NGRef: NY665657
OSMap: Hadrian's Wall, OL43, LR86.
Type: Stanegate Fort, Minor Settlement, Marching Camps.
Roads
Stanegate: E (7) to Vindolanda (Chesterholm, Northumberland) via Haltwhistle Burn
Stanegate: W (4½) to Nether Denton (Cumbria) via Throp
Maiden Way: S (10) to Epiacvm (Whitley Castle, Northumberland)

Magnis - The Rocks

Carvoran
View of the Carvoran Fort
From the Roman Army Museum Car-Park

In the Notitia Dignitatum of the 4th/5th century Carvoran is named Magnis and appears between the entries for Aesica (Great Chesters, Northumberland) and Camboglanna (Castlesteads, Cumbria). The seventh century Ravenna Cosmography also lists Carvoran as Magnis (R&C#130), between the entries for Luguvalium (Carlisle, Cumbria) and again, the Wall fort at Castlesteads.

The Carvoran Fort

Hadrianic Building Inscription from the Carvoran Fort

IMP CAESARI TRAIANO HADRIANO AVGVSTO ...
"For Imperator Caesar Trajanus Hadrianus Augustus [...]"
(RIB 1808; dated: AD117-138)

The fort at Carvoran was set to guard the junction of the Stanegate with the Maiden Way, the military road south through the Pennines. The defenses of the early-Antonine stone fort (c.AD136-138; vide RIB 1778 infra) which provides the majority of the visible remains measure 435 feet north to south by 360 feet east to west (c.132 x 110 m) covering an area of just over 3½ acres (c.1.45 ha).

Although the visible remains are early-Antonine, the same site was occupied by several earlier, timber-built encampments, all surface features of which were levelled to make way for the latest fort. Aerial photography has revealed a large enclosure of just under 8 acres (c.3.2ha) which may be late-Flavian in date, lying below the visible defences. It is possible that the site was first occupied during the campaigns of Gnaeus Julius Agricola but the earliest dateale evidence recovered from the site is the famous modius or corn-measure (vide infra), dated to the latter reign of Domitian, which has been taken as proof of first-century occupation.

Gladius
A Roman Gladius or Short Sword
recovered from the Carvoran fort

It is possible that Carvoran was abandoned when the vallum was built, only to be reoccupied by the early-Antonine period c.AD136/137, whereupon the fort's original turf-and-timber defences were rebuilt in stone. Further rebuilding is attested during the governorship of Sextus Calpurnius Agricola at the end of the reign of Antoninus. After the withdrawal from the Antonine wall, the Carvoran fort was reoccupied by the same garrison unit that it formerly housed in Hadrianic times.

Centurial Stone from the Carvoran Fort

RIB1820
> (centuria) SILVANI •
VALLAVIT •
P[edes] • CXII • SVB
FLA[vio] • SECVNDO
[pr]AEF[ecto] •
"The century of Silvanus built 112 feet of rampart under (the command of) Flavius Secundus the prefect."
(RIB 1820)

Another Centurial Stone Recording the Building of an Identical Length of Rampart

> PRIMI... VALLAVIT P CXII SVB FL SECVNDO PREF
"The century of Primus have fortified one-hundred and twelve feet, under Flavius Secundus the prefect."
(RIB 1818)
  1. The title of the commander of a legion or of an auxiliary cavalry Ala was praefectus, likewise those in command of irregular units such as archers or the Numeri of the later empire. In these two cases, however, it is almost certain that Secundus was a legionary prefect, as these troops were responsible for the greater majority of all Roman military construction work.

An inscription recovered from the interior of the fort (RIB 1809) records building work undertaken during the governorship of Sextus Calpurnius Agricola (AD163-166) who was legatus augusti pro-praetore in Britain during the early reign of emperor Marcus Aurelius.

Building Inscription of Governor Calpurnius Agricola

...SVB CALPVRNIO AGRICOLA COS LICINIVS CLEMENS PRAEF
"[...] under Calpurnius Agricola¹ the consular [governor], Licinius Clemens, the prefect."
(RIB 1809; dated: AD163-166)
  1. Sextus Calpurnius Agricola governed Britain from AD163/4 until c.166.
  2. In this instance the title praefectus indicates the commander of an irregular infantry unit, probably Cohors I Hamiorum.

The Epigraphy of Roman Carvoran

There are 69 inscriptions on stone recorded in the R.I.B. for the Carvoran fort, comprising; 34 altars and religious stones, 18 building inscriptions (including centurial, cohort and legionary stones), 9 tombstones and 8 other undefined inscriptions. Despite all this epigraphic evidence there are only four dateable inscriptions, all produced during the early/mid-second century.

The Dateable Inscriptions

RIB #
(clickable)
DateDescription
1808AD117-138building inscription of the emperor Hadrian
1778AD136-138altar to Fortuna for the health of Lucius Aelius Caesar by Cohors I Hamiorum
1792AD163-166altar to the 'Syrian Goddess' by Cohors I Hamiorum under governor Calpurnius Agricola
1809AD163-166altarstone to unknown god under governor Calpurnius Agricola

The Legionary Units

Although there is evidence which records the presence of Roman legions at Carvoran, particularly the Twentieth which is mentioned on two stones, the role of the legions was not to garrison the frontier but to maintain it. The Roman citizens which comprised the legionary manpower were possessed of a wide variety of engineering and manufacturing skills, and their main occupation, aside from providing the mainstay of the Roman fighting machine, was the planning, construction, and maintenance of the forts, roads, signal-stations, and other trappings of the Roman frontier system.

G VALERIVS F VOL IVLLVS MIL LEG XX V V
"Gaius Valerius Iullus, from Faventia, of the Voltinian voting tribe, a soldier of the Twentieth Legion Valiant and Victorious."
(RIB 1826; tombstone)

A late-first/early-second century tombstone of a soldier of the Twentieth Legion uncovered at Carvoran (RIB 1826 supra) suggests that there may have been a legionary presence at some time, perhaps of a century or two in support of the First Cohort of Hamian Bowmen who formed the late Hadrianic garrison. This is a supposition only, and cannot be proven.

Altar to Impudent Fortune by a Centurion from the British Legions

FORTVNAE AVDAC ROMANVS > LEG VI XX [et II]¹ AVG
"To Fortuna Audax, Romanus, centurion of the Legions, the Sixth, the Twentieth, [and the Second] Augustan."
(RIB 1779; altarstone)
  1. The numeral II appears to be missing from here; neither the Sixth nor the Twentieth were titled Augusta.

Another inscribed stone, an altar dedicated to the goddess Fortune (RIB 1779 supra), appears to lend support to the theory that legionary forces were once stationed at Carvoran, but it must be remembered that legionary centurions were highly experienced fighting men, whose skills often found them seconded to temporary service in an auxiliary unit. These postings could involve the training of troops, the provision of tactical knowlege to the command staff, or the engineering skills required to build a new granary, but sometimes an experienced centurion may be placed in overall command of an entire auxiliary regiment.

The Garrison Units of the Magnis Fort

COH I BATAVORVM F COH BATAVORVM
"The First Cohort of Batavi have made [this]." "The Batavian Cohort [made this]."
(RIB 1823¹) (RIB 1824¹)
  1. The inscriptions RIB 1823 & 1824 occur on opposite faces of the same stone.

A building stone found in the immediate area of the Carvoran fort is inscribed on two sides with the name of the unit which possibly formed the original garrison. Cohors I Batavorum Equitata were a five-hundred strong mixed regiment of cavalry and infantry, originating from an island in the Rhine Delta. This unit was moved westwards to Camboglanna (Castlesteads) during the second century, then to eastwards along the Wall to Brocolitia (Carrawburgh) in the third.

FORTVNAE AVG PRO SALVTE L AELI CAESARIS EX VISV T FLA SECVNDVS PRAEF COH I HAMIORVM SAGITTAR VSLM
"To the Fortune of the Emperor, for the health of Lucius Aelius Caesar. As the result of a vision, Titus Flavius Secundus, prefect of the First Cohort of Hamian Bowmen, willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow."
(RIB 1778; altarstone; dated: AD136-138; illustrated below)
Altar
Altar dedicated to Fortuna
by Cohors I Hamiorum
(RIB 1778; translation above)

Perhaps the most notable inhabitants of the Carvoran fort were Cohors I Hamiorum Sagittariorum, a unit of bowmen from Syria, the only Regiment of Archers known to have been stationed in Britain. This regiment very likely took part in the Claudian invasion of AD43 and is known to be the late-Hadrianic garrison of Magnis.

Altar to Ceres by the First Cohort of Hamians
DEAE SVRIAE SVB CALPVRNIO AGRICOLA LEG AVG PR PR LICINIVS CLEMENS PRAEF COH I HAMIORVM
"To the 'Syrian Goddess'.¹ Under Calpurnius Agricola,² Legate of the Augustus with pro-praetorian power, Licinius Clemens, prefect of the First Hamian Cohort (set this up)."
(RIB 1792; altarstone; dated: AD163-166)
  1. This is a known pseudonym of the goddess Ceres.
  2. Sextus Calpurnius Agricola governed Britain from AD163/4 until c.166, during the early reign of the emperor Marcus Aurelius.

The unit was moved to Bar Hill on the Antonine Wall during this barrier's second occupation period (c.AD158), and returned to Magnis during the reign of Marcus Aurelius (vide RIB 1792 supra). They were very likely stationed at the Vercovicium (Housesteads) fort on the Wall, though the occupation period there is unknown.

Damaged Inscription of Cohors Primae Hamiorum
...IVS AGRIPPA... ...COH I HAMIORVM...
"[...]ius Agrippa [...] The First Cohort of Hamians [...]"
(RIB 1810)
Altar to the Hamian Goddesses
DEE HAMMI SABI F
"For the Goddesses of the Hamians, Sabinus has made this."
(RIB 1780; altarstone)
DEO SANCT VETERI •
IVL • PASTOR
IMAG •
COH II DELMA
V S L M
Deo sancto Veteri
Iulius Pastor
Imaginifer¹
Cohortis Secundae Delmatarum
votum solvit libens merito
"To the holy god Veterus,
Julius Pastor,
the Bearer of the Emperor's Image¹
[for] the Second Cohort of Delmatians,
willingly and deservedly fulfills a vow."
(RIB 1795; altarstone)
  1. The imaginifer was a senior standard-bearer in military units of the late empire. They bore a painted likeness of the Emperor suspended from a standard.

The third century garrison of Carvoran was Cohors II Delmatarum Equitata, another mixed regiment of cavalry and infantry, recruited from among the Delmatian tribes who occupied the area which is now modern Yugoslavia. Their presence is attested on an undated inscription (RIB 1795), which may be of the third century as this unit is also placed here by the Notitia Dignitatum.

Tribunus cohortis secundae Dalmatarum, Magnis
"The tribune of the Second Cohort of Dalmatae at Magnis"
(Notitia Dignitatum xl.43; 4th/5th C.)

It seems that a small force named the Numerus Magnesium was stationed at the Carvoran fort, perhaps sometime during the late-second/early-third century when this type of unit first became recognised. This is based solely on the damaged inscription RIB 1825, which reads ...AVG... NVMERI... MAGNES... LE.... It is possible that a unit known simply as the 'Company of Magnis' were recruited from the tribesmen and villagers living in the countryside in the immediate area of the Carvoran fort, in order to bolster the Second Cohort of Dalmatians which had become depleted through natural wastage (death, retirement, secondment, etc.). As no further mention of this Numerus has been found, it would appear likely that, over time, this irregular unit became incorporated within the ranks of the Dalmatian regiment, as this unit is later named in the Notitia.

Unfortunately there is nothing to substantiate these claims other than the inscription RIB 1825.

The Gods of Roman Carvoran

A number of altars dedicated to both Roman and native goddesses have been recovered from the Carvoran area. The god who is best represented is Vheterus with thirteen stones (RIB 1792-1805), all but one of which are altarstones, the only god coming anywhere close to this total is the war god Belatucader with three stones, one of which is shared with Mars (RIB 1775/6 & 1784). There are only four other gods with more than one dedication, in each case represented on two stones; Jupiter Best and Greatest (altarstones RIB 1783; 1782, not shown), Fortuna (altarstones RIB 1778, dated: AD136-138; 1779), Mercury (1786, with Num Aug; 1787, altarstone) and another two to the 'Syrian Goddess' or Ceres (RIB 1791; 1792, altarstone, dated: AD163-166).

There are single altarstones to a number of deities from a variety of theologies; a slab with an altar in relief bearing an inscription to Regina Caelesti (RIB 1827), an altar to Epona (RIB 1777), another to the 'Hamian Goddesses' (RIB 1780, altarstone), an altar to the Nymphs (RIB 1789), one to Silvanus (RIB 1790, altarstone) and another to the 'God of the Armoury' (1806, altarstone). All of these stones appear somewhere on this page.

 

In addition to the abovementioned dedications there are other interesting single stones; DO ERCL "To the god Ercl[us?]" (RIB 1781), which may contain either the name of a god or a devotee, and another stone to another unknown deity inscribed EX VOTO... POSVERVNT L M "As the result of a vow [...] this has been placed willingly and deservedly." (RIB 1807, altarstone), also the damaged stone dedicated either to Minerva or to Neptune (RIB 1788) and a mutilated altar to the Mother Goddesses (RIB 1785, altarstone), neither of which are shown here.

Altarstones of the Warrior God Veteris

Altar of Andiates
DEO VETIRI SANCTO ANDIATIS VSLM F
"To the holy god Vetiris, Andiates has made this, willingly and deservedly fulfilling his vow."
(RIB 1796; altarstone)

There are thirteen stones dedicated to this god, or perhaps a triad of gods, and there is confusion not only as to the deities plurality, but also about the correct spelling of the gods name. Nine of the altarstones are addressed to the god in the dative singular, but a further three altars and another undesignated stone all use the dative plural form of address. There are five stones which name the god Veteris, four naming him Vitiris, and there are single stones which use the names Vetiris (RIB 1796) and Viteris (RIB 1804), even Vetirius (RIB 1797) and Viterinus (RIB 1798).

Altar of Milus and Aurides
DEO VITIRI MILVS ET AVRIDES VSLM
"To the god Vitiris, Milus and Aurides willingly and deservedly fulfill a vow."
(RIB 1800; altarstone)
Altar of Deccius
DIBVS VITIRIBVS DECCIVS VSLM
"To the Vitirian Gods, Deccius willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow."
(RIB 1805; altarstone)
     
Altarstones to Veteris by Necalames

The confusion seems to be compounded when a single devotee, one Necalames, who is known to have dedicated at least three altarstones to the god, seems himself to have been undecided as to the correct spelling, on two stones using the name Veteris and on another Vitiris. It is also noted that on the third stone the devotee has changed the spelling of his own name to Necalimes.

InscriptionTogo-TranslationRIB
DEO VETERI NECALAMES VSLM "To the god Veteris,
Necalames willingly and deservedly fulfills a vow."
1793
DEO VETERI NECALAMES C S L "To the god Veteris,
Necalames, the guardian of this sacred place."
1794
DEO VITIRI NECALIMES RO V P L M "To the god Vitiris,
Necalimes, Roman citizen,
willingly and deservedly placed this votive offering."
1801

Altarstones of the War God Mars / Belatucader

DEO BALITICAVRO VOTV DO BLATVCADRO VOTV S
"For the god Baliticaurus an offering." "To the god Blatucadrus in fulfilment of a vow."
(RIB 1775; altarstone) (RIB 1776; altarstone)
DO MARTI BELATVCAIRO
"For the god Mars Belatucairus."
(RIB 1784; altarstone)

Other Deities of Roman Carvoran

Altar to the 'God of the Armoury'
DEO ARMILVM BINIVS VSLM
"To the God of the Armoury, Binius willingly and deservedly fulfills a vow."
(RIB 1806; altarstone)
Altar to the 'Queen of the Heavens'
REGINAE CAELESTI AVRELIVS MARTIALIS
"For the Queen of the Heavens, Aurelius Martialis [made this]."
(RIB 1827; slab with altar in relief)
Altar to the Goddess Epona
DEAE EPONAE P... SO...
"To the goddess Epona¹ [...]"
(RIB 1777; altarstone)
  1. Epona is a Celtic goddess so this altar would not have been erected by the Hamians; the dedicator would most likely have been from the third century garrison unit, the Second Cohort of Delmatians, who were of Celtic origin.
Altar to Iupitter and Helios
I O M HELIO POLIT IVL POLLIO
"For Iupitter Optimus Maximus and the polished Sun, Julius Pollio [made this]."
(RIB 1783; altarstone)
Altar to Mercurius
DEO M... ET NVMINIBVS AVGG IVL PACATVS ET ...ET PACVTIVS C...ET V... VAL ...CCVS A SOLO ...FECER VSLM
"For the god Mercury and the Divine Spirits of the Emperors, Julius Pacatus and [...] and Pacatius C[...] and V[alerius?] Valens? [...]ccus, from the foundations [...] they have made, willingly and deservedly fulfilling a vow."
(RIB 1786)
Altar to the Nymphs
DEABVS NYMPHIS VETTIA MANSVETA ET CLAVDIA TVRIANILLA FIL VSLM
"To the goddesses the Nymphs, Vettia Mansueta and Claudia Turianilla her daughter, willingly and deservedly fulfill their vow."
(RIB 1789; altarstone)
Altar to Silvanus
SILVANO VELLAEVS
"For Silvanus, Vellaeus [made this]."
(RIB 1790; altarstone)

Stone Panel found in 1816 within the North-East Corner of the Fort

IMMINET LEONI VIRGO CAELESTI SITV SPICIFERA IVSTI IN VENTRIX VRBIVM CONDITRIX EX QVIS MVNERIBVS NOSSE CONTIGIT DEOS ERGO EADEM MATER DIVVM PAX VIRTVS CERES DEA SYRIA LANCE VITAM ET IVRA PENSITANS IN CAELO VISVM SYRIA SIDVS EDIDIT LIBYAE COLENDVM INDECVNCTI DIDICIMVS ITA INTELLEXIT NVMINE INDVCTVS TVO MARCVS CAECILIVS DONATIANVS MILITANS TRIBVNVS IN PRAEFECTO DONO PRINCIPIS
"The Virgin in her heavenly place rides upon the lion, bearer of corn, inventor of law, founder of cities, by whose gift it is our good fortune to know the gods; therefore she is Mother of the gods, Peace, Virtue, Ceres, the Syrian goddess,¹ weighing life and laws in her balance. Syria has sent the constellation seen in the heavens to Libya to be worshipped.² From this we have all learned. Thus, led by thy godhead, Marcus Caecilius Donatianus has understood, serving as Tribune in the post of Prefect by the Emperor's gift.³"
(RIB 1791)
  1. Although the name of the dedicators unit is not recorded, this epithet suggests that Donatianus was the prefect of the First Cohort of Hamian Archers, who hailed from Syria.
  2. The poem was apparently in honour of Julia Domna, the Syrian wife of the emperor Septimius Severus who ruled between AD193-211 and died in Britain at York.
  3. English translation taken from Ireland (1986) p.206.

The Civil Settlement

RIB1828
Tombstone of Aurelia Faia
(RIB 1828; translation on left)

A number of inscribed tombstones have been recovered from the area to the south of the fort, some of which indicate extended families living - and indeed dying - in the vicus attached to the garrison. One tombstone (RIB 1829) was erected by a Lucius Senofilus to his niece Lifana, whose parents were evidently already deceased when she died. Another (RIB 1830) was dedicated by Aurelia Pusinna to the "memory of a most devoted and very much missed sister".

Tombstone of Aurelia Faia

D M AVR T F AIAE D SALONAS AVR MARCVS > OBSEQ CONIVGI SANCTISSIMAE QVAE VIXIT ANNIS XXXIII SINE VLLA MACVLA
"To the shades of the departed Aurelia Faia, from Salonia, Aurelius Marcus the centurion, for a most obedient and virtuous wife, who lived for thirty-three years without a blemish."
(RIB 1828; tombstone; depicted on right)

Tombstone of Aurelia

D M AVR ...VBEOVC...MA VIXITANN ...AVR PVSINNA SORORI PIENTISSIME ET DESIDERATISSIME
"To the shades of the departed Aurelia [...] years old [...] Aurelia Pusinna, for a most affectionate and most missed sister."
(RIB 1829; tombstone)

Tombstone of Lifana

D M LIFANA B...CI FILIA VIXIT ANN...L SENOFILVS AVVNCVLVS FECIT
"To the shades of the departed Lifana, the daughter of [...] who lived for [...] years. Lucius Senofilus her uncle has made [this]."
(RIB 1830; tombstone)

Tombstone of Mammea Victoria

D M MAMMA VICT F BAIB DVIANVS CONIVGI SANCTISSIM QVAE VIXIT AN XXIIII
"To the shades of the departed Mammea, the daughter of Victoria, Baibus Duianus [made this] for his most virtuous wife, who lived for twenty-four years."
(RIB 1842a; tombstone; JRS lv (1965), p.222, no.9)

Roman Milestones from Carvoran

Milestone from Hadrian's Wall near Carvoran

IMP CAES FLAV VAL CONSTANTINO PIO NOB CAESARI DIVI
"For Imperator Caesar Flavius Valerius Constantinus Pius, the most noble and divine Caesar.¹"
(RIB 2310; milestone; dated: AD306/307)
  1. The Christian emperor Constantine was acknowledged as Caesar sometime in AD306, taking the name Pius 'Dutiful' and the rank of Augustus the following year.

Milestone from Fell End, ½ Mile East of Carvoran

IMP CAES L DOMITIO AVRELIANO P F AVG
"For Imperator Caesar Lucius Domitianus Aurelianus Pius Felix [Invictus] Augustus.¹"
(RIB 2309; milestone; dated: AD273-275)
  1. Aurelian came to power after the emperor Claudius II died of the plague at Sirmium in August AD270, hailed emperor by the Roman armies on the Danube frontier. He forced Claudius' son Quintillus, acclaimed emperor by the praetorians, into suicide after a reign of as little as 17 days. Aurelian was later murdered by the praetorian guard at Coenofrurium during September or August 275 and his body quickly buried.

The Carvoran Modius

Modius
The carvoran Modius

The following passage by Joan Liversidge is quoted in full because it accurately gives all the pertinent information in a concise and readable form, therefore leaving no scope for paraphrase:

For measuring corn a bronze vessel shaped rather like a bucket and called a modius was used, and one of these rare objects was discovered outside the fort of Carvoran on Hadrian's Wall and is now in the Chesters Museum. It bears an inscription saying it was made towards the end of the first century during the reign of the Emperor Domitian and that it holds 17½ sextarii or 16.8 pints. In actual fact it holds twenty pints and it has been suggested that this discrepancy was a mean device to defraud the farmers when they came to pay the corn tax (annona). On the other hand, Roman certified measures are usually accurate. Traces of rivet holes show that some attachments have been lost from the modius and these may have taken up the extra space (Liversidge, 1968).

If you would like further information on Roman weights and measures, have a squint at the RBO Roman Appendix.

Magnis/Carvoran Today

Plaque
Facsimile Plaque of Legio II Augusta
recording work done at Benwell/Condercum
now displayed at the Roman Army Museum, Carvoran
LEG II • LEG II AVG
"The Second Legion • Legio II Augusta [made this]."
(RIB 1341; Building Stone from Benwell)
The Roman Army Museum
Entrance Fee Charged Car Parking Variable Opening Hours Information Available Public Conveniences Cafeteria Site Museum Facilities for the Disabled
Aside from the north-west corner angle nothing much remains of the Carvoran fort to interest the casual observer, the field being used to graze sheep, the Roman Army Museum on site makes the visit worthwhile. In addition, the walk along Walltown Crags to Turret 45a and Milecastle 45 is served by a public car park just to the north of the R.A.M.

Magnis/Carvoran Bibliography

See: Britannia xxxii (2001) pp.330/1 & fig.10 p.332;
Britannia xxxi (2000) p.391;
Hadrian's Wall Map and Guide by the Ordnance Survey (Southampton, 1989);
Roman Britain - A Sourcebook by S. Ireland (Routlege, New York, 1986);
Hadrian's Wall in the Days of the Romans by Ronald Embleton and Frank Graham (Newcastle, 1984) pp.187-192;
Britain in the Roman Empire by Joan Liversidge (London, 1968) p.177;
The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965).
Except where noted, all English translations, including any inherent mistakes, are my own. Togodumnus

Magnis/Carvoran Related Lynx