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Luguvalium (or, possibly, Luguvalium Carvetiorum) was a town in the Roman province of Britannia and capital of the late Roman province of Valentia. Today it is known as Carlisle, located in the English county of Cumbria (formerly in Cumberland).


Limited Iron Age occupation of the site presumably represents the Brythonic settlement of Luguvalion. The name means 'the strong place of Luguwalos' (Luguwalos is believed to be the personal name derived from the Celtic deity, Lugus). Or a proper name of a Celtic noble of the local Carvetii tribe. Luguvalium is the Latin form.


Around AD 72, the Romans built a timber fort on the site. Following its demolition around AD 103, a second timber fort was built. About AD 165 the fort was replaced by a stone fort.[1] Timber structures further to the south-east were probably associated military buildings. These were later replaced in stone. When the civilian settlement in this area was enclosed by a stone wall is unknown, but it is generally assumed to have followed the line of the later medieval wall. The town probably became the civitas capital of the Carvetii tribe some time in the 2nd century. A single large stone building has been located which may have been for administrative use. Industry included copper working and tanning, while merchant traders were also in evidence. Inscriptions show there was a Mithraeum in the town and possibly a temple to Mars.[2]


Romano-British occupation of Luguvalium seems to have been unbroken. It became known as Caer Ligualid in Old Welsh and possible 5th century buildings have been identified during excavation. Saint Cuthbert visited the town in the 7th century and described the high stone walls and an impressive fountain, presumably fed by a still functioning aqueduct.[citation needed] The place was under the control of a 'praepositus civitatis'.


The Romans called their settlement at what is today Carlisle, Luguvalium,[3] originally thought to mean 'wall[ed town] of the god Lugus' (compare Welsh Lleu, Irish Lugh) but since explained as a Common Brittonic location name *Luguwaljon deriving from a personal name *Luguwalos meaning 'strength of the god Lugus'.[4]

The name apparently continued in use among Brythonic speakers in the Hen Ogledd and Wales and it was during that time that the initial element caer 'fort' was added. The place is mentioned in Welsh sources such as Nennius, who calls it Caer Ligualid, and the Book of Taliesin where it is rendered Caer Liwelyδ,[5] identical to modern Welsh Caer Liwelydd, a Welsh development from the earlier British *Luguwaljon.[4]

The earliest English record is Luel (c. 1050)[6] and later medieval forms include Cardeol, Karlioli, Cærleoil. These appear to suggest that the northern form of the name did not have the final -ydd (compare the River Derwent in Cumbria with Derwenydd in Wales, both < Brythonic *Derwentjū).


  1. ^ Pearce, John. "Locations around Vindolanda". Vindolanda Tablets Online. Retrieved 2007-01-29. 
  2. ^ Burnham, Barry C; Wacher, John (1990). The Small Towns of Roman Britain. London: B T Batsford. 
  3. ^ Antonine Itinerary
  4. ^ a b Jackson, Kenneth (1953). Language and History in Early Britain. Edinbugh, UK: Edinburdh University Press. p. 39. ISBN 1-85182-140-6. 
  5. ^ "Why Was Welsh Literature First Written Down?" in H. Fulton, Medieval Celtic Literature and Society, Dublin: Four Courts Press (2005) ISBN 1 85182 928 8, pp. 15–31.
  6. ^ Bede's Lugubalia (c730 AD) is based on the Latin form.

Coordinates: 54°53′42″N 2°56′13″W / 54.895°N 2.937°W / 54.895; -2.937

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