Arbeia

Attested:  ND Arbeia, where a numerus barcariorum Tigrensium was based

WhereArbeia is generally considered to be the Roman fort at South Shields NZ36506794 at the mouth of the river Tyne, which was a supply base with big granaries and now has a fine museum and reconstructed gatehouse.  R&S chose South Shields “since this is the only suitable base for a Numerus Barcariorum”.  Unfortunately that is not true; they wrote when the huge importance of river barge traffic throughout Roman Britain was underestimated.  But if South Shields is instead allocated the name Segedunum, where else might Arbeia belong?  The mouths of the rivers Wear and Tees are attractive possibilities, but our best guess is the fort where Dere Street crossed the river Tees at Piercebridge at NZ21001575.

Name Origin:  From Arbela (modern Irbil in Kurdistan) where the Tigris barge-men in the garrison came from.  Possibly therefore related to the word Arab.  An epitaph found at Arbeia mentions Barates of Palmyra.  In the 1890s Arab seamen again settled in this area.

Notes:  The bridges at Piercebridge are controversial.  Pastscape repeats a theory that Roman stonework beside the river at NZ21451550 was a bridge abutment, long after that idea was demolished by Selkirk (1995: 265-299).  Not helpful if one wishes to work out what a name originally meant!  Selkirk described a possible inland waterway linking the river Tees to the river Wear, via the river Skerne and a series of lakes between Sedgefield and Newton Aycliffe.  If correct, that would have made Croxdale, by Sunderland Bridge on the Wear near Durham, an important focus of ancient barge activity.  See here for a general discussion of the difficulties in assigning ND names to places.

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Last Edited: 14 December 2016