Locations around Vindolanda
| Most of the locations referred to in the tablets
are military sites, lying on the main route running through northern England,
often at river crossings. As well as their military role as garrisons, some
of the sites became centres of local administration.
There is also a reference to London (Londinium) (154). By the early second century London was the centre of provincial administration in Britain, as well as an important port town, monumentalised by public buildings including the largest forum in Britain. Both the governor and the procurator (the chief financial official) were based in London. One Vindolanda tablet (310) is a letter to the governor's groom in London from his 'old messmate' (contubernalis antiquus). A detachment of 46 soldiers from Vindolanda also contributed to the governor's bodyguard. This was perhaps stationed in London but probably also accompanied the governor on tours of the province (154).
There are also references to Gaul (255) and Rome (283) as well as references to places not yet located. Briga was the home of a correspondent of Cerialis, Aelius Brocchus, probably also a prefect and his wife Claudia Severa. Cordonovi (or Cordonovae / Cordonovia) is only mentioned in the ablative case (299) so we do not know its nominative form. It was the source of oysters sent to a soldier as a gift (299) so might be a coastal town. The location of Ulucium, where a soldier asks if he might spend his leave (174), is also unknown.
Links to the locations detailed in this page are listed below.
An auxiliary fort on the on the river Ribble and the road between Carlisle and Manchester, at its junction with a Transpennine route from York. The earliest fort was built in timber in AD 72/73 and after a renovation in the late first century AD was rebuilt in stone in the early second century. There was a fort on the site until the fourth century AD.
A fort was established in the later first century at Catterick, perhaps
under Agricola, where Dere Street crossed the river Swale. It was abandoned
by the early second century, although a small town occupied the site from
the mid second to the fourth century. The writer of one tablet (343),
perhaps a trader supplying the army, is concerned for the delivery of
a batch of hides at Catterick. As well as this letter, the large deposit
of tannery waste found in the annexe of the early fort suggests that Catterick
produced leather for much of the army of the northern frontier.
The earliest Roman military installation at Corbridge, a possible supply
base, lies west of the Roman town and was built during Agricola's campaigns
into Scotland. The first fort on the site which later became the town
was built c. AD 90 and a sequence of forts followed till the mid second
century AD. Corbridge may also have served as a local tribal centre, but
a military presence remained throughout the Roman period. The Vindolanda
tablets supplied conclusive evidence for the Roman name of Corbridge,
Coria, which was previously known only in a garbled form. It is the most
frequently occurring place-name in the tablets after Vindolanda itself.
Elements of the units garrisoned at Vindolanda were stationed at Corbridge
c. 17 miles from Vindolanda, and one soldier wished to take his leave
A legionary fortress, base for the legion IX Hispana from c. AD 70, replaced
by Legio VI Victrix c. AD 120. The fortress remained at York until the
end of the Roman period. In the early third century the civilian settlement
which had grown up south of the Ouse was granted the title of colony.
York was connected with several important later events, including the
death of the emperor Septimius Severus in 211, while on campaign in Britain,
and the proclamation of Constantine (the first Christian emperor) as emperor
by his soldiers in 306.
The early history of Isurium is poorly understood. There were two Flavian
forts a mile north-west of the town at Boroughbridge, where Dere Street
crossed the river Ure There is some evidence of late first century occupation
at Aldborough itself but it is not certain that it is military. The site
later became the capital of the Brigantes, the main tribal grouping in
The base of legion IX Hispana in the early 60s AD and legion II Adiutrix in the early 70s AD. The fortress was abandoned at the end of the first century and the colony founded in AD 90-96, probably for legionary veterans.
A timber fort was built at Carlisle in c. AD 72/73. After demolition
in c. AD c103/105, a second timber fort was built, which in turn was replaced
by a stone fort around AD 165. The earliest levels of the timber fortress
have produced the largest number of ink writing tablets after Vindolanda.
These suggest that the garrison could have been a cavalry unit, the ala
Sebosiana. The centurio regionarius, a legionary centurion who was perhaps
responsible for local administration, was stationed at Carlisle (250).
Carlisle may also later have acted as a centre for a local tribal grouping,
A Flavian fort on the river Wear controlled the bridge that carried Dere Street over the river. It has two timber phases before being rebuilt in stone perhaps in the early second century. The garrison contemporary with Vindolanda is not known, although later garrisons are recorded.