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ISCA the name of two towns in Britain. The criticism of certain difficulties connected with their identification is given under MURIDUNUM. Here it is assumed that one is Exeter, the other Caerleon-on-Usk.


ISCA == Ex-eter, mentioned by Ptolemy (2.3.30). In the 12th and 15th Itineraries this appears as Isca Dumnoniorum, 15 miles from Muridunum. The word Dumnoniorum shows that Devonshire is the county in which it is to be sought. Name for name, Exeter suggests itself. Nevertheless, Horsley gives Uxela as the Roman name for Exeter, and placed Isca D. at Chiselboro. After remarking on Isaca, that “it is universally supposed to be the river Exe in Devonshire,” and that “Isacae ostia must, therefore, be Exmouth,” he adds, “Isca Dumnoniorum has been universally taken for Exeter; I have placed it near Chiselboro and South Petherton, near the borders of Somersetshire” (p. 371). His objections (p. 462) lie in the difficulty of fixing Muridunum (q. v.); but, beyond this, he considers himself free to claim Uxela (q. v.) as Exeter. For considering Isca Dumnoniorum to be Exeter, he sees no better reason than “general opinion and some seeming affinity of names.” Yet the “affinity of names” has been laid great stress on in the case of Isacae ostia. The Isca of Ptolemy must be about 20 or 30 miles north-east of the mouth of the Exe, “on which river Exeter stands, This reaches to the Ax.” Hence he suggests Ilchester as Isca Dumn.; but, as he admits that that town has a claim to be considered Ischalis (q. v.), he also admits that some of the localities about Hampden Hill (where there are the remains of a Roman camp), South Petherton (where Roman coins have been found), and Chiselboro (not far from the Axe), have better claims. Hence, in his map, Uxela == Exeter, and Isca D. == Chiselboro. Assuming that some, if not all, these difficulties are explained under UXELA and: MURIDUNUM, the positive evidence in favour of Exeter is something more than mere opinion and similarity of name.

(1) The. form Isca is nearer to Ex than Ax, and that Isaca == Exe is admitted. The Ux- in Ux-ela may better==Ax.

(2) There, is no doubt as to the other Isca == Caerleon-on-Usk. Now, Roger Hoveden, who wrote whilst the Cornish was a, spoken language, states that the name of Exeter was the same as that of Caerleon, in British, i. e. Caerwisc == civitas aquae.

(3) The statement of Horsley, that “he could never hear of any military way leading to or from” Exeter, misleads. In Polwhele (p. 182) we have a [p. 2.67]most distinct notice of the road rom Seaton, and, nine miles from Exeter, the locality called Street-way Head; the name street == road (when not through a town or village) being strong evidence of the way being Roman. Tesselated pavements and the foundations of Roman walls have been found at Exeter, as well as other remains, showing that it was not only a Roman town, but a Roman town of importance, as it continued to be in the Saxon times, and as it had probably been in the British.


ISCA LEGIONIS==Caerleon-on-Usk, is mentioned in the 12th Itinerary, i. e. in the one where Isca Dumnoniorum occurs. The only town given by Ptolemy to the Silures, the population of the parts to which Isca (.sometimes called by later writers Isca Silurum) belongs, is Bullaeum. This = Burrium of the Itinerary, 8 Roman miles from Isca (== Usk, about 6 English miles from Caerleon.) Hence, Isca may have been a military station of comparatively recent date. But there is a further complication. It is the Devonshire Isca to which Ptolemy gives the Second Legion (Λεγίων δευτέρα Σεβαστὴ). “This,” remarks Horsley (and, perhaps, with truth), on the part of Ptolemy, is, “in my opinion, the only manifest and material error committed by him in this part of England” (p. 462).

Again: several inscriptions from the Wall (per lineam Valli) show that, when that was built, the second Legion was on the Scottish border, taking part in the work; the previous history of the legion being, that it came into Britain under the reign of Claudius, commanded by Vespasian. (Tac. Hist. 3.44.) On the other hand, an inscription mentioned by Horsley, but now lost (p. 78), indicates their presence at Caerleon in the time of Severus. As the Itinerary places them there also, we, must suppose that this was their quarters until the times approaching the evacuation of Britain. When the Notitia was made, they were at Rutupiae (Richboro): PRAEPOSITUS LEGIONIS II. AUGUST. RUTUPIS.

The Roman remains found at Caerleon are considerable. A late excavation for the parts about the Castle Mound gave the remains of a Roman villa, along with those of a medieval castle, built, to a great extent, out of the materials of the former. In some cases the stucco preserved its colour. There was abundance of pottery,--Samian ware, ornamented with figures of combatant gladiators, keys, bowls, bronze ornaments, and implements. At Pil Bach, near Caerleon, tesselated pavements have been found, along with the following inscription:--DIIS MAN1BVS TADIA VELLAVIVS. VIXIT ANNOS SEXAGINTA QVINQVE. ET TADIVS EXUPERTVS FILIVS VIXIT ANNOS TRIGINTA SEPTEM. DEFVNTVS (sic). EXPEDITIONE GERMANICA. TADIA EXUPERATA FILIA MATRI ET PATRI PIISSIMA SECVS TVMVLVM PATRIS POSVIT. Others, of less length, to the number of twenty, have also been found in the neighbourhood. (See Archaeologia Cambrensis; Journal of British Archaeological Association (passim); and Delineations of Roman Antiquities found at Caerleon, J. E. Lee.) [R.G.L]

hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Tacitus, Historiae, 3.44
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 2.3
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