Roman Fort in Iža - Kelemantia

Shortly after the end of the Marcomannic wars the Romans started with the reconstruction of the damaged or totally destroyed North-Pannonian frontier fortresses. During the reign of the Emperor Commodus most of the earth-and -timber forts were rebuild in stone. In this time a constructions of a stone fort started on the ruins of the original fort - bridgehead of Brigetio. 


The archaeological excavations shows, that it was a greatly fortified fort spreading over area of more than 3 hectares. The stone fort was of a square ground plan (175x175 m) with oblong corners, oriented according to the main geographical directions. Its two meters wide wall were perhaps 4-5 m high. From the inner side the walls were supported with an earth rampart. In the middle of each of the walls the gates protected with a couple of towers were situated. The main southern gate (porta decumana) near the bank of the Danube, was important for connection with legionary fortress in Brigetio. It had a double entrance construction with middle pillar supporting the vaults. Gate towers were of rectangle ground plan and partially stuck out from the walls. The roads under the archways of the gates were paved with rubble of quarried stone. The northern gate (porta praetoria) facing the potential enemy had only one entrance. The corner towers, as well as other towers between the gate and corner, were adjoined to the inner side of the wall. The two parallel V-shaped ditches and earth ramparts surrounding the fort from three sides, increased the protective power of the fortification.

The construction of this fort was very hard. All the necessary stone, chalk, timber, wood, bricks and tiles for the construction had to be transported by boats from the opposite bank of the Danube. The most of the stamps on the bricks are those of the I adriutix legion from Brigetio. It is clear, that this legion supplied and supervised the fort construction. Some bricks however, were transported here via the Danube from much more distant places.


The inner area of the fort is known mostly from the earlier excavations and plans of J. Tóth-Kurucz. Traditionally, the main axis of the fort were the roads (via decumana and via principalis) which always connected two opposite gates. The administrative complex was, as usually, situated in the centre of the fort, but untraditionally it was shifted towards the west gate. Omnipresent Roman baths were situated in the south-east area of the fort. The buildings excavated along the northern part of the wall, could be according to their typical ground plan with supporting pillars, determined as granaries (horrea) for grain storage. The other buildings organised in street system were used as the army barracks and stables. Some of the ground plans which were excavated and documented in drawings by J. Tóth-Kurucz, do not respect the principle of this street system and are perhaps of younger date.

In the south-west area of the fort were recently uncovered remains of another military barrack in a length of 30 m. It has a typical rectangular ground plan with the inner area divided by walls to the rooms which were used as soldier bedrooms. Well preserved is only the drystone footing of one of the inner walls. The level of trampled earth floor was preserved only in two rooms. The barrack walls were probably of timber, or combination of timber and mud-brick construction. This building was destroyed by fire presumably around the middle of the 3rd century AD - highly probably during the riots which burst out again on the northern Roman frontier. In later reconstruction works, the area of this barrack was levelled and stones of the wall bases were taken out and reused elsewhere.


In this part of the fort also the remnants of the two large bakery ovens and more wells were recovered. The construction of the wells follows the traditional Roman model. After the digging of a circular shaft and reaching the underground water table, the damaged wooden barrels were used for the lining of the bottom of the well. The upper part of the shaft was then lined up with the circular stone wall. The dendrology analyses showed that the wooden barrels were made out of pine and fir wood.


   The finds of objects used for food storage, preparation and serving the meals, lamps, but also animal and charred plant macro-remains document that the troop occupying the fort was totally dependant on supplies (food, raw materials, final products...) from Brigetio and adjacent North-Pannonian territory. The most numerous are finds of the pottery (cooking pots and serving dishes, lids, jars, cups and plates) which were produced in the pottery workshops in Brigetio. Even if some of the more luxurious pieces were produced there, it was not able to cover the need of the high quality serving dishes. Therefore, these were brought here also from more distant centres. Imported was mostly terra sigillata - an “antique porcelain” from the west Roman provinces (Gallia, Germania, Raetia). The import of this special pottery to Brigetio and its bridgehead got its peak during the reign of the Severian Dynasty (end of the 2nd and beginning of the 3rd century AD) when goods from important centres in Germania (Rheinzabern, Westerndorf) were brought by trade. During these times Brigetio played an important role also in supplying the neighbouring Quadii tribes with terra sigillata products.

The meals of the soldiers consisted mainly of cereal porridge, bread and meat (pork, beef, mutton, poultry and fish). Those were prepared on the stoves situated inside the rooms of military barracks. Bread was the exception, as for baking the bread a special - bakery oven is needed. Usually it was a technically simple structure with flat brick bottom and a clay cupola with the single opening. This kind of ovens were either placed in specialised bakery buildings and sometimes the batteries of such ovens were situated along the inner part of the fortification walls. Here in Iža two individual ovens were recovered close to the side towers. In this area of the camp they were protected against wind, and did not threaten the running and security of the fort. According their size and construction, it is clear that their function was only temporary and subsidiary.


The more detailed history of the fort of the middle of the 3rd century AD is unknown. The visible traces of rebuilding of the defensive system date to the 4th century AD. During the reign of Constantine Dynasty the old fortifications of the North-Pannonian frontier were reconstructed and new ones were build. The construction changes of the fort in Iža - with building a bastion towers at the northern gate as well as on three out of four corners, happened probably at those times. The towers were now much more prominent, and allowed better protection and fortification. The last building activity in he fort area goes back to the end of the 4th century AD under the rule of Valentinian I. - who made the last attempt to strengthen the Roman power on the middle Danube. The Roman building activity of this period is in Iža documented by several finds of stamped bricks. At this time the northern gate was closed by building a wall inside the gateway and in front of the southern gate a semicircle ditch with bottom paved with flat stone plates was added. Since than probably was the fort protected by a system of 5 lines of V-shaped ditches and ramparts.

The Roman power pressure caused another war conflict. In 374 AD Quadi, Marcomanni and Sarmatian tribes crossed Danube and invaded Roman territory. In the spring of 375 AD Valentinian I. led another war campaign against Quadi and fort in Iža could have played an important role. The marching camp found in the north west proximity of the fort was probably build also during this time. The sudden death met Valentinianus I. in Brigetio in autumn of the same year - during the peace negotiations with Quadi. After his death and after the defeat of Roman army at Hadrianopolis, weakened Roman Army was not able to protect the Empire borders against the increasing number of attacks and Pannonian territory was invaded by more barbarian tribes and nations.

The fort in Iža was probably destroyed during these invasions. In its ground temporarily settled Quadi, mixed with groups of newcomers presumably Goths or Allans. After their departure stayed this area unsettled.

Many questions remain unanswered even after many years of research. Unknown is the name of the military unit serving at the fort - bridgehead of Brigetio. Questioned is also the ancient name of Kelemantia, used for the fort according the descriptions of geographer Klaudios Ptolemaios. However, the research impressively broadened originally fragmented knowledge about the building history of the fort, and also added to the knowledge of the important historical events of this territory in period of the 2nd to the 5th century AD.




    © ElenaBlazova