BREMENIVM

Roman Fort & Marching Camps

High Rochester, Northumberland

NGRef: NY8398
OSMap: LR80
Type: Roman Fort, Marching Camps.
Click to Enlarge
Plan of the Bremenium Fort
showing the multivallate defenses
(From Collingwood p.45 fig.10d)
Roads
Dere Street: NW (8) to Chew Green (Northumberland)
ENE (19) to ALAVNA (Learchild, Northumberland) via Yardhope
Dere Street: SSE (10) to HABITANCVM (Risingham, Northumberland) via Blakehope

Bremenium Fort
The Bremenium/High Rochester Fort
viewed from the south-west

The name of this fort is attested in three of the four major geographical sources, its absence from the Notitia Dignitatum of the late fourth century indicates that by then, the province had receded behind Hadrian's Wall to the south. The Bremenium entry in Ptolemy's Geography appears along with two other towns attributed to the Otalini (or Votadini) tribe; CORSTOPITVM (Corbridge, Northumberland) and ALAVNA (Learchild, Northumberland). The Antonine Itinerary places Bremenium at the start of Iter I, listed twenty miles from Corstopitum. The last classical reference for Bremenium appears in the Ravenna Cosmology (R&C#185), where it is listed between HABITANCVM (Risingham, Northumberland) and the unidentified Coccimeda entry.

The Fort at High Rochester

The Roman fort at High Rochester is approached from the A68 through the grounds of the Brigantium Archaeological Reconstruction Centre. Almost the entire defensive circuit of the fort is preserved, with the remains of the western gateway being particularly fine also evidence of several periods of rebuilding in the western interval-tower of the south side. The ditches are well preserved to the north and east, outside which the line of Dere Street marches north-west, passing the temporary camps at Redesdale, visible across the Sills Burn from the fortís western ramparts.

Between the ramparts the fort measures around 440 ft north-south by about 420 ft east-west, giving an occupation area of about 4¼ acres (c.134 x 128 m; c.1.7 ha).

"High Rochester. A squarish oblong fort of 4 acres; very thick stone rampart with clay core, stone inner buildings; on the north, remains of as many as thirteen ditches; on east and south, four; on west, uncertain, but six ditches curve round N.W. angle (personal observation)" (Collingwood, p44)

The Bremenium Garrison

Cohors Primae Lingonum Equitata - The First Part-Mounted Cohort of Lingones

IMP CAES T AELIO HAD ANTONINO AVG PIO P P SVB Q LOL VRBICO LEG AVG PRO PR COH I LING EQ F
"For the Emperor Caesar Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius, Father of his Country, under Quintus Lollius Urbicus, his pro-praetorian legate, the First Cohort of Lingones, part-mounted, made this."
(RIB 1276; Burn 118; dated AD139-43)

The first unit to occupy the fort at High Rochester was probably Cohors Primae Lingonum Equitata, a part-mounted unit originating from the Lingones tribe of Gallia Lugdunensis, who inhabited the Bourgogne region of Central France. The evidence for this unit is limited to a single inscription from the site (out of almost forty).

The First Cohort of Lingones is known from inscriptions here at BREMENIVM (High Rochester, Northumberland; RIB 1276; AD139-43), LONGOVICIVM (Lanchester, Durham; RIB 1091/1092; AD238-44), and possibly also at CORSTOPITVM (Corbridge, Northumberland; RIB 1186; undated) unfortunately missing the unit number.

Cohors Primae Fida Vardullorum Antoninianae equitata milliaria civium Romanorum
The First Faithful Cohort of Antonine's Own Vardulli, part-mounted, one-thousand strong, citizens of Rome

IMP CAES M AVRELIO SEVERO ANTONINO PIO FELICI AVG PARTHIC MAX BRIT MAX GERM MAX PONTIFICI MAXIM TRIB POTEST XVIIII IMP II COS IIII PROCOS P P COH I FIDA VARDVL C R EQ M ANTONINIANA FECIT SVB CVRA ... ... LEG AVG PR PRImperator Caesar Marco Aurelio Severo Antonino Pio Felici Augusti Parthicorum Maximus Britannarum Maximus Germanarum Maximus Pontifex Maximus Tribunicia Potestas undeviciens Imperator bis Consule quater proconsule Pater Patriae Cohortis Primae Fida Vardullorum civium Romanorum equitata milliaria Antoniniana fecit sub curante [...] legati Augusti pro praetore.
"For the Emperor Caesar Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus Pius Felicius Augustus, highest among the Parthians, highest among the Britons, highest among the Germans, High Priest, holding tribunician power for the nineteenth time, hailed Imperator in the field twice, consul four times, holding proconsular imperium, Father of his Country, the First Cohort of Vardulli, citizens of Rome, part-mounted, one-thousand strong, Faithful to Antoninus, made this by the command of [...] the pro-praetorian legate of the Emperor."
(RIB 1279; Burn 199; Ireland 196; dated: AD216)

Interval Tower
Remains of Interval Tower
in west part of south defences

The name of this particular unit appears on over twenty percent of the inscriptions recovered from this site, including at least one building inscription (RIB 1285; not shown), which proves that some restoration work was undertaken at High Rochester during the early campaigns of Severus into Scotland at the beginning of the third century AD.

The First Cohort of Vardulli is attested at several forts in the north of Britain; at Castlecary (Central; RIB 2149; AD138-61) on the Antonine Wall, at LONGOVICIVM (Lanchester, Durham; RIB 1083; c.AD175-8) and here at BREMENIVM (High Rochester, Northumberland; RIB 1279; AD216). There are also undated inscriptions at CORSTOPITVM (Corbridge, Northumberland; RIB 1128) on the Stanegate, at milecastle 19 on Hadrian's Wall (RIB 1421) nearby, and at Cappuck (Borders; RIB 2118) on Dere Street.

IMP CAES M AVRELIO ANTONINO PIO FEL AVG TRIB POT III COS III PROCOS P P BALLIST A SOLO COH I F VARDVL ANT SVB CVRA TIB CL PAVLINI LEG AVG PR PR FECIT INSTANTE P AELIO ERASINO TRIB
"For Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Pius Felix Augustus,¹ holding tribunician power for the third time, consul three times,² Father of his Country. This catapult platform was made from its foundations by the First Cohort of Faithful Vardulli, Antoninus' own, under the administration of Tiberius Claudius Paulinus,³ pro-praetorian legate of the emperor, under the direction of the tribune Publius Aelius Erasinus."
(RIB 1280; dated: AD220)
  1. The young and promiscuous Syrian emperor Elagabalus, whose rebel forces siezed power from Macrinus in May AD218. He ruled until his own murder in the praetorian camp at Rome in March 222, then aged only 18.
  2. Elagabalus held tribunicia potestas for the third time from December AD219 and was consul for the third time from January AD220 (a.u.c.973).
  3. This stone is the only concrete evidence regarding the tenure of Claudius Paulinus, who was governor of Britain in AD220.

Cohors Primae Delmatarum - The First Cohort of Delmatae

This unit is attested on only one inscription from the site, which is possibly only a passing reference:

D M S AVRELI EX... IMI > COH I DALM
"To the spirits of the departed and to Sextus Aurelius former [unknown], (former)¹ Imaginifer,² centurion of the First Cohort of Dalmatians."³
(RIB 1289; tombstone)
  1. The lacuna in the text is discussed below.
  2. Bearer of the Emperor's Image; a privileged position high in the command structure.
  3. Or possibly DAC[orum], from the province of Dacia, modern Serbia / Eastern Bosnia.

The curriculum vitae of a Roman soldier or Magistrate appeared on his epitaph in reverse order, with the highest-achieved position being listed first. The finest achievement of Sextus Aurelius has been lost, but would have to be higher in rank than the next legible position, which was Imaginifer, presumably of Cohors I Dalmatarum. The missing text may well have read EX Tribunus Cohortis I Vardullorum, alternately, the obliterated portion may possibly refer to his place of birth.

Numerus Exploratorum Bremeniorum

G D N ET SIGNORVM COH I VARDVLL ET N EXPLORATOR BREM GOR EGNAT LVCILIANVS LEG AVG PR PR CVRANTE CASSIO SABINIANO TRIB
"To the Genius of Our Lord, and to the Standards of Cohors Primae Vardullorum and the Company of Scouts from Bremenium, Gordius Egnatius Lucilianus, pro-praetorian legate of the Emperor, ordered that the tribune Cassius Sabinianus (should set this up)."
(RIB 1262; Burn 201; altarstone; dated: AD238-41)

This unit is recorded on two inscriptions on stone, both of which are shown here (vide supra et infra). Other Numeri Eploratori have also been identified; on inscriptions at the neighbouring fort of HABITANCVM (Risingham, Northumberland), also at LAVATRIS (Bowes, Durham) and PORTVS ARDAONI (Portchester, Hampshire), both of which are named in the Notitia Dignitatum.

D R S DVPL N EXPLOR BREMEN ARAM INSTITVERVNT N EIVS C CAEP CHARITIMO TRIB VSLM
"To Sacred Roma, the Duplicarii¹ of Numerus Exploratorum Bremeniorum have established this altar for their descendants, Gaius Caepio Charitimus, tribune, willingly and deservedly fulfilled their vow."
(RIB 1270; Burn 200; base)
  1. The old-timers, well-favoured, decorated or specially-skilled men in the regiment who, for whichever reason, received double-pay.

Building Inscription Naming Two Auxiliary Units

VEX COH IIII GALL ET VEX COH II NERV FECERVNT
"A detachment of the Fourth Cohort of Gauls and a detachment from the Second Cohort of Nervians have made this."
(RIB 1298a; Britannia xiv (1983), p.337, no.12)

Small Finds from High Rochester/Bremenium

The only dateable pottery evidence recovered from the High Rochester fort is a single piece of South Gaulish Form 37 dated to the AD80's. During excavations over the years a number of animal bones have been uncovered, including those of Ox, Sheep, Pig, Red Deer, Roe Deer, Boar, Hare, Fox and Badger; the latter two animals very likely being hunted and killed for sport and as a means of pest control.

Other Roman Sites in the Neighbourhood

There is another Roman fort a little way down Dere Street to the south at Blakehope (NY8594). There are also a number of temporary marching camps in the Bremenium area; six near High Rochester itself at Birdhope, Bellshiel and Sills Burn, one at Yardhope (NT9000) along the road to Alauna (Learchild) in the east, another at Bagraw (NY8496) off Dere Street to the south, and one more at Dargues (NY8693) beyond the Blakehope fort to the south, again near Dere Street.

More Bremenium Pix

SW Angle
The South-West Corner Angle
West Gateway
The Western Gateway
NW Angle
The North-West Corner Angle
Dere Street
The Course of Dere Street
passes just north-west of the fort
See: The Archaeology of Roman Britain by R.G. Collingwood (Methuen, London, 1930);
The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);
The Romans in Britain - An Anthology of Inscriptions by A.R. Burn (Blackwell, Oxford, 1969);
The Roman Military Diet by R.W. Davies, in Britannia ii (1971) pp.122-142;
The Roman Occupations of Scotland by B.R. Hartley in Britannia iii (1972) pp.1-55;
Chronology of the Ancient World by E.J. Bickerman (Thames & Hudson, London, 1980);
Roman Britain - A Sourcebook by S. Ireland (Routlege, New York, 1986);
Chronicle of the Roman Emperors by Chris Scarre (Thames & Hudson, London, 1995);
All English translations, including any inherent mistakes, are my own.

Bremenium Related Lynx

Cohors I Fida Vardullorum civium Romanorum equitata milliaria
Bremenium Dedication Slab
Brigantium Living Archaeology
Carnelian intaglio from High Rochester
Rochester from TyneDale Council
Brigantium Archaeological Reconstruction Centre

Click here for a map of Bremenium from StreetMap.co.uk

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