Type: Legionary Fortress, Major Settlement.
A falcon's eye view of the fortress and town of Deva from the south-west, pictured in the early third century. From the south gate of the fortress, the road led through a residential area of the town and across the Deva Fluvius to the nearby settlement of Heronbridge. The docks and accompanying warehouses lay to the west of the fortress, while the road to Condate (Northwich) emerged from the east gate of the fortress through the most densely populated area of the town.|
Drawing by David Swarbrick - contact: email@example.com
NNW (19) to Meols (Birkenhead, Merseyside)|
NE (19) to Wilderspool (Cheshire) via Upton
Iter II: King Street: ENE (17) to CONDATE (Northwich, Cheshire)
Itinera II & XI: S (2) to Heronbridge (Cheshire)
There is an interesting paragraph in the second century geographical treatise by Claudius Ptolemaeus which says: "From these (the Ordovices) toward the east are the Cornavi, among whom are the towns: Deva, Legio XX Victrix 17*30 56°45 Viroconium 16*45 55°45". The Ordovices were a savage tribe from the valleys of North Wales, against whom the legionary fortress at Chester was directed. The extract shows that the prata legionis, the surrounding land which came under military jurisdiction of the Twentieth Legion stationed at the Deva fortress, was appropriated from the tribal territories of the Cornovii, whose cantonal capital lay at Viroconium Cornoviorum (Wroxeter, Shropshire).
Chester also appears in two (out of fifteen) routes in the Antonine Itinerary, produced in the late second century. The first mention is in Iter II, "The route from the 'Entrenchments' to the Port of Rutupiae", which details the Roman road-stations between Hadrian's Wall and the main port of embarkation for the continent at Richborough in Kent. On this route, Chester appears as Deva Leg XX Vict, which again confirms that the Twentieth Legion were garrisoned here, 20 miles from Condate (Northwich, Cheshire) and 10 miles from Bovium (Tilston, Cheshire).
One of the most interesting routes in the Itinerary is Iter XI, entitled "the route from Segontium to Deva", this seventy-four mile long route features Chester as one of its termini. Iter XI is discussed in the RBO page for St. Asaph, the last but one station, which lies 32 miles from Chester.
It seems likely that the Chester fortress was abandoned by the legions sometime in the fourth century, as there is no mention of Deva in the Notitia Dignitatum published around the turn of the fifth. The town is mentioned in the seventh century Ravenna Cosmology (R&C#86), appearing as Deva Victris, between the unknown towns Saudonio and Veratino.
The Roman military presence at Chester probably began with a fort or marching camp at the mouth of the Deva Fluvius (River Dee) very likely established during the early campaigns of governor Publius Ostorius Scapula against the Deceangi in north-east Wales sometime around AD47/48. There is some evidence of pre-Flavian occupation, possibly even a timber-built fort, but proof positive of a Scapulan foundation has yet to emerge.
After the first tentative forays of Scapula, the next military activity in the area was conducted during the early administration of governor Sextus Julius Frontinus sometime around AD74 when an auxiliary fort was constructed at Chester. The placement of this fort was a strategic move by Frontinus designed both to block the route of any routed British bands trying to escape to the north, and also to guard against any help arriving from the Brigantes.
By AD79 the site had developed into the twenty-five hectare fortress base of Legio II Adiutrix Pia Fidelis. The external dimensions of the fortress were 1,950 x 1,360 feet (594 x 415 m), which, allowing for the width of the defences gave an interior area of about 56 acres (22.7 ha). This early Flavian timber fortress is evidenced by lead piping bearing the name of Gnaeus Julius Agricola.
A section of lead piping bearing Agricola's name from the original timber fortress at Chester
(Picture taken at the Grosvenor Museum, Chester, in February 2003)
|"Imperator Vespasian nine times and Imperator Titus seven times consul.¹|
For Gnaeus Julius Agricola,² pro-praetorian legate of the emperor."
(Burn 27; RIB II; dated: AD79)
Around AD87 the Second 'Assistant' Legion was withdrawn from Britain by the emperor Domitian to be used in his wars in Dacia, and to replace them at Chester Legio XX Valeria were forced to abandon their newly-built fortress at Inchtuthil on the Tay, and were withdrawn from Scotland in order to maintain a strong legionary presence outside North Wales.
The fortress was rebuilt in stone c.AD102, during the reign of Trajan. These defenses consisted of a massive stone wall, fronted by a double ditch and backed by a rampart of sand and clay. Antonine pottery of c.170 confirms occupation in the latter half of the second century. Further reconstruction is recorded on an inscription of Elagabalus (c.235) and repairs were made to the fortress wall c.301-306. By 383 the silting up of the river Dee was a major factor in the abandonment of the Deva Fortress.
A large amphitheatre outside the south-east corner of the fortress could seat eight thousand people. Recent excavations conducted on the site have revealed that the amphitheatre was preceeded by a bath-house. !!!!
|Key to Map|
The basic staple of the Roman soldier was bread, and each soldier was allocated about three pounds of corn per day in order to make a nourishing type of wholemeal loaf. When in garrison at the fortress, legionaires also ate a considerable quantity of meat. During excavations over the years at Chester many bones of animals and birds and the shells of molluscs have been uncovered, proving that the soldiers had a very healthy diet. The animal bones included those of domesticated Ox, Sheep, Goat and Pig, also game animals such as Red Deer, Roe Deer, and Boar, which were very likely being hunted and killed for sport. The bones of wild and domesticated fowl included those of Chicken, Duck, Goose, Pheasant and Swan. The main types of seafood consumed were Oysters and Mussels.
A bronze "luggage label" found within the Chester fortress
(Picture taken at the Grosvenor Museum, Chester, in February 2003)
|LEG XX IVLI CANDIDI|
|"The Twentieth Legion. [Property] of Julius Candidus."|
There are over 120 inscribed stones recorded in the R.I.B. for Chester, including; 18 altarstones to assorted gods (discussed separately below), 5 building inscriptions, 2 cohort and 6 centurial stones, and 5 unclassified. However, by far the most evidence has come in the form of tombstones, 94 of which have been recorded in total (a selection of which are shown below).
|FORTVNAE REDVCI AESCVLAP ET SALVTI EIVS LIBERT ET FAMILIA T POMPONI T F GAL MAMILIANI RVFI ANTISTIANI FVNISVLANI VETTONIANI LEG AVG D D|
|"To Fortuna Reducis,¹ and Æsculapius,² for the well-being of the freedmen and the family of Titus Pomponius Mamilianus Rufus Antistianus Funisulanus,³ son of Titus, of the Galerian voting tribe, [a citizen] of the Vettones,&sup4; legate of the Emperor, [who] donated this offering."|
(RIB 445; altarstone)
There are eighteen known altarstones or dedicatory inscriptions to pagan gods recorded in Roman Chester, all of which are shown on this page. The deities best represented are the Genii or 'guardian spirits', of which there are six dedications, three to the genii centurionum or 'the spirits of the centuries' (vide RIB 446, 447 & 448), and other stones dedicated to 'the spirit of the Twentieth Legion' (RIB 449), 'the genius of the standards of the Twentieth Legion' (451) and another to the genius locum or 'the spirit of this place', this last one shared with the Numen Augusti or 'the Living Spirit of the Emperor' (450). The Numen Augusti is also celebrated on two more altarstones (458, 459). The only other deities to whom more than one altarstone is dedicated, each having two, are the god Jupiter (452, 453) and the mother goddesses (455, 456). Aside from the altarstone shared between Fortuna and Aesculapius (RIB 445), there are in addition five stones dedicated to individual deities; Mars Conservator (454), Minerva (457), Nemesis (573b), 'the Nymphs and Springs' (460), also one in Greek dedicated to Soter (461).
|GENIO SANCTO CENTVRIE AELIVS CLAVDIAN OPT V S||GENIO LEG XX VV D T VET||GENIO SIGNIF LEG XX V V T FL VALERIANVS COLLEGIS D D|
|"To the guardian spirit of the century, Aelius Claudian, optio¹, fulfills his vow."||"To the genius of the Valiant and Victorious Twentieth Legion, the veteran Decimus Titianus [dedicates this]."||"To the guardian spirit of the standards (or standard-bearers) of the Twentieth Legion, Valiant and Victorious, Titus Flavius Valerianus donated this offering for the brotherhood [of Signiferi]."|
|(RIB 448; altarstone)||(RIB 449)||(RIB 451)|
|PRO SAL DOMINORVM N INVICTISSIMORVM AVG GENIO LOCI FLAVIVS LONGVS TRIB MIL LEG XX V V ET LONGINVS FIL EIVS DOMO SAMOSATA V S|
|"For the well-being of our most invincible lords the Emperors, to the guardian spirit of this place Flavius Longus, military tribune of the Twentieth Valiant and Victorious Legion, and Longinus his son, natives of Samosata,² in fulfilment of a vow."|
(RIB 450; altarstone)
|DEO MARTI CONSERV ...TVS ...||DEAE MATRIB DONVM||DEAE MINERVAE FVRIVS FORTVNATVS MAG P V S|
|"To the god Mars the Preserver [...]"||"For the Mother Goddesses, a gift."||"To the goddess Minerva, Furius Fortunatus the district magistrate¹ fulfils his vow."|
|(RIB 454; altarstone)||(RIB 456; altarstone)||(RIB 457; altarstone)|
|NVMINI AVGVSTI ... ALMAECERT...NVS ACT COR ...EX VOTO FACIEND CVR|
|"To the divine spirit of the Emperor [and] Almaecerta [...]nus, Actarius and Cornicularius¹ [...] as the result of a vow arranged this to be made."|
|ΤΕΟΙΣ ΣΩΤΗΡΣΙΝ ΥΠΕΡΜΕΝΕΣΙΝ ΕΡΜΟΓΕΝΗΣ ΙΑΤΡΟΣ ΒΩΜΟΝ ΤΟΝΔ ΑΝΕΘΗΚΑ¹|
|"The doctor² Hermogenes raised this altar to the Mighty Saviour Gods"|
(RIB 461; altarstone; in Greek)
|DEAE NEMESI SEXTIVS MARCIANVS > EX VISV|
|"to the goddess Nemesis, Sextius Marcianus the centurion [dedicates this] as the result of a vision."|
(RIB 573b; altarstone; JRS lvii (1967), p.203, no.5)
|... IMP TITO CAES ... ET CAES AVG F DOMIT|
|"[...] Imperator Titus Caesar [...] and Domitius Caesar, son of the Augustus."|
(RIB 463; dated: c.AD79)
|IMP CAES DIVI TRAIANI F DIVI NERVAE NEPOTI TRAIANO HADRIANO AVG PONTIFICI MAXIMO ...|
|"For Imperator Caesar Trajanus Hadrianus Augustus, son of the divine Trajan, grandson of the divine Nerva, High Priest [...]"|
(RIB 464; dated: AD117-38)
|IMP CAES L SEPT SEVERO TRIB POT ... IMP ... COS ... PATRE PATRIAE PRO COS|
|"For Imperator Caesar Lucius Septimius Severus, holding tribunician power for the [...] time, hailed imperator [...] times, consul [...] times, father of the fatherland, proconsul."|
(RIB 465; dated: AD194-6)
|COH I > OCRATI MAXIMI L M P||"The First Cohort, century of Ocratius Maximus, freely and deservedly placed this."||467|
|CHO III > FERRO||"The Third Cohort, century of Ferrus."||468|
|> ABVCINI||"The century of Abucinius."||469/470|
|> ATTI CELERIS||"The century of Attius Celeris."||471|
|> T FLAVI CICATRICVL||"The century of Titus Flavius Cicatriculus."||472|
|> Q MAX||"The century of Quintus Maximus."||473|
|> Q TER N||"The century of Quintus Ter[e]n[tius]."||474|
The legionary garrison of the Deva fortress left ample epigraphic evidence of their occupancy over the years. As you would expect, the legion which occupied the fortress for the greatest length of time left the most evidence. The Twentieth Legion is represented on 5 altarstones and 28 tombstones, the Second Legion Adiutrix appears on 11 tombstones, and there is a single tombstone of a soldier from the Second Augustan Legion.
|I O M TANARO L ELVFRIVS GALER PRAESENS CLVNIA PRI LEG XX V V COMMODO ET LATERANO COS VSLM|
|"to Jupiter Best and Greatest and Tanarus,¹ Lucius Elufrius Praesens, of the Galerian voting tribe from Clunia,² primipilus³ of the Valiant and Victorious Twentieth Legion, willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow when Commodus and Lateranus were consuls.4"|
(RIB 452; altarstone; dated: AD154)
An 'antefix' tile with the running-boar
emblem of the Twentieth Legion
(Taken at the Grosvenor Museum, Feb. 2003)
The legion most readily associated with Chester is Legio Vicesimae Valeria Victrix, who occupied the fortress from c.AD88 until the late-fourth century. They were not the original occupants of the Chester fortress, however, having replaced the Second Adiutrix. The evidence for this legion is great, with at least 28 tombstones of former sodiers and five inscribed altarstones dedicated by officers from the legion; three to various genii or guardian spirits (vide RIB 449, 450 & 451 supra), the obligatory altar to Jupiter Best and Greatest by a chief centurion (vide supra), and another dedicated by (or on behalf of) the entire legion to the 'Nymphs and Springs' (vide infra).
|NYMPHIS ET FONTIBVS LEG XX V V|
|"To the Nymphs and the Fountains, the Twentieth Legion Valiant and Victorious [dedicates this]."|
(RIB 460; altarstone, inscribed front and rear)
|D M M AVRELIVS ALEXAND PRAEF CAST LEG XX V V NAT SYRVS OSR VIXIT AN LXXII ...C ... ...YCES ET S ...||"To the spirits of the departed and Marcus Aurelius Alexander, praefectus castrorum¹ of the Twentieth Legion Valiant and Victorious, a native of Syria from Osrhoene, he lived for seventy-two years [...]"||490|
|D M CAECILIVS AVITVS EMER AVG OPTI LEG XX V V STP XV VIX AN XXXIIII H F C||"To the spirits of the departed and Caecilius Avitus, emeritus, augur and optio² of the Twentieth Valiant and Victorious Legion with fifteen years service, thirty-four years old. His heirs arranged [this memorial] to be made."||492|
|D M P RVSTIO FABIA CRESCEN BRIX MIL LEG XX V V AN XXX STIP X GROMA HERES FAC CVR||"To the spirits of the departed and Publius Rustius Crescens, of the Fabian voting tribe from Brixellum,³ a soldier of Legio Vicesimae Valeria Victrix, thirty years old with ten years service. Groma his heir organised the making [of this]."||503|
|D M TITINIVS FELIX B LEG LEG XX V V MIL AN XXII VIX AN XLV IVL SIMILINA CONIVX ET HERES||"To the spirits of the departed and Titinius Felix, beneficiarius legatus&sup4; of the Twentieth Legion Valiant and Victorious, with twenty-two years military service, forty-five years old, his wife Julia Similina and his heirs [set this up]."||505|
|DIS MANIBVS Q VIBIVS SECVNDVS ANNIENSIS CREMONA MILES LEG XX V V > OCTAVIANI||"To the spirits of the departed and Quintus Vibius Secundus, of the Anniensis voting tribe from Cremona, a soldier of the Twentieth Legion Valiant and Victorious, the century of Octavianus."||508|
|... PVB > LEG V MACID ET VIII AVG ET II AVG ET XX V V VIXIT ANNIS LXI ARISTIO LIB H F C||"[...] of the Poblilian voting tribe, former centurion of the Fifth Legion Macedonica, the Eighth Augustan, the Second Augustan and the Twentieth Valiant and Victorious, sixty-one years old. Aristio his freedman and heir arranged for this to be made."||509|
|VOLTIMESIS PVDENS G FIL SER AVGVSTA EQ VES LEG II AD P F ANNORVM XXXII STIPENDIORVM XIII H S E|
|"Voltimesis Pudens, the son of Gaius, of the Sergian voting tribe from Augusta,¹ a horse-trooper in the Second Legion Adiutrix, Loyal and faithful, who lived forty-two years and served thirteen. He lies here."|
(RIB 482; tombstone)
|G VALERIO CRISPO VETRANO EX LEG II AD PIA FIDELI|
|"Gaius Valerius Crispus, a veteran of the Second Legion Adiutrix, Loyal and faithful"|
(RIB 478; tombstone)
The Second Legion Adiutrix are thought to be responsible for the original timber-built fortress at Chester, arriving in the area c.AD79 and remaining on station for only a decade before being withdrawn from Britain by the emperor Domitian for use in his Dacian wars, wherupon they were replaced by the Twentieth. The Second Adiutrix is attested on at least 11 tombstones recovered from the Deva environs, some of which are shown here.
|Q VALERIVS Q F CLA FRONTO CELE A MILES LEG II AD P F ANNORVM L STIPENDIORVM XXV|
|"Quintus Valerius Fronto, son of Quintus, of the Claudian voting tribe from Celeia,¹ a soldier of the Second Legion Adiutrix, Loyal and faithful, fifty years old with twenty-five years service."|
(RIB 479; tombstone)
|G IVVENTIS G CLA CAPITO APRO MIL LEG II AD P F > IVLI CLEMENTIS ANN XL STIP XVII|
|"Gaius Juventis Capito, of the Claudian voting tribe from Apros,² a soldier of the Second Legion Adiutrix, Loyal and faithful, from the century of Julius Clemens, forty years old with seventeen years service."|
(RIB 476; tombstone)
|D M S GABINIVS FELIX MILES LEG II AVG ANT VIXSIT ANIS XXXX H P C|
|"To the spirits of the departed and Gabinius Felix, a soldier of The Second Augustan Legion, Antonine's own, who lived for forty years. His heirs arranged for this to be placed."|
(RIB 488; tombstone)
The epigraphic evidence on stone from Chester which mentions the Second Augustan Legion is very slight. Apart from a entry in the curriculum vitae of an experienced centurion who had served in many legions (vide RIB 509 supra), the only known inscription is a tombstone of a former soldier (RIB 488 supra). Regarding tombstones in general, it would usually be a good bet that any unit mentioned on an epitaph would be stationed somewhere nearby, but in this case, 'it ain't neccessarily so'. Experienced legionary soldiers were often possessed of rare military skills which led to them frequently being seconded to other units who required their specialized services. These skills were often included in their epitaph, but here the recorded rank is merely that of a miles or an ordinary legionary soldier, with no other titles.
Aside from two texts which are unclassified in the RIB (532 and 557), all of the inscriptions in the table below are from tombstones recovered from the Chester environs.
|521||D M AVRELIVS DIOGENES IMAGINIFER ... M ...||"To the spirits of the departed and Aurelius Diogenes, Bearer of the Emperor's Image [...]"|
|525||DIS MANIBVS D CAPIENI VRBICI VOLTINIA VIENN SIGNIFERI STIPEND XXIIII ANNOR XLIIII H F C||"To the spirits of the departed and Decimus Capienus Urbicus, of the Voltinian voting tribe from Vienna, a standard-bearer with twenty-four years service, forty-four years old. His heir(s) made this [memorial]."|
|532||... D M A IVL MARVLLINI B F TRIBVNI VIXIT ANNIS XXXXV H F C||"[...] to the spirits of the departed and Aulus Julius Marullinus the beneficiarius tribunis,¹ who lived forty-five years. His heir(s) set up this [memorial]."|
|537||D M L FESTINIO PROBO FIL VIX AN II D XXVIIII L SEM PROBIANVS PATER F C||"To the spirits of the departed and Festinius Probus, a son who lived for two years and twenty-nine days. His father Lucius Sem[pronius] Probianus arranged for this to be made."|
|557||...AN XXVI TVRMA VILIX FRATER FEC||"[...] twenty-six years old, [a trooper] in the turma² of Vilix. His brother made this."|
|558||D M FL CALLIMOR PHI VIXIT ANI XXXXII ET SERAPIONI VIX ANN III M VI THESAEVS FRATRI ET FILIO F C||"To the spirits of the departed and Flavius Callimorphus who lived forty-two years, and to Serapionus who lived for three years and six months. Thesaeus arranged for this to be made for his brother and his son."|
|559||D M ETACONTIO LIBERTO BENE MERENTI G ASVRIVS FORTIS PATRONVS EIVS POSVIT||"To the spirits of the departed and Etacontius, a well deserving freedman. His patron Gaius Asurius Fortis places this [memorial]."|
|562||D M CVRATIA DINYSIA VIXIT AN XXXX H F C||"To the spirits of the departed and Curatia Dionysia, who lived forty years. Her heirs had this [memorial] made."|
|566||D M RESTITAE V AN VII ET MARTIAE V AN III PARENTES||"To the spirits of the departed, to Restita who lived for seven years, and to Martia who lived three years, their parents [made this]."|
Chester/Deva High Street
(Picture taken Feb. 2003)
South-East Corner Tower
(Picture taken Feb. 2003)
North Wall of Fortress
(Picture taken Feb. 2003)
Amphitheatre Near South-East Angle
(Picture taken Feb. 2003)
East Wall of Fortress
(Picture taken Feb. 2003)