Milliare or Milestone
Previous page: Other Roman Remains
The well known Milliare or Milestone now in the Museum ranks, however, next in importance to the Jewry Wall and neighbouring Mosaic Pavement, as a relic of the Roman period; and in addition to the fact of its being the oldest stone inscription in Britain it is also valuable as recording the date of the journey of the Emperor Hadrian to these shores in A.D. 120.
This Milestone was brought to light in 1771, while digging gravel by the Foss Road, near to the old toll-gate at Thurmaston, where for twelve years afterwards it was allowed to remain, unprotected and uncared for, save by the antiquarians whom chance or curiosity directed to the spot.
In 1783, however, the Leicester Corporation took possession of the venerable relic, and erected it as an object of interest in Belgrave Gate, near the junction of Bedford Street, utilising it at the same time as a pedestal for a street lamp. The latter was afterwards replaced by a stone cross.
Unfortunately its exposed position was extremely detrimental to the disinterred Milestone. The sharpness of its in inscription rapidly began to wear off, and some of the letters had actually disappeared, when in 1844 the Literary and Philosophical Society came to the rescue, and by memorialising the Corporation upon the subject, succeeded in procuring the removal of the valuable relic to the Museum, where it could undergo no further deterioration.
The inscription translated runs as follows:
"To the Emperor and Caesar the august Trajan Hadrian, son of the divine Trajan, surnamed Particus, grandson of the divine Nerva Pontifex Maximus, four times invested with Tribunitial power, three times Consul. From Ratae. Two miles."
Visits by the Roman Emperors to their distant colonies in Britain were extremely rare, so the imposing progress of the great Hadrian through the island formed a very important episode; hence the dedication to him of this Milestone, probably erected just after, or at the time of, his passage through Ratae on his route northwards.
Next page: Roman Rule and Governance