Ruins of the bath at Wroxeter.

1) Who You Will Meet in Wroxeter

The fort at Wroxeter is largely populated with Roman legionaries from the 14th and 20th legions [1]. These soldiers, bound by 20 (later revised to 25) year contracts, are well disciplined, trained, and equipped. Probably levied by Augustus or Ceasar, these Romans could be from any and all parts of the Roman republic [2]. Prior to the 2nd century BC, these soldiers would have had to been a member of the 5th census class or higher, and a land owner. After the Marian reforms however, the army changed, allowing poor citizens an opportunity to join the army and gain status [3]. In addition to these legionaries, a number of non-combatant support personnel may be present in the fort to perform all the actions necessary to sustain an army. Outside the walls, locals of what will become Wales have settled, feeding off of the fort for commerce, as well as the security it provides. The civitas, fort and all, is home to near 15,000 people [4].

Fun Fact: Wroxeter is also known as “Viroconium Cornoviorum”, the meaning of which is still not entirely known.

2) How You’ll Get There

Britain, like any other proper Roman territory, has a network of well-constructed roads. The majority of these roads were finished with sandy gravel or a similar material. Only selected roads were paved with stones, though all roads regardless of finish are constructed of the highest quality material [5]. Should you choose to walk, most roads have ditches for pedestrian traffic. Approximately every 12 miles (an average days travel for an ox-drawn cart) is a “mansio” that serves as a type of inn. More frequent though are the “mutatios”, which line the road at closer to 4 mile intervals. These are more similar to stables, allowing mounted messengers called “despoti” to change horses. [6]

Fun Fact: The network of mutatios along the roads enables despoti to travel at amazing speeds, going as far in 10 hours as an average mounted soldier can in a week!

3) Why You Would Go There

The most obvious reason to visit would be deployment in the 14th or 20th legions, or for other official military business. However, if you are looking to visit for pleasure, then you’re in luck! Wroxeter is the 4th largest city in Roman Britain [7]. It boasts all the amenities of a proper Roman civitas, such as municipal baths, an exercise hall. Wroxeter is also home to one of the largest civic centers in the country, occupying two complete insulae (city blocks)[8].


A replica of a Roman villa, built using period correct means.

4) What Is Wroxeter Like?

Wroxeter is first and foremost a military fort. Many of the buildings share a standard of building because of their official nature. However, residential, commercial, and civic buildings are not uncommon. Some of the more sophisticated structures even incorporate under-floor heating and mosaics[9]. There is also a huge wall near the heart of the city, separating the official buildings from the unofficial dwellings[10]. Despite the fact that it was a military base, it was far from temporary.

5) Sources

[1] Kegan, Paul, Britannia: A history of Roman Britain, (Routledge: Limited, 1987) p.253

[2] L. J. F. Keppie, Legions and Veterans: Roman Army Papers 1971–2000, page 128.

[3] C. Heaton & C. Posratching. 2013. Maruis Reforms the Legions. http://www.unrv.com/empire/marius-reforms-legions.php. (accessed April 28, 2003).

[4] BBC News. 2011. Reconstructed Roman villa unveiled at Wroxeter. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-shropshire-12471007. (accessed April 28, 2013).

[5] Davies, Hugh, Roads in Roman Britain (London: Tempus Publishing, 2002)

[6] Wright R.P. & Collingwood R.G., The Roman Inscriptions of Britain (London: Sutton Pub Ltd., 1984)

[7][10] Shropshire Tourism (UK) Ltd. 2013. Wroxeter Roman City. http://www.shropshiretourism.co.uk/attractiondetails.php?estid=738. (accessed April 28, 2013).

[8] Heritage Data Management. 2007. Wroxeter Roman City. http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=69890. (accessed April 28, 2013).

[9] BBC News. 2011. Roman Villa draws tourists to Wroxeter. http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/shropshire/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_9356000/9356096.stm. (accessed April 28, 2013).

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