Description: Arbeia is the remains of a large Roman fort in South Shields, Tyne & Wear, which has been partially reconstructed. It was first excavated in the 1870s and all modern building on the site were cleared in the 1970s. It is now managed by Tyne & Wear Museums.
The fort stands on the Lawe Top, overlooking the River Tyne. Founded around 120, it later became the maritime supply fort for Hadrian's Wall, and contains the only permanent stone-built granaries yet found in Britain. It was occupied until the Romans left Britain in the 5th century.
"Arbeia" means "fort of the Arab troops", referring to the fact that part of its garrison at one time was a squadron of Syrian boatmen from the Tigris. We also know that a squadron of Spanish cavalry, the First Asturian, was stationed there. It was common for forts to be manned by units originally from elsewhere in the empire, though often enough these would assimilate and end up by recruiting locally.
Two monuments at Arbeia testify to the cosmopolitan nature of its shifting population. One commemorates Regina, a British woman of the Kentish Cattivellauni tribe, who was first the slave, then the freedwoman and wife of Barates, a Syrian merchant who evidently missed her greatly when she died at the age of 30. (Barates himself is buried at the nearby fort of Corbridge). The second commemorates Victor, another former slave freed by Numerianus of the First Asturian cavalry, who also arranged his funeral ("plantissime": with all devotion) when Victor died at the age of 20. The stone records that Victor was "of the Moorish nation".
A Roman gatehouse and barracks have been reconstructed on their original foundations, while a museum holds artefacts such as an altarpiece to a previously unknown god, and a Roman-era gravestone set up by a native Palmyrene to his and wife, a freed British slave of the Catuvellauni tribe. There is also a tablet with the name of the Emperor Alexander Severus (d. 235) chiselled off.