Campaigns of Ostorius Scapula (47-52AD)

The exploits of the Roman general Publius Ostorius Scapula are documented in a large section of Cornelius Tacitus’ Annals of Rome (Cornelius Tacitus – The Annals, Book 12, Chapter 31), there is also a short passage regarding his governorship in Tacitus’ Agricola (The Agricola, Chapter 14). The campaigns, strategies and archaeological evidence attributed to this governor is covered in chapters 1.

The first season of this governor’s tenure in office was probably spent on campaign with Legion XIV Gemina who were advanced westwards along the line of Watling Street, leaving vexillation-sized camps at Mancetter (Manduessedum) in Warwickshire and Leighton near Wroxeter in Shropshire, probably also at Wall (Letocetum) and Eaton House (Pennocrucium) in Staffordshire and at Drayton Lodge in Shropshire, where there are auxiliary forts dating to this period. All of these encampments were obviously directed at the Cornovii tribe who occupied Shropshire and the Cheshire plain.

Another line of forts heading westwards through Metchley Roman Fort in Birmingham and Greensforge in Staffordshire indicate that the Fourteenth was probably used in a ‘pincer’ movement with the focus on the prominent hillfort which crowned the Wrekin, as is the auxiliary fort at
Wroxeter (Viroconium Cornoviorum)which safeguarded the strategic bridge over the Severn. The Scapulan fortress at Rhyn Park Forts close to the Shropshire/Clwyd border and overshadowed by the Berwyn Mountains of North Wales, may be associated with the campaign against the Cornovii, but it is equally likely that this represents an attempt to contain the British warlord Caratacus.

References for the Military Campaigns of Publius Scapula

  • Rome Against Caratacus by Graham Webster (Batsford, London, 1981);
  • Britons and the Roman Army by Grace Simpson (Gregg, London, 1964);
  • Historical Map and Guide: Roman Britain by the OS (3rd Edition, 1956; 4th Ed., 1990; 5th Ed., 2001);