Roman Military

By the time the Roman army came to Britain, it contained 2 types of soldiers -  Legionaries, who were Roman citizens, and Auxiliaries, who were not. Both types served for 25 years with the auxiliaries becoming citizens on retirement.

By the time the Romans conquered Britain in 43CE (AD), 30 years before they arrived in Carlisle, there were 28 legions in the whole of the Empire. Four of these (around 22,000 legionaries), with supporting Auxiliaries, were used in the conquest. Later three of these were used to garrison the province. These had permanent Fortresses at Caerleon (in Wales), Chester and York.

[See Image 1] Detachments of Legionaries were used for building and other projects. Their presence is recorded in Carlisle and along Hadrian’s Wall form building inscriptions. Some mention the legion by name and others use their badge. The wild boar was the badge of the Twentieth Legion ‘Valeria Victrix’ (The Victorius Black Eagle), while the flying horse and the sea-goat were the badges of the Second Legion ‘Augusta’ (The Legion of Augustus). [See Image 2]

[See Image 3] Auxiliaries were recruited from conquered countries throughout the Roman Empire. Many of these formed the garrison of Hadrian’s Wall and evidence from the Tullie House collections shows the soldiers were: Dacians (from modern Romania), Delmatians (from the Adriatic coast), Gauls (from France), Spaniards, Thracians (from modern Bulgaria) and Tungrians (from modern Belgium). Auxiliary soldiers  were stationed in Britain for a long time their numbers would have been replenished from the local population. They also provided some of the specialist forces for the Roman army, such as the cavalry. Archaeologists have found evidence to suggest that a garrison of cavalrymen occupied Carlisle’s fort from 83CE (AD). A writing tablet gives the name of a known unit of cavalrymen from France, (the ala Gallorum Sebosiana), while cavalry equipment, including parts of leather saddles have also been found.

[See Image 4] The major military construction in the north of Britain was Hadrian’s Wall. This provided a frontier between the Roman Empire and those they saw as  barbarians. It acted, however, as a customs post for trade as well as a base for troops who could be deployed to deal with threats. However, like much of Roman Britain, it changed over the period that it was in use. Originally, the Wall west of the river North Tyne was built of turf because of a lack of limestone to make mortar. Later on this was replaced with stone.

[See Image 5] As part of Hadrian’s Wall, a fort was built at Stanwix, north of the original Carlisle fort. This was the largest fort in the Wall system and held 1000 cavalry. However the expansion of the city has covered it and there is nothing to see. Excavations have revealed its position, but not its entire layout. This tombstone is a memorial to one of the soldiers who was stationed there.