About Arbeia Roman Fort
Arbeia Roman Fort was a large 2nd century fortress on Hadrian’s Wall that strategically guarded the entrance to the River Tyne. One of many forts along the wall, today Arbeia Roman Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage site and contains the best full-scale reconstructed Roman fort in the country, with a host of fascinating artefacts on display.
Arbeia Roman Fort history
Built in AD 160, Arbeia Roman Fort defended the main sea route to Hadrian’s Wall via the River Tyne, and was later used as a key supply fort for maritime imports to the wall, until the Romans left Britain in the 5th century.
Its name derives from ‘fort of the Arab troops’, as at one time its garrison contained a squadron of Tigris boatmen from Mesopotamia, following the securing of Singara in AD 197 by Septimus Severus. Arbeia would become Septimus Severus’ headquarters for his Scottish invasion, as well as also serving as a buzzing cosmopolitan fort.
Its cosmopolitan nature can be seen in the tombstones that were unearthed at the site, one such belonging to a British woman of the Catuvellauni tribe in the south, whose husband Barates was an Arab merchant from Palmyra and set up the memorial in her honour. Another belongs to Victor, a man ‘of the Moorish nation’ who was freed from slavery by Numerianus of the Ala I Asturum, an auxiliary unit stationed in the provinces of Germania.
Arbeia Roman Fort today
Today, Arbeia Roman Fort has been partially reconstructed, allowing visitors to really experience how this mighty fortification would once have looked and felt. Reconstructions include the large West Gate, barracks, Commanding Officers house, and gatehouse, the latter of which also provides an aerial view over the whole site.
The museum of Arbeia Roman Fort houses original artefacts found at the site ranging from coins and gemstones, to the country’s best preserved ringmail armour suit and several tombstones.
For those looking to explore Britain’s Roman history firsthand, Arbeia provides one of the best opportunities in the country. Through the combination of both original and reconstructed history, a more complete image of the often illusive Ancient world is created – you might even have a run-in with a Roman yourself!
Getting to Arbeia Roman Fort
Arbeia Roman Fort is the town of South Shields in South Tyneside, and is accessible by following the A19 into the town centre. Road parking is available however can be limited during the school run as the site is opposite a primary school, therefore it may be advisable to park elsewhere in town.
The nearest train station is South Shields, a 10-minute walk to the site, while the 516 bus stops at Lawe Road – Trajan Avenue Stop, a 5-minute walk away.