You are standing within Navio, a Roman Fort established in 80CE. Nearby you should be able to see a pile of gritstone slabs sitting within a hollow – the remains of an underground chamber that sat below the Principia (headquarters building). When the chamber was excavated in 1903 large stone objects were discovered.
The Centurial Stone records the rebuilding of Navio in around 158CE. The Latin inscription translates as:
For the Emperor Caesar Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius, Father of his country, the 1st cohort of Aquitanians under Julius Verus, the Emperor’s Praetorian Legate in the charge of Capitonius […]scus, prefect, built this.
The first fort had been built from earth and timber, but was abandoned after only around 45 years. The region had been conquered and more troops were needed further north. This stone records the re-establishment of Navio, possibly following a local revolt. This time more of the fort was built in stone, including the Principia with its underground vault. The soldiers came from Aquitaine, in what is now southwestern France.
Another find from beneath the Principia was this altar, also carved from local gritstone. The side of the altar is decorated with a circular wreath with ribbons with an inscription inside. The Latin translates to:
To the goddess Arnomecta, Aelius Motio gladly, willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow
‘Arnomecta’ could be a deviation on ‘Arnemetiae’, the goddess associated with the springs in Buxton who gave the town its Roman name, Aquae Arnemetiae.
This altar was recorded to have stood for a long time in the nearby village of Hope, but is presumed to have originally come from the fort’s underground room. It was moved to Buxton Museum in around 1904.
Roman altars were painted in bright colours and placed with military banners either side. They may also have been used for rituals such as ‘reading the entrails’ to tell the future.
Navio was part of a network of forts established during the conquest of the Peak District. Some forts, such as Navio, were soon abandoned as the frontier moved north, only to be recoccupied and built in stone later on after local unrest.
Once reoccupied, Navio continued to be used until around 350CE. The fort guarded the principal route from the north east and north west of England. It also guarded the road which ran southwards into the lead producing areas of the Peak District.
A civilian settlement (known as a vicus) was established at a similar time to the fort, and abandoned at around the same time too. These buildings appear to have housed various commercial and industrial activities.