Society in Roman Carlisle

Senators held all the political power under the Roman Republic. Under the emperors they still had much power and it was the class that provided the Emperors, governors of provinces and commanders of the legions.

These were the regimental commanders.

These were the people who formed the bulk of the population in Rome and Italy. They had citizen’s rights to justice. They could vote.

Free Provincials
These were the inhabitants of the provinces when the Romans conquered them. They could own property and paid taxes, but did not have the rights of citizens. In the later Roman Empire everybody was granted citizen’s rights.

Slaves had no rights and were the property of their owners.

All of these classes of society were based on land ownership and wealth.

Movement through society was possible. The most common way was through the army. The non-citizen auxiliary troops were rewarded with citizenship after 25 years service. Legionaries also had certain legal advantages over their fellow citizens. The main one of these was being allowed to make wills, and so leave their property to others, as they wished, not as the head of their family wished. They would also get a grant of land or money when they left the service

[See Image 1] Roman citizens can be recognised on inscriptions by their names. After the reign of Claudius (41 to 54 CE (AD), Roman citizens had three names. The first name was a given name such as Gaius. The second was the family name such as Julius and the third was a personal name, such as Caesar. There are some examples of people known to be citizens from their tombstones in the Tullie House collection. One of these is Gaius Cossutius Saturninus, who was a legionary of the sixth legion and died at Birdoswald.  Even if the tombstone hadn’t mentioned him being a legionary, his name shows he was a citizen and not a member of the auxiliary troops garrisoning the fort. Another example is Sextus Severius Salvator, who dedicated an altar to the sun god at Castlesteads, near Brampton.

[See Image 2] Slavery was widely practised by the Romans. Although there is written evidence about it from other places, there is none from Carlisle. All that suggests it is a manacle that was found during excavations at Castle Street during the 1980s, in a context that dates to the mid to late second century AD.

[See Image 3] The people who made up the inhabitants of Roman Carlisle were not just the local Celtic people and some Italians from Rome. They could have come from all over the Roman Empire. Inscriptions on tombstones from north Cumbria show people from the Mediterranean coast of North Africa, Greece and modern-day Switzerland. The garrison on Hadrian’s Wall contained recruits from modern day Germany and Holland as well Spaniards and North Africans.