Manning of the Limes by Britons

An inscription dated to AD 145-6 referred to numeri Brittones, indicating that a number of recruited British tribesmen, presumably accompanied by women and children, had been transplanted to this remote forest outpost. One imagines their long journey, with its dangerous sea crossing from Britannia to the continent and the long trek along Roman roads through Belgica and Germania superior to the Odenwald. The exact date of their arrival is also unknown but could have been as early as AD 100 when the original numerus fort was built as part of the Odenwald – Limes. The fact that a Latin inscription commemorates their presence in the middle of the second century AD suggests that they were comfortable with the Latin language and were therefore, by then, long settled in.

Britons served at various forts along the Limes. Their places of origin are not known with certainty but it has been observed that their buildings on the Limes are unusual and have stonework similar in decorative style to that found at the Antonine Wall in northern Britannia. At the far eastern end of the Raetian – Limes a cohort of Brittonnes once held a vital fort at Eining (Abusina) on the Danube. On the Upper Germanic – Limes they formed the numerus Brittonum Elantiensium which manned the annex fort at Osterburken (Fig. 10). Further north, near Walldürn, the restored foundations of a substantial fort bathhouse built by Brittones can be seen, together with a replica of the original inscribed altar (AD 232) dedicated to Fortuna, goddess of fate (Fig. 17). To the south of this site, one can walk the Limes along a dead-straight pathway through quiet forest clearings and pick out the stone foundations of the watchtowers which occur every 5-10 minutes walking time. In these surroundings the centuries melt away.

Fig. 17 – Altar stone and fort bathhouse foundations (Walldürn sector, Antonine Limes).