VENTA BELGARVM

British Tribal City

Winchester, Hampshire

NGRef: SU4829
OSMap: LR185
Type: Tribal Capital (Belgae).
Roads
NW (14) to LEVCOMAGVS (East Anton, Hampshire)
NNE (23) to CALLEVA ATREBATVM (Silchester, Hampshire)
W (22) to SORVIODVNVM (Old Sarum, Wiltshire)
SW (12) to Nursling (Hampshire)
SE (32) to NOVIOMAGVS REGNORVM (Chichester, West Sussex)
SSW (11) to CLAVSENTVM (Bitterne, Hampshire)

Venta Belgarum - The Market Town of the Belgae

"Below the Dobuni¹ are the Belgae² and the towns:
Iscalis 16*00 5340, Aquae Calidae 17*20 5340 and Venta 18*40 5300."
Above extract from Ptolemy's Geography
  1. The Dobunni tribe inhabited Gloucestershire and Hereford & Worcester.
  2. The Belgae inhabited Hampshire and Avon.
  3. Of the three names mentioned by Ptolemy the station Iscalis remains unidentified, Aquae Calidae literally 'the hot waters' can only be Aquae Sulis (Bath, Avon), and the final town mentioned is easily equated with Winchester.

Winchester appears on three (out of fifteen) routes in Britain recorded in the Antonine Itinerary of the late second century:

Winchester also appears in the seventh century Ravenna Cosmology as Venta Velgarom (R&C#41), this time listed between the unknown entries Onna and Armis. The name Venta Belgarum is an amalgam of the Celtic word venta meaning 'market or market town', and the determinative Belgarum meaning 'of the Belgae', denoting that Winchester was the chief town of this southern British tribe.

Extract from the Notitia Dignitatum

"Part XI - The Count of the Sacred Bounties
Under the control of the illustrious count of the sacred bounties:
... The accountant of the general tax of the Britains.
Provosts of the storehouses:
... In the Britains: The provost of the storehouses at London. ...
Procurators of the weaving-houses:
... The procurator of the weaving-house at Winchester in Britain. ..."
Above quote from the Notitia Dignitatum of the 4th/5th century AD

Epigraphic Evidence from Winchester

The only inscription on stone recorded in the R.I.B. for Winchester is an altar dedicated to the Matres the 'Mothers' or mother goddesses (vide RIB 88 infra). This fine altarstone is now on display in the British Museum.

Altarstone to the Mother Goddesses

MATRIB ITALIS GERMANIS GAL BRIT ANTONIVS LVCRETIANVS BF COS REST
"For the Mother Goddesses of Italy, the Germanies, Gaul and Britain, the Beneficiarius Consularis¹ Antonius Lucretianus restored [this temple]."
(RIB 88; altarstone)
  1. A beneficiarius was a soldier excused normal duties in order to perform some specialised function, in this case serving on the staff of the consular governor.

Other Roman Sites in the Neighbourhood

As elswhere in southern Britain, the area around this Roman town, the sixth largest in the province, is studded with Romano-British villas: Sparsholt (SU4130), Twyford (SU4824), King's Worthy (SU4833), Itchen Abbas (SU5234), Bramdean (SU6228) and West Meon (SU6324). In addition, the remains of substantial Roman buildings have also been identified at Upham (SU5422) Alresford (SU5833) and Micheldever (SU5337).

Click here for the Romano-British Walled Towns page

See: The Towns of Roman Britain by John Wacher (2nd Ed., BCA, London, 1995) pp.291-301 & fig.132;
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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