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BREMETENNACUM VETERANORUM (Ribchester) Lancashire, England.

Important fort in the Ribble valley 12.8 km E of Preston. The SE third of the fort platform has been eroded by the river and the central area is covered by the present church, museum, and vicarage. To the N the modern village lies over an extensive vicus, and the remains of a bath unit are partly visible. Ribchester is one of the best known Roman forts in the Pennines, thanks to a number of inscriptions as well as excavation.

The first fort in the Flavian period had an area of ca. 2.4 ha, which the site retained throughout its history. The clay and turf rampart was set on a timber corduroy and received a stone revetment at the end of the 1st c. At one stage in its early history the garrison was formed by the second ala Asturum; the famous parade helmet found in the river bank in the late 18th c. probably belongs to an early phase. From the mid-2d c. on much more is known from epigraphic sources. These attest the presence of an ala equitum Sarmatarum, the only unit of Sarmatian heavy cavalry epigraphically known at a British fort, although Marcus Aurelius transferred 5500 of them to Britain in A.D. 175. It is probably to this phase that the stone granaries (exposed on the N side of the museum) belong, although recent excavation shows that the barracks of this garrison were still of timber. The fort has produced dedications to Severus, Caracalla, and Iulia Domna; the latter joined in a dedication of A.D. 212, on which the name of the praetorian governor of Britannia Inferior, perhaps the future Emperor Gordian I, was erased.

At this time, early in the 3d c. the site must by implication have gained its full name. In the Ravenna Cosmography it is termed Bremetennacum Veteranorum, namely a center for the Sarmatian veterans settling in the area after completion of their military service. Two inscriptions indicate that a centurion drawn from the sixth legion at York filled the role of centurio regionarius, or district officer, in charge of the administrative area concerned, either the Fylde region of the Lancashire plain or the Ribble valley. The garrison cannot have been maintained at full strength in the late 3d and 4th c. Excavation has shown that the rear of the fort did not contain barracks in the latest occupation period, when the W gate was apparently blocked and the massive W ditch cut to the size now visible.

Outside the fort to the N timber buildings of Flavian and later date have recently been excavated. They were part of the associated vicus in an area that towards the end of the 2d c. was leveled to receive an extensive dump of gravel. This is best interpreted as a parade ground, perhaps associated with the arrival of the Sarmatian heavy cavalry garrison. Farther E cremation burials belonging to an early cemetery have been found. Elsewhere remains certainly extend under most of the present village; the vicus appears to have extended along the main road to the N over Longridge Fell and the Forest of Bowland. The remains of baths follow the normal Roman pattern, with the addition of a circular laconicum. There is evidence to suggest the existence of an earlier bath house associated with the Flavian phase sealed beneath the present visible remains. An inscription also implies the existence of a substantial temple.

The length of military occupation at Ribchester attests its strategic importance, at the point where the Flavian military route from Manchester to Carlisle crossed another important road running E-W along the Ribble-Aire corridor. Evidence suggests that a signaling system, comparable with the example known across Stainmore farther N in the Pennines, existed along one or both these lines. The signal station serving Ribchester has been recognized on the crest of Mellor Hill 3.2 km S of the fort.


D. Atkinson, The Roman Fort at Ribchester (1928); I. A. Richmond, “The Sarmatne, Bremetannacum Veteranorum and the Regio Bremetennacensis,” JRS 35 (1945) 15ff; G.D.B. Jones, Northern History 3 (1968) 1ff; id., “Roman Lancashire,” ArchJ 127 (1970) 237ffMI, 277ffP.


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