Roman Barracks at Caerleon
[Friday - 05/07/99] By the late eighteenth century, travelers and scholars were recording Roman finds dug up at Caerleon. These included coins, fragments of inscriptions and sculpture, together with tiles marked with the legionary stamp, LEG II AVG, which confirmed that this was indeed the base of the Second Augustan Legion.
The old town of Caerleon occupied only a small part of the area of the Roman fortress, much of which was still open fields. But, by the early part of this century, the town was growing and previously untouched parts of the still buried remains were beginning to disappear under modern housing. When a large field in the western angle of the fortress, known as Prysg Field, came on the market as building land in 1927, a local excavation committe raised the £2,500 to buy it. These remain the only surviving remnants of Legion's barracks for us to walk through. The perfectly laid out remains were impressive enough but took on awesome staure when we saw the map of the original barracks. The four acres we had been trapsing through represented a mere 5% of the original soldier's housing. It's small wonder that medieval travelers thought this the center of Arthur's empire.
We also visited the partially excavated Fortress Baths in Caerleon. Construction of the baths began around 75-77 AD on a space reserved for them when the fortress was originally established. In scale, and to some extent in plan, the Fortress Baths can be compared to a medieval cathedral, with its aisled basilica matching the nave, and the three halls of the bath suite the chancel. The Baths had an overall length of 110 meters (360 ft), the same as Wells Cathedral. The Natatio, or swimming bath, we walked around was supplied with a continuous flow of water through lead pipes and held some 80,250 gallons.
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