LONGOVICIVM

Roman Fort & Aqueducts

Lanchester, Durham

NGRef: NZ1546
OSMap: LR88
Type: Roman Fort, Aqueducts (2).
Roads
NW (6) to VINDOMORA (Ebchester, Durham)
SSE (13) to VINOVIVM (Binchester, Durham)

Longovicium - The place of the ship-fighters

The Roman name for the fort at Lanchester is known from two classical sources; in the Notitia Dignitatum the name appears Longouico between the entries for MAGIS (Burrow Walls, Cumbria) and DERVENTIO (Malton, North Yorkshire), while in the Ravenna Cosmology (R&C#133) it is listed as Lineoiugla - probably corrupt - between the VINDOLANDA (Chesterholm, Northumberland) and VINOVIVM (Binchester, Durham) entries.

The name Longovicium is a compound word derived from the Celtic longo- 'ship' and Latin vicium 'street-settlement', which seems to imply that the Roman inhabitants of the place perhaps had some connection with the Classis Brittannica (the British fleet), or had seen praiseworthy action against a sea-borne attack on a previous posting; a possible translation might be 'the place of the ship-fighters'. The modern name is first recorded on a document dating to 1196, where it appears Langecestr 'the long Roman fort or stronghold', from Old English lang+ceaster, however, the first element may be a contraction of the original Roman name for the fort.

The Longovicium Fort

LEG XX V V FEC
"The Twentieth Legion, Valiant and Victorious, built this."
(RIB 1093)

The inscription above probably identifies the original builders of the fort at Lanchester, but unfortunately, as is often the case, provides no concrete evidence of the date of construction. There is evidence that the fort was occupied by the latter half of the second century (1083 infra), and we also know from building inscriptions dating to the first half of the third century (1091 infra) that by this time, the stone buildings in the interior of the fort were in some state of disrepair.

Aside from the building inscription identifying the Twentieth Legion (vide supra) three other legionary building stones have been found at Lanchester, none of which are dated (vide infra); COH I "the First Cohort" (RIB 1094), and > N. "the century of N[onius]?" (RIB 1096).

COH VIII > OPPI PROCVLI
"The eighth cohort, century of Oppius Proculus."
(RIB 1095)

The Garrison Units

Cohors Primae Fida Vardullorum Milliaria Equitata Civium Romanorum
The First Cohort of Faithful Vardulli, one-thousand strong, part-mounted, citizens of Rome

NVM AVG ET GEN COH I F VARDVLLORVM C R EQ M SVB ANTISTIO ADVENTO LEG AVG PR PR FL TITIANVS TRIB D S D
"To the divine spirit of the Emperor and to the Genius of the First Cohort of Faithful Vardulli, citizens of Rome, part-mounted, one-thousand strong, under Antistius Adventus, pro-praetorian legate of the emperor, and the tribune Flavius Titianus, (made this) out of their devotion."
(RIB 1083; altarstone; c.AD175-8)

This unit is attested on two stones from Lanchester, a dedicatory inscription dated c.AD175-8 (vide supra), and an undated altar to Jupiter (vide RIB 1076 infra). The Vardulli or Varduli inhabited Hispania Terraconensis, Guipuscoa, northern Spain.

The First Cohort of Vardulli is attested at several forts in the north of Britain; at Castlecary (Central; RIB 2149; AD138-61) on the Antonine Wall, here at LONGOVICIVM (Lanchester, Durham; RIB 1083; c.AD175-8) and at BREMENIVM (High Rochester, Northumberland; RIB 1279; AD216). There are also undated inscriptions at CORSTOPITVM (Corbridge, Northumberland; RIB 1128) on the Stanegate, at milecastle 19 on Hadrian's Wall (RIB 1421) nearby, and at Cappuck (Borders; RIB 2118) on Dere Street.

Cohors Primae Lingonum - The First Cohort of Lingones

GENIO PRAETORI CL EPAPHRODITVS CLAVDIANVS TRIBVNVS CHO I LING V L P M
"For the Guardian Spirit of the Headquarters, Claudius Epaphroditus Claudianus, tribune of the First Cohort of Lingones, freely and deservedly placed [this] votive offering."
(RIB 1075; altar or statue base)

Cohors Primae Lingonum Gordiana equitata
The First Cohort of Lingones, Gordian's own, part-mounted

IMP CAES M ANT GORDIANVS P F AVG BALNEVM CVM BASILICA A SOLO INSTRVXIT PER EGN LVCILIANVM LEG AVG PR PR CVRANTE M AVR QVIRINO PREF COH I L GOR
"For the emperor Caesar Marcus Antoninus Gordianus Pius Felix Augustus, the bath-house and the basilica were built from the ground-up during (the governorship) of Egnatius Lucilianus, pro-praetorian legate of the emperor, under the direction of Marcus Aurelius Quirinus, prefect of Gordian's First Cohort of Lingones."
(RIB 1091; AD238-44)

Named on four inscriptions on stone, two of them dated to c.AD238-44 (vide infra et supra); this part-mounted unit were recruited from among the Gallic tribe, the Lingones, who inhabited the Plateau de Langres in the northern Bourgogne region of France, near Dijon.

IMP CAESAR M ANTONIVS GORDIANVS P F AVG PRINCIPIA ET ARMAMENTARIA CONLAPSA RESTITVIT PER MAECILIVM FVSCVM LEG AVG PR PR CVRANTE M AVR QVIRINO PR COH I L GOR
"For the emperor Caesar Marcus Antoninus Gordianus Pius Felix Augustus, the principia¹ and armamentaria² which had fallen into disrepair, were restored during (the governorship) of Maecilius Fuscus, pro-praetorian legate of the emperor, under the direction of Marcus Aurelius Quirinus, prefect of Gordian's First Cohort of Lingones."
(RIB 1092; AD238-44)
  1. The regimental headquarters building in the centre of the fort.
  2. The weapons stores, often attached to the principia.

The First Cohort of Lingones is known from inscriptions at BREMENIVM (High Rochester, Northumberland; RIB 1276; AD139-43), LONGOVICIVM (Lanchester, Durham; RIB 1091/1092; AD238-44), and possibly also at CORSTOPITVM (Corbridge, Northumberland; RIB 1186; undated) which, unfortunately, is missing the unit number.

Vexillatio Sueborum

DEAE GARMANGABI ET N GORDIANI AVG N PRO SAL VEX SVEBORVM LON GOR VOTVM SOLVERVNT M
"To the Goddess Garmangabi and the divine spirit of Gordianus our Lord, for the health of the Detachment of Suevi in Gordian's Lingones, (who) deservedly fulfilled their vow."
(RIB 1074; altarstone)

Identified from a single undated altar to the Goddess Garmangabi (vide supra), this unit was apparently attached to the First Cohort of Lingones, sometime towards the end of the third century, probably to make-up the dwindling complement of the garrison whose numbers had become depleted over time, due to death and/or retirement. The Suebi or suevi were a Hispanic tribe who inhabited Portugal and the north-western (Basque) region of Spain during the latter part of the Roman empire.

Numerus Longovicanorum - The Company of Longoviciani

Praefectus numeri Longovicanorum, Longouico
"The prefect of the Company of Longovicians at Longovicium"
(Notitia Dignitatum xl.30; 4th/5th C.)

This unit is identified only in the Notitia Dignitatum of the fourth/fifth centuries (vide supra), where the appear under the overall command of the 'Duke of the Britains'. The numerus was an irregular auxiliary unit prevalent towards the end of the Roman empire (there are several listed in the Notitia), they were part-mounted and seem to have been commanded by Roman knights (prefects and tribunes), but most of their internal organisation and command structure remains unknown.

The Gods of Roman Lanchester

Altar to Æsculapius

(front)(back)
AESCVLAPIO T FL TITIANVS TRIB V S L L M ΑΣΚΛΗΠΙΩ ΤΙΤΟΣ ΦΛΑΟΥΙΟΣ ΤΙΤΙΑΝΟΣ ΧΕΙΛΙΑΡΧΟΣ
"To Æsculapius,¹ Titus Flavius Titianus, tribune, willingly, gladly and deservedly fulfilled his vow." "To Asklepios, Titus Flavius Titianus, unit commander?²"
(RIB 1072; altarstone; c.AD170's, vide RIB 1083 supra)
  1. God of medicine, a son of Apollo.
  2. I'm having a hard enough time translating Latin, never mind Greek, gimme a break!

A profusion of altars dedicated to the gods, both classical and Germano-Celtic, have been unearthed at the Lanchester site; five or six dedicated to the Roman war god Mars, two to the supreme Roman god Jupiter, two to the Germanic god Vitirus, a double altar to Æsculapius, and sole altars to Fortune, Silvanus, Victory, Regina/Juno, the Germanic goddess Garmangabi, the Genius of the Praetorium and the Spirit of the Emperor.

DEO SILVANO MARC DIDIVS PROVINCIALIS B F COS V S L L M
"To the god Silvanus,¹ Marcus Didius Provincialis, beneficiarius consularis,² willingly, gladly and deservedly fulfilled his vow."
(RIB 1085; pedestal)
  1. An Italian rural deity, half-man, half-goat, patron of gardens and limits, who was the son of Mars according to Virgil.
  2. Chief financial officer on the staff of the provincial governor.
InscriptionTogo-TranslationRIB
DEO MARTI ASCERNVS POSVIT ARAM ... V S"To the god Mars, Ascernus placed this altar [...] fulfilling his vow."1078
REGINAE VOTVM MISIO V L S"To Regina, in an offering for compassion, my vow is willingly fullfilled."1084
D VICTORIE VOT S VLPIVS PO"To the goddess Victory, in fulfilment of a vow, Ulpius set this up."1086
DEO VITIRI VNTHAV. PR POS PRO SE ET SVIS"To the god Vitirius, Unthau[...] prefect, set this up for himself and his family."1088
I O M ORDINATI COH I F VARDVLLOR C R EQ M V S L L M
"To Jupiter Best and Greatest, the regular soldiers of the First Cohort of Faithful Vardulli, Citizens of Rome,¹ part-mounted, one-thousand strong, willingly, gladly and deservedly fulfilled their vow."
(RIB 1076; altarstone)
  1. The order in which the suffixes appear in the text, suggests that this altar was dedicated shortly after the unit had been awarded Roman citizenship; the normal order is usually M EQ CR. (vide RIB 1083 supra)

Other Roman Sites in the Neighbourhood

The essential OS Historical Map and Guide to Roman Britain shows two aqueducts to the west of the Longovicium fort, though a close inspection of the Landranger map of the same area (#88) reveals no traces. It would appear that the fort was supplied from the headwaters of the Backgill Burn (NZ1047) 3 miles to the west-north-west, and from the Rippon Burn (NZ1146) 2½ miles due west. These aqueducts were probably no more than shallow troughs, which originally followed the contours of the land, and are now lost for the most part to the plough.

Roman Milestone from Greenwell Ford

D N IMP M ANT GORDIANO PIO FELICI AVG
"For our lord Imperator [Caesar] Marcus Antonius Gordianus Pius Felix Augustus."
(RIB 2295; honorific pillar; dated: AD238-44)

A Roman milestone was discovered to the south-south-west at Greenwell Ford along the course of the Roman road to Binchester, only about half a mile from the fort (NZ1646). The stone is dedicated to the emperor Gordian III, who was recognised as Caesar in March AD238, and was declared Augustus by the Praetorian Guard at Rome in May 238 when only 13 years of age. He was murdered near Circesium in Mesopotamia during February 244, apparently by his own soldiers who had declared for the opportunist Philip the Arab.

See: Historical Map and Guide - Roman Britain by the Ordnance Survey (3rd, 4th & 5th eds., 1956, 1994 & 2001);
The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);
All English translations, including any inherent mistakes, are my own.

Many thanks to Dave W. for supplying the following information:

"The 1861 map shows a 'subterranean passage' at the SE corner of the fort. There is a reservoir at the SW corner. The course of the aqueducts is partly shown on this (6 inch?) map. The local council is trying to raise millions to excavate the site. The family, who have owned the site for centuries now seem to be interested in developing the site. From the road, what is left is quite impressive, and it is largely undisturbed apart from early stone robbing. There is also a vicus and at least one cemetery, all on agricultural land, mostly unploughed."

GoTop

This page was last modified: