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Victoria County History of Kent Vol. 3  1932 - Romano-British Kent - Towns - Page 81

was an attractive one. It is a small, flat promontory of clean chalk and gravel sheltered within a fold of the Medway and rising slowly southwards to the Kentish hills. With water or marshland on three sides of it, defence did not present any special difficulty, although from a military point of view the site is not notably strong. Indeed, its landward accessibility is, in some degree, rivalled by its accessibility from the sea, and the modern development of the district might tempt us to compare its position at the head of. ‘the Medway estuary with that of the port of. London near the former limit of the tidal Thames. The Medway estuary, however, is a dangerous one, and, besides, a harbour at this point can have, had no great attractions for the men of Romano-British times. The principal routes which then connected. ‘south-eastern Britain and the Continent were either a short sea passage to an East Kent port with a journey by land, or, in the alternative, a long sea: voyage direct to London. The use of Rochester as a port. would have meant a fairly long sea voyage with an appreciable land journey in addition, and this suited neither quick nor slow, traffic, We must therefore suppose that it was rather the other advantages of the site which drew settlers to the spot—the North Kent roadway, the facilities for a bridge, and perhaps. more the combination of these facilities than any one of them singly.
   The name of this Roman bridge-head settlement. is not in doubt. The Second Iter of the Antonine Itinerary places Durobrivae—if that be the nominative .of a. name which occurs only in the dative or ablative, Durobrivis—at a distance of 25 miles from Durovernum or Canterbury, along the main road towards London. This . distance falls barely a mile short of the map-distance for Rochester. Again, in the Third and Fourth Itinera, the same distance is given as 27 (Roman) miles. A garbled version of the name should perhaps be recognised in the Roribis which, lies north-west of Durolevo (probably Faversham—p. 93) on the Peutinger Map (P1.VI), and should, it has been boldly suggested, be restored as [Du]rorbus ;16b whilst the Ravenna Geographer places Durobravis in his list between Richborough and London. As in the case of Canterbury (see above, p. 63)—though our evidence is here less abundant—the Roman name of Rochester seems occasionally to have survived the introduction of its Saxon. successor, Rofesceastre; for a Kentish coin of the ninth century bears the inscription DOROBREBIA CIBIT. The precise significance of such survivals or revivals is not, indeed, easy to estimate. They should perhaps be ascribed rather to literary than to folk tradition, but the question fortunately does not arise in the present context.
   The details of ‘the Romano-British settlement itself are scantily known. Indeed, but for the observations of Mr. George Payne and others towards the end of the last century, we could not attempt to draw any picture of it. The most striking remains are those of the Roman walls, preserved to some small extent in the medieval fortifications. The walls are described variously as 6 ft., 7 ft. and 8 ft. in ,thickness, a variation which may be explained partially by the presence in at least one stretch17 of an internal offset, 8 in. wide, at a height of 1 ft. 8 in. above the base. The best attested measurement gives the width as 6 ft.. 10 in.18  The core, which stands to a maximum height of 14 ft., is of
   16b  See O. G. S. Crawford, Journal of Roman Studies, xiv, 138.
   17   Arch. Cant. xxxvii, lxvi, referring to a discovery along the line of the north-eastern wall.
   18   Ibid. xxix, lxxxiv.

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