TRIMONTIVM

Roman Fort & Marching Camps

Newstead, Borders

NGRef: NT5734
OSMap: LR73/74
Type: Roman Fort, Marching Camps (13).
Click to Enlarge
Trimontium - The Flavian Fort
Plan of Newstead c.AD80.
Roads
NNW (27) to Elginhaugh (Lothian) via Oxton
Probable Road: WNW (26) to Lyne (Borders)
Possible Military Road: SW (12) to Oakwood (Borders)
SE (12) to Cappuck (Borders)

Trimontium - The Three Peaks

Although nothing remains of the Newstead fort, dominated by the British hill-fort on Eildon Hill North, the site itself is commemorated by a large modern altar stone of granite. A circular walk punctuated by several information points with reconstructional paintings also help the visitor realise its past importance. A military amphitheatre excavated in the late-1990ís is marked by a circle of white-painted stones in a small hollow outside the northern defences and, overlooking the site from the disused railway embankment to the east, a reconstruction of the fortís defensive rampart with an interval tower was in the process of being built during our visit.

Newstead Monument
The Trimontium/Newstead Monument
with Eildon Hill North in the background

The Roman name of the Newstead fort is known from two of the main classical geographical sources. In Ptolemy's Geography the name is listed as Trimontium, the last of four towns attributed to the Selgovae tribe of the Scottish Borders region; the other three towns mentioned by Ptolemy, Carbantorigum, Uxellum and Corda, are all unidentified. The fort is also listed as Trimuntium in the Ravenna Cosmology (R&C#183), where it appears between the unidentified station Venutio and the entry for Habitancum (Risingham, Northumberland). The name of this fort also appears as Trimonti[o] on a Roman milestone near the Firth of Forth at Cramond in Lothian (vide RIB 2313).

The Roman name is a simple compound of two Latin words, the prefix tri- indicates three of something, coupled with the ending montium or muntium which means 'of the mountains', the name can be readily translated as 'the place of the three mountains', which may themselves be identified as the Eildon Hills.

The Newstead Forts

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Trimontium - The Antonine Fort
Plan of Newstead in the late Antonine Period.

Although no legionary building inscriptions have been recovered from Newstead it is almost certain that the main fort of the complex was built by the Twentieth Legion Valeria Victrix, as they are mentioned on nearly all of the legible inscriptions recovered from the site.

There are at least two forts occupying the same site. The first fort was built during the first Roman forays into the Scottish Highlands, conducted by the intrepid governor Gnaeus Julius Agricola, very likely during his AD80 campaign season. This Flavian fort has an atypical plan (vide supra), which appears to be purely Agricolan in design.

"At Newstead, the best conditions for observation of the fort occur after fresh ploughing, when the beaten clay of the ramparts may be seen as a white soil mark, even from the North Eildon Hill. Both east and south annexes seem to have been defended everywhere by two ditches. ..." (St. Joseph, 1958)

The second occupation took place during the Antonine period, when the fort was rebuilt on a more conservative plan, this time evidently to house a regiment of cavalry (vide sinistra). The garrison were presumably used to patrol the road far to the north and south, in order to maintain communications between the Legionary base at York and the newly-built Antonine Wall, between the Forth and the Clyde. There is a partition wall in this incarnation of the fort which apparently separated the stables and cavalry barracks in the northern half, from the infantry barrack-blocks in the southern half, which probably held a single legionary cohort. The interior buildings of the fort were apparently rebuilt in stone during a further construction phase, possibly during the Severan campaigns of the early third century.

The Amphitheatre
The Military Amphitheatre
Above the Tweed just N of the fort
Roman Road
The Course of the Roman Road
running from the fort to Dere Street

The Fortlet on Red Rig

This fortlet measures 140 x 170 feet (43 x 52 m) and covers an area of about ½ acre (0.22 ha).

Evidence of the Roman Military Diet at Newstead

During excavations over the years at Trimontium a number of animal bones have been uncovered, including those of domesticated Ox, Sheep, Goat and Pig, game such as Red Deer, Roe Deer, Hare and Elk, also Fox, Badger and Vole; the latter three animals very likely being hunted and killed for sport and as a means of pest control. The remains of both domestic and wild fowl included Chicken, Duck, Crane and Raven.

The Dateable Pottery Evidence

The stamps of several Flavian and Flavian-Trajanic potters have been uncovered at Trimontium; there are six of Vitalis, three of Calvus and Frontinus, two each of Iucundus, Cotto, Sabinus and Silvanus, and single examples of Coius, Cosius Rufinus, Crispus, Crucuro, Dago, Ego, Firmo, Iullinus, Q. Julius Habilis, Masculus, Memor, Primus, Rufinus, Rufus, Secundus and Severus. The Flavian and Flavian-Trajanic South Gaulish decorated wares consisted of thirty-nine sherds of Form 37 and fourteen of Form 29.

The Newstead site has also yielded 126 potter's stamps dating to the Antonine period.

The Garrison Units

Legio Vicesimae Valeria Victrix - The Twentieth Legion, Valiant and Victorious

G ARRIVS DOMITIANVS > LEG XX V V V S L L M
"Gaius Arrius Domitianus, centurion of the Twentieth Legion, Valiant and Victorious, willingly, gladly and deservedly fulfilled his vow."
(RIB 2125; altarstone)

Six readable inscriptions have been found at Newstead, none of them dated, and the name of this legion occurs on four of them, all dedicated by the centurion Gaius Arrius Domitianus. The legion also appears on another fragmentary stone (RIB 2127; not shown), all of which probably indicates that the original garrison of Trimontium was a cohort of the Twentieth Legion, very likely two.

Pendant from Newstead
Pendant from a Horse Harness
recovered from the Newstead fort.

Ala Vocontiorum - The Wing of Vocontii

CAMPESTR SACRVM AEL MARCVS DEC ALAE VOCONTIO V S L L M
"To the sacred Goddesses of the Parade-Ground, Aelius Marcius, decurion¹ of the Vocontian Wing, willingly, gladly and deservedly fulfilled his vow."
(RIB 2121; altarstone)
  1. Commander of a turma of cavalry troopers within an ala, subservient to the prefect.

This regiment is mentioned on a single altarstone at Newstead, which remains the only inecription on stone attesting the presence of this unit in Britain; the text is reproduced above. They were a five-hundred strong cavalry unit recruited from amongst the Vocontii tribe of Gallia Narbonensis, who inhabited the Orange district of southern France on the eastern banks of the Rhône. It is very likely that this regiment shared the fort with a legionary cohort, the cavalry occupying the northern part of the fort and the infantry housed in the southern half.

The Gods of Roman Newstead

DEO APOLLINI L MAXIMIVS GAETVLICVS > LEG
"To the god Apollo, Lucius Maximus Gaetulicus, centurion of the Legion (placed this)."
(RIB 2120; altarstone)

All of the legible stones recovered from the Trimontium area have been altars to the gods, and interestingly enough all of the gods mentioned are Roman, further proof perhaps that the garrison at Newstead consisted of citizen Roman legionaries. The deities are all represented by single altars; Apollo, sun-god and patron of music, his sister Diana, goddess of the moon and hunting, the omnipotent Jupiter, king of the Roman pantheon, the ancient Italian rural god Silvanus, and lastly, the Campestres, or 'goddesses of the parade-ground. All of the Newstead altars have their texts reproduced on this page.

Gaius Arrius Domitianus

As has already been mentioned, four out of the six altars recovered from the site were all dedicated by the same centurion of the Twentieth Legion, Gaius Arrius Domitianus (vide RIB 2125 supra, et ceteri infra).

InscriptionTogo-TranslationRIB
DIANAE REGINAE AB PROSPEROS EVENTVS G ARRIVS DOMITIANVS > LEG XX V V V S L L M"To regal Diana, (with proceeds) from a prosperous venture, G. Arrius Domitianus ...¹"2122
I O M GARRIVS DOMITIANVS > LEG XX V V V S L L M"To Jupiter Best and Greatest, G. Arrius Domitianus ...¹"2123
DEO SILVANO PRO SALVTE SVA ET SVORVM G ARRIVS DOMITIANVS > LEG XX V V V S L L M"To the god Silvanus, for the well-being of himself and his family, G. Arrius Domitianus ...¹"2124
  1. The terminating formula on all these altars is the same as RIB 2125 shown above.

The commander of a legionary cohort would usually be a military tribune, but this seems not to have been the case at Trimontium. The placing of these altars, particularly the one dedicated to Jupiter Optimus Maximus, would normally be the responsibility of the commander of the unit, and we must therefore assume that Domitianus was stationed at Newstead in this capacity. The responsibility of commanding this crucial site guarding the communication route to the south would not have fallen to an ordinary centurion, but one with many years experience - and a decent amount of money, stone inscriptions don't come cheap - probably not a primipilus,¹ who was the highest-ranked centurion in a legion, but very likely a centurion in the first cohort, the cream of the regiment.

  1. Literally 'first spear', the most experienced soldier in the entire regiment; equivalent to the modern day 'top gun'.

Click Here for the Newstead Marching Camps

See: Air Reconnaissance of North Britain by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. xli (1951) p.57;
The Roman Occupation of South-Western Scotland by the Glasgow Archaeol. Soc., ed. S.N. Miller (1952) p.206;
Air Reconnaissance in Britain, 1955-7 by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. xlviii (1958) pp.87/8;
The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);
The Roman Military Diet by R.W. Davies in Britannia ii (1971) pp.122-142;
The Roman Occupations of Scotland by B.R. Hartley in Britannia iii (1972) pp.1-55.

Trimontium Related Lynx

Trimontium "The Centre of Roman Scotland" Ace place with brill site-plan.

Click here for a map of Newstead from StreetMap.co.uk

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