NGRef: NY789687
OSMap: Hadrian's Wall, OL43, LR87.
Type: Wall Fort, Minor Settlement, Temples, Quarry.
Roads
Wall: E (5) to Brocolitia (Carrawburgh, Northumberland) via Coesike
Wall: W (5½) to Aesica (Great Chesters, Northumberland)
Probable road: SW (4¼) to Vindolanda (Chesterholm, Northumberland)

Vercovicium - 'The Village on the Slope'

Housesteads
Housesteads/Vercovicium Fort
viewed from the National Trust car-park

The Roman fort at Housesteads is situated on the eastern end of a mile long crag of whinstone stretching between the Knag Burn in the east and the Bradley Burn to the west. The well-preserved remains of the fort and adjoining sections of Hadrian's Wall, together with the nearby civil settlement or vicus and its surrounding halo of Romano-British temples and industrial sites, make Vercovicium perhaps the most interesting place on the entire length of the Wall.

The etymology of the Roman name for Housesteads appears to be wholly Latin in origin and may refer to the settlement on the hillside south of the Wall, but the actual name of the fort is in dispute. The name appears as Borcovicium in the fifth century Notitia Dignitatum, where it is listed between the entries for Brocolitia (Carrawburgh, Northumberland) and Vindolanda (Chesterholm, Northumberland), the former fort on the Wall and the latter on the Stanegate. The Ravenna Cosmography of the seventh century lists the name Velurtion, this time between the entries for Carrawburgh and Aesica (Great Chesters, Northumberland), but a dedicatory inscription recovered from the site suggests that the name may actually begin VER... (vide RIB 1594 infra); hence the modern acceptance of the name Vercovicium, translated as 'The Settlement on the Slope' (from Latin: vergo incline + vicus village or settlement).

The Auxiliary Infantry Fort

Fort Plan
Housesteads in the Severan Period
Following its enlargement in c.AD200,
the fort housed Cohors I Tungrorum
an auxiliary regiment from Belgica.

The fort covers an area of about 5 acres (2 hectares) and anomalously faces east instead of north, utilizing the steep cliff of Housteads Crags to augment its northern defences, which also delineated the course of the Wall. The curious alignment suggests that the fort was built primarily to defend against barbarian incursions along the course of the Knag Burn to the east, and replaced the nearby fort at Vindolanda on the Stanegate.

For a general description of the fort itself, the masterful R.G. Collingwood's The Archaeology of Roman Britain (pp.41-42) states:

Housesteads (built about A.D. 120-125) measures internally 570 by 330 feet (4¼ acres), and has a stone rampart-wall about 5 feet thick with a clay bank behind it bringing the total thickness of the rampart up to about 20 feet. Its four gates are all double, and have guard-rooms entered from the archways; and the via principalis and via quintana divide its internal area into three equal portions, all occupied by stone buildings. Six long blocks occupy the praetentura and six the retentura; in the centre are the headquarters, granaries, commandant's house, and other buildings. The garrison was a milliary cohort; the ten barrack-blocks of its ten centuries can be easily distinguished from among the other buildings. Its ditches have not been explored. Outside a bath-house and traces of an extensive civil settlement with temples, etc., have been recognised and in part excavated.

During excavations over the years at Housesteads a number of animal bones have been uncovered, including those of Ox, Sheep, Pig and Red Deer; the latter animal very likely being hunted and killed for sport, the others domesticated. (See the article: The Roman Military Diet by R.W. Davies, in Britannia II (1971) pp.122-142).

Dateable Building Inscriptions From Housesteads

Housesteads fort was first erected c.AD128, after the broad wall foundations had been laid down but before the narrow wall was built, and was destroyed (and rebuilt) several times during its lifetime, in AD197, 296 and 367, before being finally abandoned around the turn of the fifth century. Artillery platforms may have been added to the ramparts in the early-third century.

IMP CAES DIVI TRAIAN PARTH FIL DIVI NER NEP TRAIAN HADRIANO AVG COH ... MIL ... FEC
"For Imperator Caesar Trajanus Hadrianus Augustus,¹ son of the divine Trajan of Parthia, grandson of the divine Nerva, the [...] Cohort of [...] one-thousand strong [...] made this."
(RIB 1631a; dated: AD122-28?; JRS lii (1962), p.193, no.15)
  1. The emperor Hadrian. He was adopted in the will of Trajan and became emperor in AD117 and died of natural causes in 138. The titles Pontifex Maximus (from AD117) and Pater Patriae (from 128) are both omitted, so the inscription is thought to date to the earlier part of his reign.
IMP CAES L SEPT SEVERO PIO PERT ET M AVR ANTONINO PIO AVG
"For Imperator Caesar Lucius Septimius Severus Pius Pertinax and Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Pius Augustus.¹"
(RIB 1612; dated: AD198)
  1. The emperor Septimius Severus wore the purple from AD193-211, and his son Caracalla from 198-217. The lack of any further titles narrows the date to AD198.
... P SEPT GETAE NOB CAES COH I TVNGR M RESTITVIT PRAETOR L ALFENO SENECIONE LEG AVGG PR PR
"[For Imperator Caesar Lucius Septimius Severus Pertinax Augustus and Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus Pius Augustus, and] Publius Septimius Geta noble Caesar,¹ the First Cohort of Tungrians, one-thousand strong, restored [this temple under the administration of] the praetor Lucius Alfenus Senecio, legate of the emperors with pro-praetorian power."
(RIB 1631b; dated: AD205-8; JRS lvii (1967), p.205, no.17)
  1. The first part of this inscription has been restored. Septimius Severus shared the rule with his eldest son Caracalla from AD198, at which time his youngest son Geta was named Caesar. Geta was further entitled Augustus in 209 so the inscription must belong between these two dates.
DD NOSTRIS DIOCLETIANO ET MAXIMIANO...
"For our lords Diocletianus and Maximianus¹ [...]"
(RIB 1613; dated: AD286-305; see RIB 1912)
  1. Diocletian was emperor from AD284 and adopted Maximian appointing him joint emperor in 286. They were to rule, Diocletian in the East and Maximian in the West, until their mutual abdication in AD305, whereupon Galerius and Constantius came to power.

Centurial Stones from the Wall

RIB1572
COH I > IVLI CANDID
"The century of Julius Candidus from the 1st Cohort¹ (built this)."
(RIB 1646; from the Wall between Houseteads and Cawfields)
> GELLI PHILIPI
"The century of Gellius Philippus (made this)."
(RIB 1572; from the Wall near Housesteads; < vide sinistra)
  1. Probably the First Cohort of the Second Augustan Legion.

The Roman Legions at Housesteads

I O M MILITES LEG II AVG
"To Jupiter Best and Greatest, the soldiers of the Second Augustan Legion [dedicates this]."
(RIB 1582; altarstone)
I O M ET DEO COCIDIO GENIOQ HVIS LOCI MIL LEG II AVG AGENTES IN PRAESIDIO VSLM
"To Jupiter Best and Greatest, the god Cocidius and the Guardian Spirit who inhabits this Place, the soldiers of the Second Augustan Legion, powerful in defence, willingly and deservedly fulfill a vow."
(RIB 1583; altarstone)

Among the altarstones which have been recovered from the Housesteads site are a handfull which attest to the presence of Roman legionary units, in particular the Second Augustan Legion which is mentioned on a couple of altarstones to the Roman god Jupiter, and the Sixth Legion Victrix which appears on an altarstone to the Germanic god Cocidius and on another altarstone to an unknown god. Although the evidence suggests that the Housesteads fort was garrisoned by Roman legionary units, this is not the case. The highly trained legionary soldiers were actually responsible for the vast majority of Roman military installations, and it is certain that the sophisticated stone-built ramparts and interior buildings at Vercovicium could not have been constructed by the auxiliary regiment who were to man these defences. What is equally certain is that the legionary soldiers who were responsible for the construction of the fort must have been housed somewhere whilst building was in progress, and it is quite possible that a couple of legionary centuries were stationed here for a considerable period of time.

COCIDIO ET GENIO PRAESIDI VALERIVS M LEG VI V P F V P
"To Cocidius and the Genius of the Headquarters, Valerius, a soldier of the Sixth Victorious Legion Loyal and Faithful, fulfills his vow."
(RIB 1577; altarstone)
... > LEG VI V P F V S L L M
"[...] centurion of the Sixth Victorious Legion, Loyal and Faithful, freely, cheerfully and deservedly fulfilling a vow."
(RIB 1609; altar to unknown god)

The Garrison Units

Tombstone
D • M
ANICIO
INGENVO
MEDICO
ORD • COH•
•T• TVNGR •
VIX • AN • XXV
"To the spirits of the departed
and to Anicius Ingenuus,
Medicus Ordinarius¹ of the
First Cohort of Tungrians,
who lived for twenty-five years."
(RIB 1618; tombstone)
  1. The Medicus Ordinarius (chief medical officer) held a rank equivalent to a centurion and was the man in charge of the capsarii (bandagers) in the valetudinarium (hospital).
D M HVRMIO LEVBASNI MIL COH I TVNGROR B F PRAEF CALPVRNIVS HER F C
"To the spirits of the departed and Hurmius Leubasnes, a soldier of the First Cohort of Tungrians, beneficiarius of the prefect. His heir Calpurnius arranged for this to be made."
(RIB 1619; tombstone)

The original Hadrianic garrison is not known for certain, but it is possible that the fort housed a large proportion of the First Cohort of Tungrians. After the fort was rebuilt and enlarged during the rule of emperor Septimius Severus c.AD200, the Housesteads fort was known to be occupied entirely by this one-thousand strong auxiliary infantry unit, which had been recruited from amongst the Tungri of Gallia Belgica or modern Belgium. This regiment is also mentioned in the Notitia Dignitatum of the fifth century, but over the years the complement seems to have become depleted, either through battle or natural causes such as retirement or secondment, and the garrison had to be augmented by a succession of other auxiliary units.

Tribunus Cohortis Primae Tungrorum Borcovicio
"The Tribune of the First Cohort of Tungrians at Borcovicium."
(Notitia Dignitatum xl.40; 4th/5th C.)
I O M ET NVMINIBVS AVG COH I TVNGRORVM MIL CVI PRAEEST Q VIRIVS SVPERSTIS PRAEFECTVS
"To Jupiter Best and Greatest and the Divine Spirit of the Emperor, the soldiers of the First Cohort of Tungrians under the command of the prefect Quintus Virius Superstes [dedicates this]."
(RIB 1586; altarstone)

The First Cohort of Tungrians is mentioned on at least eleven inscriptions on stone recovered from the Housesteads fort and its environs; there are three altarstones to the god Jupiter and single altarstones to Mars, Silvanus, Hercules and the Mother Godesses, among others, also a couple of tombstones in memory of men from the unit.

HERCVLI COH I TVNGROR MIL CVI PRAEEST P AEL MODESTVS PRAE
"To Hercules, the soldiers of the First Cohort of Tungrians, under the command of the prefect Publius Aelius Modestus, [dedicates this]."
(RIB 1580; altarstone)
Tombstone

Although not mentioned on any inscription in stone this unit of auxiliary bowmen is eloquently attested at the fort, in the shape of a tombstone of an auxiliary soldier. This second century tombstone (< vide sinistra) suggests the presence of at least part of Cohors I Hamiorum Sagittariorum, a regiment of bowmen from Syria.

Unfortunately the tombstone is uninscribed but carries a carved image undoubtedly that of an archer, lightly armoured in a short tunic with a peculiarly pointed helmet upon his head and a military cloak about his shoulders, the man is depicted armed with a curved short bow held by his left side, a dagger on his belt and a hatchet grasped in his right hand; the soldier also appears to have a quiver of arrows suspended from a baldric at his right shoulder.

The First Cohort of Hamian Bowmen is the only such regiment known to have been stationed in Britain and they have been attested at the nearby fort at Magnis (Carvoran, Northumberland) on the Stanegate, where they were stationed in Hadrianic times. They would undoubtedly have proved an excellent defensive unit, able to shoot their arrows some considerable distance from the northern battlements of the Housesteads fort.

DEO MARTI ET DVABVS ALAISIAGIS ET N AVG GER CIVES TVIHANTI CVNEI FRISIORVM VER SER ALEXANDRIANI VOTVM SOLVERVNT LIBENTES M
"To the god Mars the two Alaisagae and the divine spirit of the emperor, the German tribesmen from Tuihantis [serving in] the Frisian Formation,¹ true servants of the Alexandrian,² willingly and deservedly fulfill their vow."
(RIB 1594; altarstone)
  1. The cuneus was a late-period auxiliary cavalry unit of varying strength, named after the cuneiform or 'wedge-shaped' formation in which they were often deployed.
  2. I.e. Loyal to an emperor who came from Alexandria, of which there are very few; Vespasian wintered at Alexandria AD69/70 before he entered Rome as emperor; the would-be usurper Gaius Avidius Cassius, governor of Syria, who revolted in early AD175 was born there; Septimius Severus stayed at Alexandria and in the East from 197 until his return to Rome in 202; the fratricidal emperor Caracalla (AD211-217) modelled himself on Alexander the Great, and is known to have slaughtered many citizens of Alexandria during his stay there in 215, and his murdered brother Geta had previously made plans to rule the eastern empire from that city; the pretenders Lucius Domitius Domitianus and his successor Aurelius Achilleus tried to set up an alternative administration at Alexandria, but this was overthrown by the emperor Diocletian in 298. The translation of this phrase is tentative, however, and may also be given: "... of Vercovicium, [loyal to] Severus Alexander ..."; the emperor Alexander Severus ruled from AD222 to 235.

At the end of the third century came the addition of the Cuneus Frisiorum, a small, irregular cavalry force of Frisian tribesmen from Tuihantis (modern Twenthe in Holland). This regiment is attested on a single inscribed stone from outside the Housesteads fort, an altar to Mars and the Aliasagae goddesses. There are two other examples of Cunei Frisiorum; at Derventio (Papcastle, Cumbria; RIB 882; AD241) and Vinovia (Binchester, Durham; RIB 1036; undated).

DEABVS ALAISIAGIS BAVDIHILLIE ET FRIAGABI ET N AVGN HNAVDIFRIDI VSLM
"To the Alaisagae goddesses Boudihillia and Friagabis, and to the divine spirit of the Emperor, the numerus¹ of Hnaudifridius willingly and deservedly fulfills its vow."
(RIB 1576; altarstone)
  1. A small, irregular military unit usually of cavalry or at least part-mounted. The word numerus may be translated in this case as 'Company' (i.e. of soldiers).

By the fourth century the Numerus Hnaudifridi, a Germanic mercenary unit is recorded on a single altarstone to the Alaisagae goddesses. It has been mooted that this unit may be synonymous with the Cuneus Frisiorum on the premise that the original irregular 'Wedge' of Frisians may have become depleted to such low numbers, that by the fourth century the unit merited the status of a mere Numerus, and that the commander of the force, one Hnaudifridus, bears a name which is certainly Germanic in origin, and may indeed have been that of a Frisian tribesman.

The Vicus or Civil Settlement


Earring from
Housesteads
Vicus

The civil settlement at Housesteads occupied the area to the immediate south and east of the Wall fort, along each side of the two minor roads which linked the fort with the Stanegate to the south-east and to the south-west. The civil buildings were arranged in terraces due to the steep nature of the surroundings, and identified remains include a number of domestic dwellings, shops and taverns, some with shuttered frontages. The buildings in the vicus were mainly rectangular in plan, arranged with their long axes at 90° to the main street. The remains of a couple (or five) of these civilian houses lie just outside the southern gateway of the fort, their gable-ends fronting the original Roman roadway indicating that it led straight down the hill and not by the less strenuous, meandering course of the modern road which serves the farmhouse.

The civil settlement was at its most prosperous in the late-third to early-fourth centuries, but was abandoned by the late fourth century following barbarian raids from the north. A considerable proportion of the civilian population were then re-housed within the defences of the fort itself, and a number of internal buildings appear to have been re-furbished and altered to accommodate them, including even the principia or headquarters building, the former administrative centre of the fort. There was plenty of room to spare in the fort at this time due to the depletion of the garrison over the years, from a nominal force of one-thousand down to only about three-hundred men.

Altar
Altarstone Dedicated to Veterus
from the Housesteads fort

Temples and Altars

There have been over thirty altars to pagan gods unearthed at Housesteads, the greatest number dedicated to Jupiter the head of the Roman pantheon who has nine, closely followed by the war god Mars with seven, both of these powerful deities were often observed by the military. After the two classical gods the Celtic/Germanic god Vheterus is honoured with six altarstones, the Persian god Mithras has three, the Germanic god Cocidius is mentioned on another three, and the Celtic/Germanic goddesses known collectively as the Alaisagae also have three, though all of their altars are shared with other deities. There are a number of other altarstones to a wide variety of gods, some shared, others not; to Greek Hercules, Latin Silvanus, also one to the Mother Goddesses and at least another four unidentified. The texts from a selection of these altarstones are given and translated on this page, those naming military units above, others below. All of the known religious texts on stone are tabulated below:

A Breakdown of Housesteads Deities

No. of StonesName of DeityRIB Catalogue Numbers
9Iuppiter Optimus Maximus(Jupiter Best and Greatest): 1581, 1582, 1583 [IOM et Cocidius et Genio Loci], 1584, 1588 [IOM et Num Aug], 1589
9Numen Augusti(the Divine Spirit of the Emperor): 1576 [Alaisagae et Num Aug], 1584-1588 [IOM et Num Aug], 1593 [Mars Thincsus et Alaisagae et Num Aug], 1594 [Mars et Alaisagae et Num Aug], 1596 [Mars et Victoria et Num Aug]
7Mars1590 [statue base], 1591, 1592, 1593 [Mars Thincsus et Alaisagae et Num Aug], 1594 [Mars et Alaisagae et Num Aug], 1595 [Mars et Victoria], 1596 [Mars et Victoria et Num Aug]
6Veterus1562 [Hueteri], 1563 [Huitri], 1604-1607 [Veteribus]
3Cocidius1577 [Cocidius et Genio Praesidi], 1578 [Silvanus Cocidius], 1583 [IOM et Cocidius et Genio Loci]
3Alaisagae1576 [Alaisagae et Num Aug], 1593 [Mars Thincsus et Alaisagae et Num Aug], 1594 [Mars et Alaisagae et Num Aug]
3Sol/Mithras1599 [Sol Inv Mytras], 1560 [AD252; Sol Inv Mitras], 1561 [Sol]
2Victoria1595 [Mars et Victoria], 1596 [Mars et Victoria et Num Aug]
2Genii(Guardian Spirits): 1577 [Cocidius et Genio Praesidi], 1583 [IOM et Cocidius et Genio Loci]
1Mercury1597 [M Calve]
1Matres(Mother Goddesses): 1598
1Silvanus1578 [Silvanus Cocidius]
1Dis Deabus1579
4unknown1608-1611

Possible Nymphaeum
Housesteads Temple 1

Nymphaeum

A small, simple apsidal shrine measuring 13¾ ft. by 16½ ft. with a semicircular wall on the north-west side, lies just south of the vicus settlement, north of Chapel Hill. Inside, four heavy stone slabs set upright in a rough square encloses a strongly-flowing freshwater spring at the bottom of a 4½ ft. well. Two uniscribed altars were found within the building which proves its sanctity, and it is very likely that this very small temple, which may comfortably accommodate no more than six worshippers, was connected with the worship of some unknown water deity, or group of deities, perhaps the water nymphs. Finds of coins and pottery sherds have provided evidence of a construction date for the building around the mid-2nd century and its demise during the early-4th. Other nymphaea are known at Carrawburgh and Chedworth.

Temple of Martius Thincsus and the Goddesses Alaisiagae
Housesteads Temple 2

DEO MARTI THINCSO ET DVABVS ALAISAGIS BEDE ET FIMMILENE ET N AVG GERM CIVES TVIHANTI VSLM
"To the god Mars Thincsus and the two Alaisagae, Beda and Fimmilena, and the divine spirit of the emperor, the German tribesmen from Tuihantis willingly and deservedly fulfill their vow."
(RIB 1593; pillar-shaped altarstone)

This roughly circular temple was found on top of Chapel Hill a little to the south of the fort, its walls of undressed stone facing with an earth and rubble infill enclosed an area measuring about 17¼ ft. across; the insubstantial foundations indicate that the superstructure was at least half-timbered. The temple was built in the early-3rd century upon the ruins of a rectangular workshop in the vicus which had been destroyed during the barbarian incursions of AD196. It contained altars dedicated by the commanders and men of all three units known to be stationed at Housesteads to the god Mars Thincsus, the Romanized aspect of a Teutonic god, a common occurrence among the Roman auxiliary units. Various altars have been found at this site dedicated to Mars and/or to the Germanic goddesses Alaisiagae; named on one altar as Beda and Fimmilena, on another as Baudihillia and Friagabis (vide RIB 1576 supra).

DEO MARTI QVINT FLORIVS MATERNVS PRAEF COH I TVNG VSLM
"To the god Mars, Quintus Florius Maternus, prefect of the First Cohort of Tungrians, willingly and deservedly fulfills a vow."
(RIB 1591; altarstone)
MARTI ET VICTORIAE
"For Mars and Victory."
(RIB 1595; altarstone)
DEO MARTI ET VICTORIAE ET NVMINIB AVG SVB CVRA LICINI ...IVIC...II... ...V...IS VALLVTI ALPIBAIIRISI ...I...I...SIC... VS...VIVIOB ...NDICII ...CVS ARM ...SD...T
"To the god Mars, to Victory and the divine spirit of the emperor, under the administration of Licinius ..."
(RIB 1596; altarstone; latter half indistinct)

The Mithraeum
Housesteads Temple 3

DEO SOLI INVICTO MYTRAE SAECVLARI LITORIVS PACATIANVS B F COS PRO SE ET SVIS VSLM
"To the god Mithras the Invincible Sun, [Lord] of the generation, the beneficiarius consularis¹ Litorius Pacatianus willingly and deservedly fulfilled a vow for himself and his family."
(RIB 1599; altarstone)
  1. A soldier seconded onto the personal staff or bodyguard of the consular governor, either for distinguished service or as a honorary position.
DEO SOLI INVICTO MITRAE SAECVLARI PVBL PROCVLI NVS > PRO SE ET PROCVLO FIL SVO VSLM D N GALLO ET VOLVSINO COS
"To the god, the Sun Invincible, Mithras, [Lord] of Ages, the centurion Publius Proculinus willingly and deservedly fulfills his vow for himself and his son Proculus, when our lords Gallus and Volusinus were consuls.¹"
(RIB 1600; altarstone; secondary inscription;² dated: AD252)
  1. Imperator Caesar Gaius Vibius Trebonianus Gallus Augustus was consul for the second time, with his colleague Imperator Caesar Gaius Vibius Afinius Gallus Veldumnianus Volusianus Augustus consul for the first time, AD252 (a.u.c. 1005).
  2. The primary inscription reads simply DEO or "to the god".

Situated to the south of the fort was a small temple dedicated to Mithras, the Persian Sun-God. It measured 54 feet in length by 16 feet broad, and had a paved central isle 6½ feet wide running between platforms raised at least 2 feet high on either side. A sanctuary at the far end of the temple was flanked on each side by a small altar stone, and contained a sculpted relief of the Birth of Mithras. A spring provided the building with running water, which was presumably required for ritual purposes. There is another superb example of a Mithraeum at the nearby fort of Carrawburgh.

D SOLI HERION V L M
"To the god Sol, Herion freely and deservedly offers [this]."
(RIB 1601; altarstone)

Shrine to Silvanus Cocidius

RIB1578
DEO SILVANO COCIDIO
Q FLORIVS MATERNVS
PRAEF COH I TVNG
V S L M
Deo Silvano Cocidio
Quintus Florius Maternus
Praefectus Cohortis Primae Tungrorum
Votum Solvit Libens Merito
"To the god Silvanus Cocidius,
Quintus Florius Maternus
prefect of the First Cohort of Tungrians,
willingly and deservedly fulfills his vow."
(RIB 1578; altarstone; < vide sinistra)

Shrine to the Mother Goddesses

MATRIBVS COH I TVNGRORVM
"To the mother goddesses, the First Cohort of Tungrians [dedicates this]."
(RIB 1598; altarstone)

The temple to the Matres lies south of the vallum to the east of the fort, between the Knag Burn and the eastern Stanegate branch-road.

DIIS DEABVSQVE SECVNDVM INTERPRETATIONEM ORACVLI CLARI APOLLINIS COH I TVNGRORVM
"To the Spirits of the Goddesses, for the second oracular interpretation of Clarus Apollinis of the First Cohort of Tungrians."
(RIB 1579)
     

Altarstones to the God Hueterus

InscriptionTogo-TranslationRIB
DEO HVETERI SVPERSTES ET REGVLVS VSLM "To the god Hueterus, the survivors and Regulus willingly and deservedly fulfill their vow." 1602
DEO HVITRI ASPVANIVS PRO ET SVIS VOT SOL "To the god Huitris, Aspuanius fulfills a vow for himself and his family." 1603
VETERIBVS POSVVIT AVRE VICT V "To the Veterian gods, Aurelius Victor places this offering." 1606

Altar to Jupiter Optimus Maximus

I O M PRO SALVTE DESIDIENI AEMILIANI PRAEFECTI ET SVA SVORVM POSVIT VOTVMQ SOLVIT LIBENS TVSCO ET BASSO COS
"To Jupiter Best and Greatest, for the well-being of the prefect Desidienus Aemilianus and his family, who willingly placed this in fulfillment of a vow, when Tuscus and Bassus were consuls.¹"
(RIB 1589; altarstone; dated: AD258)
  1. Marcus Nummius Tuscus and Mummius Bassus were ordinary consuls for AD258 (a.u.c.1011).

Altar to Mercury

DEO M CALVE... GER
"To the god Mercury Calve[...] of the Germans."
(RIB 1597; altarstone)

Local Romano-British Industries

Along the precipitous Housesteads Crags to the west of Vercovicium the usual broad foundation of the Wall was discarded, and it seems that this section was planned from the outset to be built in a narrower gauge.

The area surrounding the Housesteads fort is bristling with other shrines and signs of industrial and agricultural activity:

Excavations on the site of the valetudinarium or military field hospital in the centre of the fort (NY790688) in 1970 revealed evidence that the building continued to be used after it had ceased to function as a field-hospital.

Vercovicium Today

Housesteads Roman Fort, Civil Settlement and Museum
The visible remains of the fort at Housesteads date primarily to the third and fourth centuries, and include the principia or regimental headquarters building, the praetorium or commanding officer's residence, a valetudinarium or field hospital, and examples of barracks, bath-houses, latrines, workshops and granaries. Visitors to the site may be under the impression that the north gate of the fort was not used, as it opens out upon a precipitous rocky cliff, this was not the case, for the Roman engineers included in their plans a causeway or ramp leading up to this northern gate which was removed during the course of modern excavations at the Housesteads fort.
Of the vicus which occupied much of the area surrounding the fort, several buildings can be seen, mainly along the road leading from the fort's southern gateway south and then east towards the Newborough fort on the Stanegate.

Vercovicium Digipix

All photographs taken in the pouring rain with a dodgy webcam during my April 2004 study tour with the University of Birmingham - please excuse the poor quality. Togo




















Vercovicium Bibliography

See: Hadrian's Wall Map and Guide by the Ordnance Survey (Southampton, 1989);
Hadrian's Wall in the Days of the Romans by Ronald Embleton and Frank Graham (Newcastle, 1984) pp.130-151;
Hadrian's Wall History Trails Guidebook III by Les Turnbull (Newcastle, 1974);
Britannia ii (1971) p.250;
Britannia i (1970) pp.276/7 & Fig.4;
Temples in Roman Britain by M.J.T. Lewis (Cambridge 1966) p.73 & fig.74;
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. Togodumnus

Vercovicium Related Lynx