LAVATRIS

Roman Fort & Temple

Bowes, Durham

NGRef: NY9913
OSMap: LR92
Type: Roman Fort, Temple.
Roads
NE (18) to VINOVIVM (Binchester, Durham)
Itinera II et V: W (13) to VERTERIS (Brough-under-Stainmore, Cumbria) via Rey Cross
Itinera II et V: E (5½) to Greta Bridge (Durham)

The Roman name for the Bowes fort is well documented, being recorded in three of the major classical geographical sources. It occurs twice in the Antonine Itinerary, as Lavatris in Iter II (from Hadrians Wall to Richborough in Kent) and as Levatris in Iter V (from London to Carlisle on the Wall), in both cases appearing between the entries for VERTERIS (Brough Castle, Cumbria) and CATARACTONIVM (Catterick, North Yorkshire). The distance to Brough Castle is recorded as fourteen Roman miles whereas the distance to Catterick is variously reported as sixteen miles in Iter II and eighteen miles in Iter V.

The name appears as Lauatres in the Notitia Dignitatum, where it is listed among the forces commanded by the 'Duke of the Britains', between the entries for CONCANGIS (Chester-le-Street, Durham) and Brough Castle. In the Ravenna Cosmology (R&C#135) it appears as Lavaris, between the entries for VINOVIVM (Binchester, Durham) and Catterick.

The Bowes Fort

The only building inscriptions recovered from the Lavatris fort are those of auxiliary regiments, which is unusual because it is thought that all Roman auxiliary forts were built by the highly trained citizen troops of the Roman legions, not by the auxiliary soldiers themselves. In all likelyhood, the absence of any legionary stones at Bowes is probably due to the fact that they still remain to be discovered, perhaps re-used within the walls of one of the old farms in the area.

The Garrison Units

Cohors Quartae F[risiavonum]? - The Fourth Cohort of Frisiavones

IMP CAESARI DIVI TRAIANI DIVI NERVAE NEPOTI TRAIANO AVG PONTIFICI MAXI COS III P P COH IIII F SVB IVLIO SEVERO LEG AVG PR PR
"For the emperor, the descendant of the divine Trajan and the divine Nerva, Trajanus (Hadrianus) Augustus, high priest, consul for the third time, father of his country, the Fourth Cohort of F...? (made this) under Julius Severus, pro-praetorian legate of the emperor."
(RIB 739; dedicatory inscription; AD130-3)

The name of this unit is incomplete, appears only in a single stone text (vide supra) and cannot be reconciled with any other known auxiliary regiment in Britain. The inscription above places the regiment at the Bowes fort shortly after Hadrian's Wall was first completed; where they were posted after this remains unknown, likewise their origins.

It is possible, however, that this unit may be identified with the Cohors IIII Breucorum who were known to be the garrison of VINDOMORA (Ebchester, Durham; RIB 1101) during the Severan campaigns of the early third century.

Cohors Primae Thracum Equitata - The First Part-Mounted Cohort of Thracians

DAE FORTVNAE VIRIVS LVPVS LEG AVG PR PR BALINEVM VIIGNIS EXVSTVM COH I THRACVM RESTITVIT CVRANTE VAL FRONTONE PRAEF EQ ALAE VETTO
"For the Goddess Fortune, Virius Lupus, legate of the emperor with pro-praetorian power, the baths having been destroyed by fire, were restored by the First Cohort of Thracians under the direction of Valerius Fronto, cavalry prefect of the Vettonian Wing.¹"
(RIB 730; altarstone; AD179-202)
  1. Ala Hispanorum Vettonum was based at the neighbouring fort of VINOVIVM (Binchester, Durham), and although it is likely that some soldiers from this unit were present during the construction work at the Lavatris fort, it is not thought that they were ever permanently stationed here.

The First Cohort of Thracians is attested on six - possibly seven - inscriptions on stone recovered from the site, two of which have dated to the end of the second century (vide supra) and the beginning of the third (vide infra). The regiment was originally recruited from among the tribes of the Roman province of Thracia, modern Bulgaria.

IMPP CAESS L SEPTIM SEVERO PIO PERTINACI ARAB ADIAB PART MAX ET M AVR ANTON PIO AVGG [ET P SEPT GETAE NOB CAES] IVSSV L ALFENI SENECIONIS LEG AVGG PR PR COH I THRAC EQ
"For their Imperial Caesars Lucius Septimius Severus Pius Pertinax, greatest in Arabia, Adiabene and Parthia, and Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Pius Augustus (and Publius Septimius Geta, noble Caesar),¹ by order of Lucius Alfenus Senecio, pro-praetorian legate of the emperors, the First Cohort of Thracians (made this)."
(RIB 740; AD205-8; dedicatory inscription)
  1. It is likely that Geta's name was purposely erased from this inscription following his assassination by his older brother Caracalla in 212.

This auxiliary regiment has also been identified - together with Cohors I Aelia Dacorum - on a building inscription from CAMBOGLANNA (Birdoswald, Cumbria; RIB 1909; AD205-208) that dates to a period concurrent with a stone from Bowes (vide supra); it is possible that the unit was split between the two sites, though it is more likely that the building work here at Lavatris was completed first, and the unit then moved en masse to Birdoswald.

The unit is also attested on an undated building stone from Hadrian's Wall (RIB 1323), close to milecastle-4 in the centre of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Building Inscription of Cohors I Thracum Attesting the Administration of Governor Aemilianus

...VS AEMILIANVS LEG AVG PR PR COH I THRACVM INS ...LLO PRAEF ... FECIT
"[...]us Aemilianus,¹ pro-praetorian legate of the emperor, the First Cohort of Thracians made this, on the instructions of [...]llo the prefect."
(RIB 741; 2nd/3rd C.)
  1. Aemilianus is thought to have governed Britain sometime during the late-2nd or early-3rd centuries. The stone is particularly important as it represents the only physical evidence of this governor's administration.

Numerus Exploratorum - The Company of Scouts

Praefectus numeri exploratorum, Lauatres
"The prefect of the Company of Scouts at Lavatris."
(Notitia Dignitatum xl.25; 4th/5th C.)

The Numerus Exploratorum were an irregular, part-mounted unit and are recorded only in this single classical reference. Other units of exploratores are known from inscriptions at BREMENIVM (High Rochester, Northumberland; RIB 1262) and HABITANCVM (Risingham, Northumberland; RIB 1235), and another unit is reported at PORTVS ARDAONI (Portchester, Hampshire) in the Notitia.

The Gods of Lavatris

MARTI CONDATI ARPONATVS VSLM
"To Mars Condatus, Arponatus willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow."
(RIB 731; altarstone)

Of the thirteen inscriptions on stone recorded in the R.I.B. for the Bowes area, ten are altars to the gods. The British god Vinotonus is the best represented with four altars verified, two of which are dedicated to Vinotonus Silvanus. These altars were found in two rural temples which lie about 2 miles to the south of the Lavatris fort on Scargill Moor, together with a further probable altar (RIB 734) and another three possibilities. There were then, possibly eight altars to this god at Bowes, while the classical gods were represented only by single altars to Fortuna (vide RIB 730 supra) and Mars Condatus (vide supra), found in the vicinity of the fort itself.

Milestones from the Road West

Milestones from Vale House, Stainmore, Durham - 2 Miles West

IMP C M ANNIO FLORIANO P F AVG IMP C M AVRELIO PROBO P F AVG
"For Imperator Caesar Marcus Annius Florianus Pius Felix Augustus¹" "For Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Probus Pius Felix Augustus²"
(RIB 2280; milestone; primary; dated: AD276) (RIB 2280; milestone; secondary; dated: AD276-282)
IMP C M AVR CARO P F AVG M
"For Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Carus Pius Felix Augustus [Pontifex] Maximus³"
(RIB 2281; milestone; dated: AD282-283)
  1. The emperor Florianus was the praetorian commander who took over the empire following the murder of emperor Tacitus in July AD276, and was to rule for two months and twenty days before being murdered by his own soldiers near Tarsus in September the same year.
  2. The emperor Probus was the former commander of Rome's eastern frontier who succeeded Florianus after instigating the military coup which resulted in the latter's death. He ruled until September AD282 when he was himself murdered by his own soldiers near Sirmium.
  3. The emperor Carus was the praetorian commander of Probus who succeeded to the empire after engineering the latter's death. He was "killed by lightning" near Ctesiphon on the banks of the Tigris in July/August AD283. There is another milestone of Carus near the marching camp at Rey Cross, 5 miles to the west of the Bowes fort.

Excavations at Bowes/Lavatris

NZ993135 - The principia and buildings to the immediate north were examined in 1970 and revealed six phases of development, two in timber and four in stone, the first stone buildings appearing during the Hadrianic period. Other buildings within the central-range of the fort displayed evidence of metal-working during the 3rd century.

Click here for the RBO Page on the Scargill Moor Temples

Click here for the RBO Page on the Bowes Moor Marching Camp

See: Chronicle of the Roman Emperors by Chris Scarre (Thames & Hudson, London, 1995);
Britannia ii (1971) p.251;
The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);
All translations, including any inherent mistakes, are my own.

GoTop

This page was last modified: