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What Primary and Secondary Evidence is Available to Prove Roman Forts Existed in Britain, and how Reliable is this Evidence

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Due to the lack of roman evidence, we must build up a picture of Roman Britain like a jigsaw piece by piece. To build up this jigsaw we have to use all the evidence available to us primary and secondary. Whilst using this evidence to build up a picture of Roman Britain we also have to be aware of new evidence, which becomes available to us. Such techniques as aerial photography and computer enhanced imaging become more advanced so will more information become available and this may or may not change our ideas on Roman Britain.

We are going to look at a city called Chester to find out more about Roman Britain and see if they did build forts in Britain. In Chester there is a selection of primary and secondary evidence to look at from the Roman conquest in Britain. In Chester there is a Garden called The Roman Gardens this is a tourist attraction where Roman artefacts have been moved to because of lack of space in the city of Chester. In the Roman gardens there is some Pillar bases from the Roman period. There are 24-sandstone bases. The gardens have recently been rearranged.

There is secondary evidence, a plaque saying that these Pillars came from the Principia Headquarters These Pillar bases tell us many things about Roman Chester. The pillars tell us that Chester must have been an important town, probably an administrative town because it has principia in it. Because Chester has principia it would suggest that it would need some kind of military defence. Also in the gardens there is a Hypocaust with 16-sandstone bases each 2ft tall. The hypocaust is an original form of roman heating. On these sandstone bases rest slabs of paving stone, which are secondary evidence.

The hypocaust suggests that important people may have lived in Chester because there are not a lot of hypocaust’s found around Britain and this would suggest that they are rare and not everyone could afford one. The fact that this evidence is not ‘in its original situation tells us how difficult it is to preserve Roman evidence, because of lack of evidence, we have to use educated guesswork In the centre of Chester there is an amphitheatre, which is next to the southeast angle tower. Only half of the amphitheatre is visible the other half is under the grounds of a convent.

The amphitheatre was originally made out of wood but later changed to sandstone. The amphitheatre is the largest in Britain measuring 99*87m. It’s oval shaped and was probably use as a ludus. Also in the amphitheatre there is a shrine to Nemesis, goddess of fate, which is linked to the Roman Army. The amphitheatre tells us that Chester may have been a fort because the amphitheatre was used as a ludus. The shrine to Nemesis would indicate that roman solders were there because roman solders prayed to her. The size of the amphitheatre indicates that Chester was an important town.

The amphitheatre in Chester is based upon a similar one in Cerulean in South Wales, because Cerulean was I fort it would be reasonable to presume that Chester was also a fort. However, there is a problem for historians when evaluating the amphitheatre because there is only half of it visible, the over half is under the convent so we have to use educated guesswork to envisage what the other half looks like. These guesses are quite reliable because archaeologists are well trained in what they do. The South East Angle Tower is in the centre of Chester opposite the amphitheatre.

Unfortunately there are only 2 or 3 layers of foundation stone’s left. There is a Plaque, which is secondary evidence, that tells us that there was a ditch measuring 9*20ft. The South East Angle Tower indicated that the walls were probably built for defence because they are so thick. Also, the size of the ditch suggests it was a defensive feature. As with the amphitheatre, historians have to use educated guesswork with the other angle towers as they are under the ground. Next to the Cathedral there is a piece of roman wall. Most of the wall in Chester is medieval wall.

We can tell this because of there size and cut. The remains of the Roman wall would indicate a military presence in Chester. The size and the thickness of the walls would suggest a defensive purpose. The strong room is situated below a shopping centre, which can be seen from the outside through a piece of glass. On Display there are 3 standards, which are secondary evidence. The presence of such a strong room suggests that Chester may have been a military base because money and standard would suggest that Chester was a fort. In Inchoately and Colchester there are also strong rooms.

There is a hypocaust still in it original situation under a shop called Spud-U-Like. There are a number of pillars each made out of sandstone. The hypocaust may indicate military presence because there is a secondary plaque saying it was an officer’s bathhouse. This evidence is based on trained archaeologist doing research on other similar towns. The Roman Quay is situated by the racecourse there is only very little left of the quay. The river doesn’t run past the quay anymore and has changed course to the other side of the racecourse.

The Roman quay suggests a military presence, because it would suggest a port was built for trading, transport and bringing supplies to Chester. The very name Chester gives us a clue to it’s military use because the word Chester comes from the Latin “Caster” which mean settlement or fort this also suggests that other towns were also forts such as Colchester, Lancaster and Winchester. In conclusion, to the evidence gained from the study of Chester. This can be considered to be reasonably reliable.

The evidence in Chester is mostly primary it is very well researched by trained archaeologist because of this it is reasonable to say Chester was a fort but we can’t be positive. In assumption that Chester was a military base can be backed up by both primary and secondary evidence form Chester Grosvenor Museum. In the Museum there where an array of about 30 to 40 gravestones dating from 2000 years ago with roman information on them. The gravestones suggest a military presence because most of the gravestones were gravestones of soldiers and cavalrymen.

This would suggest that Chester was a Roman fort because it would need defending and solider and cavalrymen would be needed and some of these men may have been killed defending Chester. Also in the Museum there is an array of pieces of amour and shields also there are horses bridles and stirrups. This evidence suggests that Chester was a military base because soldiers and cavalrymen would only use this equipment. This evidence can be regarded as reasonably reliable because it has been well researched by trained Archaeologists.

Some of the secondary evidence in the museum such as models of forts, barracks, soldiers the South East Angle Tower. These models give a reasonably reliable picture of roman Chester because trained Archaeologists and model builders, which have researched what they where building. However, Historians studying Roman Chester would have to be wary of these models (evidence) because it is an educated guess and the models are quiet old some are around 40 years old and between those 40 years new evidence may have been found. Which make the models out of date.

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