Roman Third Century in the North

The Roman Third Century : AD 193 – 303

During the third century there were still sporadic outbreaks of unrest caused in part by the ambitions of Clodius Albinus who removed many troops from Britain to assist with his bid for Empire. During this century Britain was divided into two provinces with the northern province centred on York (Eboracum).

Turret Hadrian's Wall
A turret, Hadrian’s Wall © David Simpson

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193 – Clodius takes wall troops to Europe

Clodius Albinus, the Roman Governor of Britain and Deputy Emperor, has proclaimed himself Emperor of Rome at York (Eboracum). He takes most of the British Roman army into Europe in a bid to take over the Empire. It is hoped that the Maetae, an alliance of native tribes living in the land between the two Roman Walls, will maintain peace during the absence of the frontier troops.

197 – Violence and revolt on the Roman wall

The Maetae tribe has crossed to the south of Hadrian’s Wall to cause major problems for the Romans. Meanwhile Clodius Albinus has committed suicide after his defeat by the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus on the continent.

200 – Temples to Mithras

Four temples to Mithras exist on Hadrian’s Wall. Mithraic worship is the most popular religion in the Hadrian’s Wall area.

Temple of Mithras, Carrawburgh
Temple of Mithras, Carrawburgh, Hadrian’s Wall © David Simpson

205 – Hadrian’s Wall repairs

Roman Governor Alfenus Senicio has ordered extensive rebuilding and repair work following the heavy damage suffered during the disturbances of recent years.

208 – Caledonians defeated

Septimius Severus, the Roman Emperor arrives in Britain with his wife and two sons Caracalla and Geta and establishes York (Eboracum) as an imperial headquarters. Following years of northern revolts, Severus, with the support of Caracalla heavily defeats the Caledonians reaching deep into Caledonia northward towards Aberdeen. Corbridge-on-Tyne is an important supply base for the Roman military campaign. York is the military headquarters.

208 – York capital of ‘Inferior’ North

Severus has divided Britain into two Roman provinces. York, where he has set up court, is the capital of the Northern province called Britannia Inferior, while London is capital of Britannia Superior. York is given the status of a Colonia.

The Roman North map
The Roman North (reduced resolution map) © David Simpson and 2017. A high resolution version of this map is available as an A2 print from Tangled Worm

Feb 4, 211 – Severus dies at York

The Roman Emperor, Septimius Severus, dies at York (Eboracum) and is succeeded jointly by his sons Caracalla and Geta. The Caledonians and a tribal alliance called the Maetae revolt against the Romans. The Romans abandon Caledonia.

Dec 26, 211 – Murder in Rome

Geta is assassinated in Rome on the orders of his brother Caracalla. The two brothers had ruled jointly as Roman Emperor following the death of their father, Severus, at York earlier this year.

220 – Villages and Forts

Civilian settlements called ‘vici’ have evolved around Roman forts in the Hadrian’s Wall area, such as the vicus at Corbridge. Vici are settlements in which craftsmen, merchants, women and children live.

240 – Lanchester new fort on Dere Street

Lanchester, a Roman fort south of the Tyne, has been rebuilt and re-garrisoned by Roman troops. The fort is situated on Dere Street, an important military route into Caledonia. The Romans know Lanchester as ‘Longovicium’ and there is a large civilian settlement called a vicus nearby. Lanchester supersedes the nearby forts at Binchester and Ebchester which are also on Dere Street.

Roman fort at Lanchester.
Remains of Roman fort at Lanchester © David Simpson.

270 – Vindolanda vicus

A Roman vicus or civilian settlement has developed at Vindolanda on the Stanegate road near Hadrian’s Wall.

Main street of the vicus, Vindolanda
Main street of the vicus, Vindolanda © David Simpson

290 – Romans and rivers

Ports on river estuaries such as the Tyne, Humber and possibly the Tees are used by Roman fleets.

296 – Tribes overrun the wall

Many tribes have overrun Hadrian’s Wall. York (Eboracum) has been heavily destroyed along with Chester (Deva) on the River Dee. Hadrian’s Wall had been left defenceless after a large portion of its garrison were removed to assist the usurping Roman governor Allectus in a military confrontation with Constantius, the deputy Governor of Rome.

296 – More provinces for Britain

Britain has been broken into four new provinces by the Romans. Britannia Secunda, governed from York, stretches from the Mersey and Humber to Hadrian’s Wall.

297 – Wall forts rebuilt

Forts have been rebuilt on both sides of Hadrian’s Wall following recent destruction by unruly tribes.

300 – Fort on Tees

The Romans have rebuilt a fort and bridge on the Tees at Piercebridge.

Roman Piercebridge
Remains of the Roman fort at Piercebridge © David Simpson

303 – Defences strengthened

Many of the North’s Roman defences are being strengthened following recent revolts. The defences will play a part in Roman campaigns against the Picts. Repair work and improvements are being carried out at York, High Rochester, Risingham, Bewcastle, Birdoswald and Houseteads on the Roman Wall. Improvements to Roman roads in the northern region will also be made.

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