Wroxeter Roman fortress declined rapidly after the late 60s AD.
The decline was partly exacerbated by the posting of Legion XIV to France [68 AD] and/or the return to Rome of some units from Legion XX [69 AD].
The decline coincides with the Year of the Four Emperors that began in 68 AD..
The Year of the Four Emperors was a year in the history of the Roman Empire, AD 69, in which four emperors ruled in succession: Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian.
The suicide of emperor Nero, in 68, was followed by a brief period of civil war, the first Roman civil war since Mark Antony’s death in 30 BC.
Between June of 68 and December of 69, Rome witnessed the successive rise and fall of Galba, Otho, and Vitellius until the final accession of Vespasian, first of the Imperial Flavian dynasty, in July 69.
The social, military and political upheavals of the period had Empire-wide repercussions, which included the outbreak of the Batavian rebellion.
The mainstream narrative particularly highlights the Batavian Rebellion which saw the “destruction of two legions” in what was to become Germania Inferior in the 80s AD.
The Revolt of the Batavi took place in the Roman province of Germania Inferior (S. Netherlands/North Rhineland) between AD 69 and 70.
It was an uprising against the Roman Empire started by the Batavi, a small but militarily powerful Germanic tribe that inhabited the delta of the river Rhine; and soon joined by some neighbouring Germanic tribes, from both inside and outside the empire’s borders, and also by some Celtic tribes from Gallia Belgica.
Under the leadership of their hereditary prince Gaius Julius Civilis, an auxiliary officer in the Imperial Roman army, the Batavi and their allies managed to inflict a series of humiliating defeats on the Roman army, including the destruction of two legions.
Amidst this mêlée of misinformation Vitellius was proclaimed emperor in Cologne “early in 69”.
Then Vitellius launched his own bid for power, and prepared to lead the Rhine legions into Italy against Otho.
Through these two men a military revolution was speedily accomplished; they refused to renew their vows of allegiance to Emperor Galba on 1 January 69, and early in 69 Vitellius was proclaimed emperor at Cologne.
Overall, at least four provinces contracted out from the Empire at this time.
Galba (24 December 3 BC – 15 January 69), was Roman Emperor for seven months from 68 to 69. Galba was the governor of Hispania Tarraconensis, and made a bid for the throne during the rebellion of Julius Vindex.
Otho (28 April 32 – 16 April 69) was Roman Emperor for three months, from 15 January to 16 April 69.
After securely establishing this position as his mistress, she divorced Otho and had the Emperor send him away as governor to the remote province of Lusitania (which is now parts of both modern Portugal and Extremadura, Spain).
Vitellius (24 September 15 – 22 December 69) was Roman Emperor for eight months, from 16 April to 22 December 69.
At the end of 68, Galba, to the general astonishment, selected him to command the army of Germania Inferior, and here Vitellius made himself popular with his subalterns and with the soldiers by outrageous prodigality and excessive good nature, which soon proved fatal to order and discipline.
Vespasian (17 November 9 – 23 June 79) was Roman emperor from AD 69 to AD 79.
The Roman legions of Roman Egypt and Judaea reacted by declaring Vespasian, their commander, emperor on 1 July 69.
However, this mêlée of mainstream misinformation becomes comprehensible when events are placed in their correct chronological context.
For example, events in the Rhineland coincide with the protracted disintegration of Justinian’s Comets which buried parts of the Vorgebirge Aqueduct [and probably two legions] under seven metres of sand and gravel in 68 AD.
Before the building of the Eifel Aqueduct, Cologne got its water from the Vorgebirge aqueduct, which had its source in the springs and streams from the Ville region to the west of the city.
During 1994 lignite mining near the Elsbachtal west of Cologne uncovered a buried Roman era aqueduct dated 214 AD under 6-7 metres of sands and gravels.
The aqueducts were used to pipe water from a spring in the Elsbachtal Valley using wooden (alder wood) channels that were dated 214 AD.; a second aqueduct was discovered nearby and dated 200 AD.
The channels seated in solid bedrock and were covered by 15-20 cm broad bricks and covered by colluvium (Hagedorn pers.comm).
Colluvium is a general name for loose, unconsolidated sediments that have been deposited at the base of hillslopes by either rainwash, sheetwash, slow continuous downslope creep, or a variable combination of these processes. Colluvium is typically composed of a heterogeneous range of rock types and sediments ranging from silt to rock fragments of various sizes.
These events explain why it was necessary to build “almost entirely below ground” the replacement Eifel Aqueduct which carried water 95 kilometres from the south of Cologne.
The Eifel Aqueduct was one of the longest aqueducts of the Roman Empire.
The aqueduct, constructed in AD 80, carried water some 95 kilometres (59 mi) from the hilly Eifel region of what is now Germany to the ancient city of Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium (present-day Cologne).
If the auxiliary spurs to additional springs are included, the length was 130 kilometres (81 mi).
The construction was almost entirely below ground, and the flow of the water was produced entirely by gravity.
A few bridges, including one up to 1,400 metres (0.87 mi) in length, were needed to pass over valleys.
Unlike some of the other famous Roman aqueducts, the Eifel aqueduct was specifically designed to minimize the above-ground portion to protect it from damage and freezing.
The regeneration of Cologne enabled Germania Inferior to formalise its contracted out status with the Roman Empire “around AD 80 or 83”.
Germania Inferior was a Roman province located on the west bank of the Rhine.
The territory included modern Luxembourg, southern Netherlands, part of Belgium, and part of North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany, west of the Rhine.
Germania Inferior had Roman settlements since around 50 BC and was at first part of Gallia Belgica; it was established as a Roman province around AD 80 or 83, later becoming an Imperial province.
It’s now worthwhile reviewing the Wroxeter archaeological reports for signs of unexplained sand and gravel [colluvium] during this period.
Unfortunately, searching for colluvium in Wroxeter is a subjective occupation because the subsoil is primarily composed of colluvium [sand and gravel].
But the evidence shows a “dramatic change” occurred around 79 AD when buildings were demolished and covered by a “substantial layer of broken red sandstone” which “is not understood”.
The depot period, AD 79-90
Phase 4b, post-road 4
The end of Phase 4 marks a dramatic change in the character of the site.
The second legionary period barrack blocks and their centurial quarters were completely demolished.
In its place a substantial layer of broken red sandstone c 2.5 by 14.5m (84/340) was laid, sealing the latest latrine pit associated with mess hall 1 (Fig 2.27, F770), but respecting the presence of the west wall of mess hall 1 (Fig 2.31, F753/F75 4), which was evidently still in use.
The purpose of this sandstone layer, and why it was considered important enough to demolish the ascensus to accommodate it, is not understood.
There was no apparent structure associated with it and the layer may have covered much, if not all, of the space between mess hall 1 and the via praetoria, as further deposits of red sandstone were recorded to the south in Areas 85 and 98.
The Legionary Fortress at Wroxeter: Excavations by Graham Webster, 1955-85
G. Webster and J Chadderton – English Heritage (2002)
Red sandstone is common in Shropshire and its presence is not specifically remarkable.
The Old Red Sandstone is an assemblage of rocks in the North Atlantic region largely of Devonian age.
It extends in the east across Britain, Ireland and Norway and in the west along the northeastern seaboard of North America.
It also extends northwards into Greenland and Svalbard.
On the other hand: there are other instances where red sandstone is difficult to explain.
Red sandstone erratics at Newport
I went for a walk on the shoreline of the Nevern Estuary yesterday (while my car was failing its MOT test) and when I wandered across the exposures of till exposed between HWM and LWM I was once again amazed by the frequency of red sandstone erratic cobbles and pebbles.
The colouring varies from purple through red towards the pink end of the scale, and the rocks vary in texture too — some are coarse and some are fine-grained. But I did not see anything resembling a true red marl. Some cobbles are more like gritstones than sandstones.
So where on earth have they come from?
Brian John – Stonehenge and the Ice Age
Plus there is evidence that Wroxeter fortress was “burnt down” somewhere along the way.
Excavations have shown that the fort was burnt down in the mid first century AD (Stanford 1984) and the recent find of a pilum head in the gateway suggests that the army deliberately attacked and fired the fort (White and Webster, 1994).
The Baths Basilica Wroxeter Excavations: 1966-90
M. Corbishley, H. Bird, P. Barker, R. White, K. Pretty – English Heritage – 1997
Overall, there is evidence to support the view that [both] Wroxeter and Cologne were impacted by the fallout resulting from the protracted disintegration of Justinian’s Comets.