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EBORACUM

EBORACUM (Ἐβόρακον), the chief Roman town in Britain. The first author who mentions Eboracum is Ptolemy (2.3.16), with whom it is a city of the Brigantes, and the station of the Sixth (the Victorious) Legion. It.is by no means certain, how. ever, that the words Λεγίων Σ_ νικεφόριος may not be the gloss of some later writer. That, place for place, the station of the legion was Eboracum, is shown by the context of the notice. For Eboracum and Camunlodunum, the latitudes and longitudes are given, but not for the locality of the Sixth Legion; these being the same with the former of those two places:--

Ἐβόρακον κ. νζ γ.
Λεγίων ς_ νικεφόριος      
Καμουνλόδουνον ιη. δ. ηζ.

That Eboracum is York has never been doubted. The Anglo-Saxon Eoforwic, and the Norse Jordvik, connect the ancient and modern forms, name for name. Place for place, too, the frequent notices of Eboracum (generally written Eburacum) in the Notitia, give us similar evidence. Lastly, a single inscription, which will be noticed in the sequel, with the name EBVRACVM, has been found within the area of the present city.

The early importance of English and Saxon York has drawn a considerable amount of attention to its history and antiquities; nevertheless, the Roman remains found within its precincts are by no means of first-rate importance. They fall short of, rather than exceed, the expectations suggested by the historical prominence of the town. On the other hand, they have engaged the attention of able local archaeologists. First comes the consideration of the actual site of the Roman town, as determined by its line of wall. Of this, satisfactory remains have been discovered, in the shape of foundations; as have also Roman bricks, transferred to several more recent structures. Remains, too, of one of the gates have been found,--probably the Praetorian; though of this the evidence is only circumstantial. It fronts the north, the part most exposed to hostile inroads. Its locality is that part of the modern city wall which adjoins Bootham Bar. Here we find two walls extending from 20 to 30 feet inwards, parallel to each other, and at right angles with the rampartwall, and near them some rudely-sculptured gritstones, which seem to have formed part of a pediment or frieze. On one is seen a quadriga; the carving being but rude and indifferent, and there being no inscriptions to throw a light over its meaning. Foundations, too, of more than one mural tower can be traced.

The remains which have been discovered form the walls of three sides of the ancient Eboracum only. For the fourth, the traces have still to be detected. From what, however, has been found, Mr. Well-beloved considers that “we are warranted in concluding that the Roman city was of a rectangular form, of about 650 yards by 550, enclosed by a wall and rampart-mound of earth on the inner side of the wall, and perhaps a fosse without.” This area is not only inconsiderable as compared with that of [p. 1.798]the present city, but as compared with the whole extent of the ancient one, since the preceding measurements apply only to the parts within the walls; the suburbs being considerable, and the Roman remains (as opposed to the intra-mural part of the town) being abundant. The chief streets of these suburbs followed the chief roads, of which the most important was that which led to Calcaria (Tadcaster). Next to this was the one towards Isurium (Aldborough). The others, in the direction of Mancunium (Manchester) and Praetorium (Patrington), are less rich in relics. In other words, the streets of the suburbs of the ancient Eboracum seem to have been prolonged in the north and south rather than in the east and west directions. The river Fosse, however much it may be more or less a natural channel--a water-course rather than a cutting--retains its Roman name. Of private dwellings, baths (with the hypocausts), pavements (tesselated), the remains are numerous. So they are in respect to temples, altars, and votive tablets. From these some of the most remarkable inscriptions are--

1. DEO. SANCTO. SERAPI. TEMPLVM. ASO (a solo). LO. FECIT CL. HIERONY MIANVS. LEG. LEG VI. VIC

2. I. O. M DIS. DEABYSQVE HOSPITALIBVS. PE NATIBVSQ. OBCON SERVATAM SALVTEM SVAM. SVORVMQ. P. AEL. MARCIAN VS. PRAEF. COH ARAM. SAC. F. NC. D

3. DEAE FORTVNAE SOSIA JVNCINA Q ANTONT. ISAVRICI LEG. AVG

4. GENIO LOCI FELICITER

5. M. VEREC. DIOGENES LIIIILVIR COL EBVRIDEDMQ MORTCIVESBITVRIX CVBVS HAEC SIBI VIVVS FECIT

In the last of these inscriptions the combination liiiilvIR gives us the title Sevir, a title applied to certain municipal, colonial, or military officers of unascertained value. It is this inscription, too, where we find the name EBVR (== Eburacum), the term col (== colonia) attached to it.

The first of them is interesting from another fact; viz. the foreign character of the god Serapis, whose name it bears. Besides this piece of evidence to the introduction of exotic superstitions into Roman Britain, a so-called Mithraic slab has been found at York, i. e. a carved figure of a man, with a cap and chlamys, stabbing a bull. The dress, act, and attitude, along with certain characteristics in the other figure of the group, appear to justify this interpretation.

Tombs, sepulchral inscriptions, urns, Samian ware in considerable quantities, form the remainder of the non-metallic Roman antiquities of York; to which may be added a few articles in glass. Fibulae, armillae, and coins, represent the metallurgy. Of these latter those of Geta are the most numerous. It has been remarked, too, that, although throughout Britain generally, of the coins of the two usurpers, those of Carausius are the more common, in the neighbourhood of York they are less abundant than those of his successor Allectus.

The evidence that Severus died at York is from his life in Spartianus (100.19), whose statement is repeated by Aurelius Victor (de Caes. 20), Eutropius (8.19), and other later authorities. Victor (l.c.) calls Eboracum a municipium; but in an ancient inscription it is styled a colonia. The emperor Constantius also died at Eboracum, as we learn from Eutropius (10.1). The other accredited facts, such as the residence of Papinian, and the birth of Constantine the Great, at York, rest on no classical evidence at all. The supposed funeral mounds of Severus, near York, are natural, rather than artificial, formations. (Philipp's Yorkshire; Wellbeloved's York.)

[R.G.L]

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    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 2.3
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