In order that the small contribution to the history of the Roman occupation of Great Britain which is allowed in this work may have any value, it is necessary that its sources should be indicated and their reliability estimated.
The ‘Commentaries’ of Julius Caesar bear the impress of truth, as plain, straightforward relations of fact, destitute of those literary attractions which give liveliness and take trustworthiness from a narrative.
The historian Tacitus was the son-in-law of the great commander Julius Agricola, and had access to sources of information which were closed to others.
Dion Cassius, who was twice Consul, was the friend of the learned and virtuous Emperor Alexander Severus. He unselfishly retired comparatively early from public life, to compile those annals which bear his name; and though much of his work has perished, fortunately we have the summaries of Xiphilinus, Patriarch of Constantinople, one of the great band of scholars in that city about the time of the Norman Conquest.
The geographical notes of Ptolemy, misinformed as he was in many points, will give some valuable hints. Of the work called ‘Antonine’s Itinerary’ it is difficult to speak shortly. It is not all of a piece, nor all of a time, nor does it pretend to absolute accuracy in its road measurements. The portion with which we have to deal seems to belong to that great survey which was made circa 200 by the Emperor Septimius Severus, who united with his own name that of his son Antoninus, better known to the ordinary reader by the name Caracalla. The last of our great documentary authorities is the Survey of the Roman Empire made shortly before its final division into the East and the West, under Arcadius and Honorius, A.D. 395. It is generally called ‘Notitia Imperil’, was published by Frobenius in 1552, and contains details which we should seek in vain elsewhere. But beyond history there is the great unwieldy mass of unwritten testimony – coins and medals, pottery, traces of domestic life and colonization, roads and fords, and arguments fairly deducible from the nature of the soil and the set of the country. Inscriptions are not as yet discovered within our limits.
In endeavouring to deal with some of this matter, reducing it from a heap to a pile, it is inevitable that conflicts of opinion should arise. Finality is often denied to us in archaeology, as in other matters; but, on the other hand, established views have a certain presumption in their favour, if only they date far enough back. Our medieval ancestors troubled themselves little about these things, and left a scanty legacy to their followers, the great Elizabethan labourers. These, again, were beset by difficulties of travel, preventing access to original documents and examination of localities, and often by false derivations, arising partly from the mangled form in which names of road-stations and camps were presented to them, and partly from the condition of philology in their time.
Such conclusions as we of the later days may adopt will be the more trustworthy the less they are dogmatic. Julius Caesar, although his operations did not extend into the East of England, has devoted three chapters13 to a general description of the island. He distinguishes the aboriginal population of the interior from the settlers of Belgic extraction on the sea-board, turned from sea rovers into agriculturists. He says of them that they generally retained the names of the states from which they had migrated. This is traceable in the Belgae and Atrebates of South England. The island he describes as triangular, with sides facing south, west, and north respectively, the last, of course, being the coast with which we are concerned, estimated by him at 800 miles in length.
But we are confronted with this difficulty:
Kent, ‘the civil’st part of all this isle’, must have been a Belgic settlement. In another place in the ‘Commentaries’ he speaks of the Gauls or Celts as differing from the Belgae in language, customs, and laws. Here he says that the inhabitants of Kent differ little from Gallic custom, and he notes their numerous houses as very like those of the Gauls, without distinguishing the men of the coast from those of the interior, about whom he had information which he regarded as trustworthy. Taking into account the second-hand character of his knowledge of our coast, and the varying nature of the soil, I am inclined to infer that there were more races than one in East Anglia, these Belgic immigrants, of whatever race they might be – Teutonic, Celtic, or mixed – holding the lighter and more easily-cleared soil bordering on the sea, and those of earlier standing, analogous to Caesar’s interior aboriginals, being driven to the dense forests on the clay, or to the almost inaccessible fishing and fowling mounds in the fens and marshes.
It is to be observed that no writer of antiquity calls the inhabitants of these islands Gauls or Celts, but Britons.14
Our subject excludes Caesar’s campaign, for Cassivellaunus, whose fortress was at Verulamium, or St. Albans, is in residence beyond our limits; but Imanuentius of the Trinobantes had been killed by him, and Mandubratius, successor to his murdered father, was taken under the direct protection of Julius Caesar.
This tutelage obtained by the men of Essex induced other tribes to surrender to the Roman invader, among whom were, according to the common reading, the Cenimagni, possibly identical with the Iceni. The reading, however, is very doubtful, though somewhat confirmed by the after-history of the latter.
We gather some scraps of information from the coins attributed by Stukeley to Prasutagus, King of the Iceni, and his wife Boadicea, which may be styled half-barbarous imitations of Roman coinage. The portraits have no discernible identity; the reverses are rude but vigorous representations of horses or bare-backed riding, and the lettering is Roman. Of Cunobellinus, whose rule bordered on Suffolk, and possibly extended over part of it, we know nothing, save from his coins, which often bear on the reverse CAM or CAMV, being presumably minted at his capital, Camulodunum. The portraits, again, are in charming variety, and the reverses ludicrous copies of some of Augustus Caesar. Apollo still plays his lyre, seated on a tub instead of one of the peaks of Parnassus; the Sphinx has lost her mystic air of silence, and has no more expression than a barber’s block; an ear of wheat is without its beard, but is, nevertheless, notable as probably indicating some advance in agriculture as distinguished from pasture.
Imitation is the sincerest flattery, and the money of Cunobellinus and Tasciovanus is a perpetual witness to their admiration of those Greek designs which often adorn the medals of Augustus. From Tacitus we obtain one glimpse of our side of Britain during the dark period, nearly amounting to a century, which intervenes between the invasions under Julius Caesar (s.c. 54) and the Emperor Claudius (A.D. 43), recorded in his ‘Annals’15. Germanicus, nephew of the Emperor Tiberius, in his operations in Germany, suffered a terrible wreck of his fleet at the mouth of the Rhine, A.D. 16. Of the shipwrecked, ‘some were thrown on the coast of Britain, and sent back by the petty chiefs; and, as is usual with men returning from a distance, they related many marvels – the force of whirlwinds, and un heard-of birds, monsters of the sea, blended forms of men and beasts, things either seen or credited through fear.’ Our own coast must have shared in this reception, and this fragmentary notice reveals a chief, or chiefs, acting a friendly part towards Romans, perhaps from pity, perhaps from fear.
Thus, more by evidence than by hypothesis, we come across the wealthy Prasutagus or Brasutargus, King of the Iceni, husband of Boadicea, or, as Dion Cassius calls her, Bonduica, for he was an old man16 when he made his will, appointing his daughters co-heiresses with Caesar, a few years, as it seems, before Boadicea’s revolt in A.D. 62. This would make him either newly come to his chieftainship, or acting under the existing chief at the time of the shipwreck.
The failure of the testamentary scheme for the preservation of his family, through the greed of the Roman soldiers, of itself shows that there was both real and personal wealth among the Iceni. In the revolt Prasutagus, if alive, took no part. From Dion Cassius we have a spirited sketch of the well-known queen:
She who mainly excited them and urged them to war against the Romans, their commander-in-chief, was Bonduica, a British woman of the royal race, endowed with a more than female mind. For she collected an army of about 120,000, and ascended a rostrum made of clay after the Roman fashion. She was very tall, grim in appearance, keen-eyed, harsh-voiced, with a wealth of exceedingly yellow hair falling below her waist, wearing a great golden collar, with a highly-embroidered tunic, and a thick cloak fastened with a buckle over it. This was her usual dress, and on this occasion grasping a lance, so as to strike awe into all, she spoke’ the conventional his torical oration, to which no sort of historical value can be attached.
Thus saying, she produced a hare from the folds of her dress, by way of divination, and when it ran auspi ciously, and the whole multitude shouted with delight, then Bonduica raised her hand to heaven, and17 uttered a second speech.
When Bonduica had harangued them something to this effect, she led her host against the Romans, who were without a commander, because Paulinus was cam paigning in the isle Mona, close to Britain. Thus she sacked two Roman cities, and wrought an incredible slaughter, as I said, and no horror was wanting to their treatment of the captives . . . which things they did in other of their sacred places, and especially in the grove of Andate, which is their name for Victory, a goddess whom they eminently honour.
The account of the defeat of the great Queen belongs not to Suffolk, and I will leave it to its proper county the more readily because so many great pens have treated of it in poetry and prose.
In Ptolemy17, whose Geography dates from about the time of the Emperor Hadrian, the mouth of the Yare takes its place thus on the East Anglican coast:
|Garieni flu. ost
|Idumanii flu. Ostia
However much he may have been misinformed as to the Scotch coast, imagining it to run out nearly eastward from the Forth, his account of our own shore shows practical acquaintance with its outline. The tendency of the measurements is to thrust the mouth of the Garienus northward and Extensio eastward, which tallies with the natural changes of situation, the Caister mouth being then probably regarded as the principal haven, and Lowestoft Ness having suffered curtailment in common with other points of projection. Ptolemy’s degrees of longitude, it must be remembered, start from Fortunatae Insulae, which are generally regarded as the Canary Isles.
We have now to consider the Roads of Antonine’s Itinerary, No. V. and No. IX., which pass through Suffolk.
The attention given by the Romans to their roads needs no comment, but the detail recorded in one instance may be well referred to. Among the public works carried out by the censors Q. Fulvius Flaccus and A. Postumius Albinos, B.C. 174, it is mentioned that they caused the roads in the city to be strewn with flint, and those outside the city to be sub-strewn with gravel, and bridges to be made in many places.
The author of the work, ‘Antiquitas Schematibus Illustrata’, who had examined the Appian Way in Crevier’s time, found the gravel foundation entire. These same censors were the first who caused the roads to be margined (marginandas), a word which has been variously interpreted, but probably means the erection of a low stone wall each side of the road.
Considering that the work of these censors was carried out nearly six centuries after the received date of the foundation of Rome by Romulus, we cannot expect to find in so distant a country as Britain any general adherence to the excellent system referred to. Nor, again, must anything like a rigid adherence to straight lines between stations be looked for. It is needful to emphasize this, because there is no more wide-spread error than the idea that Roman roads ran straight from town to town. The Czar Nicholas could take a ruler in his hand, and direct an engineer to make a railway on the line ruled from St. Petersburg to Moscow; but unlimited monarchy, a central position, and the absence of engineering obstacles, are three concurrent circumstances which do fall not to the lot of all road-makers.
The constant tendency of every people has been to shorten and straighten roads, but this is a work of time. Nature is not always propitious, and sometimes the rights of proprietors have to be considered. An existing road, if tolerable, will hold its own for a long while, in spite of indirectness. Houses have sprung up in its vicinity, grain stores, smithies, and, above all, taverns. There are three stations in the Antonine Itinerary called Tribust abernis, one in Cisalpine Gaul and two in Italy, that on the Appian Way noted for its mention in the Acts of the Apostles.
Thus a good trackway on a light soil, where water would not accumulate, might be used for years, or even centuries, while immediate action would be necessary in a stiff clay country overgrown with forest and brushwood. The zig zags which are imperative in a hilly country are also imperative in a comparatively flat district where there is an occasional sharp drop, especially should there be a river at or near the foot of it. There is also the advantage of existing fords to be consulted, and we shall find their location a great guide to us. The detail of Iter V. runs thus:
|Item a Londinio Luguvallo ad Valium
It is unnecessary for me to recapitulate the evidence as to the identity of Casaromagus with Billericay, or of Colonia with Colchester, or of Camboricum with Cambridge ; but the solution of the locality of Villa Faustini is so acknowledged a desideratum that any attempt at this time deserves careful consideration, inasmuch as eventual benefit may arise from the most timid and tentative efforts, if only made honestly and on the lines of existing evidence.
The name, in the first place, is of an unusual type, there being only eight other similar instances in the whole of Antonine’s Itinerary. Of these, seven are in North Africa, and the eighth, Rostrata Villa, twenty-four Roman miles from Rome, on the road to Ariminum, is identified by Lapie with S. Maria della Guardia, and by Westphal with Ostoria Nova. Besides these, there is a Villa Pampati, in the Jerusalem Itinerary, at the mansio Andavilis, or Andabalis, in Cappadocia, apparently some twenty-eight miles from Faustinopolis, noted for its fine breed of horses (‘unde veniunt equi curules’ – Itin. Hieros.), many of which would come clattering through the well-known pass in the Taurus to be shipped at Tarsus. Putting these instances side by side with the classical use of the word, and its probable derivation from vicus, as a diminutive, we should expect to find at a station bearing the name Villa a substantial residence of a wealthy colonus, with the usual adjuncts of dwellings for bailiff (villicus) and labourers, granaries, stables and stalls, fowl-houses, dovecots, and all other necessary farming appliances.
But, strange to say, we have in Martial’s ‘Epigrams’ one (iii. 49) of fifty-one lines on a certain Villa Faustini, at Baise. Writing to Bassus, he contrasts the suburban primness of his friend’s house with the rude plenty which reigns at that of Faustinus. Martial’s ‘Epigrams’ were such ‘household words ‘ all over the Roman Empire that the suggestion is that some visitor to the eastern parts of Britain, beholding the jolly cheer at the house of his host, named the place Villa Faustini, and that the name had sticking power. Whereabouts in the Seismic Baian district Faustinus’s villa lay, I suppose none can tell; I am bold enough, however, to present my readers with a metrical version of the epigram :
The homely grange in friend Faustinus’ hand,
Dear Bassus, nigh to Baiae’s gentle strand,
Knows nought of languor in its myrtle groves.
No plane-tree, widowed of the grape-vine’s loves,
Or clipped box edge adorns the garden ground.
Wide and productive lie the leas around,
The genuine rustic life may here be found.
Each corner’s piled with grain-heaps, wondrous great;
The wine-jar sends forth odours delicate.
When grim November doles each shortening day,
And shivering soup expect stern winter’s sway,
Late though the season be, the dresser rough
Still brings ripe clusters to the vineyard trough.
In the deep valley bulls loud bellowing stray;
The hornless calf is eager for the fray.
Lovely in plumage stalks th’ untidy host,
With claws relentless, to the gardener’s cost:
Here scream the jewelled peacocks, hiss the geese,
And shrieks from throats of scarlet never cease
Here speckled guinea-fowl and partridge neat,
Here Colchian pheasants, find a safe retreat;
Struts Rhodian chanticleer, his power to prove,
Echo the airy cots with constant love
Of amorous pigeon and of waxen turtledove.
Round goody’s lap throng swine, a greedy band
The lambs, their mothers waiting, patient stand.
The frost-nipped milkmen crowd the hearth-fire clear,
Crackle the forest billets dry and sere,
The black rafters lambent flame-tongues seem to fear.
No sallow vintner squirms relieved from toil,
No greasy wrestler spends for nought his oil,
But nets the thrush ensnare in meshes fine,
And fish hang quivering on the angler’s line.
Pleased with the rustic scene, the citizen
In gardening to take his share will deign;
Fops from their airs and graces now unbend,
Meek to the bailiff’s voice their ears they lend;
The pampered flunkey hoes at his command,
And contemplates with joy his hardening hand.
Each gift of visitors their goodwill tells:
One bears the pale gold honey in its cells,
One from Sassinian glade the bowl of cream;
The drowsy dormice some a present deem.
In hamper prison’d sounds the baby voice
Of hairy kids Anon, the gourmand’s choice,
Fat capons come, a joy surpassing all.
Then too, their mothers’ pride, the daughters tall
Of farmers rich with baskets trim appear,
Replenished well with wholesome country cheer.
The day’s work ended, sounds the welcome call
To food and rest. Blithe throng the neighbours all.
The chins wag merrily. The viands go
Fast as the sun dissolves an April snow,
None for the morrow left. The serving-man,
Himself well filled, fills every empty can.
To this your sparing elegance oppose.
These laurel bushes, pressed by houses close,
From window viewed, are all your wilderness
Your wooden Priapus may rest in peace.
Your meal’s from city bakery supplied.
In rattling carts your vegetables ride.
Eggs, chickens, apples, cheese, and musty foam
The several chapmen send to your spruce home.
Is this a country seat ? I ween ’tis none.
A house I call it near the busy town.
We must consider the measurements in Antonine, Route V., Britain, which have always proved such a stumbling-block. However perplexing they may be, there can be no reasonable doubt of their accuracy. All are agreed about the mileage of the three stages with which we are concerned, and the only variation is between the names Icinos and Icianos for the remaining station.
We have, then, between Colchester and Cambridge,
– according to Parthey and Pinder’s text, eighty-eight miles to account for, between two places distant from each other hardly forty miles, as the crow flies. But the zigzag character of this portion of Route V. is not unique, as the road, beginning at London and ending at Luguvallum on the Wall, takes in Colchester, Cambridge, and Lincoln. Indeed, the more direct course, in Route II., by Chester and Wroxeter, is not much straighter. Sometimes there were potent physical reasons, both these roads avoiding the dense Midland forest (Needwood, Charnwood, Sherwood, etc., of after times); but sometimes, perhaps, the stations were purposely dispersed over the country for the better carrying out of the fiscal business which devolved on the Vicar of the Britains, himself one of the six vicarii of the Pro consul of Africa.
Our function now is to endeavour to find stations thirty-five Roman miles from Colchester and Cambridge respectively, with a distance of eighteen miles between them. I think that Villa Faustini may be identified with Stoke Ash, and Icinos with Ixworth. Precision is denied to us, firstly because the points of starting can only be defined by the names of the stations, and thus, in large places like Colonia, we might easily gain or lose a mile before we -move an inch18, and secondly because all the measures are marked ‘p.m.’ or ‘plus minus’.
However, we may regard Stratford St. Mary, the station Ad Ansam on Route IX., as seven English miles from Colchester. Thence to Copdock is six and a half miles ; but at this point we break from the Ipswich road, keeping on the west of the river. There appear to be several fords hereabouts, and I do not feel sure of my ground till we are on the Ipswich and Scole road, some ten English miles from Stoke Ash. Here we find ourselves on a peculiarly fine road, traversing a district full of Roman remains.
The twenty-three and a half miles accounted for will leave nine and a half miles between Copdock and the point which I have spoken of as ten miles from Stoke Ash, to make up thirty-three English miles between that place and Colchester. Thirty-three English miles = 174,240 English feet. This number, when divided by 4,854, the estimated number of English feet in a Roman mile, gives 35.8+, which is quite as near the xxxv. in Antonine, Route V., as we have any right to expect.
My friend and correspondent, Mr. H. Watling, of Ipswich, thus writes to me about Stoke Ash, after treating of Baylham, Coddenham, Crowfield, and Stonham, all abounding in fictile and other remains :
Stoke Ash is decidedly the most important place, and the finest description of pottery is found here … just below the White Horse Inn on the same side. … It is a curious fact that the opposite side was devoted to burial purposes. Some vessels containing calcined bones were inverted on a square tile (April 4, 1892) . About this time the Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge, wrote an account of the find here. The position had attracted attention early in the century, when Lapie, probably from measurements only, placed Villa Faustini at Little Thornham, close by Stoke Ash.
I visited the place on May 30, 1892, in company with one of my sons. The spots where the fictile fragments were discovered, as related by Dr. Searle and Mr. Watling, were indicated to us, and the landlord of the White Horse brought out several coins found thereabouts, of which one bears the head of Crispus, the eldest son of Constantine the Great, with a reverse referring to Vota Vicennalia of that unhappy prince.
There are two or three possible routes from Stoke Ash to Ixworth, within a little of the recorded xviii miles between Villa Faustini and Icinos; but in my imperfect information about this intervening country, it would be premature to discuss them; and I address myself to the last problem, the distance of xxxv. miles between this place and Cambridge. Ixworth is situated on a nice little stream, which, flowing northward by Honington and Pakenham,, and through Euston Park, reaches the Little Ouse a few miles above Thetford. Many Roman remains have been found there, and at the adjoining village of Fakenham, and the name Ixworth is certainly suggestive of the Iceni.
As Lapis places Icinos at Rymer-house, near Thetford, I did not wish to pass that theory unnoticed, but on visiting the place on July 28, 1892, I failed to find any confirmation of his view, and the distances would present a difficulty. Ixworth, then, with Pakenham contiguous to it, I regard as this station, and record, on the information of the Rev. C. W. Jones, Vicar of the latter parish, the find of a denarius of Tiberius in the triangle formed at the fork of the roads through Pakenham. to Bury, and to Thurston Station.
The road thence to Camboricum I believe to be at first the old coach-road to Bury, whence I suppose it passed out by West Gate, Risby Gate suggesting a later origin, and the road by Saxham White Horse and Kentford to Newmarket, apparently having been, in part at least, made in times within Gough’s memory19. Thence the way may have been by Chedburgh and Wickham Brook, both names containing propitious roots, to the Thurlows, so full of Roman remains; thence by West Wickham and at the south of Balsham, so as to strike into Wool Street and run for Cambridge. If anyone will take this course from Ixworth to Cambridge, he will find it not far out from the xxxv. Roman miles from Icinos to Camboricum. But we are now beyond the confines of the county, and must turn to Route No. IX.
- 1 De Bello Gallico v. 12-14. If we aim to follow Caesar, we must regard the Belgae on the other side of the Channel as more purely Teutonic than those on British soil.
- Pomponius Leta (‘Compend. Hist Rom.,’ ii.) says that they were first called Britanni, and afterwards Britones.
- 1 11.24.
- ‘Longa opulentia Glarus.’—xiv- 31. The epithet loxgus is used in L 8 to denote a period of forty-five years.
- I Lib. ii., cap. 3. My quotations are from Sebastian Munster’s edition (Basle, Y54o).
- Mr. Laver’s recent discoveries at Colchester point to a spot very near Eudo Dapifer’s castle as the site of the Roman Forum.
- See ‘Suffolk Traveller,’ p. 400.