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The Origins of the Romano-British Forum

Abstract

In his Report on Excavations at Wroxeter, 1923–27, Professor Atkinson has discussed at some length (Appendix c, pp. 345–62) the origin of the type I of Forum-Basilica block which seems to have been generally adopted for the civic centres of Romano-British tribal capitals. He concludes that this plan (which he designates the principiatype) is of military origin, based on legionary principia, and was adopted ‘perhaps first in the Flavian period, under military influence, in provinces where this was strong and civil development weak and backward … for use as the administrative centre of the civil town’.

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1 Atkinson, Wroxeter, p. 360. For the earlier theory, cf. Collingwood and Myres, ‘Roman Britain and the English Settlements’, p. 93, note.

2 Antolini’s work—Le Ruine di Veleta misurate e disegnata (Milan, 1819–22) is far from satisfactory. The original excavation reports which exist in manuscript are discussed by Salvatore Aurigemma in Velleia (Itinerari dei Musei e Monumenti d’Italia no. 73), Rome, 1940. It should be noted that the various plans are inconsistent, and the ruins themselves somewhat arbitrarily restored.

3 R. E. M. Wheeler and P. Laver ‘Roman Colchester’, Journ. Rom. Stud, IX, 148, 1919.

4 Four excavation reports have been published by the Commission des Fouilles de Saint-Bertrand de Comminges, and a number of articles have appeared in the Mémoires de la Société Archéologique du Midi de la France. The reports are as follows: (I) 1920–29, by P. Lavedan, R. Lizop and B. Sapene. (II) 1929–30. (III) 1931 and (IV) 1932 (quoted as St. Bertrand (I), (II), (III) and (IV). The only article relevant to the present discussion is B. Sapene, ‘Au Forum de Lugdunum Convenarum: Inscriptions du début du Règne de Trajan a Ventrée sud-est du Portique du Temple’ (Toulouse, 1938, reprinted from Mémoires de la Soc. Arch, du Midi Tome XIX). This is quoted as Sapene, Inscriptions hereafter.

5 That this street or arcade was roofed is shown clearly by the portico bases on the east side of the Forum. For details see plate I in St. Bertrand, III.

6 Sapene, Inscription, passim. Although we know most about the ‘Ara Romae et Augusti’ at Lyons, little evidence has hitherto been collected on the subject of the Imperial Cult within the towns themselves. There must surely have been a local order of ‘Sacerdos Romae et Augusti’ in addition to the high-priest who officiated at the Lyons altar.

7 Atkinson, Wroxeter, p. 349; plate 71, no. 15.

8 It is possible that this street was not covered at Augst, if we accept Laur-Belart’s recon struction (Fiihrer dutch Augusta Raurica, plan 1). The tribal name of the city was probably in the genitive, e.g. Rauricum or Rauricorum, but I use here the more familiar, if less correct, form Raurica.

9 Laur-Belart, op. cit. p. 64.

10 Atkinson, loc. cit.

11 Durand, Fouilles de Vesone, 1912–13, p. 64.

12 Atkinson, op. cit. p. 352, plate 71, no. 18.

13 De Pachtère, Paris a l’Époque Gallo-Romaine, plan.

14 Sapene, Inscriptions, p. 26. M. Sapene states ‘J’ai toujours attribute aux diverses couches archéologiques queje rencontre au cours de travaux, une importance de tout premier ordre’ (p. 31, note 1). Whilst welcoming this acknowledgment of the importance of stratification one may well lament that it did not occur earlier in the course of the excavations.

15 Atkinson, op. cit., p. 348.

16 The exceptions to this rule, at Colchester, Verulamium and perhaps Lincoln, require further investigation.

17 Tacitus, Annales, XIV, 31.

18 See Collingwood and Myres, op. cit., p. 169. The existence of a provincial concilium in Britain, if we accept Haverfield’s interpretation of the London inscription, need not imply necessarily that the local civitates paid much attention to official religion and the imperial cult. Professor Last has already pointed out the weakness of the ‘easy conjecture’ that the Concilia were expressly formed for the observance of the imperial cult. (Cambridge Ancient History, XI, 472)

19 I include Lincoln here because the line of the eastern Forum colonnade has been found to continue south of the main cross-street, suggesting that the Forum consisted of two enclosures. (See Archaeologia, LIII, pl. XVIII). It is to be hoped that further discoveries may solve the problems of the Lincoln forum, of which the ‘Mint Wall’ presumably forms part of the Basilica.

20 There may be a classical temple attached to the forum at Velleia, for the imperfect plan of Antolini (op. cit.) shows a rectangular building, fronted by what appears to be an altar, on the north side of the building.

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Antiquity
  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquity
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