Vinovia (Binchester) Fort
Fort and Minor Settlement
The Binchester Fort
RIB1038 - Building inscription of the Sixth Legion
During excavations over the years a number of animal bones have been uncovered at Binchester, including those of Ox, Sheep, Goat, Pig, Red Deer and Boar; the latter two animals very likely being hunted and killed for sport, as well as to supplement the soldiers’ diet.
The Garrison Units
RIB1035 - Altar dedicated to the Suleviae
V S L M
The unit were earlier stationed at Cicvcivm (Y Gaer, Powys), as they are attested on two tombstones from there (RIB 403 et 405?). The building work dated to 197-202AD at the nearby fort of Lavatris (Bowes, Durham; RIB 730), was probably carried out while the unit were based here at Binchester. The undated tombstone at Aqvae Svlis (Bath, Avon; RIB 159) probably only reflects the chosen place of retirement for a veteran of the unit.
RIB1039 - Funerary inscription for Nemonius Montanus
NEM MONTANVS DEC
VIXIT ANN XL NEM
SANCTVS FR ET COHER
EX TESTAMENTO FECERT
RIB1036 - Fragmentary dedication
EX C FRIS VINOVIE
V S L M
The second part of the unit name may be Frisiorum or Frisiavonum which indicates the tribe from which the original troops were levied, either the Germanic Frisii or the Belgic Frisiavones. The Belgic tribe can be ruled out on two counts; firstly, the existence is known of a Cohort of Frisiavones in Britain and any additional levies from this tribe would most likely have been posted to this unit, secondly, cunei were mainly restricted to non-allied tribesmen who offered their services as mercenaries, the unit at Vinovia, therefore, were most likely from the Germanic Frisii.
The Gods of Vinovium
RIB1033 - Altar dedicated to the Mother Goddesses
V S L M
Several Roman altarstones have been recovered from Binchester, over half of which are dedicated to the Matribus Ollototae or the ‘Mother Goddesses of Ollototis’, one of these altars is shared with Jupiter Optimus Maximus who also has another altar dedicated solely to himself. There are other lone altars to Fortuna the goddess of good fortune, and also to the god of medicine, Aesculapius.
RIB1028 - Dedication to Aesculapius and Salus
[... ]TE ALAE VET
[...] C R M AVRE
[... 4]OCOMAS ME
[...    ] L M
RIB1029 - Altar dedicated to Fortune
M VAL FVLVIANV[...]
V S L L M
RIB1030 - Altar dedicated to Jupiter Optimus Maximus and the Mother Goddesses Ollototae
TIS SIVE TRA
BF COS PRO
V S L A
RIB1031 - Altar dedicated to the Matres Ollototae
T[...]B CL QVIN
TIANVS BF COS
V S L M
RIB2294 - Milestone of Gordian III
Classical References for Vinovia – The Vintners Way?
Binchester appears in three out of the four major classical geographies. Ptolemy’s Geography has the entry Vinovium appearing under the Brigante tribe, between Epiacvm (Whitley Castle, Northumberland) and Cataractonivm (Catterick, North Yorkshire). The Antonine Itinerary has a Vinovia near the beginning of Iter I, where it is listed nine miles from Vindomora (Ebchester, Durham) and nineteen miles from Cataractonivm, and in the Ravenna Cosmology (R&C#134), again as Vinovia, this time between Longovicivm (Lanchester, Durham) and Lavatris (Bowes, Durham).
The Roman name for Binchester appears to be entirely Latin in origin, a compound name from the words vinea or vinum meaning ‘vines’ or ‘wine’, and via or ‘road’. The oldest reference shows the name as Vinovium, which may indicate that the original ending was in the genitive plural. The name may be something along the lines of ‘the Way of the Vines’, which suggests that vines were grown in the area, not very likely considering the climate in Bishop’s Auckland. An alternative and perhaps more plausible translation may be ‘the Ways of the Vintners’, which would imply that there was a popular inn or tavern here. Could the original name of Binchester be derived from the name of a Roman pub? Not entirely unthinkable when you consider ‘Craven Arms’ in Shropshire for instance, a modern town named after an old coaching inn.
References for Vinovia? / Vinovivm?
- Air Reconnaissance of North Britain by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. xli (1951) pp.52-65;
- Air Reconnaissance in Britain, 1951-5 by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. xlv (1956) pp.82-91;
- The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);
- Britannia i (1970) p.308 no.15;
- The Roman Military Diet by R.W. Davies, in Britannia ii (1971) pp.122-142;
- Britannia xxiii (1992) p.314 no.10;
- Chronicle of the Roman Emperors by Chris Scarre (Thames & Hudson, London, 1995);
- Atlas of the Greek and Roman World in Antiquity by Nicholas G.L. Hammond (Bristol Classical Press);
Roman Roads near Vinovia? / Vinovivm?
NNW (13) to Lanchester (Lanchester, Durham) NNE (15) to Chester-le-street (Chester-le-Street, Durham) Dere Street: S (9) to Piercebridge (Durham) SW (18) to Lavatris Dere Street: NE (10) to Old Dvrham S (6) to Sandforth Moor