Venta Silurum


Venta Silurum

Venta Silurum was a town in the Roman province of Britannia (later Britannia Prima). Today it consists of remains in the village of Caerwent in Monmouthshire, south east Wales. Much of it has been archaeologically excavated and is on display to the public.

The Roman town

Venta was founded by the Romans in AD 75 as a market town for the defeated Silures tribe in Roman Wales. This is confirmed by inscriptions on the "Civitas Silurum" stone, now on display in the parish church [ [http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/100659 Photograph of church] ] . The name Venta has been suggested as being related etymologically to the French word "vendre" and Spanish "venta", both referring to "selling" or "market".

The town, located on the Roman road between "Isca" (Caerleon) and "Glevum" (Gloucester) and close to the Severn estuary, was - in contrast with nearby "Isca" - essentially established for civilian administration rather than for military purposes. The forum and basilica, the market place and centre of local government for the "civitas", were built in the time of the emperor Hadrian, in the early part of the 2nd century. Public baths, Thermae, and shops, including a blacksmiths, were built about the same time. Remains of farms and dwellings, some with courtyards, have also been excavated. There was also a Roman temple, perhaps dedicated to Mars and the Celtic god Ocelus. A bowl with a chi-rho symbol gives evidence of early Christian worship from the late 3rd century.Miranda Aldhouse-Green and Ray Howell (eds.), "Gwent In Prehistory and Early History: The Gwent County History Vol.1", 2004, ISBN 0-7083-1826-6]

In 2008, a dig involving Wessex Archaeology and volunteers from the local Chepstow Archaeology Society, found a row of narrow shop buildings and a villa with painted walls and mosaic floors. Among the artefacts excavated were a bone penknife hilt depicting two gladiators fighting, coins, glass, ceramics, human and animal bones, lead patches used for repairing and pieces of mosaic. [Citation
publisher = Daily Telegraph
title = Britain's first shopping centre found - and it's 1,800 years old
date = 2008-07-02
url = http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/2236518/Britain%27s-first-shopping-centre-found---and-it%27s-1,800-years-old.html
accessdate = 2008-07-03
] Excavations were also undertaken by Channel 4's "Time Team" programme. The programme is due to be broadcast in 2009. [ [http://www.cadw.wales.gov.uk/default.asp?id=21&NewsId=218 Time Team] ]

Remains

The town lacked substantial defences until the mid 4th century, when stone town walls were built. A small garrison may have been based in the town during that period. Large sections of the walls are still in place, rising up to 5 metres in places. The walls have been described as "easily the most impressive town defence to survive from Roman Britain, and in its freedom from later rebuilding one of the most perfectly preserved in Northern Europe."John Newman, "The Buildings of Wales: Gwent/Monmouthshire", 2000, ISBN 0-14-071053-1] Excavations in 1971 dated the north-west polygonal angle-tower to the mid-300s. [ [http://www.ecastles.co.uk/caerwent.html E-castles: Caerwent] ]

Modern houses are built on top of half the site of the old Roman market place. The ruins of several Roman buildings are still visible, including the foundations of a 4th century temple. [ [http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/486475 Photograph of temple foundations] ]

After the Romans

Unusually, the site remained occupied after the Roman troops left, until at least the mid-5th century. It appears that Christian worship was already established in the town, and it may have had a bishop.. A monastery was founded by Saint Tatheus in the 6th century, and a Christian cemetery was also established around the site of the present church.

The name "Venta" gave its name to the emerging kingdom of Gwent, and the town itself became known as "Caer-went" or "the fort of Venta/Gwent". Tradition holds that Caradog Freichfras of Gwent moved his court from Caerwent to Portskewett around the 6th century.

References

External links

* [http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/en/rhagor/article/?article_id=18 Museum Wales info on the Forum Basilica at Caerwent]
* [http://www.gtj.org.uk/en/subjects/3098 Artifacts and information relating to Venta Silurum held on Gathering the Jewels]
* [http://www.roman-britain.org/places/venta_silurum.htm Venta Silurum on the Roman Britain website]


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