Arbeia Roman fort

Posted: August 18, 2015 in History, Roman History, UK
Tags: , ,
Reconstructed Gateway

Reconstructed Gateway


The site of Arbeia is in modern South Shields on the southern shore of the estuary of the river Tyne. It was built in the early 2nd century, most likely as part of the development of Hadrian’s wall, which terminated  a few miles upstream on the northern bank. Originally it was a base for 2 auxiliary cavalry units, 1 from Spain and the other from Hungary.

Foundations of a granery

Foundations of a granery

Diagram of a granery

Diagram of a granery

At the beginning of the third century, the base underwent a major redevelopment. The garrison capacity was reduced and many of the buildings were replaced by granaries. A normal fort of this size would have 1 or 2 granaries, but after this redevelopment Arbeia had 24. This is thought to be due to the campaigns of Septimus Severus in Scotland. Grain could be brought by sea to Arbeia and stored in the granaries before being shipped to units fighting north of Hadrian’s wall. At this time the cavalry units were withdrawn and replaced by a single unit of infantry from Gaul. After the conclusion of the Severan campaign, Arbeia continued to act as a supply base for the forts on Hadrian’s wall.

Around the beginning of the 4th century some granaries were converted back to barracks and a unit of Tigris boatmen from Iraq were stationed there. It is thought that the fort remained in use until near the end of the 4th century when Rome began to withdraw units from Britain.

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