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Historic England Research Records

Isca Dumnoniorum

Hob Uid: 448306
Location :
Devon
Exeter
Non Civil Parish
Grid Ref : SX9192209258
Summary : The Roman town of Exeter probably dated from circa AD 75 when the Second Legion left its fort and moved to Caerleon. It probably became a civitas capital circa AD 80 when the basilica and forum were built. The early town followed the layout of the fort and kept its defences. These defences were superseded in the late 2nd century AD when a circuit 2.5 times larger was constructed. The baslica and forum were partially rebuilt in the mid-4th century, but by the mid-5th century they had been demolished and the area had become a cemetery.
More information : (SX 919925) ISCA DVMNCNIORVM ROMAN TOWN (R) (1)

The development of Exeter as a Roman town is believed to have taken place about 75 AD, following the transfer of the Second Legion from its fortress there (see SX 99 SW 160) to Caerleon. There followed an interregnum of some five years, during which time the civitas may have been under the control of a government official. (The alterations to the legionary baths are thought to date from this period; see SX 99 SW 160.4) The establishment of the town as civitas capital - ISCA DUMNONIRUM of the Antonine Itinerary - probably took place about 80 AD, when the basilica and forum (SX 99 SW 12.2) were constructed; a date that agrees with Agricola's promotion of Romanisation in 79-80. The early town adapted the lay-out of the fortress to serve its needs in a similar manner to the colonia at Gloucester, and retained its defences apart form the later legionary ditch (see SX 99 SW 160.1) which was filled in shortly after 80 AD and replaced by a ditch 10 metres wide by 2 metres deep. The defences became neglected by the mid 2nd century and were superseded, probably in the late 2nd century, by a new defensive circuit enclosing an area 2.5 times greater than that of the early town. A first phase of these defences has been suggested, consisting of a bank and ditch which were later strengthened by the addition of a wall, but it is now thought that the wall, bank and ditch were contemporary and that the bank may represent upcast from the ditch and from the wall foundations, heightened to form a rampart when the wall was completed. The defences, which were 1.45 miles in circumference, were retained by both the late Saxon and Medieval towns, and seventy per cent still survives (for details see SX 99 SW 15), although the external facing has been replaced and short stretches have been completely rebuilt. Whether, any of the turrets or bastions of the Medieval walls were Roman in origin is uncertain, but some may have been. The Roman gates were probably on the same sites as the Medieval gates, and this has been proved at the South Gate (see SX 99 SW 15.2). Excavations have shown that the later town was densely built up, clearly an indication of prosperity, and the partial rebuilding of the basilica and forum in the mid 4th century (see SX 99 SW 12.2) testifies to the continuation of civic institutions at this period. Their demolition, and removal for the debris, sometime before the middle of the 5th century, must mark the end of civil institutions in Exeter, although not the end of organized life in the town, for the demolition and clearance must have been a considerable undertaking. There is no further evidence of urban life however, and by the mid-5th century a cemetery had been established on the site of the basilica and forum. (2-4)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : 25" 1966
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2
Source : Roman Exeter : fortress and town
Source details :
Page(s) : 46-87
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 3
Source : The place-names of Roman Britain
Source details :
Page(s) : 378
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 4
Source : Roman Exeter : excavations in the war-damaged areas, 1945-1947
Source details :
Page(s) : 20
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : No. 8

Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date :
Monument End Date : 410
Monument Start Date : 75
Monument Type : Basilica, Baths, Forum, Town, Civitas Capital
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Early Medieval
Display Date : Early Medieval
Monument End Date : 1066
Monument Start Date : 410
Monument Type : Cemetery
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : DV 285
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SX 99 SW 12
External Cross Reference Notes :

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