The Celtic Tribes of Britain

The Durotriges

"Toward the west and south of these [the Dobuni and the Belgae]
are the Durotriges whose town is Dunium 18*00 52°40."

The Durotriges tribe occupied Dorset, south Wiltshire, south Somerset and Devon east of the Axe. The tribe had no discernable pre-Roman tribal centre and consisted of a number of fiercely independant baronies rather than a single unified state. However, there was a mint at Hengistbury Head which may denote some sort of central administration. Their territories were possessed of an unusual density of powerful hillforts. They were bordered to the north and east by the Belgae and by the Dumnonii to the west.

Other passages in Ptolemy Book II Chapter 2 give the ancient names of a couple of rivers within the territories of the Durotriges tribe:

The Tribal Territories

Distribution of Coins of the Durotriges
Distribution of Coins of the Durotriges
The hatched area shows the approximate extent of the Durotrigian Canton.
From Barry Cunliffe's Iron Age Communities in Britain (Fig.7:7, pp.97; originally sourced from D.F. Allen, 1961a and 1962).

The Tribal Πολις Assigned by Ptolemy

Dvnivm(Hod Hill, Dorset) - An Iron-Age hillfort of the tribe later re-used by the Romans who built an auxiliary fort within the north-west corner of the original defensive works.

The Civitas Durotrigum
The Tribal Administrative Centre

The civitas capital of the Durotriges is nowadays accepted to be the large walled town of Durnovaria (Dorchester, Dorset), however, there is no epigraphic or documentary evidence to support this assumption. The only other walled town in the canton is at Lindinis (Ilchester, Dorset), which was possibly the centre of a separate tribal civitas for the northern Durotriges, if this is not the case, then it was certainly the centre of a second administrative district or pagus.

The Southern Civitas Durotrages Durnovariensis

Centred on Durnovaria (Dorchester, Dorset)

Industries of the Southern Civitas

The most important industry here was the extraction and working of the Kimmeridge shale outcrops on the south coast, perhaps administrated from Wareham. Several small potteries were dotted around Poole Harbour and another was sited at Bager, near Sturminster Newton. Villas are rare but there is a notable example at Frampton.

Rural temples of the Southern Civitas

The northern Civitas Durotrages Lindiniensis

Centred on Lindinis (Ilchester, Dorset)

Industries of the Northern Civitas

The stone quarries at Ham Hill, south-west of Ilchester, were used extensively during Roman times. The immediate area of Ilchester is posessed of the richest concentration of villas in the whole of Roman Britain; there are thirteen villas within a ten mile radius of the town, and a further twelve substantial Roman rural buildings, some of which may also represent villa estates.

Rural Temples of the Northern Civitas

The Durotrigian Kings

The Durotriges were numbered among the few tribes of Celtic Britain which issued coinage, although unfortunately, none of the coins associated with the tribe bear inscriptions. Sadly, this means that we are left with no record of the names of any of the Dumnonian nobility.

Bibliographical Links

See: The Geography of Claudius Ptolemaeus, trans. by E.L. Stevenson (Dover, New York, 1991);
Atlas of Great Britain by the Ordnance Survey (Country Life, 1982);
Historical Map and Guide: Roman Britain by the OS (4th Ed., 1990);