Tag Archives: Ann Dornier

The Fifth Romano-British Province of Valentia – Part Three

Ann Dornier’s Theory

In Part Two I briefly describes Ann Dornier’s theory on the placing of Valentia and in this blog we’ll look more closely at it and what it might mean for later history if she’s right.

Below are quotes from Dornier’s paper:



Ann Dornier (Britannia, Vol. 13, (1982), pp. 253)

“The section on S. Sulian in the Lion Breviary of 1516 begins thus: Fuit igitur beatus Sulianus Jilius Bromailli regis nobilissimi qui regnum Britanniae quod Gualentius dicitur suo quondam tempore strenuissime noscitur g~be rnas s e(.The blessed Sulian was the son of the most noble king Bromaillus [sic Brochmael] who is known to have ruled most energetically the kingdom of Britain which formerly in his day was called Gualentius [sic Valentia]).  Gualentius is clearly a Latinized Breton rendering of the name Valentia.”

What is most interesting is Brochmael is not called the ruler of Powys, when the compiler would have known this was where he was from. This could indicate that the information was from an early date.  It may also show that this was the transitional name for Powys. The quote could make it seem as if this part of Wales, and perhaps all of Wales, was once Valentia, be we must be cautious.

Also, interestingly, Geoffrey of Monmouth makes his Brocmail the consul of Chester (Legecester) – ‘History of the Kings of Britain’, Book 11, Chapter 13. Could he actually have got this right? Did he have access to that same Breton document, or its predecessor, that tells us he was the ruler of Gualentius? (See below).

What is extremely odd about this is why Valentia has even been remembered at all.  There is no evidence of Britons identifying with their province of origin on any memorial stones.  If any location is identified it is their civitas (tribal) origin.

Provincial Capital

Ann Dornier Britannia, Vol. 13, (1982), pp. 255

“Although there are several places which might be properly considered, the weight of evidence seems in favour of Chester.  It has been pointed out that by the early third century at the latest the civil settlement of Chester had acquired independent status.  It was probably the civitas capital of the Deceangli; and by the fourth century the civitas of the Deceangli may have absorbed that of the Cornovii, thus increasing Chester’s administrative importance.  There is a growing body of archaeological evidence that in the late Roman period Chester was more than just a legionary base with a modest civil settlement: there was clearly a very prosperous civilian population living to the west and south of the fortress; and there is the possibility that in the west at least this area was bounded by a defensive perimeter, marked by the circuit of the medieval west wall.  This would bring it into line with such places as York and Lincoln.  Moreover, there are hints from post-Roman sources that Chester may have been a late/ sub-Roman ecclesiastical metropolitan, and therefore by definition a provincial capital.  Finally, the fortress of Chester may have been of greater military importance in the late period than has hitherto been thought (see below, pp. 257-8), and this may have been a contributory factor in the choice of Chester as the provincial capital of Valentia.”

Whilst the geographer Ptolemy (2nd century) tells us that Chester (Deva) was part of the Cornovii civitas, there are those who doubt this on archaeological grounds.   (Actually it wouldn’t be part of any civitas as it was a military region). The status and size of Deva (pronounced ‘Dee-wa’) and the civitas of the Cornovii would have changed through time and depended on whether or not the legion was in the city and, as argued by Webster (‘The Cornovii’, 1975, p.17) and by Keith Matthews – aka Bad Archaeology blogger –  (Arthurnet, March 2003), no one can be certain where the Cornovian northern boundary may have ended. Although many have placed its territory as far north as the Wirral Peninsular and the River Mersey based on Ptolemy, Webster guesses it ended much further south, somewhere between Whitchurch and Chester, south of Holt, based on the archaeological evidence.  This ‘boundary’ could have changed many times depending on many factors.  However, this too could fit in with Valentia’s southern border, which may have stopped at the Cornovii’s northern ‘frontier’.  (More blow)


Ann Dornier (Britannia, Vol. 13, (1982), pp. 257)

“Why and in what context would a second consular province have been considered necessary or desirable, and why Valentia?  Several possibilities present themselves.  First it may have had something to do with the imperial ego.  If the creation of Valentia was the work of Constans in 343 and if it was originally called Constantia after him, it may have been given consular status at its inception, befitting for a new province named after the victorious emperor.  Alternatively, if originally equestrian, its elevation may have gone hand in hand with its renaming after the reigning emperor(s) in 369, perhaps as a way of underlining how great was the imperial victory in recovering the province. Secondly, military considerations may have been the important factor …”

There is still the question raised by Mann, that any such status would have gone to the second most important city: this thought to be York. If Dornier is right, however, would this mean that the diocese capital would be moved to Chester (or wherever it was), if there still was a diocese capital after London, or Maxima Caesariensis, was lost?

Troops at Chester

The one fly in the ointment could be the lack of evidence for any major garrisoning of troops at Chester at the time.  There appears to be archaeological evidence of use, but the Notitia mentions no troops there.  However, this could have been patrolled by the Comes Britannium as well as the troops at Segontium (Caernarfon) and other stations along the north coast of Wales.  This might not have lasted long as Magnus Maximus may have taken them with him to Gaul, although I believe there is evidence that it was still in use after 383

Provincial Boundaries

So where were its boundaries, if Dornier is right? Well, firstly, let us address a problem that Dornier does not: if Chester was in Valentia, and Valentia was a division of Britannia Secunda, then that province’s border could not have ended at the River Mersey; if indeed it ever did. It would had to have already encompassed Chester … unless they redrew the provincial borders when it was created. If they did, that would indeed be unique as all known divisions of Roman provinces have been just that: divisions. (Mann, 1998)

This means the division of Britannia before Constantia/Valentia was created would have to have been something like that suggested by the map below, whether it be Secunda or Flavia that is in the north, with this northern province also encompassing North Wales.

Depending on who’s right about where the northern Cornovian territory actually ended – at Holt or at the River Mersey – the redrawing of the boundary shown left could mean it dissected the tribal area, something the Romans tried to avoid. It also means that most of what is now Cheshire wouldn’t have been in a civitas, as far as we know.  Of course, it’s always possible that this area remained under direct military rule, just like that of North Wales to the west. There may be a number of very good reasons for wanting to keep Cheshire under military jurisdiction: the three major salt mines at Northwich, Middlewich and Nantwich, as well as the ports on the Dee and Mersey.

This theory does answer the question of Powys being part of Valentia, and Valentia also being below the Wall.  What it doesn’t answer, and it needs scholars to debate it rather than a layman like myself, is whether or not it would be possible for Chester to take the mantle from York and for the provincial boundaries to be organized this way.

In the final blog in this series I’ll look at the possible later consequences if this hypothesis was followed through.

Thanks for reading,



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The Fifth Romano-British Province of Valentia – Part Two

South of the Wall

In the first blog on this subject I looked at between the Antonine Wall and Hadrian’s Wall as a possible siting for Valentia. However, a much more likely siting is south of the Wall.  The first argument is that Britannia Secunda was divided to the north and south, possibly along a Tees-Morecambe Bay line. This would be in keeping with Roman policy of creating a new province by dividing an existing one.

As explained by Higham and Jones (‘The Carvetii’, 1985) it’s the western part of the Wall, the home of the Carvetii (roughly northern Cumbria and part of Dumfries and Galloway), that seems to have been most garrisoned by the Romans, so it must have been causing the greatest overland threat. (Not all through the Roman occupation as they wouldn’t have felt safe enough to give it a civitas status at some point). It appears that some of it stretched north of the Wall, hence the garrisons there either to protect them, or, more likely, to keep an eye on them. With this in mind, it may be that the Wall wasn’t so much a political boundary as it was physical.

If this is, indeed, were Valentia was then the division may have been done as much to cut in half the possible tribal confederacy of the Brigantes: probably the largest in Britain. The northwest was also the home of the Setantii (Lancashire) and it is thought that because Ptolemy missed them off his map they were a sept of the Brigantes of the east. This could be why MAMVCIVM (Manchester) is not listed as being in the Brigantian territory. (Other septs probably included the Parisii of East Yorkshire and the Corionototae of the Corbridge area and probably others).  If, as Stuart Laycock argues in his book ‘Britannia, The Failed State’ (2008), north below the Wall were as much the cause of troubles in the 4th century as those beyond of the Antonine Wall, then it might make sense to ‘divide and conquer’ by splitting Britannia Secunda. (Alfred P Smyth in his book ‘Warlords and holy men: Scotland 80–1000‘ comes to the same conclusions as Laycock).

Again, if Valentia was here its provincial capital could be Carlisle, although it would be odd (as explained later) why anywhere other than York would be given a consular status, which Valentia’s capital was.


Another candidate for Valentia is what is now Wales, or a part there-of, which then is thought (by most) to have been in the province of Britannia Prima. This is given credence partly because of a 16th century Breton document that says Brochmael was a ruler of Gualentius, the Latininized Breton version of Valentia. The Brochmael in question is Brochmael Ysgythrog, a 6th century ruler of Powys; which is thought then (but not proven) to have straddle what is now the borders of England and Wales.  It may be argued that what was meant was Wallia or Gualia, the Latin name for Wales, but it’s hard to imagine a Breton getting this wrong. (More on this below).

The downside of the whole of Wales being Valentia is the evidence given by Ammianus.  Even if there were raids happening down the west coast of Wales, most of the trouble appears to be in the north of Britannia, under the Wall. However, Wales certainly was a militarized region with only two (known) civitates in the south: Demetia (southwest) and the Silures (southeast).  The other (known) tribes of the north, the Ordovices, the Gargani and Deceang(l)i, were under military rule. This itself might point to just how much trouble these tribes, or the Irish, of the area where.

Another theory

Before getting to what I think may be the most interesting theory as to where Valentia might have been in the next blog, it is worth exploring another theory of where the other provinces were first, and yet another siting of Valentia.

Those eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that these are old county maps of Britain.

As the map above (or left if you’re reading this via email) shows, the names of Britannia Secunda and Flavia Caesariensis are swapped.  This theory comes from a paper by J.C. Mann entitled ‘The Creation of Four Provinces in Britain by Diocletian’. The changing of the names of these two provinces he explains as follows:

“As Richard Goodchild suggested to me, in a letter written shortly before he died, the two provinces [Flavia and Maxima] were probably named in honour of the two men who ranked as Caesars in A.D. 297, Galerius and Constantius, employing the gentilicium in both cases, thus Galeria Caesariensis – the London province, since London was the supreme community in Britain and now became the capital of the diocese, and Galerius was the senior Caesar – and Flavia Caesariensis the York province, York standing second only to London as a capital.  When Galerius died in A.D.311 and the title of Maximus was assumed shortly afterwards by Constantine, the latter suppressed the reference to Galerius (whom he disliked) and substituted Maxima, derived from his new title. Thus it is that the names Maxima Caesariensis and Flavia Caesariensis appear in the Verona List, A.D.312/14.

A near parallel to this dynastic naming of new provinces is provided by the case of Valeria: when Pannonia Inferior was divided, the northern part, in which lay the old capital of the province, Aquincum, and the two legions surviving from the Principate, I Adiutrix and II Adiutrix, was named Valeria, in honour of the daughter of Diocletian who married Galerius, while the old name, now Pannonia Secunda, continued in use for the southern part, with its capital at Sirmium and two new legions, V Iovia and VI Herculia.”

He then follows on with a theory on Valentia …

A later example is, of course, Valentia, created after the campaigns of Count Theodosius, in A.D. 367/8. This is surely named in honour of Valens, and it seems very probable that, on the analogy of Valeria, it was formed around the old capital of the northern province, York, and included territory which had fallen ‘indicionem…hostium’ .  This no doubt refers largely to the area which later became Yorkshire, including especially the eastern part, to protect which there was later constructed that string of watch-towers along the north Yorkshire coast, which it has elsewhere been suggested might be dubbed the ‘Pictish Shore’.  The south-eastern part of Britannia Inferior will have become Britannia Secunda, with Lincoln as its capital.”

His argument is, that whatever was the second major province had to be centred around York.  Since Valentia became the second most important province because it was given a consul, then Mann argues that Valentia had to have been on the east,  with York as its capital.

But what if something had changed when Constantia (or whatever Valentia was originally called) was formed … if it was formed not where Mann suggests but to the north as discussed in Part One or on the west side of the Pennines (see below). Could its provincial capital have taken over from York because of the status (or ego) of who created it?

What should also be mentioned is that the signaling stations of Yorkshire weren’t the only things to spring up at this time, but also the Constantian shore forts in the northwest at Lancaster; besides the already existing and remanned forts of Maryport, Burrow, Walls, Moresby and Ravenglass. The latter is known to have suffered a fire and rebuilding work in the mid 4th century.

But will still have that vexed question of Brochmael and this brings me on to the other alternative …

East-West Divide

Ann Dornier (Britannia, Vol. 13, (1982), pp. 253-257 ) forcefully argues that it’s possible that what was the northern half of Britannia Prima and the western half of Britannia Secunda became Valentia with the provincial capital at Chester.

It may be that those west of the Pennines would be happy to be divided from their eastern overlords but there’s no way of knowing. As mentioned earlier,  Higham and Jones tell us the Carvetii region (possibly later to become Rheged) had the largest concentration of Roman forts in Britain; there are over 40 auxiliary forts there, over half with vicus settlements attached to them. ( This has a certain irony to it as this means the most militarized area probably had the most amount of Britons who actually came into daily contact with Roman military might. It was a very different story east across the Pennines in what is now County Durham. This area is believed to be mostly forest and there is little evidence of settlement. (‘Roman Britain and English Settlements’; Collingwood, Nowell, Myres, 1988, p.421).  This could be a very good reason why the Picts had to sail much further south to raid anything of significance.

There is also strength to the argument that some in the east may have used Anglian feoderati to protect them not only from Picts, Germanic and Scandinavian raiders but from their Western British cousins.  The Parisii region may have been particularly vulnerable.

In Part Three I will look in-depth into Dornier’s theory and the possible consequences if she’s right.

Thanks for reading,



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The Fifth Romano-British Province of Valentia – Part One

Over the next few blogs, I’d like to share my thoughts on the so called Barbarian Conspiracy, the creation of Valentia and its siting.  I do not claim it to be a scholarly work, but I have tried to give as many references as possible but there will be no bibliography.


The Barbarian Conspiracy of 367 AD

By the late fourth century, the Roman Diocese of Britannia was divided into five provinces: Maxima Caesariensis, Valentia, Flavia Caesariensis, Britannia Prima, Britannia Secunda.  There is no universal agreement as to where these were, but most place them (roughly) as shown on the map above (or left).  (I will show another theory as to where they were later).  In the map, Valentia has been situated in the three most argued regions. (I’ve followed modern day county boundaries, just as a guide and given Maxima Caesariensis two possible western borders).

It’s said that the Barbarian Conspiracy of 367 involved the Picti, Scotti and Attacotti  (AtticotiAttacotiAtecottiAtticottiAtegutti).    The latter tribe is hard to identify and they have been placed as far afield as the west coast of Scotland and southwest Wales.   Wherever they were from, after the Conspiracy they ended up being ‘moved’ and three Roman military units were created from them.

The 4th century imperial historian Ammianus Marcellinus, whose account this is, tells us that the Saxons were not involved in it as they and the Franks were busy attacking Gaul this time around.

When Count Theodosius arrived in London to sort the problem out, we are not told who was doing the attacking of the city, they are just called a “roving band of plunderers”.  We also don’t know who killed the Count of the Saxon Shore either but it probably allowed the Picts to sail some 500 miles to get to London. If, indeed, they did and these ‘roving bands’ weren’t rebellious soldiers.

Ammianus also tells us the Conspiracy included treachery on the frontier defences (the Wall), army desertion and, two years later, the usurpation of the political exile Valentinus (who the new province was not named after), his capture and execution.

It has also been questioned as to why Ammianus tells us that Count Theodosius wanted to avoid reprisals for fear of further disturbances.

“[...] led him [Theodosius], with an eye to the future, to forbid investigations into fellow-conspirators, incase this should spread alarm among many people and stir up again in the province [...]”

He’s telling us he didn’t want to stir up a problem within the province again.  Was the Barbarian Conspiracy as much a propaganda exaggeration?  Was it more of a ‘Romano Conspiracy’? After all, Theodosius was the father of one of the current emperors. Was it as much a cover-up for civil unrest caused, or added to, by Valentinus? Whatever the case, the area most affected was won back and (re)named Valentia after one of the emperors.

It appears that this province was ’abandoned to the enemy’ in 367 (or before) and wasn’t regained until 369 or later.  Considering that Theodosius fought against Scotti and Picti it could be the northwest or northeast below the Wall, the whole area below the Wall or, indeed, anywhere down the western seaboard to North Wales.

Professor Birley in his book ‘The Roman Government of Britain’ believes that Britannia Secunda may have already been divided, possibly north and south as opposed to east and west, with the new part – whatever it was called originally – being renamed Valentia. Bartholomew (Britannia 15, 1984) argues for Maxima Caesariensis being renamed.  Hind (Historia, 23, 1973) suggests the whole diocese was renamed, Ferre believes York was its capital, whilst Gidlow (Revealing King Arthur, 2010) wonders about Maxima Caesariensis having been divided.  Let us look at the merits of each one.

Valentia between the Walls

There are some who argue for Valentia being the region between the Walls (‘The Old North’) as shown on the map above.  If it was here, this, of course, would had to have meant that this region was retake by someone, such as the co-Emperor Constans in 343. There was a campaign against a situation in Britannia that must have been so serious that he crossed the Channel in winter. It would make sense to retake the region if this was the direction from which the attacks were coming, or the kingdoms there were also complicit in it.  It could also make sense of the Roman names of the ancestors of Cunedda of Manau Gododdin (west of St. Andrews in Fife). But there are several problems with this argument:

  1. There is no evidence of reoccupation of the region.
  2. There is no evidence of a triumphal march given to an emperor taking new territory.
  3. If this was a region that had caused problems, or at least been complicit in them, would the Empire simply let these tribes look after their own military needs, and not re-station legions in the area.  It could be there were foederti, laeti or gentiles stationed there who we’re not aware of, but if there were they left no archaeology, apart from the coin hordes at Trapian Law.  It might be argued that they would only give such coins to a place that had an economy or system that could use them, but this seems to be the only evidence so far.  It’s also possible that they were simply ‘paid’ to keep them ‘sweet’, and the use of such payment forcing them to buy from the Empirical Britannia to the south. There is also the possibility that they were taken by raiding.
  4. The creation of other provinces within a diocese elsewhere in the empire have always come through the division of an existing province (Mann, 1998).
  5. It seems possible that they did what the Romans had done elsewhere and placed small detachment within ‘kingdoms’ to keep an eye on them, giving them citizen status but not making them a province. (Mann, 1998).   Quintilius Clemens of Stathclyde may have been one.
  6. The cost of creating another new province would be immense.

Valentia was placed in this region by the 12th century Cambro-Norman cleric Gerald de Barri, otherwise known as Geraldus Cambrensis or ‘Gerald of Wales’.  He not only placed it here but gave its provincial capital as St. Andrews.  Of course, this would not just make Valentia between the Walls but put it beyond as St. Andrews is in northeast Fife. (See map above)

As argued by Ann Dornier (Britannia, Vol. 13, (1982), 259) this could be a political move as there was very much a ecclesiastical ‘fight’ between York and St. Andrews in the 12th century as the latter was trying to get primacy in Scotland over the former, and Gerald probably favoured St. Andrews. Any claim to supremacy was helped that much more by showing a Roman past and making St. Andrews the capital of Valentia would do just that.

It should be possible to discover if Valentia was between the Walls or within the original diocese by where the Notitia Dignitatum (c.380-430), which lists the military units and their placements, has them; but this is not only hampered by the difficulty of identifying all the Latin place names but by the fact units in Valentia aren’t mentioned at all. (Perhaps this latter fact could be used as an argument for Valentia being between the Walls).

There appears to be only two places that are questioned – Dicti (Old Worthingham?) and Morbio (Ilkley?) – both in the north, and three that are unknown – Praesidio, Olenaco and Ulrosido.  The latter two are listed as units on the Wall (Hadrian’s).  If it was the case that Valentia was between the Walls then this might leave only one unit that protected it, besides the the 10 units of the Comes Britanniarum.  There is no evidence for the refortification of the Antonine Wall.

There could also be a problem with where its provincial capital would be placed, St. Andrews aside, as it wouldn’t have one originally. It is possible that the area around Carlisle was adjoined to it, as this did happen elsewhere in the empire.

In the next blog I’ll look at some other location options.

Thanks for reading,



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