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MORIDUNUM (Carmarthen) Wales.

Cantonal capital of the Demetae of SW Wales. Its name (sea fortress) is attested in the Antonine Itinerary and aptly describes its position at the tidal limit of the Towy estuary, much used by shipping until the late 19th c.

There is no evidence of a pre-Roman settlement. The first occupation appears to have been an auxiliary fort founded ca. A.D. 74 on the elevated area overlooking the river crossing, now demarcated by Spilman and King Streets. The probable S side of the defenses is close to the Ivy Bush Hotel and clearly belong to the Flavian period. The vicus of the fort would by implication have grown up to the NE in the area of St. Peter's church; timber buildings of early 2d c. date, laid out in random fashion, were located here in 1969. Eventually this area was formalized into the tribal capital of the Demetae.

This was a small town of ca. 6 ha, with a massive stone-faced rampart and an internal street grid. Changes in modern street levels and building subsidence in Priory Street suggested the position of the SW and NE ramparts, and the line of the NW rampart, the best preserved of the four, was suggested by the line of a visible bank behind Richmond Terrace (confirmed by excavation in 1968-69). Only the fourth side has not been determined precisely, owing to modern buildings, but there is the hint of a rampart through the garden of the present vicarage. The original rampart proved to have been ca. 6 m wide; it still stands nearly 2 m high in places. The turf and clay bank was fronted by a V-shaped ditch of roughly the same width and 3 m deep. The ditch of the first period was filled in and the front of the rampart extended, to allow the construction of a stone face in the second period. Extensive dumping to the rear brought the width of the defenses to 18 m. The town wall thus underwent the normal development familiar in Romano-British civil defenses. A terminus post quem for the construction of the original rampart was provided by Antonine Samian.

Excavation in 1969 showed that creation of the street grid also belonged to the Antonine period, and timber structures were shown to have lain on either side of the decumanus farthest N. By the 3d c. stone structures had become more common and the buildings more complex. A large town house built at that time continued in use till after A.D. 320, when the area was leveled again for the construction of an even larger building ca. A.D. 353. Allowing this structure a normal life (there was no sign of violent destruction), this must extend urban life in the cantonal capital farthest W in Roman Britain into the last quarter of the 4th c., lending some credence to Welsh mythological associations between Carmarthen and Maxin Wledig (Magnus Maximus, emperor A.D. 383-388).

At 150 m outside the presumed position of the E gate lies a large oval depression partly cut into a hillside. Excavation in 1968 disclosed the site of an amphitheater; the arena floor was covered with up to 2 m of silt. It was constructed by cutting into the hill and using the excavated soil to create the S bank of the cavea. The arena is 46 by 27 m, the circumference of the cavea ca. 92 x 67 m. The arena wall was nearly 2 m thick and built in the 2d c. Seating, however, was in timber with elaborate sub-frames to maintain the units in position on the hillside. The site of a bath house is also known on the Parade on the SE edge of the town. Finds are housed in the local museum.


G.D.B. Jones, “Excavations at Carmarthen,” Carmarthenshire Antiquary 5 (1969) 1ff; 6 (1970) 1ffMPI.


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