VINDOMORA

Roman Fort

Ebchester, Durham

NGRef: NZ1055
OSMap: LR88
Type: Roman Fort
Roads
Dere Street: NW (9) to CORSTOPITVM (Corbridge, Northumberland)
Possible Military Road: NE (8) to Washing Wells (Whickham, Tyne & Wear)
Dere Street: SE (6) to LONGOVICIVM (Lanchester, Durham)

Out of the four main classical geographical sources Ebchester is mentioned only in the Antonine Itinerary, where it is named Vindomora. The entry appears close to the start of Iter I 19 miles from VINOVIVM (Binchester, Durham) and 14 miles from CORSTOPITVM (Corbridge, Northumberland), with the start of Iter I listed some 20 miles beyond Corbridge at BREMENIVM (High Rochester, Northumberland).

The Ebchester Fort

COH V
"The Fifth Cohort (made this)."
(RIB 1106; the text of RIB 1107 is identical)

Several legionary building stones have been recovered from the interior of the Ebchester fort, five of them naming a Fifth Cohort (vide supra), but none bearing the name of the parent legion. Two stones additionally carry the name of the same centurion, Martialis, under whose supervision some of the work at the fort was conducted (vide infra).

COH V > MARTIAL
"The Fifth Cohort, century of Martialis, (made this)."
(RIB 1109; the text of RIB 1110 is identical)

Two other centurions - presumably from the Fifth Cohort - have also left their names on building stones at Ebchester; one centurial stone reads > VALER "the century of Valerius" (RIB 1111), and another is inscribed > VARSIDI IVSTI "the century of Varsidius Justus" (RIB 1112).

COH IIII BREVCORVM
"The Fourth Cohort of Breucorians (made this)."
(RIB 1113; building inscription)

Another building inscription by an auxiliary regiment (vide supra), though undated, very likely records restoration work undertaken at the time of the Scottish campaigns of the emperor Severus in the early third-century (vide RIB 1101 infra).

The Garrison of Vindomora

Cohors Quintae Legionis?

Although it is possible that the first occupants of the Ebchester fort were indeed the Fifth Cohort of an unidentified Roman legion (vide supra), they are only identified on building inscriptions and centurial stones, which cannot be taken as evidence of occupation because all Roman auxiliary forts were actually built by the highly-trained legionaries, and not entrusted to the peregrine auxiliary soldiers who were to garrison the completed camp. Without the evidence even of a single altarstone, we must conclude that the Fifth Cohort were only at Ebchester to build the fort, not to inhabit it.

Cohors Quartae Breucorum Antoninianae - The Fourth Cohort of Antonine's Own Breuci

DEAE S MINERVAE IVL GR...NVS ACTARIVS COH IIII BREVCOR ANTONINIANAE V S L L M
"To the goddess Minerva, Julius Graminus,¹ actarius² in the Fourth Cohort of Antonine's own Breucorians, willingly, gladly and deservedly fulfilled his vow."
(RIB 1101; altarstone; AD213-22)
  1. The dedicators name has been restored arbitrarily; Graminus is a known Roman cognomen meaning 'grassy, herby', which would perhaps indicate a rural background.
  2. Clerk, book-keeper. An officer assigned at century level, subservient to the centurion, whose duties were mainly administrative.

The first attested garrison unit at Ebchester is Cohors IV Breucorum, identified from the early-third century altar to Minerva the Roman war goddess shown above, and also on an undated but probably contemporary building inscription (vide RIB 1113 supra). They were a five-hundred strong infantry regiment originally levied from amongst the Breuci tribe of Pannonia Inferior, natives of the Bosna valley in north-eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina.

This unit may be associated with the Cohors Quartae F[...]? attested at LAVATRIS (Bowes, Durham; RIB 739) on a dedicatory inscription dated AD130-3.

Numerus Peditatus?

DEO MARTE ET N AVG N P F
"For the god Mars and the divine will of the emperor, the Company of Foot (soldiers) made this.¹"
(RIB 1100; altarstone)
  1. Based on the expansion N P F = N[umerus] P[edes] F[ecit].

The Roman Gods of Vindomora

Altar Dedicated to Vernostonus Cocidius

DEO VERNOSTONO COCIDIO VIRILIS GER V S L
"To the god Vernostonus Cocidius, Virilis Germanicus¹ willingly fulfilled his vow."
(RIB 1102; altarstone)
  1. Name usually arbitrarily restored to 'Virilis the German' on account of the Germanic origins of the stone's patron deity; may equally be argued Germanus, a known Roman cognomen denoting a brotherly or 'Germane' nature.

Over the years, Ebchester has revealed a small number of altars which are dedicated to a mixture of classical Roman and Germanic/Celtic gods typical of an Auxiliary fort. There are two altars naming the ancient Germanic ancestor-god Vitiris, and single altars dedicated to the Genius or 'local' god, to the Roman war deities Mars and Minerva - on separate stones - and one also to Vernostonus Cocidius, an apparent conflation of two Germanic war gods.

Altar to Vitiris

DEO VITIRI MAXIMVS V S
"To the god Vitiris, Maximus fulfilled his vow."
(RIB 1103; altarstone)

Altar to the Guardian Spirit

GENIO ... ...IV AVRELIVS ... PRAEF V L S
"To the Genius [...] fourth¹ [...] Aurelius [...] prefect, willingly fulfilled his vow."
(RIB 1099; altarstone)
  1. The damaged portion of the text ...IV may possibly refer to the Fourth Cohort of Breucorians.
See: Historical Map and Guide - Roman Britain by the Ordnance Survey (3rd, 4th & 5th eds., 1956, 1994 & 2001);
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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