24th January 76 AD/CE.

Today in 76 CE Emperor Publius Aelius Hadrianus (Hadrian) was born. It was under his rule that the Vallum Aelium or Aelian Frontier was built, which ran between the present Newcastle-on-Tyne to Carlisle, England.(1)

Knowledge about Hadrian’s Wall, as we know it, was enhanced in 2004, when metal detectorists found the Staffordshire Moorland Patera.

Hadrians' Wall.

Hadrians’ Wall.

Why or how the vessel ended in Staffordshire is a mystery, but Wroxeter, one of the fourth largest cities was not far away, and could have been brought south by a high-ranking official after a tour of the Wall.


The Rudge Cup.

The Rudge Cup.

The patera, or pan with a handle, was made c 220 of an alloy of copper and represents only one of three similar finds: others are the Rudge Cup found in Froxfield, Wiltshire in 1725, which lists five forts, and one found in Amien, France.

The Staffordshire Patera and the Rudge Cup are important in giving us a detailed insight into the line of main forts, going from west to east, along Hadrian’s Wall.(2)

The Patera has eight enamelled panels with swirling scroll design, associated with Romano-Celtic work. It is brightly coloured in red, light blue, white and dark blue.

Staffordshire Patera with Celtic motifs in inlaid enamel.

Staffordshire Patera with Celtic motifs in inlaid enamel.

Emperor Hadrian ordered the wall’s construction in 122 CE and until the 1960s it was generally assumed that its purpose was primarily defensive to fight off attackers from the north-the Picts as they are usually known.

British tribes to the south of the Wall also constituted a threat, and the reason presumably why a vallum ditch and mound was constructed on that side.

This was until Brian Dobson and David Breeze stated that conquered provinces had to pay their way in taxation in cash and kind, and that the border also served to control and tax movement across the frontier as in any modern state.

The Wall was only one of a series of structures built around the Empire, suggests a limit of expansion-a line in the sand-until new insurgent tribes wreaked its vengeance on a once proud Empire.

It was left to a later Emperor, Constantius I (Chlorus) (293-306), founder of the Constantinian Dynasty, who crossing to Britain in 305, dealt with the troublesome Picts, resulting in victory, and his acquiring the title of Britannicus Maximus.

Constantius’ death at York, England in 306, saw the collapse of the Roman Tetrarchy which had been inaugurated by Emperor Diocletian. His son was the famous Constantine the Great, without whose conversion, Christianity would never have taken root in Britain. He also died at York.(3)

(1) CE refers to the Common Era, which is non-religious specific, compared with AD.

(2) The Forts are inscribed in capitals:MAIS (Bowness); COGGABAT (Drumburgh); VXELODVNVM (Stanwix); CAMMOGLANNA (Birdoswald or Castlesteads).

The completion of the inscription says RIGOREVALI AELI DRACONIS (Course of frontier of Hadrian); Aeli was family name of Hadrian and it was the custom for the aspiring officials to attach the name to theirs.

Who Draconus was is a mystery, though the name suggests it is of Greek origin and could have been the owner or maker.

Bowness would have been large fort with 1500 men; Drumburgh (not mentioned on the Rudge Cup), was an auxiliary fort; Stanwix was not on the Wall, but on north bank of the River Eden guarding the crossing from Carlisle with 1000 cavalry. Birdswold represents some mystery to experts.

(3)  When Diocletian and Maximian abdicated May 1st, 305, Constantius I (Chlorus) was proclaimed Augustus on 1 May 305, becoming senior Emperor in the West. He died in York on July 25th, 306.


The information on the Rudge Cup compares with that on Notitia Dignitatum, (a late Roman Document), and the Ravenna Cosmography.

Ref: Hadrian’s Wall, Dobson and Breeze, Penguin.

Ref: staffsmetaldetectorist.org.staffs_mooreland_patera. Pic. Ref.

Ref: wikipedia.org/rudge_cup. Pic. Ref.

Ref: Hadrian’s Wall, wikipedia.org

Ref: Watling Street, wikipedia.org.

Ref: BBC.Co.UK/ h2g2 hadrianswall dna/place.

Ref: Roman Campaigns, North of the Forth-Clyde Isthmus. WS Hanson.

Ref: Roman-Britain. R G Collingwood & R P Wright Vol Pt. 4. Inscription on Stone Milestones and Honorific Pillars.

Ref: Birley. P.40, 2005, Roman Government in Britain, OUP.


Tags: , , , , , ,

About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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

%d bloggers like this: