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Friday 7 March 2008

Memorial to Flavius Fuscinus & Flavius Romanus

It is an improbable irony that when Edith MacIver placed the Battlefield Cross of Reggie MacIver in the gardens of the family home at Wanlass How she can have had no idea that one of the oldest 'war memorials' in the Kingdom lay a few yards away.

This unique Roman gravestone, accidentally discovered in the grounds of Wanlass How in 1962 and now housed in the remarkable Armitt Museum & Library in Ambleside, was originally located outside the east gate of Galava, the Roman fort and vicus which stood for some 400 years at the north end of Lake Windermere.

Made of local slate, it bears a rather crudely, maybe even hastily executed & abbreviated inscription;


Which translates as;

To the Gods of the underworld. Flavius Fuscinus, retired from
the Centurianship, lived 55 years.

To the Gods of the underworld. Flavius Romanus, clerk, lived 35
years, killed in the camp by the enemy.

A full discussion of the stone and its inscription is in the CWAAS transactions for 2002. Almost certainly these two guys were related, most likely father and son. Both were Roman citizens, probably as a consequence of the father, if such he is, having served his time as a centurian in an auxilliary unit, perhaps that which was stationed at Galava. At some time, probably during the troubles of the late 2nd/early 3rd centuries, one or both of these guys was killed, perhaps in a raid on the fort by invaders from the north or perhaps by disaffected local tribespeople. Whatever the exact scenario may be the stone clearly commemorates a death in conflict & is thus incontrovertibly a War Memorial! I really cannot think of an earlier memorial in the county.

I find this memorial really thought provoking. It seems to be the human condition to kill one another and then to commemorate the 'separateness' of consequential deaths. Or is this a presumption? Does it come entirely from the classical eastern mediterrannean tradition or did all societies create 'war memorials'? I don't know.


Anonymous said...

Do you think this stone marked a gravesite or was a memorial separate from the grave? I've been keeping a look out for a contemporary Roman war memorial for some time - I'm sure there's one out there! - but so far everything I've found has been a gravestone, and hence not included under our defintion of memorial.
Although, there are some modern Roman memorials, such as the one at Vindolanda.

Jennifer, UKNIWM

Louis said...

Don't know. I think it is pretty much accepted that such as these are grave markers. So I guess it isn't a war memorial! I did hear a whisper some years ago that some very, very finely cut masonry discovered during the excavation of the west gate at Birdoswald fort might have consituted some sort of monument. Check it out on the web!? Off on holiday for a week. I will send you that article!