The ink-on-wood writing tablets from Vindolanda provide early 2nd-century evidence for the links between a frontier base and the administration in London.
The tablets record named individuals and troop assignments. A letter from Chrauttius to Veldedeius (Tablet 310) was apparently sent to London, where Veldedeius was acting as the governor’s groom. He and Chrauttius were formerly comrades, so Veldedeius’ post in London was probably of a military nature.
A strength report, also from Vindolanda (Tablet 154), lists troops on detachment from the cohors I Tungrorum at Vindolanda, the document includes one centurion (out of six) being sent to Londinium. Some 46 men are also described as being the governor’s troops (‘singulares legati at the office of Ferox’) and it is not impossible that these men too were based in London. All of the men on detachment to the staff of the governor were still held on the books of their units and evidently still considered themselves as members of it.
Legio II Augusta had its headquarters at Caerleon, near Newport in south Wales. Archaeologists have excavated large sections of the fortress there. Named after Augustus, emperor between 31BC and AD14, the ‘Second Augustan’ had been part of the invasion army. At that time, a high proportion of its soldiers were Italian.
Inscriptions tell us about several soldiers who served in London. One of them, Ulpius Silvanus, had special connections with Arles in southern France.
The other legions were based in northern England: Legio XX Valeria Victrix at Chester, and Legio VI Victrix at York. In both cities, archaeologists have discovered military buildings and soldiers’ equipment deep beneath the modern streets.
The ‘Twentieth Valerian Victorious’ had also taken part in the invasion, whereas the ‘Sixth Victorious’ came to Britain much later. Quite possibly it accompanied the emperor Hadrian, when he visited Britain in AD122 and ordered the 80-mile (128km) Hadrian’s Wall to be built between England and Scotland.
Important information about the auxiliary units that were stationed in Britain comes from diplomas. A diploma was a certificate, written on copper-alloy tablets, that was given to a soldier who had served 25 or more years. It confirmed that he had been rewarded with Roman citizenship.
Eligible soldiers were approved in batches by a central administrative committee in Rome, and so, besides naming the individual, every diploma contained a list of all the auxiliary units with men who had been rewarded with citizenship on that occasion.
One diploma from Hungary refers to a soldier who had been stationed in Britain for many years, dated to 17 July AD122, the year in which the emperor Hadrian visited Britain. The diploma lists 50 auxiliary regiments based in Britain. Their names show where the different units had been formed originally. It showed that 27 regiments came from different areas of France (a large majority coming from Gallia Belgica, comprising Northern France, Belgium and the Netherlands); 9 from Spain and 14 from elsewhere in the empire, including one regiment from Tunisia and one from Syria.
See about Londinium's Roman Fort in relation to the remains of the fort and city wall today. This computer reconstruction was produced by Marco Bani and Kings Visualization Lab and was made as a post-graduate student project in 2008.