Carmarthen (Moridunum) Vicus

British Civita and Vicus

This was a small town of ca. 6 ha, with a massive stone-faced rampart and an internal street grid. Changes in modern street levels and building subsidence in Priory Street suggested the position of the SW and NE ramparts, and the line of the NW rampart, the best preserved of the four, was suggested by the line of a visible bank behind Richmond Terrace (confirmed by excavation in 1968-69). Only the fourth side has not been determined precisely, owing to modern buildings, but there is the hint of a rampart through the garden of the present vicarage. The original rampart proved to have been ca. 6 m wide; it still stands nearly 2 m high in places. The turf and clay bank was fronted by a V-shaped ditch of roughly the same width and 3 m deep. The ditch of the first period was filled in and the front of the rampart extended, to allow the construction of a stone face in the second period. Extensive dumping to the rear brought the width of the defenses to 18 m. The town wall thus underwent the normal development familiar in Romano-British civil defenses. A terminus post quem for the construction of the original rampart was provided by Antonine Samian.

Excavation in 1969 showed that creation of the street grid also belonged to the Antonine period, and timber structures were shown to have lain on either side of the decumanus farthest N. By the 3d c. stone structures had become more common and the buildings more complex. A large town house built at that time continued in use till after A.D. 320, when the area was leveled again for the construction of an even larger building ca. A.D. 353. Allowing this structure a normal life (there was no sign of violent destruction), this must extend urban life in the cantonal capital farthest W in Roman Britain into the last quarter of the 4th c., lending some credence to Welsh mythological associations between Carmarthen and Maxin Wledig (Magnus Maximus, emperor A.D. 383-388).

Industrial buildings, mainly of timber, and identified by furnaces and evidence of bronze-working, occupied the area closer to the town walls. Towards the interior were gathered the principle residential areas with houses constructed of stone and possessing hypocaust under-floor heating and tessallated pavements. Construction was still going on in the western corner of the town during the latter half of the 4th century.

RIB412 - Inscription

Born for the good of the state.

[...]
O
R P
NATO

This formula was current from the time of Constantine.For inscriptions of this type which are sometimes regarded as milestones see the introduction to milestones.

RIB413 - Altar dedicated to Fortune

No translation

The altar is dedicated to Fortune.Watkin thought that this was not a genuine inscription, but invented on the model of RIB 624. F.H. thought that there could have been two altars dedicated to Fortune and decorated in the same way. This inscription must be accepted with caution.

The ‘Inventory of Carmarthenshire’ published by the HMSO records two uninscribed altarstones in the front garden of a house on Priory Street, one of which was placed in the garden of a house named ‘Ystrad’, where it has suffered from the effects of the weather, the other now resides in the porch of St. Peter’s Church. The handfull of Roman coins recovered from the site prior to 1895 ranged from a 1st brass of Vitellius ( A.D. 69) to a small brass of Crispus (Imp. 317-26).

There is a substantial Roman building nearby at Abercyfor (SN4217), and a Roman fortlet lies about fifteen miles to the west at Tavernspite (SN1813).

Literary References for Moridunum (Carmarthen) Fort

“Below the peoples we have mentioned, but more toward the west are the Demetae, whose towns are: Luentinum 15*45 55? Maridunum 15*30 54?.”

The Geography of Ptolemy (extract above) in the early-2nd century AD assigns the Iron-Age Demetae tribe within the region of Dyfed and ascribes to them the two poleis of Luentinum and Maridunum. The first is the Roman name for the gold workings at Dolaucothi near Pumsaint, the second-named polis being the earliest mention of the Roman town at Carmarthen.

In addition to the passage from Ptolemy, the town also receives mention in the Antonine Itinerary, produced in the late-2nd century, as the south-western terminus of route number twelve of the British section. Iter XII is entitled “the route from Muridunum to Viroconium“, and details the 186 mile journey from Carmarthen, the civitas capital of the Demetae to Viroconium Cornoviorum (Wroxeter, Shropshire) the capital of the Cornovii tribe. In this itinerary the first town along the route is named as Leucarum (Loughor, West Glamorgan), which is reported as being 15 miles distant from Muridunum.

The last appearance of Carmarthen in the classical sources is thought to occur in the Ravenna Cosmology of the seventh century, where the name Macatonion (R&C#61), is listed between the entries for Glevum colonia (Gloucester) and the unidentified stations Epocessa & Ypocessa. The R.C. is notably corrupt, and it is not inconceivable that this entry has been derived from the earlier name for Carmarthen.

References for Moridvnvm [demetarvm]

  • Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in Wales and Monmouthshire – V County of Carmarthen by the RCAHMCWM (HMSO, London) pp.248/9 & fig.191;
  • Historical Map and Guide – Roman Britain by the Ordnance Survey (3rd, 4th & 5th eds., 1956, 1994 & 2001);
  • The Towns of Roman Britain by John Wacher (2nd Ed., BCA, London, 1995) pp.391-394 & fig.175;
  • Britannia xxv (1994) p.248 & fig.3 p.249; Britannia i (1970) p.125 & fig.2;
  • The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);
  • Air Reconnaissance in Britain, 1958-1960 by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. li (1961) p.127; 

Roman Roads near Moridvnvm [demetarvm]

Possible road: SE (19) to Levcarvm (Loughor, West Glamorgan) E (13.5) to Llandeilo ENE (27) to Llandovery (Llandovery, Dyfed)

Map References for Moridvnvm

OS National Grid Reference: SN417204
Dimensions: c.600 x 400 ft (c.183 x 122 m)
Area: c.5½ acres (c.2.23 ha)