Type: Colonia, Legionary Fortress, Aqueduct, Pottery Kilns, Other Buildings.
Ermine Street: N (10) to Owmby (Lincolnshire)|
Itinera V/VIII: NW (14) to Marton (Lincolnshire)
E (22) to BANNOVALVM (Horncastle, Lincolnshire)
Itinera VI/VIII: SW (11) to CROCOCALANA (Brough, Nottinghamshire)
SSE (17) to Sleaford (Lincolnshire)
Iter V: Ermine Street: S (17) to CAVSENNAE (Ancaster, Lincolnshire)
The Roman name for Lincoln is well attested in the classical geographies. Ptolemy of the early second century says "Next to these [the Cornovii] are the Coritani, among whom are the towns: Lindum 18*40 56°30, Ratae 18*00 55°30." The second entry in Ptolemy's list is Ratae Coritanorum (Leicester, Leicestershire) which was the civitas capital of the Coritani tribe. The name is also recorded in the Ravenna Cosmology of the seventh century, appearing here as Lindum Colonia (R&C#104), between the entries for Venta Icenorum (Caistor St. Edmund, Norfolk) and Bannovalum (Horncastle, Lincolnshire).
Lincoln is also listed in three of the fifteen routes recorded for Britain in the Antonine Itinerary of the late second century, in all cases the name appearing in its dative form Lindo. In Iter V "The route from London to Carlisle on the Wall", it is listed 24 miles from Causennae (Ancaster, Lincolnshire) and 14 miles from Segelocum (Littleborough, Nottinghamshire). Lincoln is the northern terminus of Iter VI, entitled "the route from London to Lincoln - one-hundred and fifty six thousand paces", where it is listed at the end of the itinerary, 12 miles from Crococalana (Brough, Nottinghamshire). The last entry for Lincoln is found in Iter VIII "the route from York to London", again listed 14 miles from Segelocum but this time 14 miles from Crococalana.
The majority of Roman activity was centered on a 200 foot (60 metre) hilltop at the end of a limestone ridge overlooking a pool in the River Witham from the north. This was a strategic location, where the Jurassic Way crossed the River Witham, and was the ideal spot for the fortress of the Ninth Hispanic Legion.
The earliest reference to the place-name is from a dedicatory inscription to Fortuna found at Mainz in Germany and dated to the end of Domitian's reign. This inscription records the name as LINDO, which is the dative form of Lindum. It is very likely that the name Lindum is a Romanised version of the original Celtic, the exact meaning of which is uncertain.
The fore-part of the name lin undoubtedly refers to the pool in the river Witham below the modern castle, which word is recognizable in both modern Welsh (llyn; 'lake'), and Gaelic (linne; 'pool'). The Romanised ending -dum, leaves us with some difficulties, however, as the Romans were in the habit of making the local place-names more easily pronounceable to their civilized tongues by giving them this 'catch-all' ending. The Celtic name for the area could have been Lindo, Lindon, Lindun or even Lindunon, all of which would have different meanings in the Celtic tongue.
When we look at the possible endings of the name among the Celtic languages, we see that there are two general possibilities;
The scarcity of Iron-Age remains recovered from the hill top at Lincoln make it unlikely that a pre-Roman native Celtic encampment existed here, and point to it being a virgin site when the Romans first arrived in the area. This being the case, the first group of endings listed above, although attractive, may be discounted. It is probable, on the face of it, that the ancient Celtic name for Lincoln was something along the lines of Lin-du, meaning 'The Dark Pool'. There are many reasons why this widening in the Witham would be called 'The Dark Pool' by the ancient Britons; it is possible that the waters of the Witham were tinged dark-brown by the peaty soil through which it flowed, it could allude to the depth of the river-pool, or the fact that in the mornings it is overshadowed by the hills to the east.
A colony of veteran soldiers was established at the end of the first century, and Lindum was then renamed Colonia Domitiana Lindensium. Following the assassination of the deranged emperor Domitian in September AD96, and the condemnation of his memory by the Senate, the colony became known simply as Lindum Colonia, which over the ages has been contracted to its modern form, Lincoln.
The fortress defences were aligned east-west and consisted of a single ditch and rampart which enclosed an area of around 41 acres (16.6 hectares). The rampart consisted of a double row of turves with the space between the two walls filled with the outcast from the ditch. The rampart was surmounted by a timber palisade and walk-way, and timber was probably used to strengthen the front and back of the turf walls.
There were four gates set at the cardinal points in the walls, the north and south gates being slightly off-set to the east; the fortress therefore faced west into the then troublesome region of the Peak District in Derbyshire and North Staffordshire.
The legionary fortress had originally been established as the base of Legio IX Hispana c.A.D.70, but by the end of the decade they had been replaced at Lindum by Legio II Adiutrix. The fortress was abandoned with its defences intact c.A.D.79, when the agressive policies of the governor Gnaeus Julius Agricola had moved the scene of action far to the north in Caledonia.
Aside from the fortress of the Ninth at Lincoln, there is a large Roman 'vexillation' or campaign fortress at Newton on Trent about 10 miles due west.
|G VALERIVS G F MAEC|
MIL LEG IX SIGN C HOSPITIS
ANN XXXV STIP XIIII
T P I H S E
|"Gaius Valerius, son of Gaius, of the Maecian voting tribe,|
a soldier of the Ninth Legion, standard-bearer in the century of Hospes,
thirty-five years of age with fourteen years service.
This inscription was set up in accordance with his will. He lies here."
(Burn 6; RIB 257; tombstone)
Even though the fortress at Lincoln was built by the men of the Ninth Hispanic Legion, the only evidence on stone attesting their presence is the tombstone of Gaius Valerius (vide RIB 257 supra), who was a signifer or standard-bearer in the legion. The Second Legion Adiutrix who are known to have occupied the Lincoln fortress for a short period, are represented on two tombstones, and there is another tombstone of a veteran soldier from the Sixth Legion. It appears that the Fourteenth Legion was stationed at Lincoln for some time, as the tombstones of five former soldiers from this legion have been unearthed here. A tombstone of particular interest is that of a Decurion from an auxiliary cavalry unit (vide RIB 266 infra), which may indicate that his unit was stationed at Lincoln or perhaps nearby.
|G SAVFEIO A F FAB HER MILITI LEGIO VIIII ANNOR XXXX STIP XXII H S E|
|"To Gaius Saufeius, son of Aulus, of the Fabian voting tribe, from Heraclea,¹ a soldier in the Fourteenth Legion, who lived forty years and served twenty-two. He lies here."|
(Burn 5; RIB 255; tombstone; on display in British Museum)
|M AVRELIVS ... VS M AVRELI MAXSVMI LIB ... CINO ANNOR XXXV ... SI ... LENIVS VETERAN EX LEG XIIII GEM H E TEST P|
|Marcus Aurelius [...] freedman of Marcus Aurelius Maxuminus [...] I reduce to ashes, thirty-five years [...] Lenius, retired soldier formerly of the Fourteenth 'Twinned' Legion, his heir, placed this as stipulated in his will.|
(RIB 249; tombstone)
|T VALERIVS T F CLA PVDENS SAV MIL LEG II A P F C DOSSENNI PROCVLI A XXX AERA VI H D S P H S E|
|"Titus Valerius Pudens, son of Titus, of the Claudian voting tribe, from Savaria,¹ a soldier of the Second Legion Adiutrix Loyal and Faithful, from the century of Dossennius Proculus, (who) lived for thirty years with six years service. His heirs set this up at their own expense. He lies here."|
(RIB 258; tombstone)
|DIS MANIB G IVLI CAL CALENI LVG VET EX LEG VI VIC P F H A SE M F|
|"To the spirits of the departed and to Gaius Julius Calenus, of the Galerian voting tribe, from Lugdunum,¹ former veteran of the Sixth Victorious Legion Loyal and Faithful. His heirs themselves had this monument made."|
(RIB 252; tombstone)
|... EX DEC ALAE II AST VIXIT ANNIS LXX|
|"... former Decurion¹ of the Second Wing of Asturians,² who lived for seventy years"|
(RIB 266; tombstone)
It must be pointed out that tombstones are not very good indicators for the presence of a military unit. This is because the highly-trained soldiers in a legion, particularly the centurions and other non-commissioned officers, were very much in demand, and were often posted to other legions or auxiliary units in order to train recruits, oversee building operations, or to act in some other advisory capacity. There is no way to tell if the legions mentioned on the tombstones shown above were actually present at the Lincoln fortress, because the individuals involved may have been temporarily posted here from another unit. There is a further complication caused by the establishment of the colonia, which would have accepted veteran soldiers from all of the British legions, thus the epitaphs may belong to veteran colonists, again negating the need for their respective units to be actually stationed here at any time.
A Colonia was established during the reign of the notorious emperor Domitian in the late 90s for demobilized veterans, who occupied the evacuated fortress, the site of the old praetorium being used for the new, timber-built forum and basilica.
The colonists almost immediately strengthened and embellished the old fortress with a stone cladding four feet (1.2 metres) thick along the entire outer wall of rampart. The gates were also clad in stone at this time. The work was not very well realized however, as no foundations had been used, and part of the wall overlay the legionary ditch, which had been hastily in-filled. As a result of this shoddy workmanship, the newly-built colonia walls soon began to lean outwards.
All four gateways were re-built on a monumental scale in c.AD220-30. A major part of the west gate from this period survives to this day, incorporated into the defences of the later Norman castle and forming its principal north-western entrance. It is thought that the earlier 'jerry-built' stone outer walls of the colonia were re-visited at the same time the monumental gateways were constructed, some-parts being strengthened and refurbished, other parts being completely rebuilt.
A settlement consisting mainly of native Coritanian Britons and skilled artisans from further afield, had been established to the south of the fortress since the late first century, forming a canabae between the south wall of the fortress and the River Witham. The civil settlement continued after the legionary fortress had been abandoned, and since the founding of the colonia had spread downhill thoughout the second century.
In the early third century (c.AD200) the adjoining civil settlement was enclosed by a low rampart and ditch, which extended south from the south-east and south-west corners of the fortress almost down to the river. At first these defences were backed by a simple wooden palisade or fence, set about ten feet behind the rampart, which was later augmented by the addition of a narrow wall atop the bank. With the additional area thus enclosed, the size of the colonia was more than doubled to about 100 acres (40 hectares).
In addition to the colonia in the old fortress and the walled town to the south, there were extensive suburbs outside the north, east and west gates of the old fortress, and outside the gates set roughly central in the east and west walls of the lower town.
A small settlement on the south side of the River Witham extended along either side of Ermine Street for over half a mile (1 kilometre). This later developed into a major industrial centre.
|D M FL HELIVS NATIONE GRECVS VIXIT ANNOS XXXX FL INGENVA CONIVGI POSVIT|
|"To the spirits of the departed and Flavius Helius, of Greek nationality, who lived forty years, Flavia Ingenua his wife placed this (memorial)."|
(RIB 251; tombstone)
|DIS MANIBVS NOMINI SACRI BRVSCI FILI CIVIS SENONI ET CARSSO VNAE CONIVGIS EIVS ET QVINTI F|
|"To the spirits of the departed and the sacred name of Bruscius, a son and citizen of the Senones,¹ and to Carssos one of his wives, and to Quintus his brother"|
(RIB 262; tombstone)
|D M CLAVDIAE CRYSIDI VIXIT AN LXXXX HEREDES P C|
|"To the spirits of the departed and Claudia Crysidis, (who) lived for ninety years,|
her descendants placed this as arranged.¹"
(RIB 263; tombstone)
|PARCIS DEABVS ET NVMINIBVS AVG G ANTISTIVS FRONTINVS CVRATOR TERTIVM ARAM D S D|
|"To the Fates, the Goddesses and the Divine Spirits of the Emperors, Gaius Antistius Frontinus, overseer¹ for the third time, dedicated this altar at his own expense."|
(RIB 247; altarstone)
For some obscure reason the gods are not very well represented at Lincoln, there being only three known altars dedicated to various deities, and two other inscriptions of a quasi-religious nature. All of these texts are reproduced on this page, the most interesting altarstone being RIB 247 shown above.
|GENIO LOCI ... V S L L M ... IMIA||"To the Spirit of this Place ... willingly, deservedly and gladly fulfilled his vow ... ¹"||246; altar|
|DEO MARTI||"To the god Mars."||248; altar|
|VIC HRAPO MERCVRESIVM||"To the Victory at Hrapus of Mercury.²"||270; plinth|
|APOLLINENSIVM||"To those of Apollinis.³"||271|
One site just off Lincoln High Street has produced column bases and finely-worked large stones together with an inscription mentioning the god Mercury (vide RIB 270 supra); It is possible that these artefacts came from a classical temple dedicated to this messenger god. Also at the Bailgate site on the west side of the main north-south street beside the basilica and forum, a monumental building with a facade possessing six 20 ft. tall columns across the front (hexastyle), is thought to represent a classical temple perhaps dedicated to the Imperial cult.
As the colonia and town developed through the third into the fourth century, the majority of the population had gravitated into the suburbs. It is suggested that this was due primarily to the large area taken up by the administrative and public areas of the town such as temples, fora and basilica, in addition to the large, sumptuous town-houses of the local nobility and land-owning classes. With the degeneration of the road system in the fourth century, and the increasing dependence on the River Witham to conduct commercial trade, the population was concentrated along both banks of the river.
In the late fourth century, it is of interest that in certain areas of the walled town and fortress, ruined buildings were levelled and then covered with a thick layer of "Dark Earth", presumably for the use of agriculture or gardens.
Although the town suffered a partial decline in the fifth century, occupation continued through the Saxon period and the Norman castle built into the south-west corner of the old legionary fortress provided the security needed for the town to survive through the middle ages to the present time.
|IMP CAES P LIC VALERIANO PIOFEL AVG P M TR P P P R P L|
|"For Imperator Caesar Publius Licinius Valerianus Pius Felix Augustus,¹|
Pontifex Maximus, Tribunicia Potestatis, Pater Patriae.²
(and) the Public Works of Lincoln.³"
(RIB 2240; dated AD253-9)
A couple of Roman milestones or honorific pillars have been recovered from the Lincoln environs, and the texts of both are displayed here. One of these honorific pillars has been used twice, the primary text being completely erased before the secondary was inscribed, the surviving text is extremely interesting, however (RIB 2241 infra).
|IMP CAES MARCO PIAVONIO VICTORINO P F INV AVG|
PONT MAX TR P P P
A L S M P XIIII
|"For Imperator Caesar Marcus Piavonius Victorinus Pius Felix Invictus Augustus,¹|
Pontifex Maximus, Tribunicia Potestatis, Pater Patriae.²
From Lindum to Segelocum,³ fourteen thousand paces."
(Burn 209; RIB 2241; secondary text; dated AD269-71)