And so the stage was set for the village to grow into a town, and later still into a rich medieval city, on its hilltop in the far West of England.
The Coming of the Romans The ancient British name for Exeter seems to have been Caerwysc,meaning “the fortified town on the Exe” , but an even older name occurs in the tradition of a siege by the Roman general Vespasian in the year 49.
The tradition tells us that there was already a settlement here whenVespasian was sent westwards,and so supplements the evidence of the Hellenistic coins.
At the time of this siege Exeter is said to have been called by the rather formidable name of Caer-pen-huel-goit, which means “ die fortified town on the hill near the high or great wood” .
Such long descriptive place-names are a characteristic of Wales to this day, and it is quite likely that Exeter had some such ancient names as this in prehistoric times.
“ The fortified town on the hill” aptly describes the first site of Exeter, with its earthwork on the end of the ridge or hill.
“The high or great wood” probably refers to die wooded hills to the north of the city, what we now call Stoke Hill and Pennsylvania, which would have been densely wooded in prehistoric times.
Stoke Woods today are a remnant of this great wood of two thousand and more years ago. The tradition of a siege by Vespasian has generally been discredited by modem historians, mainly on the ground that it appears in the writings of a chronicler (Geoffrey of Monmouth) who is known to be very inaccurate, if no worse.
He tells us that Vespasian was sent down by the Emperor Claudius to subdue South-West Britain,and that he besieged Exeter for eight days without success.
A British king then arrived from the east with an army and fought with Vespasian. Despite great losses on both sides neither got die victory. The next
Vespasian was the first emperor who hailed from an equestrian family, and only rose into the senatorial rank as the first member of his family later in his lifetime. Vespasian's renown came from his military success; he was
On a spur overlooking the River Exe a 42 acre legionary fortress was built. This was the base for the 5000 strong Second Augustan Legion. The fortress occupied a commanding position overlooking the River Exe, defended on two sides by steep valleys.
The defences and buildings of the fortress were constructed almost entirely from timber and clay.
The one exception was the bath house which had walls of volcanic stone quarried from Rougemont Hill.
It was an impressive building and was the equivalent to the modern sports hall.
Nothing was known of the bath-house until it was excavated by the Exeter Museums Archaeological Field Unit between 1971-76.
It lay at a depth of up to 3m below the present surface of the Cathedral Close and was covered by Saxon and medieval cemeteries.
Following excavation the bath-house was covered with sand so that it will be possible to re-open the site at some future date and place it on permanent display. The remains are amongst the most impressive of any Roman bath-house in Britain.
Its public buildings included a forum and basilica (town hall), a market place and public baths.
In about 180-200 the City Wall was built, enclosing 93 acres, a much larger area than that of the fortress and early town.
About two thirds of the City Wall remains; it has been patched and repaired over the centuries but some original Roman masonry can still be seen.
The sites of the gates were retained in the following centuries but little remains of the Roman grid street pattern.
Only the northern part of the High Street follows the Roman lines.
EXETER. CHAPTER I. THE EARLY HISTORY. A.D. c. 47- 876. Various types of English towns— Special characteristics of each—Exeter the one great city conquered by Christian Englishmen its analogies in Gaul— Its position by the Exe— Not an ancient bishopric— Isca in Roman times— No records— Date of the English conquest unknown— Mention of Winfrith— Legend of Satilova English and Welsh occupation of the city — The West Saxon advance perhaps by way of Dorset. Each of the leading cities and towns of England has some distinctive character of its own, which parts it off from all others, and which may almost pass for its definition. Most of them indeed admit of a double idefinition, They fall into classes each of which has a marked character, while each again has its own charcacter which parts it off from other members of its own class. Thus one group is formed of those towns of Roman origin which have throughout all English history ke p t certain position as heads of shires, heads of dioceses, or in some other way places of importance. In this class come the elder and the younger capital
Constantine, also, was the name of a King in Scotland, who gave up his Crown and lived as a recluse amongst the Culdees or regular “ clerici ” of St. Andrew (a.d. 943), the name thus serving as a link between Cornwall and Scotland. For centuries, since the days of Constantius Chlorus, the father of Constantine, the name has been interwoven in British annals. Constantine
appears in the Arthurian genealogies—and one of that name is reputed grandfather of Rex Arturus himself.
The first Council of Arles a .d . 314) took place under the auspices and during the reign of Constantine the Great.
At this Council Eborius, bishop of York, Restitutus, bishop of London, and Adelfius, bishop of Caerleon, attended. Silvester, bishop of Rome, was not present, but he was treated a " par inter pares ” and is addressed by assembled bishops as “ most beloved brother ” in a letter sent to him.2 This period of Church History is most interesting and the British traditions were passed on to the Saxon Kings in due course of time who claimed a kind of spiritual inheritance with theBritish Crown.
the descendant of Ina and Alfred, said, “ I have the sword of Constantine,” with reference to his task of clearing away some abuses that had crept into the Church.3 Constantine’s traditions were not Papal or Benedictine and take us far back to pure and unsullied pages estern .
St. Jerome writing with a direct reference to the remote British Church said “ The Britons who live apart from our world, if they go on a pilgrimage, will leave the western parts and seek Jerusalem, known to them by fame only and by the Scriptures.”
Dr. Challoner, a Roman Catholic historian in his “ Britannia Sancta ” (1745) endorses the report that St. Teilo, a Welshman and great traveller, was consecrated by the Patriarch* of Jerusalem. He calls Dubricius Archbishop of Caerleon, and says that he ordained S. Samson and S. Theliau. 1. Ashmolean Rolls, Bodleian. 2. “ The Ecclesiastical History of Great Britain,” by J. Collier, p. 24. 3. “ Adam of Domerham,” vol. ii, p. 667. 4. Epistle to Marcella.
Giraldus Cambrensis, in the twelfth century,1 who waxed eloquent over the existing remnants of the old Imperial civilisation at Caerleon where the “ Second Legion ” was quartered. Here were ruins of great palaces, beautiful baths, remnants of temples, theatres, walls, hypocausts and a huge tower rising above the waters of the Usk.
The palaces with gilt roofs imitated the Roman pride as built by Roman masters. In addition to noble ruins and works of advanced civilisation, Imperial Rome, the Rome of the Caesars , the mistress of the then known world from the Euphrates and Persia in the east, up to furthest Britain in the west , bequeathed to the Dumnonii and Silures, and, indeed to Britannia generally, the idea of a ruling caste and a “ Stirps Romana.”
It was not exactly dynastic nor was it hereditary.
The trail of the Imperial purple was too glorious to be forgotten.
If Julius Caesar himself had never come as far west as Dumnonia and Wales,
Vespasian and Titus the conquerors of Jerusalem (a .d . 70) had brought her cohorts thither, and, as Sir John Rhys surmises,2 had fought and subdued the Belgae and Dumnonians who occupied nearly the whole south-west of Britain. “ Vespasian’s camp ” is still so called in Somerset. Sir Francis Palgrave has aptly said that the Dominion of the Bretwaldas began by being an imitation of the Imperial sovereignty of Rome. Ethelbert impressed the Roman wolf 'upon his rude Kentish coins. The exaltation of this idea was surely nowhere more conspicuous than in “ Britannia Prima 55 and “ Britannia Secunda.”
Therefore when the last Roman legionary left Caerleon Roman Imperial sovereignty might have terminated , but the world-wide prestige of it survived and nowhere more than in Dumnonia.
The legacy was imperishable. Imperial Rome bequeathed "also the Latin language the “ lingua franca ” of the world. It must be always remembered that this language came to Britain through two main conduits or channels ;
the one preceding St. Augustine, and the other afterwards ;
the one flowing directly from Imperial Itinerary of Giraldus Camerensis
“ Celtic Britain ”
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