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BURRIUM (Usk) Monmouthshire, Wales.

Founded as a legionary fortress ca. A.D. 55, 18 km from the estuary of the river Usk, it was demolished and replaced by a smaller auxiliary fort ca. A.D. 75. This fort was dismantled early in the 2d c. A.D. when an extensive civil settlement grew up on the site and continued until the 4th c.

The existing evidence suggests that it was constructed by the Legio XX Valeria as a main base for the early Neronian campaigns of Quintus Veranius (A.D. 57-58) and Suetonius Paulinus (A.D. 58-61) against the Silures (Tac. Ann. 14.29). Its actual construction, however, may be the work of their predecessor, Didius Gallus, governor in A.D. 52-57. The site is of great strategic importance: it commands the Usk valley, which leads from the coastal lowlands into the mountains of S Wales, at a point where it is joined by a supply road from England running along the Olway valley.

Excavations and magnetometer surveys in 1965-74 have revealed the line of the defenses on the N, E, and S sides, showing that the fortress covered an area in excess of 18.75 ha. If the plan is assumed to be symmetrical the full size would be ca. 21.25 ha. The defenses were of earth and timber with a single ditch except on the S side where it was doubled. At intervals of ca. 100 Roman feet were timber towers. The E gate, excavated in 1971, had a double carriageway flanked by twin towers and approached by a timber bridge across the ditch. With the exception of the bath all the known buildings are of timber, including 13 granaries and a series of large works or stores compounds set on the N side of the via principalis.

The site, constricted by rivers and hills, is subject to sudden, severe flooding which makes it unsuitable for a permanent fortress. Accordingly, in ca. A.D. 75 when the conquest of S Wales was completed and the strategic importance of Burrium lessened, the buildings were demolished and the fortress closed, to be replaced by a new foundation at Isca (Caerleon) 11 km downstream near the estuary of the Usk. The smaller fort which was then built at Usk appears to have been an auxiliary fort of the type found throughout Wales in the early Flavian period. It was demolished at the beginning of the 2d c. A.D. The civil settlement that occupied the site in the 2d-3d c. A.D. was an lmportant center of iron production and may have served as a works depot for the Legio II Augusta stationed at Isca (Caerleon). Excavations are in progress.


W. T. Watkin, “On the Roman Stations ‘Burrium,’ ‘Gobannium,’ and ‘Blestium’ of the XII and XIII Iters of Antoninus,” ArchJ 35 (1878) 19-43; W. H. Manning, “Usk,” in V. E. Nash-Williams, The Roman Frontier in Wales (2d ed. by M. G. Jarrett, 1969).


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