Caerleon Roman Fortress - History and Facts | History Hit

Caerleon Roman Fortress

Newport, Wales, United Kingdom

Caerleon Roman Fortress is home to Europe’s only viewable Roman Legionary barracks, and the best-preserved amphitheatre in Britain.

Lily Johnson

29 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Caerleon Roman Fortress

Caerleon Roman Fortress in Wales is home to the impressive remains of a 1st century Roman Legionary barracks, fortifications, amphitheatre and baths. They are the only Roman legionary barracks on display in Europe, and their amphitheatre is the best-preserved in Britain!

Caerleon Roman Fortress history

Built in approximately 75 AD, Caerleon Roman Fortress was a vast 50-acre fortress at the Roman Empire‘s westernmost frontier, and was big enough to house upward of 5,000 soldiers.

Known as Isca, it was home to the Second Augustan Legion and was just one of three permanent Roman Legionary fortresses in Britain. Within the complex were a range of buildings vital to Roman life, including a grand bath house complete with cold pool, warm room heated by a hypocaust, and even an open-air swimming pool!

Also at Caerleon was a 6,000-seater amphitheatre begun in 90 AD, where audiences would gather to watch gladiators fight to the death with one another, or a host of exotic wild animals.

The fortress was in use for some 200 years, before it was demolished by either Carausius or Allectus, two usurpers who named themselves emperor of Britain and northern Gaul in separate decades of the late 3rd century. There may have been an occasional military presence in the 4th century, however it is likely that is was taken over by the surrounding vicus, or village population.

Caerleon Roman Fortress today

Today, the well-preserved ruins of Caerleon Roman Fortress offer a fascinating insight into life at a Roman fort on the edge of the Empire. Amongst the highlights are its huge bathhouse, amphitheatre (the most complete in Britain!) and the L-shaped barracks themselves.

Inside the Bath House museum, a range of artefacts are on display from archaeological digs of the site, including 88 gemstones recovered from the swimming pool’s drain – originating from jewellery worn by swimmers almost 2,000 years ago!

The nearby National Roman Legion Museum also contains a number of fascinating exhibits detailing finds and artefacts from the site.

Getting to Caerleon Roman Fortress

Caerleon Roman Fortress is located in Caerleon in Wales, just north of the M4 on the B4236 road. The nearest train station is Newport, 4 miles away, from which a number of bus services can be taken into Caerleon, with the Caerleon PO stop a minute’s walk to the site. The amphitheatre is a short 5-minute walk from the main fortress site, turning off the High Street down Broadway.

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