Roman Ribchester

At the time of the Roman invasion of Brittania, by Julius Caesar in 55BC, there were several groups controlling Northern England and Scotland including the Votadini, the Selgovae, the Novantae and the Damnonii. The Brigantes held Lancashire as well as County Durham, Cumberland, Westmorland and Yorkshire. John Burke in Roman England says:
According to the Egyptian geographer Ptolemy, the Brigantian confederation held sway across Northern England "from sea to sea". There are conflicting opinions about the composition of this league of clans, and conflicting evidence from coins; but it seems that a predominantly Celtic aristocracy had imposed itself upon earlier settlers and sought to unite them in a miniature nation.
Two of the most powerful leaders were female - Boudicca of the Iceni and Cartimandua, Queen of the Brigantes and John Burke in Roman England says:
When Caratacus, after seven years of sporadic raiding from within Wales, was at last defeated in a major battle and made his way into the Pennines to seek an alliance with Cartimandua, queen of the Brigantes, he found that her alliance was still with the Empire: she handed him over in chains.
Burke continues:
Apart from this, Celtic beliefs relating to the forces of nature were not too different from their own. .. In the north, Brigantia was elevated to major cult status with additional Roman trappings such as Minerva's spear and shield, and the wings of victory.
There is a picture in the book of a Romanized relief of Brigantia with Minerva's spear and the wings of victory which is in the National Museum of Antiquities, (Scotland?).

The Romans built a fort at Ribchester or Ribelcastre in the Domesday Book, and called it Bremetennacum. It was a large fort with granaries and covered about six acres. F.H.Cheetham FSA in his Lancashire describes some of the early archaelogical efforts:
...relics of the Roman occupation have been recorded from time to time in the vicinity of the churchyard since the 16th cent., but until 1888, when the Rev. J. Shortt began the work, no systematic excavation of the site had ever been attempted. Since then Prof. John Garstang (1898), Mr. Thos. May (1906-08), and Profs. Anderson and Atkinson (1911), have continued the investigation of the site... The later excavations have been carried out by a Committee of the Manchester Branch of the Classical Association. ... many of the buildings which lined the W. side of the Via Principalis have been explored. "Along the roadway were found, first the flanking towers of the (N.) gateway, then two long and very narrow buildings which served as granaries, a third long building which may have been the armoury of the fort, or the barracks of some special troop, and finally the central buildings" forming the Praetorium... The earliest inscription yet found is c. 161-169 A.D. on a slab set up between the camp and the river by a detachment of the Sixth Legion from York, and the reign of Caracalla (A.D. 211) furnishes two inscriptions one on an altar and the other betokening the restoration of a temple. ....may have been occupied to 410.
Arthurnet is an excellent resource. In the Arthurnet Mailing List Archives there are several references to the presence of the Sarmatians at Ribchester - Bremetennacum Veteranorum. The Arthurnet Archives reveal the dialog. These horsemen came from Russia, by the Danube just north of the Black sea, and fought at Hadrian's wall. There is discussion in the logs as to whether the Sarmatians left any "evidence" of their presence.

Another reference to them is contained in the footnotes of Notes on Merlin.
A contingent of 5,500 Sarmatians, close ethnic cousins of the Alans, was sent by Marcus Aurelius to northern Britain in 175 C.E. to garrison Hadrian's Wall. When these auxiliary cataphracti (heavy cavalrymen) retired from duty they were settled near the Lancashire village of Ribchester, known in Roman times as Bremetennacum Veteranorum (Littleton and Malcor 1994, 18-26, 300-303). See also Richmond (1945), Sulimirski (1970, 173-174), and Edwards and Webster (1985-1987).

Several books on Roman Britain have a picture of a silvered parade helmet used for ceremonial occassions that was recovered from Ribchester. Its crown carries embossed battle scenes and there are relief figures on the thin visor-mask. It can be seen in the British Museum. A bronze reconstruction of the helmet has been made and can be seen at the Museum of Antiquities in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Peter Salway in The Frontier People of Roman Britain states,
.. the Sarmatians of Ribchester (cf. Journal of Roman Studies, London XXXV, 15ff) who seem to have been an unusual group, settled "en bloc" under a special officer. Richmond indicates that there is considerable evidence.. that these semi- barbarians did not receive the citizenship on discharge and were quite unlike ordinary veterans.

Lancashire Pages
Lancashire Link List over 950 links to Lancashire web sites
California Page
Genealogy Page
Created: 27 July 1997
Last Updated: 9 July 2004
Copyright © Steve Lassey 1997-2004. All Rights Reserved.
Please seek permission for written or electronic reproduction of this web site.
Mail to: