Blestium (Monmouth) Vicus


The Roman presence at Monmouth, probably the Antonine Itinerary’s Blestium, appears to have begun in the pre-Flavian period when a large fort was established at a critical position on invasion routes into the Gwent plain and the mid-Wales mountains. This was probably succeeded by a smaller fortlet, with a pottery assemblage of 2nd to 3rd century date, which appears to be centred to the North of the earlier fort.

After the military phase the settlement was dominated by industrial activity, probably related to the exploitation of iron ore from the Forest of Dean. This settlement lies on the higher ground within what later became the medieval town and appears to have flourished in the third and fouth centuries.

Roman Monmouth

Graham Webster in his superb work Rome Against Caratacus classified Monmouth as “a possible fort site near a later settlement”, and also pointed out the possible military use of a trackway north-west from here to “a postulated fort site with no evidence” at Pontrilas. A.L.F. Rivet in his Town and Country in Roman Britain also argued in favour of a Roman fort sited at Monmouth, but sadly however, apart from a few coins, no Roman remains have ever been found to substantiate these scholarly arguments.

Monmouth lies on the border between two native British tribes, the Silures in Glamorgan and Gwent to the west, and the Dobunni in Gloucestershire to the east. It is very likely that the settlement was associated with neither of these peoples, and was under military jurisdiction. The lack of any Roman building stones suggests that the living conditions here were very poor, any buildings being of timber construction at best, a situation more appropriate to a slave compound than a civil settlement.

References for Blestium

Rome Against Caratacus by Graham Webster (Batsford, London, 1993).

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