Fosse Way

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Roman Britain, with the Fosse Way in red

The Fosse Way was one of the main Roman roads in Britain. It linked Exeter (Isca Dumnoniorum) in South West England to Lincoln (Lindum Colonia) in the East Midlands. The road went via Ilchester (Lindinis), Bath (Aquae Sulis), Cirencester (Corinium) and Leicester (Ratae Corieltauvorum).

It joined Akeman Street and Ermin Way at Cirencester, crossed Watling Street at Venonis (High Cross) south of Leicester, and joined Ermine Street at Lincoln.

The word Fosse is derived from the Latin fossa, meaning ditch. For the first few decades after the Roman invasion of Britain in AD 43, the Fosse Way marked the western frontier of Roman rule in Iron Age Britain. It is possible that the road began as a defensive ditch that was later filled in and converted into a road, or possibly a defensive ditch ran alongside the road for at least some of its length.

It is remarkable for its extremely direct route. From Lincoln to Ilchester in Somerset is a distance of 182 miles. The road is never more than six miles from a straight line.

Place names with words like -cester or -chester are derived from the Latin castra, meaning 'military camp'. 'Street' is derived from the Latin strata, meaning a paved road.

Fosse Way still exists. In places it is a major road, in others a country path. The A46 between Lincoln and Leicester is on the Fosse Way. From Bath to Ilchester the A37 follows the Fosse, and from Ilchester to Exeter the A30/A303 roads follow the Fosse for the most part.

The Roman road is, quite simply, the shortest route possible.