IN BRIT ANIA' Roman Stylus Tablet

Contributed by Tullie House Museum

Roman stylus tablet, inscribed with the words- 'IN BRIT ANIA'.  © Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery

This letter was sent to Carlisle within a few years of the construction of the Roman fort, in AD72/73.This stylus tablet is the earliest contemporary written reference to the use of the name "Britannia" by the Romans demonstrating that soon after their arrival in the north of England, they had adopted or created "official" place-names and that this knowledge had spread far enough in the empire for it to be used to address letters. The tablet shows that Carlisle was a part of the imperial world with its international communications, exchanging letters with other provinces of the Roman empire.

This tablet also has a local importance because it was found by excavation in the centre of the city, in the annexe to the Roman fort of Luguvalium (modern Carlisle), very close to the museum that now houses it.

The stories that are connected with this small piece of wood include a very powerful one about the nature of conquest and imperialism, in which the countryside is surveyed and named by the occupiers. It is also about the legacy of the Roman Empire, in that we still call the island by the name it was given nearly 2000 years ago.

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