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Roman York was not just a garrison settlement. Across the Ouse, to the south-west, lay a major Roman town, with typically Roman accoutrements - public baths, public buildings, temples to a variety of Roman gods, shops, a water supply, drainage, sewers and houses, some luxurious with underground heating, mosaic floors and marble panelling. It had quickly become a thriving port, handling olive oil, wine, red Samian ware from Gaul, fine tableware from Germany and supplies of grain, pottery and horses for the army. Roman tombstones show the cosmopolitan nature of the city with merchants from Gaul, Sardinia and elsewhere. Around AD 200, it had been made the capital of Britannia Inferior (Upper Britain) - and therefore seat of the governor or praeses - when Britain had been divided into two provinces; and it was probably during Severus' time in the city that York was given the status of a Colonia (though it may have already been a self-governing Municipium). This was an honourary title which had, by this time, lost its original military veteran connertations and instead indicated that York was the amongst the most important towns of the Empire.
A century later, during the usurpation of the British Emperor Allectus, Diocletian further divided Britain into four small provinces during his search for improved administrative effectiveness. Though the administration was not established until the Western deputy Emperor, Constantius, had re-established Roman Imperial power in AD 296. By this time, Pictish warriors appear to have raided as far south as York and Chester and Constantius probably visited the city before campaigning north of Hadrian's Wall. York remained a provincial capital, this time of Britannia Secunda (Secondary Britain) and the commander of the Sixth Legion was made governor. The name of only one governor is known - Aurelius Arpagius. The office held by this man was therefore in charge of both civil and military matters in the province. However, around AD 300, possibly as a result of Constantius' campaigns, the governor's military powers were given away to the Dux Britanniuarum, a new position created to command the Roman frontier along Hadrian's Wall and throughout Northern Britain.
Constantius certainly returned to Britain and his Caledonian conquests in AD 306, for he died in York on 25th June that year. His son, Constantine, who was campaigning with his father, was immediately heralded in the city as the new Emperor by his troops; and after defeating rivals on the Continent, he became one of the Empire's greatest rulers. His statue can be seen near the Minster's south transept. It was Constantine the Great who became the first Christian Emperor and in AD 312 declared religious toleration throughout the Empire. Only two years later, three British Bishops attended the Council of Arles. One, Ebraucus, came from York, showing the speed at which the new religion had spread. The site of this man's cathedral has not yet been discovered.
At the time of Constantine's push for the Imperial Crown, one of his greatest supporters in York was one "Crocus, King of the Alemanni," almost certainly the leader of the Germanic foederati settled in the Vale of York and Wolds of East Yorkshire. These continental warlords were given areas of farmland in return for military service from at least the early 4th century. In AD 367, during "Great Barbarian Conspiracy," Pictish and Scottish warriors poured into the province over Hadrian's Wall, helped by rebellious Germanic mercenaries in the Roman army. At this time, even the Dux Britanniarum was of Gothic extraction, a man with the Latinized Germanic name of Fullofaudes. He was almost certainly a Rhinelander or Romano-Vandal recruited as a commander in the Roman army as part of the normal Imperial policy. He was ambushed and captured by his countrymen. An interesting situation which was planting the seeds of events to come in York.