Eden River East of Carlisle-

Eden River East of Carlisle-

Luguvalium was the northernmost outpost along Hadrian’s Wall. It was where some of Rome’s most well known military units served. It was one of two economic centers along the Wall; Roman soldiers and politicians were served by a variety of artisans.  As the center of regional authority Luguvalium attracted both groups of people. What started as a fort, with the influence of its travelers, became a bustling city with gridded streets and official districts.

1) Who You Will Meet in Luguvalium

Before the Roman’s founded Luguvalium the Eden River Valley was home to the Carvetii, “deer people”. [1] These people lived off the generally inhospitable land as farmers. Cattle and grain were their predominant food sources.[2]

Carvetii Territory-

Carvetii Territory-

Gnaeus Julius Agricola who fought against the rebellious Carvetii king Venutius founded Luguvalium.[3] The main fortification at Luguvalium dates back to 72 AD. [4] The population of Luguvalium represented the Roman military at its height with the ala Sebosiana Gallorum and ala Petriana both represented in historical documents.[4] The Petriana in particular, a calvary unit, had fought in the campaign against Venutius.[5]

Fun Fact: The ala Sebosiana Gallorum were the, “…cavalrymen of the Sebussian Wing of Postumus under Octavius Sabinus….” Postumus was the, “… founder and emperoer of the break-away Gallic Empire between 260 and his death in 269.”[6]

2) How You’ll Get There

Luguvalium was located on the East coast of Britannia. A theoretical journey from Rome to Luguvalium would take you, generally, across the Mare Internum by boat to Massilia, north through Aquitannia, across the Oceanus Germanicus by boat to Londinium and then north across the East coast of Britannia to Luguvalium on land.

Map of Hadrian's Wall-

Map of Hadrian’s Wall-

Alternatively if you were already in Britannia and on for example the West coast, you could travel along the Stanegate, “stone road” that stretched East to West across the boundary of forts that would become Hadrian’s Wall is 122 AD.[7]

Fun Fact: A Roman milestone at Harraby Bridge shows the shifting of power between “Carausius the Usurper” and “the future emperor Constantine”. Carausius seized Britain in 286 AD and took the title of emperor. Constantnius Caesar defeated him in 293 AD. The milestone bears inscriptions dedicating it to both “emperors”.[8]

3) Why You Would Go There

Luguvalium was one of two economic centers along Hadrian’s Wall, the other being Pons Aeli.[9] Its economy, no doubt spurred by the legionaires who were given a wage, included lumber milling, goldsmithing, gem cutting, and the production of other fine goods including glass windows.[10] Romans or locals looking to learn such trades or make a living off of them would go to Luguvalium for its readily available customers the legionaries.

The Roman military also frequented Luguvalium. Two legions have already been mentioned as being stationed there at different points in time, but there is evidence others were there as well; the VI legion in particular. The Roman military frequented Luguvalium, because it was the most northern large settlement and the center of regional authority.[11]

Fun Fact: Luguvalium may have been a destination for aspiring stone masons. “A school of stone-carvers became established at Carlisle [Luguvalium], the only school of British masons so far identified.” They created sandstone tombstones, “which have been found in the surrounding Romano-British settlements at Old Carlisle and Bowness. The school operated from the Antonine period until well into the third century AD.”[12]

4) What Was Luguvalium Like?

In its earliest days Luguvalium was little more than a fort located on the River Eden on the Scottish border. However within a few decades it had grown into a larger settlement with round-houses and quarters for imperial couriers and even retired soldiers.[13]

That being said, Luguvalium was primarily a military town, much like San Antonio during the first half the 20th Century. Soldiers, either on the move or stationed there likely outnumbered common citizens and locals who still lived off the land.

The military presence at Luguvalium no doubt gave it order evidenced by the gridded street pattern and districted pattern including a well defined “official district”.[14]

Fun Fact: Evidenced by inscriptions Luguvalium was a much sought after retirement position for Roman military personnel.[15]

5) Sources

Brown, Sarah. Carlisle and Cumbria Roman and Medieval Architecture, Art and

            Archaeology. Leeds: Maney Publishing, 2004.

“CALVNIVM” Accessed May 5, 2013.


Carlisle City Council. “History of St. Michael’s.” Accessed March 10, 2013.


“LVGVVALIVM” Accessed May 5, 2013.

Parker, Philip. The Empire Stops Here A Journey along the Frontiers of the Roman

            World. London: Random House, 2009.

[1] Brown, 3.

[2]Brown, 1, provides a generally analysis of the local terrain and its geological history.

[3]Carlisle City Council. Agricola fought Venutius alongside Petillius Ceriallis who left Agricola in charge of the region when he left for Rome.

[4]Brown gives this date at the founding of the fort and evidences it with dendrochronoligical records. This predates Agricola’s conquest of Venutius by approximately six years as given by the Carlisle City Council website.

[5]Brown, 2-3, with information on when the units were stationed.


[7]Parker, 18.


[9]Parker, 40.

[10]Brown, 4-5, with details on archaeological findings.

[11]Brown, 3, dates this power shift to 100 AD and adds that this is when Luguvalium earned its name and was the authoritative seat of one, “Annius Equester, centurion of the region….”


[13]Brown, 3, with more architectural details.

[14]Brown, 3.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s