Friday, 17 January 2014

Comment: Documentary evidence for Roman Ravenglass

From Director Kurt:

Further to the blog regarding the iRomans website reference to Ravenglass, here are some thoughts on the documentary evidence for the fort:
Traditionally, the fort at Ravenglass has been identified as Glannoventa. The name means ‘the market by the shore’ which would fit with the presumed role of the site as a port. This name appears in the 2nd century Antonine Itinerary, which describes various routes across the Roman Empire. Glannoventa is the start of Route X and is reported as being 18 miles fron Galava (thought to be Ambleside). The name also appears as Glannibanta (a variation of Glannoventa) on the late 4th/early 5th century Notitia Dignitatum, as part of a list of military units in Britain; the unit at Glannibanta was the First Cohort of the Morinori. The list does not appear to be in any geographical order, so is less useful for locating sites.

More recently, a case has been made for identifying the site as Itunocelum. The name means ‘the promontory near the water/river [Eden?]’ and so could apply to a coastal site, but perhaps less likely to Ravenglass. The reason for this identification is that a military diploma found on the beach below the fort, dated to AD158, was of a member of the First Cohort Aelia Classica and this unit is located at Tunnocelo (a variation of Itunocelum) in the Notitia Dignitatum. Furthermore, a lead stamp seal found at Ravenglass fort also refers to this unit. The ‘Classica’ part of the name indicates that the unit was part of the fleet, and Ravenglass would be a logical place for a unit with naval connections. The ‘Aelia’ part of the name suggests that the unit was created by Hadrian, perhaps to assist in the construction and manning of the Hadrian’s Wall defensive system in northern England.

One solution that could satisfy all of this evidence is that Ravenglass is Glannoventa and the  Coh I Aelia Classica was based there in the 2nd century,  before moving to Itunocelum by the later 4th century. It would have been unique for a British unit to have remained at the same fort throughout the Roman period as the Itunocelum identification requires.

Another point of note is that the diploma indicates that this person was an equites or cavalryman, which suggests that the unit was equitata and included 120 cavalry. If the unit was based at Ravenglass fort, we would expect to find stable blocks as well as infantry barrack blocks.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Comment: iRomans website

The above Roman lamp was found at Ravenglass some years ago and is on the iRomans website.  Further information about the lamp from iRomans:

Grey painted ware oil lamp with a stamp "CAPITO.F" on the base. This shows that it was made by either a man or a factory called Capitus. Oil lamps were used from the earliest times and were mass produced in the Roman empire. Filled with olive oil, a wick would have been placed in to the nozzle and lit. They were commonly used throughout the empire, in domestic as well as military contexts.

As well as having information about several more Ravenglass artefacts, the iRomans website from the Tullie House Museum allows you to explore other Roman sites in Cumbria