Posts Tagged ‘Arbeia Roman fort’

One thing I have not seen before in other forts that I have visited is the strongroom which was built  under the headquarters building to store the soldiers pay and savings.

The headquarters building showing the location of the strongroom

The headquarters building showing the location of the strongroom

At Arbeia they have located and excavated it and although we are not sure how the top was closed, it is reminiscent of later day bank vaults

The excavated strongroom at Arbeia

The excavated strongroom at Arbeia

Two interesting tombstones have been found during the excavations at Arbeia which illustrate the flexibility of the Roman social system and the diversity of people who lived on the northern frontier of the empire.

The Victor Tombstone

Victor was a Moor from North Africa. He was only 20 when he died. Originally he was a slave to a Spanish cavalry soldier Numerianus, but at some point before he died he had been freed. It seems that he continued to travel with his old master as a servant or companion. He died at Arbeia and from the inscription we know that Numerianus’ unit was stationed at Benwell to the west of Newcastle and so it is likely they were just travelling through and staying at the fort either on their way back to Benwell or before embarking on a boat for a journey south or to the continent. Numerianus set up the magnificent tombstone in memory of his ex-slave

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The Regina Tombstone

Regina came from the Catuvellani tribe, who lived in the area which today is Hertfordshire. Originally a slave to a Syrian merchant named Baratas, he had freed her and they had married. He set up this fine memorial when she died aged 30.

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Commander's house

Commander’s house

There is also a reconstruction of a commanding officers house dating from the third century. It is built in the Mediterranean style and reflects the status of the commanding officer.

Plan of Commander's house

Plan of Commander’s house

Living Room

Living Room

Summer Dining Room

Summer Dining Room

Courtyard

Courtyard

Bedroom

Bedroom

Commander's office

Commander’s office

Reconstructed barrack block

Reconstructed barrack block

In one section of the site there are a number of reconstructed buildings which sit on original foundations. One of these is a barrack block dating from the beginning of the third century.

Plan of barrack block

Plan of barrack block

The centurian lived in a four room apartment at one end of the building. It is thought that these were a bedroom for himself and his wife if he had one, a bedroom for his slave and children, a living room and a kitchen.

Centurions bedroom

Centurions bedroom

Slave / child's bedroom

Slave / child’s bedroom

Kitchen

Kitchen

By comparison his soldiers slept up to 8 men to an apartment of 2 rooms. The front room was probably kept for cooking and storage of equipment although it could have also been used for sleeping and the rear room was packed with beds. It is possible that soldiers may have shared beds between men on different watches – one slept whilst one was on duty.

Soldiers cooking/ storage room

Soldiers cooking/ storage room

Soldiers bedroom

Soldiers bedroom

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.