For the following monograph I have searched the literature, printed and
unprinted, as thoroughly as I could. I have also visited the chief sites—many
of them familiar to me since my boyhood—and have examined the Museums at
Bath, Bristol, Shepton, Taunton, and elsewhere. I owe sincere thanks to
many helpers who are named in my pages, and above all to the Rev. H. H.
Winwood, of Bath, without whose unfailing kindness and energy and knowledge
I could not have achieved my task. For facilities and aid I am indebted at
Bath to the Baths Committee and its Chairman, and to Mr. A. J. Taylor;
at Bristol, to Mr. W. R. Barker; at Taunton, to Mr. Gray; and at Shepton,
to the late Mr. John Phillis. It would be dishonest not to add that I have
received other and no less valuable aid which I cannot here properly acknowledge.
I desire also to express my gratitude to one now dead, who long ago encouraged
a young student—the Rev. H. M. Scarth, Rector of Bathwick and of Wrington.
In citing published books I have used abbreviations which will, I think,
be generally intelligible. But I may say that the two county histories by Collinson
and Phelps, and the two histories of Bristol by Barrett and Seyer, are indicated
simply by their authors' names.
I have also examined for this article much unpublished material, of which it
may be convenient here to indicate the chief items: (1) The diaries and papers
of the Rev. John Skinner, of Camerton, filling about 100 volumes in the British
Museum, besides one in the Bath Institution ; these relate principally to Camerton, but also to other parts of Somerset (see especially pp. 289 foll.). (2) Some
important collections relating to Bath, commenced long ago by a Mr. Gulstone,
bought by the late Colonel Long in 1866, and now the property of Colonel Long
of Woodlands, Congresbury. (3) A large mass of drawings and notes, which
concern all periods of Bath history, collected by the late Mr. J. T. Irvine while
resident in Bath forty years ago, and bequeathed by him to the Edinburgh Museum
of National Antiquities; they contain valuable details about Roman remains,
among much that is less valuable and much that relates to medieval and modern
Bath. (4) Lastly, I have found in the British Museum, the Bodleian, and the
library of the Society of Antiquaries of London many scattered notes, some
describing discoveries made in Bath during the eighteenth century, some referring
to other places or dates, which deserve attention. In particular, the plan of
the Roman baths at Bath gains from a use of these new sources.
The result of this re-examination of the existing remains, and the literature
published and unpublished, is a survey of Roman Somerset that is, at any rate,
much fuller than anything previously attempted. Aided as it is by the numerous
illustrations allowed by the publishers, I hope that it may further the scientific
study of the really important Roman antiquities in the county.
Part I. 1. Introductory sketch of Roman Britain. 2. Sketch of Roman Somerset.
Part II. Bath: 1. General sketch of Roman Bath. 2. Walls, gates, streets. 3. Internal
buildings. 4. Temple of Sul and other remains found in 1790 and 1867. 5.
Baths. 6. Private Houses. 7. Cemeteries. 8. Inscriptions. 9. Uninscribed objects
in stone. 10. Coins. 11. Other small objects.
Part III. 1. Camerton. 2. Ilchester. 3. Ham Hill. 4. Villas. 5. Lead Mines on
Mendip. 6. Roads. 7. Some miscellaneous finds, coin-moulds, etc.
Alphabetical Index and Bibliography.
1. Sketch of Roman Britain
THE preceding chapter has shown that Somerset is unusually
rich in striking Celtic antiquities. It is no less full of remarkable Roman remains. Though it lies far in the west country,
and though much of it is marsh and much is moorland, it is
certainly among the more noteworthy parts of southern Roman Britain.
Our account of this interesting region must needs be, like the
preceding chapter, mainly archæological and not historical. It is true
that when we pass from the Celtic to the Romano-British period, we
begin to pass from the prehistoric to the historic. But we do not
immediately reach the domain of full history. The allusions or narratives of ancient writers lend us their aid, but we cannot construct any
continuous history of our subject, and we still depend chiefly on archæological
evidence. In part this is due to the insufficiency of our knowledge, but
to a still greater extent it is due to other causes. Even if we possessed
a whole library of Roman literature about Roman Britain, we could not
in this chapter attempt to write history. Two facts which are often
overlooked limit us to a humbler though not an easier task.
The first of these facts is the character of the Roman Empire, of
which Britain formed a province. Alike in its vast area and in its
complex organization that Empire was constituted on a scale which
dwarfs detail into insignificance. Its history—that is, its true history,
apart from court scandals and imperial crimes—is the record of great
developments slowly advancing among the peoples of three continents.
It contains none of that continuity of individual life, that rapid succession
of striking incidents, that quick growth of tendencies, which characterize
the cities of ancient Greece or the little nations of modern Europe.
Single men, local occurrences, are the least important items in its annals,
and the fortunes of separate provinces are merged in the great movement
of the whole mass. We may sketch the features of each or any province,
its populousness, its degree of civilization, its mineral or agricultural or
commercial wealth. We may string together in a rough narrative a few
events connected with it. But we cannot write a real history of it, for
it had no individual existence which the historian might trace.
A second fact imposes a still more serious limitation. When the
Romans ruled our island it was not divided into its present counties or
into any districts geographically identical with them. Neither the
boundaries of the Celtic tribes nor those of the Roman administrative
areas, so far as we know, agree with our existing county boundaries.
When we study the Roman remains discovered in any one county, we deal
with a division of land which for our purpose is accidental and arbitrary.
The phrase 'Roman Somerset' is, strictly speaking, a contradiction in
terms. We can discuss, as we shall presently do, the Roman remains
found in our county, but we do so not because it is scientific, but because
it is convenient. The topographical literature of our island is grouped
so largely by counties that we can hardly treat the Roman antiquities
on any other basis. But all the while we shall be dealing with an area
which for our purpose has no meaning or unity. We can describe it;
we cannot write its history.
These facts seem to justify a divergence from the plan followed by
most county historians. Hitherto it has been customary to narrate the
chief events recorded by ancient writers as occurring in Roman Britain,
and to point out which of these events took place, or might be imagined
to have taken place, within the county. The result is always to leave
on the reader an impression that somehow or other the county possessed
in Roman times a local individuality and a local history. In the following pages we shall adopt a different method. Utilizing the archæological
evidence, which is now far better known and understood than a hundred
years ago, we shall first sketch briefly the general character of Roman
Britain and we shall then proceed to describe in detail the actual antiquities. We shall thus point out how far the district now called
Somerset was an average bit of the Roman province.
The Roman occupation was commenced by the Emperor Claudius
in a.d. 43. At first its progress was rapid. Kent and Essex were
seized in a few weeks ; then the army of invasion seems to have advanced
into three divisions, the Second Legion moving south-west towards
Somerset and Devon, the Fourteenth and Twentieth Legions north-west
towards Shrewsbury and Chester, the Ninth Legion north towards
Lincoln. Within three or four years the Romans held all the south
and midlands as far as Exeter, Shrewsbury and Lincoln ; part had been
annexed, part left to 'protected' princes—for instance, the princes of
the Iceni in what is now Norfolk and Suffolk. Then came a pause;
some thirty years were spent by Ostorius Scapula and his successors in
reducing the hill tribes of Wales and Yorkshire, and during these years
the protected principalities were absorbed. About a.d. 80 the advance
into Scotland began; about a.d. 124 the Emperor Hadrian built his
wall from Tyne to Solway, and henceforward the Roman frontier was
sometimes to the north, never to the south of this line.
The province thus acquired fell practically, though not officially,
into two well-marked divisions, which coincide roughly with the lowlands conquered in the first years of the conquest and the hills which were
conquered later (fig. 1). The former was the district of settled peaceful
life, and in it we have to include the area now called Somerset. The
troops appear to have been soon withdrawn from this district, and with
a few definite exceptions there probably was not a fort or fortress throughout the south of our island after the end of the first century. It was the
Roman practice, at least in the European provinces of the Empire, to
mass the troops almost exclusively along the frontiers and to leave peaceful
interior districts free from garrisons. Britain was no exception. The
whole military force was stationed in Wales or in the north—that is,
in the troublesome regions and on the Caledonian frontier. This military
district was purely military ; it had its fortresses, roads and garrisons,
but no towns or 'villas' or ordinary civilian life. The army which held
it was perhaps forty thousand strong and ranked as one of the chief
among the armies of the provinces. The most important element in
Roman Britain was the military element.
Fig. 1. The Civilian and Military Districts of Britain.
With this military element however we are not here concerned.
For our present purpose it is enough to note its existence in order to
explain the rarity of Roman military remains in Somerset. But we may
pause to examine the features of the non-military district, within which
the area of our county lies. These features are not sensational. Britain
was a small province, remote from Rome, and by no means wealthy.
It did not reach the higher developments of city life, of culture and of
commerce which we meet abundantly in more favoured lands, in Gaul
or Spain or Africa. Nevertheless it had a character of its own.
Fig. 2. Bronze Tankard from Elveden (Suffolk), Illustrating Late Celtic Art.
Fig. 3. Late Celtic Potsherds from the Glastonbury Lake Village
(Glastonbury Museum). 2/3.
Fig. 3a. Late Celtic Collar of Bronze, found at Wraxall.
(From Archæologia, vol. liv.)
In the first place, Britain, like all western Europe, became Romanized.
Perhaps its Romanization was comparatively late in date and imperfect
in extent, but in the end the Britons generally adopted the Roman
speech and civilization, and in our island, as in Gaul and Spain and elsewhere, the difference between 'Roman' and 'provincial' practically
vanished. When about a.d. 410 the Roman rule in Britain ended, the
so-called 'departure of the Romans' did not mean an emigration of alien
officials, soldiers and traders, such as we might see to-day if English rule
ended abruptly in India or French rule in Algiers. It was administrative,
not racial. Rome ceased to send to Britain high military and civil
officials, and the imperial troops in the island were withdrawn or at least
no longer reinforced from without. But the officials were not numerous;
the troops had probably come long before to consist predominantly of local
recruits, and we may believe that not many Romans actually 'departed.'
On the other hand, we
know that the inhabitants of the island
continued for years to
'Romani.' The gap
between Briton and
Roman, visible enough
in the first century,
had become almost
obliterated by the
fourth century. The
townspeople and educated persons in Britain
employed Latin, as
casual words scratched
on tiles or pottery assist to prove, while on
the side of material
civilization the Roman element reigned
supreme. Before the
there had existed in the island a Late Celtic art of considerable merit,
best known for its metal-work and earthenware, and distinguished by its
fantastic use of plant and animal forms, its predilection for the 'returning spiral' ornament, and its enamelling. Somerset, as the preceding
chapter has shown, provides us with many striking specimens of this art,
and some illustrations are introduced here for further comparison (figs. 2, 3).
Fig. 4. Samian Bowl of the First Century a.d.
This art now vanished. In a few places, as for instance in some potteries
of the New Forest and of the Nene Valley, its products survived as
local manufactures, but even these were modified by Roman influences.
Elsewhere, and not least in Somerset, we meet single specimens, usually
of metal work, which are Late Celtic in style but occur with remains
of the Roman period; but these are sporadic, and their definite
association with Roman objects is not always well attested. In general
the Late Celtic art met the fate which overtakes every picturesque
but semi-civilized art when confronted with an organized coherent
culture. Almost every important feature in Romano-British life was
Roman. The ground plans of the private houses form an exception; they indicate in all probability that the Romans, coming to
our shores from sunnier lands, accepted, as we might expect, some
features of the native types of dwellings. But the furniture of these
houses is Roman. The mosaic pavements and painted stucco and carved
stone-work which adorned them, the hypocausts which warmed them,
and the bathrooms which increased their comfort, were all equally
borrowed from Italy. The better objects of domestic use tell the same
tale. The commonest
good pottery is the red
ware called Samian or
Terra Sigillata (fig. 4).
This was copied from
an Italian original and
manufactured in Gaul,
and it completely superseded native manufactures as the fashionable
and favourite ware.
Nor were these foreign
elements confined to the mansions of the wealthy. Samian bowls and
rudely coloured plaster and makeshift hypocausts occur even in outlying
hamlets. (fn. 1)
But though the Romanization was thus tolerably complete, it must
be further qualified as a Romanization on a low scale. The more
elaborate and splendid and wealthy features of the Italian civilization,
whether material or intellectual or administrative, were rare or unknown
in Britain. The finest objects of continental manufacture in glass and
pottery and gold-work came seldom to the island, and the objects of
local fabric rarely attained a high degree of merit. The choicer marbles
and the finer statuary are still rarer—though there is one signal exception
at Bath—and the mosaics are usually commonplace and lack distinction.
Of Romano-British literature we have very little and that little owes its
interest to other things than literary excellence. Of organized municipal
or commercial or administrative life we have but scanty traces. The
civilization of Roman Britain was Roman, but it contained few elements
of splendour or magnificence.
We may distinguish in this civilization two local forms deserving
special notice—the town and the villa. The towns of Roman Britain
were not few. But as we might expect they were for the most part small.
Many of them appear to have been originally Celtic tribal centres;
then under Roman influence they developed into towns, like the tribal
centres in northern Gaul. Scarcely any seems to have attained very great
size or wealth, according to the standard of the Empire. The highest
form of town life known to the Roman was certainly rare in Britain :
the coloniae; and municipia, the privileged municipalities with the Roman
franchise and constitutions on the Italian model, were represented, so far
as we know, by only five examples, the coloniae; of Colchester, Lincoln,
York and Gloucester and the municipium of Verulam, and none of these
could vie with the greater municipalities of other provinces. But while
lacking in size and magnificence, the towns of Roman Britain were in
their way real towns; if a modern term be allowed, we might best
describe them as country towns. Most of them were walled, at least
in the fourth century. Many of them had a forum built on the Roman
plan, providing in Roman fashion accommodation for magistrates, traders
and idlers. Not only the coloniae and municipium, which were ruled by
prescribed magistrates and town councils, but many smaller places also
must be regarded as having had some form of municipal life. They
were, in their own way, Romanized.
Outside these towns the country seems to have been divided up
into estates, known as 'villas,' and in this respect, as in its towns, Britain
resembles northern Gaul. The villa was the property of a great landowner, who inhabited the 'great house' if there was one, cultivated the
ground close to it by slaves, and let the rest to half-serf coloni. The
villa in fact was the predecessor of the mediæval manor. In Gaul some
of the villas were estates of eight or ten thousand acres, and the landowners' houses were splendid and sumptuous. In Britain we have no
evidence to determine the size of the estates, and the houses—to which
the term 'villa' is often especially applied—seem rarely to have been
very large. A few can vie with continental residences; many are small
and narrow. The landowners, as in Gaul, were doubtless the Romanized
nobles and upper classes of the native population, with but a slight
infusion of Italian immigrants. The common assertion that they were
Roman officers or officials may be set aside as rarely, if ever, correct.
The wealth of these landowners must have been almost solely agrarian;
their lands were probably for the most part sheep runs and corn fields,
and supplied the cloth and wheat which are mentioned by ancient writers
as exported from Britain during the later Imperial period. The peasantry
who worked on these estates or were otherwise occupied in the country
lived in rude hamlets formed of huts or pit dwellings with few circumstances of luxury or even comfort. But even their material civilization
was Roman. Here, as among the upper classes, the Late Celtic art
yielded largely to the strength of Italian influences.
Fig. 5. Plans of Courtyard and Corridor Houses at Silchester (scale 1: 720).
(The left-hand block shows a courtyard house with a corridor house adjacent; the right-hand figure
a small corridor house by itself.)
Fig. 6. Villa, consisting of Corridor House and two blocks of Farm Buildings round
a Rectangular Courtyard (Brading, Isle of Wight). Room vi. is the Corridor.
In both town and country a remarkable feature is presented by the
houses. Thoroughly Roman in their fittings, they are by no means
Roman in their ground plans. (fn. 2) In this respect they do not in the least
resemble the houses of ancient Rome and Pompeii, nor are they very like
the country houses which have been dug up in Italy. They belong instead
to types which seem to occur only in Britain and northern Gaul, and
they very possibly represent Celtic fashions, altered by Roman contact
but substantially native. A common type is that sometimes called the
Corridor type (fig. 5), which shows a straight row or range of rooms with
a corridor running alongside of them and generally with some slight
enlargement at one end or the other. Sometimes, as in the central
building at Brading (fig. 6), both ends of the corridor terminate in
rooms, and a rather different type of corridor house results. Another
more elaborate type shows three rows of rooms and corridors set round
an unroofed rectangular courtyard of considerable size. Very similar to
this last is a type in which the buildings round the courtyard are not
continuous, but stand isolated each in the middle of one of the three
sides; in such cases the blocks may consist of corridor houses, of barns,
outhouses and farm buildings of various plans (fig. 6). There appears
to be no great difference between town and country in the distribution
of these types, but the stateliest country villas seem to exhibit especially
the courtyard types, and the second of the courtyard types occurs
only in the country. In size the houses vary as widely as houses in all
ages and countries. The corridor houses are as a rule the smallest,
some of them measuring little more than 40 by 60 feet in length and
breadth, while in the more imposing courtyard houses the yards alone
are sometimes three times that area.
The local government of the country, so far as it is known to us,
exhibits the same Romanization we have found in the general civilization of Britain. We can distinguish three units of administration. The
five municipalities mentioned above had doubtless each its own territory,
which it governed itself. The imperial domains, secondly, formed independent areas, under imperial officials. Their extent in Britain is
uncertain, but we know that the mines were imperial property, and a
villa on Combe Down (No. 19) perhaps supplies some slight indications
of imperial estates of another kind. Thirdly, it seems that, as in northern
Gaul, so in Britain, cantonal or tribal authorities ruled such parts of the
country as were not municipal or imperial areas. These cantonal
authorities represented the native chiefs and nobles of pre-Roman days.
But they bore sway under Roman forms and titles; they were called
duoviri, like municipal magistrates, and their local meeting was styled
ordo like the municipal senate. Of these, however, we have few traces
in Britain and none in Somerset. The district does not even contain a
town which can have served as a tribal capital, and its remains throw no
light on the subject of the cantonal system in Britain.
One feature, not a prominent one, remains to be noticed—trade
and industry. We should perhaps place first the agrarian industry, which
produced wheat and wool. Both were exported in the fourth century,
and the export of wheat to the mouth of the Rhine is mentioned by an
ancient writer as considerable. Unfortunately the details of this industry are almost unknown: perhaps we shall be able to estimate it
better when the Romano-British 'villas' have been better explored.
Rather more traces have survived of the lead mining and iron mining
which, at least during the first two centuries of our era, was carried on
with some vigour in half a dozen districts—lead on Mendip in Somerset,
in Shropshire, in Flintshire and Derbyshire; iron in the Weald and the
Forest of Dean, and occasionally to a less extent elsewhere. Other
minerals were less important. The gold mentioned by Tacitus proved
very scanty. The far-famed Cornish tin seems (according to present
evidence) to have been worked comparatively little, and that late in the
Roman occupation. The chief commercial town was, from the earliest
times, Londinium (London). It was never, so far as we know, raised
to municipal rank, but was nevertheless a place of size and wealth and
perhaps the residence of the chief authorities who controlled taxes and
customs dues. The usual route to the continent for passengers and for
goods was from the Kentish harbours to Gessoriācum (Boulogne), but
the discovery of a pig of Mendip lead at the mouth of the Somme suggests that occasionally longer voyages were ventured.
Finally, let us sketch the roads. In doing so, we must dismiss
from our minds the Four Great Roads which are mentioned in some
early English documents and have frequently been called Roman. Three
of these four roads were Roman in origin, but the fourth was not, and
the idea of any such Four Great Roads is alien to the Roman road
system. Instead, we may distinguish four groups, all radiating from
one centre, London. One road ran south-east to Canterbury and the
Kentish ports. A second ran west and south-west, first due west from
London to Silchester, and thence by ramifications to Winchester and
Exeter, Bath, Gloucester and south Wales. A third, Watling Street,
ran north-west across the midlands to Wroxeter, and thence to the
military districts of the north-west; it also gave access to Leicester and
the north. A fourth ran to Colchester and the eastern counties, and
also to Lincoln and York and the military districts of the north-east.
To these must be added a long single road, the only important one which
had no connection with London and the only one with which in Somerset we shall be seriously concerned. This is the Fosse, which cuts
obliquely across from north-east to south-west, joining Lincoln, Leicester,
Bath and Exeter. These roads must be understood as being only the
main roads, divested, for the sake of clearness, of branches and intricacies; and, understood as such, they may be taken to represent a reasonable supply of internal communications for the province. After the
Roman occupation had ceased, they were largely utilized by the English,
but they do not much resemble the roads of mediæval England in their
grouping or economic significance. One might better compare them
to the railways of to-day, which equally radiate from London.
Such, in the main, was that large part of Roman Britain on which
ordinary civilized non-military life prevailed—a land of small country
towns and large rural estates; permeated by the simpler forms of Roman
civilization, but lacking the higher developments; not devoid of natural
resources, but not rich; a comfortable country perhaps, but an unimportant fraction of the Empire.
2. Sketch of Roman Somerset
From this brief sketch of southern Roman Britain we pass to the
details of our own county. In general these details reproduce adequately
the normal features which we have just described. But they are numerous and intricate, they include several items of peculiar interest, and it
may be useful to summarize their principal characteristics before proceeding to discuss them one by one.
Somerset abounds with Roman remains. But the geographical
distribution of these remains is very uneven. Some parts of the county
were obviously well inhabited and well civilized; other parts, whether
inhabited or not, were certainly not inhabited thickly or in civilized
fashion. Not only the wide marshes of the Brue and the Parret and the
bogs and hills of Exmoor, but all the western portion of the county,
even the pleasant vale of Taunton Deane, show but few vestiges of
Romano-British life. The east and the north present a different picture.
Here we meet ample traces of our period. Along the Fosse, which
bisects the eastern half of Somerset, were towns and villages—a settlement
at Bath, a tiny town or village at Ilchester, and perhaps a village at
Camerton. Villas too and other marks of rural life are common on one
side or the other of the same road; they abound also in the north near
Bristol and in the fertile vale of Wrington. Roughly and with certain
obvious qualifications we may say that the districts east of Bridgwater
were the districts of Romano-British life.
Besides these normal features, others less normal demand our attention. Bath, Aquae Sulis, the largest settlement and perhaps the only large
one within the area of the county, was not an ordinary Romano-British
town. It owed its existence to its hot mineral springs, and its most
striking remains are those which are connected therewith—the ruins of
its baths and the altars or tombstones of those who, successfully or unsuccessfully, sought the benefit of its waters. No doubt a population of
others than invalids dwelt round the springs, as it does to-day. But,
first and foremost, Bath was a bathing place. Let us add that its baths
present one feature of signal interest which we might not expect. Among
the carved stones of their ruins is a head, once the decoration of a pediment, which is the most remarkable piece of sculpture yet discovered
in Britain. We know neither its sculptor nor his sources and inspiration, nor even his precise intention. But his work, in its astonishing
vigour, is not only unique in Britain, it has hardly a rival in any province
of the western empire.
Another noteworthy feature of Roman Somerset is furnished by the
Mendip lead mines. Known, as it seems, to the pre-Roman Celts, they
were worked by the Romans from the earliest period of their occupation;
they were amongst the few important industries of Roman Britain, and
interesting (though, unfortunately, ill-recorded) relics of them have been
at various times discovered. The sporadic finds of Roman remains in
Somerset are also often noteworthy. Such are the numerous coin-moulds
found along the northern slope of the Polden Hills, and the hoards of
fourth-century silver coins which possess a special interest for numismatists. All these help to complete the picture of a remarkable area.
But this area, as our survey will show it to us, differs in some
material respects from the Roman Somerset of many earlier writers.
We have to forego much that they included. We can no longer call
the great earthen camps Roman. The vast plateau of Hamdon Hill,
Cadbury girt with its huge ditches, Castle Neroche dominating from its
lofty summit the whole expanse of Taunton Deane, Dolebury looking
out from its ramparts of piled stone over the vale of Wrington, Worlebury hanging heavy over Weston and the Channel—these and more are
now recognized as dating from ages other and for the most part older
than the Roman. We find Roman remains in some of them, but, except
perhaps on Hamdon Hill, those remains are few and late and mostly coins;
they prove no real habitation. Men sometimes say of such camps that,
though not of Roman origin, they were occupied by the Romans. The
phrase is unfortunate. The occupation must nearly always have been both
slight and brief, and also Romano-British, that is, native, rather than really
Roman. In the first four centuries of our era those camps, so far as
they then existed, were what they are to-day, the stately ruins of a vanished
Again, we must exclude some British tribes which enthusiastic
writers have assigned to Somerset. The Aedui, who are said to have
migrated hither from Gaul, bringing with them the apple to Glastonbury, are a tolerably obvious fiction. The Cangi or Ceangi, whom
some writers place on Mendip, are a real tribe, but their true home is in
Flintshire. (fn. 3) We do not, indeed, know definitely the names of the Celtic
tribes who in pre-Roman days inhabited the region which is now
Somerset. Bath, as Ptolemy tells us, was in the territory of the Belgae,
but the western limit of that territory is not recorded. Perhaps we
might conclude that it lay east of Mendip, since no Mendip lead has
ever been found with the stamp de belgis or belgicvm. But this is at
the best a guess.
Once more, we must not seek in Somerset those defences which
Ostorius is often stated to have erected near the Avon about the year
a.d. 48. The Wansdyke has been called his Vallum, and his forts have
been detected at neighbouring sites. But we now know that Wansdyke
is, at least in large part, post-Roman (p. 371), while the alleged forts
are either (like Worlebury) not Roman, or are sites of villages or villas.
Moreover, the whole theory of the Ostorian forts has turned out an error.
It rests on a bad text and a bad translation of Tacitus. The true text
mentions neither a line of forts nor the river Avon. Probably it refers
to a consolidation of the Roman dominion within the frontiers of the
Severn and the Trent; in any case the Somerset archæologist can go his
way untroubled by any heed of Ostorius. (fn. 4)
One more reflection, and that a rather different one, suggests itself
concerning Roman Somerset. The county, as we have said, was in part
well Romanized. It was also a part of Britain which the Saxons conquered comparatively late. Here, if anywhere, we should expect to see
the form and fashion of the Roman epoch surviving into later days.
We find nothing of the sort. Bath, it is true, stands on the site of
Aquae Sulis, but we shall see below that Aquae Sulis lay waste for many
years before English Bath was founded. Elsewhere in Somerset Roman
and English sites coincide only in one case—Ilchester, and Ilchester was
not an important Roman site. With this one exception the many
towns of mediæval and modern Somerset—Taunton, Bridgwater, Wells,
Shepton, Yeovil, Frome, Crewkerne, Ilminster, Chard, and others—are
all of English origin. So, too, so far as we can judge, are the villages
and even the roads except for portions of the Fosse Way. There is no
continuity here between the English and their predecessors. The
Somerset of Saxon and later days is a land from which Roman and Briton
seem to have utterly vanished.