Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester, Hampshire), or Calleva of the Atrebates, is a Roman town built on a tribal dun of the Atrebates. It's a main setting in The Eagle of the Ninth and its sequel The Silver Branch.
- Map (Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire)
- Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites
- English Heritage
- 61 CE (Song for a Dark Queen) – 14th and 20th Legions pass through en route to meet Boudicca's host at Londinium.
- 129 CE (The Eagle of the Ninth) – The eagle deposited in Uncle Aquila's hypocaust.
- 295 CE (The Silver Branch) – Town burnt and Eagle lost in the destroyed basilica.
- c. 470s (The Lantern Bearers) – Site of Ambrosius and Hengest's armistice treaty.
- c. 500-510s (Sword at Sunset) – Sometime site of Artos's court.
- Uncle Aquila's house, near the East Gate
- Walls & gates; British earthworks
- The Forest of Spinaii
- Entrance arch
- Wine-shops, money-changers, garland-maker
- Sull-Minerva, near Uncle Aquila's house
- Transit camp, outside the walls
- Amphitheatre, outside the East Gate
- The Golden Vine, posting inn near by the North Gate
- Baths & gymnasium
- The Silver Garland, wine-shop (295 CE)
- Roads to Londinium, Venta, Sorviodunum, the Ridgeway
- 126-9 CE (The Eagle of the Ninth)
- Uncle [Flavius] Aquila
- Marcus Flavius Aquila
- Esca Mac Cunoval
- Narcissa, nurse
- Beppo, circus-master
- Ulpius, doctor
- Lucius Urbanus, contractor's son
- 292-5 CE (The Silver Branch)
- Aunt Honoria
- Balbus, doctor
Song for a Dark Queen (61 CE) Edit
Calleva of the Atrebates is mentioned by Andragius as the route of the Legions from Glevum towards Londinium. No scenes of the story are set there.
- (13) "They never came to the place beyond Verulamium where the road is cut. Maybe the eagles of the sky told them of our war-bands on the move. They turned aside, somewhere up in the mid-lands, and went south through the gap in the High Chalk, heading for Calleva of the Atrebates."
- (13) [Agricola's letters] The twentieth and the Fourteenth have got through to us, by a roundabout way through friendly territory.
The Eagle of the Ninth (126-9 CE) Edit
The Eagle of the Ninth is based on the (no longer current) theory that the eagle discovered in the Silchester archaeological site was the standard of the Ninth Legion, thought to have been lost in Caledonia (also a no-longer-current theory.) Calleva therefore is the home of its rescuer Marcus.
- Foreword: During the excavations at Silchester nearly eighteen hundred years later, there was dug up under the green fields which now cover the pavements of Calleva Atrebatum, a wingless Roman Eagle, a cast of which can be seen to this day in Reading Museum. Different people have had different ideas as to how it came to be there, but no one knows, just as no one knows what happened to the Ninth Legion after it marched into the northern mists.
- (5) Uncle Aquila lived on the extreme edge of Calleva. One reached his house down a narrow side-street that turned off not far from the East Gate, leaving behind the forum and the temples, and coming to a quiet angle of the old British earthworks—for Calleva had been a British Dun before it was a Roman city—where hawthorn and hazel still grew and the shyer woodland birds sometimes came. It was much like the other houses of Calleva, timbered and red-roofed and comfortable, built round three sides of a tiny courtyard that was smoothly turfed and set about with imported roses and gum-cistus growing in tall stone jars.
- (5) He would wake in the dark mornings to hear the distant notes of cockcrow sounding from the transit camp just outside the city walls, and that did not make it any easier.
- (5) The inevitable wind was roaring up through the Forest of Spinaii below the old British ramparts, driving with it squalls of sleet that spattered against the windows.
- (5) They arrived early, but by the time they were settled on one of the cushioned benches reserved for the Magistrates and their families (Uncle Aquila was a Magistrate, though he had not come in a litter), the amphitheatre just outside the East Gate was already filling up with eager spectators.
- (6) “It will be Lucius Urbanus, the contractor’s son,” Esca said. “There is a back way from his stables which comes through behind the temple of Sull-Minerva.”
- (7) It was a rather wild garden, for Uncle Aquila did not keep a full-time garden slave, but a very pleasant one, running down to the crumbling earthworks of British Calleva. In some places the fine stone-faced city walls were already rising. One day they would rise here too, but as yet there was only the curved wave-break of old quiet turf, glimpsed between the branches of wild fruit trees; and where the bank dipped, stray glimpses over mile upon mile of forest country rolling away into the smoke-blue distance where the Forest of Spinaii became the Forest of Anderida, and the Forest of Anderida dropped to the marshes and the sea.
- (9) He was forever meeting [Valaria] in her litter, as he came and went about Calleva, to the baths or the gymnasium or the Golden Vine, from whose stables he and Esca had lately hired ponies once or twice for a trip into the outback; and always he had to stop and talk.
- (9) They came to the South Gate of Calleva and passed through, Esca immediately falling the usual three paces to the rear. They made their way round by the short cut behind the temple of Sull-Minerva and entered the house by the nearest door, which gave on to the slaves’ quarters and the garden.
- (20) [I]t was with a sense of homecoming that he lifted his face to the soft grey mizzle, and saw afar off, beyond the rolling miles of dappled forest, the familiar and suddenly beloved outline of the South Downs.
They rode into Calleva by the North Gate, left the horses at the Golden Vine for return to the transit camp next day, and set out on foot for the house of Aquila. In the narrow street, when they turned into it, the poplar-trees were already bare, and the way slippery with shrivelled wet leaves.
- “Why not here in Calleva? Five roads meet here, and the Legions are forever passing by, while the place itself is the territory of no particular Legion.”
He leaned forward to brush the gilded feathers lightly with one finger, his face thoughtful in the lamplight. “So long as Rome lasts, the Eagles will pass and re-pass under the walls of Calleva. What better place for it to lie?”
The Silver Branch (292-5 CE) Edit
The Silver Branch returns to Calleva for the rediscovery of the Eagle in the house of the Flavius Aquila family, and its subsequent loss in the burning basilica during the Saxon sack of the town after the nearby defeat of Allectus by Asklepiodotus.
- (Foreword) The Basilica at Calleva was burned down towards the end of the Roman occupation and later roughly rebuilt, and the Eagle which I have already written about in another story was discovered during excavations in the ruins of one of the courtrooms behind the Main Hall. At Calleva also—Silchester as it is now—there was found a stone with a man’s name carved on it in the script of ancient Irish; and the name was Evicatos, or Ebicatos, which means “Spear Man.”
- (9) Just inside the East Gate, by which they had entered, Flavius said, “This is where we turn off,” and leaving the trundling and lowing stream of market traffic, they plunged away to the left through a fringe of shops, into the gardens of some big houses, quiet save for the little hushing wind in the winter dawn; and presently, with many garden hedges behind them, emerged close to the back quarters of a house rather smaller than the rest.
- (9) They walked out of Calleva by the South Gate, broke their fast on the edge of the forest, and took the road south through the forest and over the downs to Venta.
- (11) Five great roads met at Calleva, and the Cohorts of the Eagles were forever passing and re-passing through the transit camp outside the walls; and in all the province of Britain there could have been no better place for keeping one’s eyes and ears open.
- [I]n the past few days several swordsmiths and armourers in that town, in Regnum and Venta, and now in Calleva, had received visits from a couple of strangers who bought here a plain but serviceable sword, there a heavy spear-head. Now the thing was finished, and earlier that evening Justin and Flavius had seen the last of their purchases packed in lamp-oil jars, ready for loading on to a pair of pack-mules lent them by a good friend near the South Gate. They had had a hasty meal in an eating-house just behind the Forum kept by an ex-Legionary with one eye,
- (13) [meeting Cullen] In the wide street that ran straight as a pilum-shaft from the Forum to the South Gate, a few people were abroad, despite the lateness of the hour, and the mizzle rain that had begun to fall, standing in little half-anxious, half-eager groups in shop doorways and at street corners, with an air of waiting, like people waiting for a storm to break.
- (13) Torches were flaring in the street beyond the houses, and the hunt was closing in through the gardens of the temple of Sul Minerva, as they gained the shelter of the thick-growing things at the foot of the Aquila garden and headed for the house.
- (15) “Calleva,” Flavius said. “And once half a march past Calleva, you are well down into the Thamesis Valley. That is forest too, in part, but open forest; big trees, not damp-oak scrub—and open cornland. And you will be in the very heart of the province, where it will be hard indeed for any defence to stand against you.”
- (15) But when the Western Force marched out for Londinium next morning, it was by the Venta and Calleva road.
- (16) That was to the good, anyway, Justin was thinking, casting up good and bad as he sat two nights later looking out over the camp-fires of the army massed in the shallow downland pass where the old track came up to cross the Calleva road.
- (16) The army had come up at full pace, covering the fifteen miles from Venta in three hours, a gruelling business in June, for men in heavy marching order. But they had done it, and now they waited—a long flat waiting—around their bivouac fires, while Allectus, beaten in that desperate race for the strategic pass, had made camp also, a couple of miles away, to rest his weary host, and maybe also in the hope of tempting the forces of Rome from their strong position.
- (16) From where he sat with the rest of the Lost Legion round their own fire a little above the main camp, Justin could look out to the silver snail-trail that was the moon on the metalled road to Calleva, six miles away. But that other, more ancient way, coming up from the lower ground, was hidden by the rising mist—mist which already lay like the ghost of a forgotten sea over the low ground of the Thamesis Valley; over the great camp where Allectus waited with his host.
- (17) But when the road lifted over the last ridge, and Calleva lay before them on its gentle hill, Justin saw, with a sickening lurch of the heart, that the gates were open, and the barbarians pouring through. The whole countryside was alive with fugitives by now; with desperate shadows among the trees, fleeing onward and away; and, ever more thickly, that dark stream of men, turning aside from the main flood of their fellows, to the open gate of Calleva and the prospect of loot that was more to them than escape.
- (17) The wide main street running north from the gate was already jammed with the marauders; some of the houses were on fire, and abandoned horses, terrified by the tumult and the smell of burning, were running loose among the howling mob. But a large part of the rabble had halted to sack the big posting inn just within the gates, which, from its size and air of importance, seemed to promise treasure for the taking.
- (17) The narrow ways were deserted; it seemed that most of the people must have fled to the shelter of the basilica. In the gardens of the temple of Sul Minerva, Flavius reined up in full career, and dropped to the ground, followed by the rest. “Leave the horses here. If the fire spreads they’ll have a chance to keep clear,” he panted.
- (17) Justin caught one glimpse of the gleaming white colonnades of the Forum at the top of the street, then it was behind him as he headed his little company toward the fight which was now raging lower down.
- (17) [the forum] The arch of the main entrance was overhead, proud and pompous with its marble sheathing and bronze statues, and Flavius was shouting to the townsmen with them, “Back! Get back to the basilica. We’ll hold the gate for you—do you hold the door for us when we come!”
- (17) Justin was running with the rest; running and stumbling with a bursting heart across a seemingly endless expanse of sunlit cobbles, toward the refuge of the great east door that seemed to draw no nearer.
- (17) the pounding against the main door, which had slackened a little as the barbarians found the money-changers and the wine-shops in the Forum, suddenly returned tenfold. [...] The Saxon devils must have got into the timber yard nearby, and found there something to use as a ram.
- (17) The basilica was emptying swiftly, as the women and children were passed out into the wrecked Forum, but the roar of the fire was increasing every moment, and the tall man who had recognized Flavius was improvising a bucket chain from the well outside to keep the flames back from the Records Office and Treasury while the city’s gods were got out; it was hopeless to think of doing more—the fire had too big a hold.
- (17) He was dimly aware of men and horses, of a great throng of people, of the Forum a blackened shambles, and the sounds of strife in the burning town, and the drum of horses’ hooves dying away into the distance as the Cavalry swept on after the Saxon wolves.
- (18) Strange to think how very easily Londinium might have been like Calleva—Calleva as he had seen it last, blackened and desolate under the summer rain.
- (18) Yes, Rome had avenged Carausius most fully. Justin remembered the executions that there had been in the ruined Forum at Calleva. Allectus’s as it were leading the rest, Serapion’s amongst them.
- (18) And the spread wings bright against the summer sky sent Justin’s mind back in a moment of vivid memory to the mutilated stump of a once-proud ensign, beneath which Evicatos had died, the battered Eagle that lay lost forever under the blackened ruins of Calleva’s basilica.
The Lantern Bearers (c. 450s-70s) Edit
Calleva is one of the four main cities of the lowland territories of Constantine, lost to Ambrosius. It is the site of Ambrosius and Hengest's treaty, and lies close to the frontier created by it.
- (13) Aquila glanced again at the strangers sitting beside Ambrosius in the High Place, men in Roman tunics and with clipped hair and beards. They too had ridden in only a few hours since, bringing Ambrosius word from the Roman party of the support that waited for him in Venta and Aquae Sulis, Calleva and Sorviodunum, the cities of his father’s old lowland territories.
- (16) And he set himself and his Companions with yet grimmer urgency to the task of making an army, and hammering the territories of Calleva and Venta, Aquae Sulis and Sorviodunum into one, after the years of being left to their own devices that had broken them down into separate status and turned their Magistrates, whose forebears had been petty princes, back into petty princes again.
- (18) A few days later, on the fringe of the Tamesis Valley, the British and Saxon war hosts met in battle; and five days later still, terribly, shamefully, unbelievably, the leaders of both sides met in the Basilica at Calleva, to discuss an agreed peace.
The Basilica at Calleva had been burned down, like most of the town, in the troubles that ended the reign of Emperor Allectus a hundred and fifty years ago, and, like the rest of the town, rebuilt on its own blackened rubble. Standing with the other British leaders at the council table that had been set up on the tribunal dais, Aquila could see by the clumsier workmanship where the new walls joined on to the old ones; even the stain of the burning, reddish as a stain of almost washed-out blood, showed up in the dusty sunlight that fell through the high clerestory windows of the vast hall.
- (18) “A picture of a land,” Ambrosius said. “Here is Aquae Sulis, here Cunetio, here runs the High Chalk, and here”—he stabbed downward with the dagger and left it quivering in the table between them—“we stand in the Basilica at Calleva Atrebatum, talking of a frontier.”
Sword at Sunset (c. 480s-510s) Edit
Calleva is one of the four main towns of the Old Kingdom regained by Ambrosius and held by Artos. No scenes of the story are set there.
- (34) By then, in my efforts to keep the four tribal runs of the Old Kingdom knit together, I had come to spend almost as much time in Sorviodunum, Aquae Sulis and Calleva as I did in Venta, and that year about midsummer, I took the court up to Sorviodunum.