary with Comux[…] who appeared to have succeeded Bodvoc’s old rival Corio in the southern territories of the Dobunni.|
|Comux[…]||Possibly succeeded Corio as the king of the southern Dobunnic territories around the turn of the millennium, therefore contemporary with Catti[…] who inherited the northern Dobunnic kingdom from Bodvoc.|
|Corio||King of the southern Dobunni in Gloucester towards the end of the first century BC. Although his coins are found throughout the Dobunnic territories, they are clustered mainly in the south, while the northern lands appeared to have been under the control of another Dobunnic overlord, Bodvoc, who issued his own coins. It is possible that the splitting of the Dobunnic territories occurred during his reign. Corio was succeeded at around the turn of the millennium by Comux[…].|
|Eisu[…]||Successor to the united Dobunnic throne following the re-merger of the tribe by Anted[…]. He came to power around 30AD, and was probably chieftain during the invasion campaigns of Plautius, though whether he was leader of the faction of the Dobunni that surrendered to Plautius at Durovernon is unknown.|
|Inam[…]||Appeared to rule over the entire Dobunnic territory. Whether he ruled the kingdom prior to it being divided and shared by Bodvoc and Corio or after the tribe was reunited under the kingship of Anted[…], will probaby never be known with any certainty.|
References for The Dobunni
- The Geography of Claudius Ptolemaeus, trans. by E.L. Stevenson (Dover, New York, 1991);
- Atlas of Great Britain by the Ordnance Survey (Country Life, 1982);
- Historical Map and Guide: Roman Britain by the OS (4th Ed., 1990);