CONDERCVM

Hadrian's Wall Fort and Settlement

Benwell, Tyne & Wear

NGRef: NZ217646
OSMap: Hadrian's Wall, LR88.
Type: Wall Fort, Minor Settlement, Temple & Bath House.
Click to Enlarge
Plan of Condercum Roman Fort
-adapted from Roman Forts by Anne Johnson
(fig.200, p.272).
Roads
Wall: E (2) to PONS AELIVS (Newcastle, Tyne & Wear)
Wall: W (7) to VINDOBALA (Rudchester, Northumberland)

Condercum - 'The Place with the Fine Outlook'

Click to Enlarge (176K)
The vallum in Denhill Park
and the causeway leading to
the south gate of Condercum.

The Roman name for Benwell appears in two of the major classical geographies. The 4th/5th century Notitia Dignitatum gives the name Conderco, and lists the entry between Pons Aelius (Newcastle, Tyne & Wear) and Vindobala (Rudchester, Northumberland). The Ravenna Cosmology (R&C#144) of the seventh century gives the name Condecor, which appears between the entries for Segedunum (Wallsend, Tyne & Wear) and Rudchester

The fort at Condercum has a typical 'playing-card' outline and was built astride the line of the Wall with three of its major gates - the porta praetoria and both portae principales - opening out onto the north side, as was usual for a cavalry fort on the Wall. On the south side of the Wall, the Roman military road entered and exited the fort through the portae quintanae, and to the south the vallum, which closely followed the outline of the fort's defences, was bridged by an uncut portion of the ditch, obviously an original design feature. The fort measured 570 feet from north to south by 400 feet east to west and the defences enclosed an area of just over five acres.

During excavations conducted over the years at Benwell a number of animal bones have been uncovered, including those of Ox, Sheep, Pig and Red Deer. In addition, the soldiers diet was supplemented by a variety of shellfish, including Oyster, Mussel, Limpet, Whelk, Cockle, Freshwater Mussel and Edible Snail.

The Roman Military at Benwell

Legio Secundae Augusta
The Second Augustan Legion

RIB1330 I[ovi] O[ptimo] M[aximo Dolic]HE
NO[rvm] ET NVMINIBVS
AVG[vstorvm] PRO SALVTE IMP[eratoris] •
CAESARIS T[itii] • AEL[ii] L[vcii] • HADR[iani]
ANTONINI • AVG[vsti] • PII • P[ater] P[atriae]
ET • LEG[io] • SECUNDAE • AVG[vsta] •
MA[rcvs] LIBVRNIVS FRON
TO C[entvrio] LEG[ionis] • EIVSDEM
V[otvm] • S[olvit] • L[ibens] • M[erito]
To Jupiter Best and Greatest of Doliche,
and to the Divine Spirits of the Emperors
For the welfare of the emperor
Caesar Titus Aelius Lucius
Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius,¹
Father of his Country,
and to the Second Augustan Legion
Marcus Liburnius Fronto,
centurion of the same legion
willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow.

(RIB 1330; altarstone; dated: AD139-61;
see RIB 2077 from Hadrian's Wall)
  1. The emperor Antoninus Pius, who was responsible for the building of the Antonine Wall between the Firths of the Forth and the Clyde in southern Scotland.

It is known from several building inscriptions that the defences of the fort at Benwell were initially built by the soldiers of the Second Augustan Legion. A single altarstone dedicated by a centurion of the legion possibly indicates that at least one century from the regiment were housed at the fort while building work commenced, but the date suggests that the dedicating centurion may have been seconded to the First Cohort of Vangiones in an advisory capacity, and was not accompanied by any legionary soldiers.

Centurial and Cohort Stones of the Second Augustan Legion

LEG II AVG COH II LEG II COH IIII LEG II AVG COH X
"The Second Cohort of the Second Augustan Legion." "The Second Legion, Fourth Cohort." "The Second Augustan Legion, Tenth Cohort."
(RIB 1342) (RIB 1343) (RIB 1344)
Plaque of the Second Augustan Legion
Facsimile Plaque of Legio II Augusta
recording work done at Benwell/Condercum
now on display at the Roman Army Museum, Carvoran
LEG II • LEG II AVG
"The Second Legion • Legio II Augusta [made this]."
(RIB 1341; Building Stone from the N rampart)

Legio Vicesimae Valeria Victrix
The Twentieth Legion Valiant and Victorious

... > LEG X V V VSLM
"[...] centurion of the Twentieth¹ Legion Valiant and Victorious, willingly and deservedly fulfills his vow."
(RIB 1338; altarstone)
  1. The second 'X' numeral has been omitted from the dedication, presumably in error.

The Twentieth Legion were apparently responsible for some additional building or repair work at Benwell sometime during the late-second century. Again, it is doubtful that a cohort from this regiment was ever permanently stationed at Condercum, but it is certain that at least one century from the legion must have been temporarily resident while construction work was under way; the discovery of two altarstones dedicated by centurions of Legio XX Valeria lend support to this theory (vide supra et RIB 1327 infra).

Vexillatio Classis Britannorum
A Detachment of the British Fleet

IMP CAES TRAIANO HADRIAN AVG A PLATORIO NEPOTE LEG AVG PR P VEXILLATO CLASSIS BRITAN
"For Imperator Caesar Trajanus Hadrianus Augustus, [under the administration of] Aulus Platorius Nepos¹ the pro-praetorian legate if the emperor, a detachment of the British Fleet [made this]."
(RIB 1340; dated: AD122-6)
  1. Aulus Platorius Nepos was governor of Britain from AD122 to c.125, and was responsible for the construction of Hadrian's Wall in the north of Britain.

Although a detachment of the British Fleet is known to have built the granary at Benwell, is is extremely unlikely that any of these men were permanently stationed here. It is more likely that the cohort(s) from the Second Augustan Legion, after constructing the defences of the Condercum fort, were called away for some reason before the internal buildings were completed and the only men who could be spared to finish the task were the marines of the British Fleet, who were possibly stationed at the South Shields fort during this period.

Cohors Primae Vangionum Milliaria Equitata
The First Cohort of Vangiones, One-Thousand Strong, Part-Mounted

D M S D IVLIVS Q F CANDIDVS CHO P VANGIONVM A XXXX
"To the holy spirits of the departed and Decimus Iulius Candidus, son of Quintus, of the First Cohort of Vangiones, forty years old."
(RIB 1350; tombstone)

In the second century the fort was garrisoned by Cohors I Vangionum Milliaria Equitata, which was a part-mounted unit from Upper Germany with a nominal strength of one-thousand men. Only two centuriae (barrack-blocks) have been found at Benwell, and although the praetentura has not been excavated, even if it contained nothing but barracks there would only be accommodation for about half of this unit. An inscription found at Cilurnum (Chesters) confirms the presence of the First Cohort of Vangiones in the late-second century, and it is very likely that the unit was divided between these two forts at this time. The unit is recorded on an altar dedicated to the god Antenociticus (vide RIB 1328 infra), and also on a single tombstone of a soldier from the unit (vide supra).

Ala Primae Hispanorum Asturum
The First Wing of Asturian Spaniards

Praefectus alae primae Asturum, Conderco
"The Prefect of the first wing of Astures at Condercum"
(Notitia Dignitatum xl.35; 4th/5th C.)

The Notitia Dignitatum gives the garrison at the end of the fourth century as Ala I Asturum, a five-hundred strong auxiliary cavalry unit recruited from the Astures tribe of northern Spain; it is thought that this unit were stationed at Benwell from AD205 to AD367. Several inscriptions have been uncovered which testify to the presence of this unit, including the fragmentary inscription RIB 1348, which reads: ... ALAE I ASTVRVM ..., also two altarstones, both of which are given below.

VICTORIAE AVGG ALFENO SENECIO NE COS FELIX ALA ASTORVM PR or BR ... M PRA
"For the Victory of the Emperors, the fortunate consular Alfenus Senecio,¹ [and] the First Wing of Asturians [...] the military prefect."
(RIB 1337; dated: AD205-8)
  1. Lucius Alfenus Senecio was consular governor of Britain from AD205/7 to c.208/9.

Dedicatory inscription to the Campestres (RIB 1334)

RIB1988
MATRIRIBVS CAMPESTRIS
ET • GENIO • ALAE PRI[mus] • HISPANO-
-RVM ASTVRVM [...]
[...] GORDI[a]NAE T[...]
AGRIPPA PRAE • TEMPLVM • A • SO[lo] RES-
TITVIT
"To the Mothers of the Parade Ground,
and to the Genius of the First Spanish Wing of Asturians
[...] Gordians own, Terentius Agrippa, the prefect,
restored this temple from the ground up."

The Gods of Condercum

A number of altarstones and dedicatory inscriptions have been unearthed at Benwell which honour the gods. The most prolific is the Celtic/Germanic deity Antenociticus who had a temple and three altars dedicated to him (vide infra), followed by Mars and Vheterus each with two (etiam vide infra). There are single altarstones to the classical deities Minerva (RIB 1352a) and Jupiter (RIB 1330, Dated: AD136-61), also to the Mother Goddesses of the Parade Ground (RIB 1334, Dated: AD238), the Victory of the Emperor (RIB 1337, Dated: AD205-8), the Lamia (RIB 1331) and two altarstones dedicated to unknown gods (RIB 1338 supra, and RIB 1339, not shown).

The Temple of Antenociticus

This apsidal temple, probably dedicated to a local god, is situated about 100 yards outside the south-eastern defences of the Condercum fort, and is perfectly aligned north-south. This small, rectangular building measures some 15 feet east-west by 20 feet north-south, with an apse extending a further six feet to the south, wherein was placed a life-sized statue of the god. Probably built in the second century, the original northern doorway was blocked sometime in the third and replaced by a door inserted into the east wall.

Temple of Antenociticus
The Temple of Antenociticus at Benwell
DEO ANTENOCITICO ET NVMINB AVGVSTOR AEL VIBIVS > LEG XX V V VSLM
"To the god Antenociticus and the Divine Spirit of the Emperor, Aelius Vibius, centurion of the Twntieth Legion Valiant and Victorious, willingly and deservedly fulfills a vow."
(RIB 1327; altarstone)
DEO ANTENOCITICO SACRVM COH I VANGION QVIB PRAE EST ...C CASSIANVS PRAEF VSLM
"To the holy god Antenociticus, the First Cohort of Vangiones, under the command of the prefect Gaius Cassianus, willingly and deservedly fulfill their vow."
(RIB 1328; altarstone)
DEO ANOCITICO IVDICIIS OPTIMORVM MAXIMORVM QVE IMP N SVB VLP MARCELLO COS TINEIVS LONGVS IN PREFECTVRA EQVITVM LATO CLAVO EXORNATVS ET Q D
"For the god Antenociticus. By the decrees of the best and greatest of our emperors, under [the administration of] the consular Ulpius Marcellus,¹ while serving as prefect of cavalry, Tineius Longus was adorned with the broad stripe [of a senator] and appointed to the post of Quaestor."
(RIB 1329; altarstone; dated: AD177-5)
  1. Ulpius Marcellus was governor of Britain from around AD180 until c.184. The 'best and greatest of emperors' would appear to be Commodus, who fought as a gladiator before the plebs of Rome, and died a violent death in a plot perpetrated by the people closest to him.
Altar of Longus - RIB1329 Altar of Vibius - RIB1327 Pedestal for Statue of God - RIB1328 Blocked Earlier Doorway Later Eastern Doorway
Click to Enlarge (167K)
The Temple of Antenociticus in Broomridge Avenue.
My son Daniel is standing in the eastern doorway.

Altars to Mars

DEO MARTI LENV ANVS V S DEO MARTI VICTO VIND V S
"To Mars Lenuanus, in fulfilment of a vow." "To Victorious Mars the Avenger, a vow fulfilled."
(RIB 1332; altarstone) (RIB 1333; altarstone)

Altars to Vheterus

DEO VETRI SANGTO VITIRBVS
"For the holy god Vetris." "To the Vitirian gods."
(RIB 1335; altarstone) (RIB 1336; statue or altar base)

Dedications to Other Gods

LAMIIS TRIBVS
"For the Lamia¹ of the tribe."
(RIB 1331; altarstone)
  1. The Lamiae were witches, or dabblers in the black arts.
MINIIRVAE PRIMVS
"To Minerva the most distinguished."
(RIB 1352a; altarstone; JRS xlviii (1958), p.151, no.8)

Click here for the RBO Temples and Shrines Index

Condercum Today

Plan of Benwell
A sketch-map of the Benwell environs.

Benwell Vallum and Temple
Admission Free Car Parking - in local streets
Though nothing can be seen of either the fort or its adjoining wall, a couple of interesting sites are accessible opposite the reservoir and radio mast on the south side of the main Newcastle to Carlisle road (A186). The remains of a small temple dedicated to Antenociticus, a local deity, is preserved off Broomridge Avenue, and the original causeway over the vallum can be seen in Denhill Park a little to the west (see plan).
See: Hadrian's Wall Map and Guide by the Ordnance Survey (Southampton, 1989);
Hadrian's Wall in the Days of the Romans by Ronald Embleton and Frank Graham (Newcastle, 1984) pp.51-57;
The Roman Military Diet by R.W. Davies, in Britannia ii (1971) pp.122-142;
Temples in Roman Britain by M.J.T. Lewis (Cambridge 1966);
The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965).
All English translations, including any inherent mistakes, are my own.

Condercum Related Lynx

Benwell - Centre of the Universe
Benwell from English Heritage Intranet

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