A legionary fortress in Wales

And so back again to the legionary fortress at Caerleon, Isca. This is one of the relatively few legionary fortresses in Roman Britain. Home to around 5000 men, Roman citizens recruited to Legio II Augusta, the Second Augustan Legion  from northern Italy, Provence and southern Spain.

Visible remains around the modern town of Caerleon  include an area of barracks, an amphitheatre, stretches of fort walls, a number of ovens in which the troops’ bread would have been baked and impressive bathhouse. We’ve had a little look at the impressive bathhouse, so let’s have a look at the rest of the remains of Caerleon Legionary Fortress.

Let’s start with walls.

There are stretches of the north-west and south-west quadrants’ walls still standing, some now just under the under turf, some standing up to a height of about 3.5 metres.

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There are the remains of a turret in this stretch of wall but there was a young couple canoodling in there so I couldn’t get a decent picture of it without looking like a total creep.

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You’ll just have to use your imagination. It looks like a turret.

In the north-west quadrant are the excavated remains of the barrack blocks.

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Each barrack block had rooms for ten groups of eight men (a century) with a suite of rooms at the end for the centurion.

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The excavated blocks are just a small proportion of the accommodation in the fortress. These particular barracks are situated nearest to the fort wall in the north-western corner of the fortress, and there was a road that ran around the fortress just inside the walls. Between this perimeter road and fortress wall is a series of circular ovens. They are situated in this area so as to keep the fires used for baking well away from the buildings.

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In the museum are these two lead bread stamps (because who doesn’t want leadie-bread? Right?). N.b. the bread isn’t original. This isn’t Pompeii!.

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The top one, and the stamp in the bread says ‘Century of Quintinius Aquila’ [QVINTINI AQVILAE] (2nd century).

And below, ‘Century of Vibius Severus (produced by) Sentius Paullinus’ [VIBI SEVE – SEN PAVLLIN] (1st century).

The museum contains a large number of lovely artifacts, many of them directly associated with the military. There is this well-preserved helmet. You can see the much shinier replica on the model in the background.

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Other bits of soldiers’ kit include this great little field flask,

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This beautifully decorated 1st century plaque depicts Victory carrying captured arms.

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There is a selection of the large quantity of gaming equipment found around the fortress. You know how I love gaming equipment.

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Soldiers were cash-rich in comparison with many of the locals, but some of them seem to have lost/left some of their money behind when they left (or were killed), including this large collection of denarii.

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And I love this beautifully complete little money box.

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Well, as this is a Roman jolly, there must be an amphitheatre.

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This amphitheatre would have held around 6000 people, seated in tiers. The lower part of the structure was built in stone, with timber upper levels. Amphitheatres attached to forts were used for the usual gladiatorial games, beast hunts and the execution of criminals, but also for  military training and drilling.

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This is a lovely spot for a mooch or a kick-about on a sunny day.

Next time, we’ll meet a few of the individuals who lived, for a while, at Isca, including some of those who actually built the amphitheatre.

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