Saturday, November 19, 2011

When Roman empire was ruled from South Shields

When Roman empire was ruled from South Shields - Today's News - News - JournalLive

THE moment in history when the entire Roman Empire may have been ruled from a Tyneside town will be relived today.

Finds from digs at Arbeia Roman fort in South Shields have offered convincing evidence that the Emperor Severus and his sons Caracalla and Geta were at the base as they prepared for a campaign into Scotland.

Because the imperial family and court were present, that would have effectively meant that the empire would have been governed from South Shields.

Severus, who came from modern-day Libya, arrived in Britain in 208 at the age of 63 to tackle the Scottish tribes who were in revolt. He died in York in 211.

Today, the Arbeia Society will mark the 1,800th anniversary of his death by holding its annual conference at the Customs House in South Shields on the topic of An Imperial Family in Britain.

Excavations at South Shields have uncovered 15 lead seals bearing the images of Severus and his sons. They would have been used to seal the imperial baggage and possessions.

Also discovered was a cameo showing Caracalla in the likeness of Hercules, and an altar from South Shields set up to celebrate the safe return to Rome of Caracalla and Geta after the death of their father.

Alex Croom, keeper of archaeology at Arbeia, said that after the arrival of Severus, the fort was re-organised to act as a supply base. Internal buildings were demolished and the number of granaries was increased from two to 24.

Nick Hodgson, archaeological projects manager for Tyne Wear Archives and Museums, said: “There are two very lurid historical Roman accounts which suggest that Severus’s sons were debauched and decadent and the motive behind the Scottish campaign was to get them out of the nightclubs of Rome and give them a taste of military discipline.

“You can imagine the imperial party arriving here and inspecting Hadrian’s Wall and its forts, and South Shields was the gateway to all that.

“Severus would also have been supervising the vast amounts of supplies needed for such a campaign.” But Severus’s campaign failed to conquer Scotland.

“Sources suggest that the Romans could not pin down an enemy who conducted guerilla warfare and would not be drawn into a pitched battle, which is not a million miles from the difficulties faced by modern armies in Afghanistan,” said Nick.

“While the imperial party were here, Rome was effectively governed from Britain during this period.” After the death of Severus, his sons became joint emperors but Geta was later killed by Caracalla.