Camboduno

At some stage in the Roman conquest of Britain, an imperial surveyor drew a line across the country between the legionary fortresses of Chester and York.  South and east of that line the Pax Romana generally prevailed.  North and west lay territory as yet unconquered.  Along that line ran a Roman road, which allowed army bases to communicate and to support each other.  In the middle, it crossed the Pennine backbone of England, roughly along the line of the modern M62, documented as number 712 of Margary (1973), though the Huddersfield Archaeological Society have traced the exact course of the road and found slight differences from Margary's version.

Iter 2 of the Antonine Itinerary follows that road, and its section from Tadcaster to Manchester (where it is listing places from east to west) runs thus:

Calcaria  –  20 miles  –  Camboduno  –  18 miles  –  Mamucio

The actual distance from Tadcaster to Manchester is about 79 km, or 55 Roman miles (give or take a bit for imperfect straightness and route uncertainties), so something is obviously wrong.  AI seems to have lost 17 miles.  R&S suggested that AI's manuscripts have lost a line, because a copyist got confused by the similar name of a site in that region, which Ptolemy recorded as Καμουλοδουνον.  Their proposed amendment would then run:

Calcaria  –  14 miles  –  Camboduno  –  20 miles  –  *Camuloduno  –  23 miles  –  Mamucio

This would place Camboduno at Leeds, with a hypothetical Roman fort awaiting discovery under the town centre.  It would identify *Camulodono with the Roman fort at Slack, under Outlane Golf Club, at SE08451745, near Huddersfield.  A simple copying error might have transformed XXIII into XVIII miles.  A plausible idea, but it must be rejected.

The fort at Slack sits on a platform above a small river gully, of Longwood Brook. This is not at all like the situation of Camulodunum (Colchester) where camulus meant ‘low hill’.  And for Ptolemy's Καμουλοδουνον one would expect a native power centre, but Slack and its surrounding hills do not show strong evidence of a hillfort or early elite burials.

On the other hand, the Slack fort would fit a name of Camboduno.  See under Camboglanna, Cambroianna, and Camborico for discussions of initial Camb-, which everyone agrees referred to curvature, but Celtic scholars envisage curves in the horizontal place, like bends in a river.  They have not yet accepted that curves in the vertical plane, like hills and ridges, as in the modern words camber and kame, are more in keeping with ancient use of Camb-.

In the early days of conquest there were other forts on this road (such as at Castleshaw) and later there were probably civilian settlements catering for travellers, such as at Greetland. However, when AI was written there might indeed have been just one garrisoned stopping place at Camboduno.  In conditions of relative peace, 55 Roman miles is a reasonable distance for Roman soldiers to march in two days, or for a courier to cover in one day with one horse change.  One just needs to accept that iter 2 suffered two copying errors in its mileages: XXX turned into XX and XXIII turned into XVIII.  So the correct reading here should be:

Calcaria  –  30 miles  –  Camboduno   –  23 miles  –  Mamucio

It follows that there is no reason to seek Ptolemy's Καμουλοδουνον, or RC's Camulodono along this road.  See here about where it might be.

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Last Edited: 14 November 2016.