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Richborough (Rutupiae) is one of the Saxon Shore forts built to defend the southeast coast against Saxon pirates. As southern Britain was subjugated, the fort quickly became a supply depot for the invading army. After AD 85 (probably 87/88), the site was cleared and a monumental four-way marble arch was constructed to commemorate the conquest of the new province, its foundation still dominating the site. (In fact, at this very time, Roman troops were being withdrawn from Scotland and the fort at Inchtuthil dismantled and abandoned.) Then, in about AD 275, the momument, which by then had fallen into disrepair and was being used as a watchtower, and the protective rampart and triple ring of ditches that surrounded it, were leveled and filled in.

The Channel was increasingly under threat by Saxon pirates, and the fort now was enclosed by massive stone walls. They likely had been completed when, in AD 286, Maximian (who, that same year, had been chosen by Diocletian to rule as emperor in the west as part of an intended Tetrarchy), appointed Carausius commander of the Roman fleet at Boulogne. Accused of keeping for himself the plundered goods that were recovered, Carausius was sentenced to be executed but fled to Britain, declaring himself emperor (indeed, this usurpation may have led to Maximian being conferred Augustus). Strong enough to force a temporary truce in AD 289, he eventually was murdered in AD 293 by Allectus, his finance minister, who then ruled Britain until his own defeat three years later.

Inside the walls are enclosed a paired line of defensive ditches built when the Romans first landed in Britain.

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