CICVCIVM

Roman Fort & Minor Settlement

Brecon Gaer, Y Gaer, Powys

NGRef: SO0029
OSMap: LR160
Type: Fort, Minor Settlement, Practice Works, 2 Milestones.

Plan of the Brecon Gaer Roman Fort
(Adapted from Collingwood fig.6)
Roads
NE (17) to Clyro (Gwent)
WNW (12) to Y Pigwn (Dyfed/Powys)
SW (17) to Coelbren (West Glamorgan) via Ystradfellte
SE (11) to Pen-y-Gaer (Powys)

Y Gaer - The Camp

N.G.REFDIMENSIONSAREA
SO003297c.615 x 460 ft
(c.187 x 140 m)
c.6½ acres
(c.2.6 ha)

The sole reference for the Roman name of the Brecon Gaer fort is the Ravenna Cosmology of the seventh century. In this document the name Cicutio (R&C#56) occurs between the entries for Alabum (Llandovery, Dyfed) and Magnis (Kenchester, Hereford & Worcester). The generally accepted form of the name is Cicucium, the meaning of which is unclear.

The fort at Brecon Gaer lies on a spit of land overlooking the confluence of the Afon Ysgir with the Afon Usk, which flowed past the fort on the east. The Roman roads from Clifford in the north-east and Pen y Gaer, Margham in the south-east, met about 155 yards (c.142 m) outside the fort's northern gateway and forded the Afon Ysgir about 150 yards (c.137 m) outside the western gateway; the hollow way between the road junction and the river crossing may still be traced. Beyond the Ysgir the road again forked, heading towards the auxiliary forts at Y Pigwn in the north-west and Coelbren in the south-west.

The original defences consisted of a clay bank 18 feet (c.5.5 m) wide, the remains of which are around 5 feet (c.1.5 m) high, fronted by two ditches, the inner ditch, separated from the rampart by a 5 foot (c.1.5 m) berm, was between 15 and 16 feet wide and 6 feet deep (c.4.6-4.9 x 1.8 m), a gap of between 13 to 26 feet (c.4 - 8 m) separated the outer ditch, which was about 13 feet wide by 5 feet deep (c.4 x 1.5 m). The fort measured about 615 by 460 feet (c.187 x 140 m) inside the ramparts, giving an occupation area of about 6½ acres (c.2.6 ha). The four gateways were built of timber, as were all the internal structures, traces of the principia, praetorium, granary and barracks of which have been found. The fort faced west-north-west.

"In the early years of the second century, the original rampart was raised in and faced with a stone wall, the west and south gateways and the principal buildings were rebuilt in stone, and corner turrets of stone were added to the defences. ... The work of the builders, however, was never finished. The space left in the plan for the usual second granary remained unoccupied ... again, neither in the praetentura nor in the retentura were the barrack-blocks ever replaced in stone." (Wheeler)

The earliest timber fort (probably Neronian?) was burned to the ground and later replaced by another timber fort during the Flavian period. Trajanic and Hadrianic samian ware shows occupation throughout this later period, and the fort's replacement in stone during late-Hadrianic/early-Antonine times proves the continued importance the Roman military placed on this location. The Severan campaigns saw the rebuilding of the interior of the fort with a new well being sunk next to the granaries and a bath-house built within the defences, which indicates a reduction in the garrison. Further interior alterations and repairs to the rampart wall were carried out around AD367, and the latest coin from the site is of Gratian (Imp. 367-383).

During excavations over the years at Brecon Gaer a number of animal bones have been uncovered, including those of Ox, Sheep, Pig, Red Deer and Roe Deer; the latter two animals very likely being hunted and killed for sport as well as to supplement the soldiers' diet. In addition, the Cicucium garrison were even treated to such delicacies as Oysters, Mussels, and two types of Edible Snail (Davies).

The Garrison Units of Cicucium

Ala Hispanorum Vettonum civium Romanorum - The Spanish Wing of Vettones, citizens of Rome

DIIS MANIBVS CANDIDI ... NI FILI EQ ALAE HISP VETT C R TVR CLEM DOMO ...AN XX STIP III H...
"To the shades of the departed Candidus [...] the son of [...] trooper of the Wing of Spanish Vettones, citizens of Rome, from the troop of Clemens, a native of [...] twenty years old with three years service. Here [he lies]."
(RIB 403; tombstone; 1st/2nd cent.)

In addition to the tombstones recording the names of two garrison units (vide supra et infra), legionary tile-stamps have been found which show that the work of refurbishment was carried out by the masons of Legio II Augusta who were stationed nearby at the fortress at Isca Silurum (Caerleon-on-Usk, Gwent).

Ala Nerviorum - The Wing of Nervii

DIS MANIBVS VAL PRIMI ... ET... FIL EQ ALAE NER OPTIONIS H F C
"To the spirits of the departed Valerius Primus [...] and [...] son, horseman of the Nervian Wing, troop commander. His heirs had this made."
(RIB 405; tombstone; 1st/2nd cent.)

A third tombstone (RIB 404) was also found on the site, the text of which is severely damaged, but may also refer to the Nervian Wing.

... VIXI ... AL... N ...IVI... CONIVNX EIVS H S E
"[...] who lived [...] the Nervian Wing¹ [...] Julia² his wife. He lies here."
(RIB 404; tombstone)
  1. The stone is damaged here, and the name of the unit is supposition only.
  2. The name of this unknown trooper's wife is also suppositional.

Stamped Tile from Y-Gaer Bath-house

LEG II AVG
"[Property of] the Second Augustan Legion."
(Burn 24; see also at Abergavenny)

The military bath-house at Y-Gaer was placed within the northern part of the retentura of the fort, which is fairly unusual, as most bath-houses were situated outside the parent fort's defences. The stamped tiles recovered during Mortimer Wheeler's excavations in the mid-1920's have subsequently been dated c.A.D.100, and it is reasonable to assume that the bath-house also belongs to this time.

Other Roman Sites in the Neighbourhood

There are two Roman practice works nearby at Y Gaer (SO0029), and a substantial Roman building at Maesderwen (SO0625). In addition, two Roman milestones were found together 4¾ miles to the south-east of Brecon Gaer at Llanhamlach (SO0827; RIB 2258 & 2259). The texts of both these stones are shown below.

Milestones from Millbrook Farm, Llanhamlach, Powys

IMP C FL VAL CONSTANTIVS IMP C FLAVIVS CLA CONSTANTINVS
"Imperator Caesar [Gaius] Flavius Valerius Constantius [Augustus].¹" "Imperator Caesar Flavius Claudius Constantinus.²"
(RIB 2258; dated: AD293-306) (RIB 2259; dated: AD337-340)
  1. The emperor Constantius I, was named Caesar in AD293 and Augustus in 305. He died of illness at York on 25th July 306.
  2. His grandson Constantine II, who came to power after the death of his father Constantine in May AD337, and died in spring 340 while attempting to wrest control of Rome from his brother and co-ruler Constans. This is the latest known Roman stone in Britain.

References and Bibliography

See: Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in Wales - County of Brecknock by the RCAHMW (HMSO, London, 1986) pp.135-46 & figs.159-66.
Chronicle of the Roman Emperors by Chris Scarre (Thames & Hudson, London, 1995);
Air Reconnaissance in Roman Britain 1977-1984 by G.S. Maxwell & D.R. Wilson in Britannia xviii (1987) pp.10/11;
Chronology of the Ancient World by E.J. Bickerman (Thames & Hudson, London, 1980);
The Roman Military Diet by R.W. Davies, in Britannia II (1971) pp.122-142;
The Romans in Britain - An Anthology of Inscriptions by A.R. Burn (Blackwell, Oxford, 1969);
The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);
The Archaeology of Roman Britain by R.G. Collingwood (Methuen, London, 1930);
The Roman Fort near Brecon by R.E.M. Wheeler in Y Cymmrodior 37 (1926).
All English translations, including any inherent mistakes, are my own.

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