Sep
18

Arbeia Roman Fort

Arbeia was a large Roman fort in South Shields, Tyne & Wear, England, now ruined, and which has been partially reconstructed. It was first excavated in the 1870s and all modern building on the site was cleared in the 1970s. It is managed by Tyne and Wear Museums as Arbeia Roman Fort and Museum.

The fort stands on the Lawe Top, overlooking the River Tyne. Founded around 120AD, it later became the maritime supply fort for Hadrian’s Wall, and contains the only permanent stone-built granaries yet found in Britain. It was occupied until the Romans left Britain in the 5th century.

A possible meaning for “Arbeia” is “fort of the Arab troops”, referring to the fact that part of its garrison at one time was a squadron of Syrian boatmen from the Tigris. We also know that a squadron of Spanish cavalry, the First Asturian, was stationed there. It was common for forts to be manned by units originally from elsewhere in the empire, though often enough these would assimilate and end up by recruiting locally.

Another explanation of the etymological origin is the word “rapa” (Latin for turnip). – This is not an uncommon name for a Roman site and seems more likely than the above interpretation.

Unfortunately, when we visited, the fort was closed due to ‘The Great North Run’ finishing in South Shields that day, so I only have a picture of the reconstructed gate house taken through the fencing. We will have to try visit again someday.