PORTVS DVBRIS

Romano-British Port
Saxon Shore Fort
Settlement & Pharos

Dover, Kent

NGRef: TR326418
OSMap: LR179
Type: Fort, Villas, Pharos, Town.
Roads
N (12) to RVTVPIAE (Richborough, Kent) via Worth
NW (14) to DVROVERNVM CANTIACORVM (Canterbury, Kent)
Possible Coastal Road: E (5) to Folkestone (Kent)
Trackway: WSW (13) to PORTVS LEMANIS (Lympne, Kent)

Portus Dubris - The Port on the river Dubras

The town appears as one of the termini of the third route in the British section of the Antonine Itinerary of the late-second century. Iter III is entitled "the route from Londinium to Portus Dubris - sixty-six thousand paces", and places Portum Dubris 13 miles away from Durovernum (Canterbury, Kent).

Dover is next mentioned in the Notitia Dignitatum of the late-fourth century. Under the heading "at the disposal of the respectable man, the Count of the Saxon shore in Britain", the entry Dubris is listed between the entries for Othona (Bradwell, Essex) and Portus Lemanis (Lympne, Kent).

The final mention of the Roman port occurs in the Ravenna Cosmology (R&C#71) of the seventh century, which lists the name Dubris between the entries for Portus Lemanis (Lympne, Kent) and Durovernum Cantiacorum (Canterbury, Kent).

"Dover Kent. Dubris 4th cent., Dofras c.700, Dovere 1086 (DB). Named from the stream here, now called the Dour, a Celtic river-name *dubras meaning simply 'the waters'." (Mills)

Epigraphic Evidence from Portus Dubris

There are only three inscriptions on stone recorded in the R.I.B. for Dover, all of them added since the work was first published. There is an excellent inscription dedicated to the Matres by a government official from the provincial capital (vide infra), and another text which reads EVSEB III IV IV or "Euseb[ius?] three four four" (RIB 65c; Britannia xiv (1983), p.336, no.1). The final text is severely damaged, reading ... ... ...VSI... ...ST... (RIB 65d; Britannia ix (1978), p.474, no.3), which defies translation.

Dedicatory Inscription to the Mother Goddesses by a Stator Consularis

ST COS OL CORDIVS CANDID MATRIB ITALICIS AEDEM FECIT VSLM
"The governor's messenger from the offices of London,¹ Cordius Candidus, for the Mother Goddesses of the Italians, has made this temple, willingly and deservedly fulfilling a vow."
(RIB 65b; Britannia viii (1977), pp426-7, no.4)
  1. This portion of the text has been expanded ST[ator] CO[n]S[ularis] O[fficina] L[ondini]. The title stator consularis is literally translated as 'one who establishes or upholds [the edicts] of the consular governor'.

The Dover Entry in the Notitia Dignitatum

Praepositus militum Tungrecanorum, Dubris
"The commander of the Soldiers of the Tungrecani at Dubris."
(Notitia Dignitatum xxviii.14; 4th/5th C.)

Garrison Port of the Classis Britannica

A major fort of the Classis Britannia was established at Dover c.AD85 as a replacement for their old fort at Richborough. The town developed during the late-1st century. Around AD90 twin lighthouses or Pharos were built on the north cliffs (at NGRef. TR3141 and TR3241). These were originally around 25m high with 4m thick walls made of stone with a rubble infill, octagonal in exterior shape with a 4m square central space. The second century fort covered (0.8ha) and is the suspected headquarters of the Classis Britannica or 'the British Fleet'. Around AD270 the second-century fort was replaced with a substantial 'Saxon Shore' fort, and it ceased to be a base of the Classis Britannica at the same time.

By the fourth century there were two lighthouses at Dubris, set on the cliff tops overlooking the port to either side of the River Dour. The north-eastern pharos was the first to be built, possibly as early as the first century. Only a fragment of the south-western lighthouse has survived, which contained re-used roof-tile material stamped Classis Britannica, giving an early fourth century construction date. Only the northern pharos has survived to any extent, protected within the confines of Dover Castle, beside St. Mary's Church.

Click here for the Roman Villa at Folkestone

See: Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names by A.D. Mills (Oxford 1998);
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.

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