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DEVA or Deva Victrix (Chester) Cheshire, England.

The site of a legionary fortress, initially garrisoned by Legio II Adiutrix p. f. Established as part of the preparations for the subjugation of Wales and Brigantia, it was strategically placed at the NW extremity of the Midland plain, astride lines of communication between Wales and the N. The fortress was built on a sandstone ridge at the head of the estuary, commanded a good ford, and was at the limit of navigation for seagoing vessels. The Flavian fortress was a semipermanent base, and its defenses therefore consisted of a turf wall 6 m thick, augmented by timber gates and towers, and fronted by a ditch 1.5 m deep and ca. 3.5 m wide.

Buildings were in the main of timber, including the principia, and (outside the defenses) the amphitheater. A large internal bath building in the E half of the praetentura was also certainly of primary date. A building inscription from its large covered palaestra records completion in A.D. 79. Lengths of lead water pipes with molded inscriptions date the completion of aqueduct and water supply to the same year, and foundation of the fortress may therefore be as early as ca. A.D. 75. Substantial fragments of the colonnading from the exercise hall have been moved and erected close to the amphitheater. Rebuilding in stone commenced under Trajan, probably soon after A.D. 102. The garrison by this time was Legio XX Valenia Victrix (from ca. A.D. 86-90). The defenses were strengthened by the addition of a stone wall 1.83 m wide at the base, narrowing to 1.37 m above offset and plinth, and standing 5 m high to the wall walk. The most substantial fragment of this wall is to be found N of the E gate and close to the Cathedral. The ditch was enlarged at this period to a width of 6 m and a depth of 3 m. There were four gates, one in each side; the sites of the E and N ones are occupied by town gates today. Little is known of any of them. Three of the corner towers have been located and explored, and the SE one has survived. Smaller towers (22) were placed at intervals between gates and corners: six have been located but none is now to be seen.

Apart from the bath building, which was used with additions and modifications at least to the 3d c., the buildings so far located are the principia, praetorium, horrea, workshops, and barracks, and fragments of the cross-hall and sacellum of the principia have been preserved. A site immediately W of the principia and praetorium was occupied by an unidentified building of an unusual elliptical plan; on the S side of the complex was an extensive suite of baths. The three granaries were placed close to the porta pnincipalis dextra which gave access to the harbor. Barracks so far located include those of the First Cohort in latera praetorii, another group just within the porta prillcipalis sinistra, and others E of the bath building, N of the workshops, and across the N end of the site. Store buildings and ovens have been found just within the defenses. The fortress had the usual regular street pattern, and the viae principalis, praetoria, and decumana are still in use today. Minor streets have less consistently survived: those found by excavation have been 4-6 m wide.

Half of the exceptionally large amphitheater has been preserved and may be visited. The harbor lay W of the fortress, and part of a supposed Roman quay wall still survives. An extramural bath building on this side may have been for officers; close to this was a building identified as a stable. Other fragments of Roman buildings have been found in this area, but the principal part of the vicus lay outside the E gate, beyond the parade ground. The civilian buildings, which have been little explored, extended to ca. 300 m from the E gate. At a little over 2 km E of the fortress an altar (now at Eaton Hall) indicates the source of the aqueduct, the line of which ran along the S side of Watling Street. Although inhumation cemeteries have been located W of the fortress, the main cemetery area was S of the river in the suburb of Handbridge. On this side of the river may also be seen Roman quarries (Edgar's Field), one of which contains a much-weathered relief thought to have been of Minerva.

Building is known to have been done in the Antonine and Severan periods, and some buildings (such as the praetorium) continued to be altered and repaired well into the 4th c. At some time after A.D. 213-222, perhaps under Constantius Chlorus, substantial portions of the N and W walls were rebuilt on a wider gauge incorporating much inscribed material. Two well-preserved stretches, complete to cornice level, may be seen in the sector between the porta decumana and the NE corner.

The fortress was rectangular with rounded corners. The short axis measured ca. 412 m and the long ca. 591 m, giving a comparatively deep retentura in which postem gates may have been provided. The area was up to a fifth greater than other British fortresses (24.3 ha). The reason is not known, although it may be significant that the fortress was placed between two powerful and hostile tribes, the Brigantes and Ordovices.

Abandonment predates the compilation of the Notitia Dignitatum, and is perhaps to be attributed to Magnus Maximus. Subsequent occupation of the site by Saxon burh and the mediaeval city has left comparatively little in situ, and archaeological exploration has been confined largely to sites cleared for rebuilding. Most of the finds are in the Grosvenor Museum, Chester, including an unusually large collection of inscribed material.


T. N. Brushfield, “The Roman Remains of Chester,” Journal Chester Arch. Soc. (hereafter CASJ) 3 (1885) 1-126; W. T. Watkin, Roman Cheshire (1886); J. P. Earwaker, ed., Roman Remains in Chester (1886); P. H. Lawson, “Schedule of the Roman Remains of Chester,” CASJ 27 (1928) 163-89 & “Addenda,” 29 (1932) 69-72 (R. Newstead); J. P. Droop & R. Newstead, “Excavations in the Deanery Field, 1928,” Liverpool AAA 18 (1931) 6-18, 80-113; R. Newstead & J. P. Droop, “The Roman Amphitheatre at Chester,” CASJ 29 (1932) 1-40; G. A. Webster, “Excavations on the legionary defences at Chester, 1949-1952,” ibid. 39 (1952) 21-28; 40 (1953) 1-23; id., Short Guide to the Roman Inscriptions and Sculptured Stones in the Grosvenor Museum, Chester (rev. 1970)PI; R. P. Wright & I. A. Richmond, Catalogue of the Roman Inscribed and Sculptured Stones in the Grosvenor Museum, Chester (1955); F. H. Thompson, Deva: Roman Chester (1959)MPI; D. F. Petch & id., “The Granaries of the Legionary Fortress of Deva,” CASJ 46 (1959) 33-60P; Petch, “The Praetorium at Deva,” ibid. 55 (1968) 1-6P; id., “The Legionary Fortress of Chester,” in V. E. Nash-Williams, The Roman Erontier in Wales (2d ed. by M. G. Jarrett, 1969)MP; “Excavations on the site of the Old Market Hall,” ibid., 57 (1970-71) 3-26.


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