DID YOU KNOW?

The Roman fort at Benwell was built by Roman Marines?

The Roman forts in Britain were usually built by the Legions. But evidence from an inscribed dedication slab on a granary building at Benwell (Condercum) states that the men of the British Navy built this. Roman marines were famed for their specialist engineering skills - which they brought to bear in Roman Newcastle for the Emperor Hadrian.

The slab was thus:  IMP CAES TRAIANO HADRIAN AVG A PLATORIO NEPOTE LEG AVG PR P VEXILLATO CLASSIS BRITAN

In English:     For Imperator Caesar Trajanus Hadrianus Augustus, [under the administration of] Aulus Platorius Nepos the pro-praetorian legate of the emperor, a detachment of the British Fleet [made this].

Hadrian’s Wall is sometimes as well preserved on Tyneside as in rural areas

Although much of the Wall and its fort are built over and invisible in urban Tyneside, that does not mean that the Roman remains have been completely destroyed! The fact that they have been buried below modern streets and buildings means that they have been protected from agricultural ploughing and stone-robbing. Even though it was completely covered with houses in the shipbuilding era of the 1890s, excavations since the houses were demolished in the 1970s have found many surviving remains of the Roman fort at Wallsend (Segedunum).

We don’t know for certain that Roman soldiers walked on top of the Wall Tyneside – but clues from Tyneside suggest that they did

Archaeologists have never had proof that the top of the Wall could be walked on, because there is no place here it survives to full height. Since 2000, north of the Wall, between the wall and its ditch, three rows of large post holes have been found at Wallsend, at Shields Road, Byker, and over a 1km length between Throckley and Heddon-on-the-Wall. Rather than being man-traps (lilia) these pits were emplacements for an impenetrable entanglement of forked branches (cippi). Their purpose (described by Julius Caesar) was to slow down attackers and make them vulnerable to projectiles thrown by troops on a defensive rampart, holding up the attack for long enough for reinforcements to arrive. These obstacles would only have been effective if the ditch and berm of Hadrian’s Wall could be commanded from the Wall-top. The discovery of the obstacles supports the view that there was a wall-walk and battlements along the top of Wall from which defenders could fight off attackers.  

There were vampires in Roman Benwell!

The Roman fort of Benwell in western Newcastle is the findspot of a Roman altar which is the only one in the whole Roman empire dedicated to the lamiae. In Roman mythology a lamia is a vampire-like blood-sucking demon, sometimes appearing as a beautiful young woman who lures young men – so that she can devour them, because she likes the purity of their blood. In Roman times someone at Benwell dedicated an altar to lamiis tribus - ‘the three vampires’. It was found in 1751 when a new military road (now the main west road) was built through the fort at Benwell.

 

A drawing of the altar to the ‘three vampires’ can be seen on the seal of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne.