PORTVS LEMANIS

Romano-British Port
Saxon Shore Fort

Lympne, Kent

NGRef: TR1134
OSMap: LR179/189
Type: Fort, Port, Probable Settlement.

Plan of the Saxon Shore Fort at Lympne
(adapted from Collingwood, fig.11)
Roads
N (14) to DVROVERNVM CANTIACORVM (Canterbury, Kent)
WNW (26) to Maidstone (Kent)
Possible Coastal Road: W (8) to Folkestone (Kent)
Probable Road: SW (36) to Hastings (East Sussex)

Not one of the original Claudian bridgeheads, but possibly an important safe-harbour on the perilous journey along the South coast of Britain to Vectis (Isle of Wight) and the Claudian port at Noviomagus (Chichester, Sussex). Also further round the coast to the Cornish Tin-mining centre at Ictis (St. Michael's Mount). The ancient iron-mining district of the South Downs lay to the west of the port, and it is possible - though not proven - that these industries were administrated from Dover nearby.

Entries in the Classical Geographies

The Roman name for the Lympne fort is first mentioned in the Antonine Itinerary in the late-second century. The Fourth Itinerary of this work is entitled "the route from Londinium to the port of Lemanis - sixty-eight thousand paces". The entry Portus Lemanis is listed in Iter IV sixteen miles from the cantonal capital of Cantium at Durovernum (Canterbury, Kent).

Lympne next appears in the Notitia Dignitatum of the late-fourth century, under the direct command of "the Count of the Saxon Shore in Britain". In this document, the entry for Lemannis is listed between the entries for the other Saxon Shore forts at Dubris (Dover, Kent) and Branodunum (Brancaster, Norfolk). The full N.D. entry is shown below.

The last classical geography to mention the Saxon Shore fort at Lympne is the Ravenna Cosmology (R&C#70) compiled in the seventh century. This document records the name as Lemanis between the entries for Dover and an unidentified station named Mutuantonis.

The Military Units of Lemannis

Classis Britannica - The British Fleet

NEPTVNO ARAM L AVFIDIVS PANTERA PRAEFECT CLAS BRIT
"For Neptune, an altar [dedicated by] Lucius Aufidius Pantera, prefect of the British Fleet."
(RIB 66; Burn 217; altarstone; dated: c.AD115-135)

The R.I.B. records a single inscription on stone from the Lympne fort, which fortunately names one of the garrison units (RIB 66 supra). We are also supplied with the name of the fourth-century garrison unit in the Notitia Dignitatum (vide infra).

Numerus Turnacensium - The Company of Turnacenses

Praepositus numeri Turnacensium, Lemannis
"The Leader of the Company of Turnacenses at [Portus] Lemannis."
(Notitia Dignitatum xxviii.15; 4th/5th C.)

The 'Saxon Shore' Fort

"Lympne (Fig. 11c) is to-day chiefly remarkable for its ruined condition; huge fragments of its walls lie scattered at various angles, many yards away from their original positions, owing to the slipping of the wet clayey ground. The walls are 14 feet thick and stand in places 23 feet high ; they have tile bonding-courses and cylindrical bastions with chambers inside them. The main gate is 11 feet wide, with projecting towers, and there are several posterns. The shape is an irregular pentagon and the area between 9 and 10 acres." (Collingwood, p.53)
See: The Cantiaci by Alec detsicas (Sutton, London, 1987);
The Romans in Britain - An Anthology of Inscriptions by A.R. Burn (Blackwell, Oxford, 1969);
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;
The Archaeology of Roman Britain by R.G. Collingwood (1930).
All English translations, including any inherent mistakes, are my own.

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