COLONIA DOMITIANA LINDENSIVM
LINDVM

Roman Colony & Legionary Fortress

Lincoln, Lincolnshire

NGRef: SK975714
OSMap: LR121
Type: Colonia, Legionary Fortress, Aqueduct, Pottery Kilns, Other Buildings.
Roads
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)

Lindum - The Dark Pool

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 5630, Ratae 18*00 5530." 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 Meaning of the Roman Name

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;

  1. Referring to a settlement or fortification on the hill overlooking the pool;
  2. In reference to the colour or opacity of the pool itself;

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 Legionary Fortress

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.

Legionary and Auxiliary Units at Lincoln

Legio Nonae Hispana - The Ninth Spanish Legion

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)
  1. Heraclea was (and still is) a popular place-name, there being several known; for instance, Heraclea Acarnaniae near Actium in western Aetolia, Heraclea Bospori/Pontica on the shores of the Euxine (Black) Sea in northern Turkey, Heraclea Lynci of Pelagonia in northern Macedonia, Heraclea Minoa in Sicily, Heraclea Pisatidis near Olympia in western Arcadia and Heraclea Tracinia in central Aetolia. It may be argued that Gaius Saufeius could have hailed from any of these places, though it is almost certain that he was a native of Heraclea Lucaniae in southern Italy, since he was later to serve in the Roman Legions, which at the time allowed only citizen recruits.

Legio Quarta-decimae Gemina - The Fourteenth 'Twinned' Legion

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)

Legio Secundae Adiutrix Pia Fidelis - The Second 'Assistant' Legion, Loyal and Faithful

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)
  1. The city of Savaria lay on the river Savus in the Roman province of Pannonia Superior, now known as Sarvar on the Raba, in Western Hungary.

Legio Sextae Victrix Pia Fidelis - The Sixth Victorious Legion, Loyal and Faithful

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)
  1. Lugdunum was the provincial capital of Gallia Lugdunensis, now Lyons in the Lyonnais region of southern France. The emperor Claudius was himself born there.

Ala Secundae Asturum - The Second Wing of Astures

... 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)
  1. Decurio - a minor cavalry officer in command of a turma or squadron of between thirty and forty mounted auxiliary soldiers.
  2. Recruited from among the Astures tribe from Hispania Tarraconensis. Their capital city was Asturica Augusta, now Astorga in northern Spain. Interestingly, this region is still known as Asturia.

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.

Colonia Domitiana Lindensium

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.

The Adjoining Civil Settlement

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.

Some Roman Tombstones from Lincoln

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)
  1. The Senones were a Gaulish tribe from central Gallia Lugdunensis, their capital city was Agedincum Senonum, now known as Sens on the Yonne river in the Senonais region of central France. It was this tribe, under their leader Brennus (of Vae victis! "Woe to the conquered!" fame), who invaded Italy and sacked Rome in 387 B.C. (or 390, vide Polybius).
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)
  1. I have expanded the final P C in the inscription to Posuit Condidit, as it appeared to me that the old dear may have lived to such a venerable age perhaps because she had planned it that way, and this epitaph therefore seemed appropriate.

The Gods of Roman Lincoln

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)
  1. The title curator can also be translated as manager, legal guardian, superintendent, administrator, etc. The text gives no clue as to what guild or institution Frontinus actually managed for a celebrated third term.

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.

InscriptionTogo-TranslationRIB
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
  1. The last part of this text defies translation.
  2. I don't know what this means either.
  3. Or Apollo, the Greek god of archery, flocks, herds, music and prophesy, often identified with the sun.

Suspected Classical Temples at Lincoln

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.

Click here for the RBO Temples and Shrines Index

Fourth Century Decline

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.

Roman Milestones from Lincoln

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)
  1. The emperor Valerian, who began his reign in October AD253 after the murder of his benefactor the emperor Trebonianus Gallus. He was captured by the treachery of the Persian king Sapur at Edessa in AD260 and remained in captivity until his death an unknown number of years later. After death of old age as a slave, his skin was reputedly taken from his body, dyed bright vermillion and set on display in a prominent Persian temple as a warning to the Romans.
  2. His three official titles and powers; "High priest, [holder of] Tribunician Power, Father of the Fatherland."
  3. The expansion is R[es] P[ublicae] L[indensium].

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)
  1. Victorinus, fourth emperor of the short-lived Gallic Empire, who ruled between A.D.269 and 271. He was killed after propositioning the wife of one of his generals.
  2. Not in the least pretentious, this emperor has after his own nine names, the same titles and powers as his (legitimate) predecessor Valerian.
  3. See the page for Littleborough in Nottinghamshire.

Click here for the RBO Romano-British Walled Towns page

See: The Towns of Roman Britain by John Wacher (2nd Ed., BCA, London, 1995) pp.132-150 & fig.57;
Chronicle of the Roman Emperors by Chris Scarre (Thames & Hudson, London, 1995);
Chronology of the Ancient World by E.J. Bickerman (Thames & Hudson, London, 1980);
The Romans in Britain - An Anthology of Inscriptions by A.R. Burn (Blackwell, Oxford, 1969);
Temples in Roman Britain by M.J.T. Lewis (Cambridge 1966);
The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965).
Air Reconnaissance of Southern Britain by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. xliii (1953) pp.81-97;
Atlas of the Greek and Roman World in Antiquity by Nicholas G.L. Hammond (Bristol Classical Press);
All English translations, including any inherent mistakes, are my own.

GoTop

This page was last modified: