From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
(Redirected from Roman London)
Jump to: navigation, search

<templatestyles src="Module:Hatnote/styles.css"></templatestyles>

A general outline of Roman London in late antiquity, with the modern banks of the Thames.[1] Discovered roads drawn as double lines; conjectural roads, single lines.

Londinium was a settlement established on the current site of the City of London around AD 43. Its bridge over the River Thames turned the city into a road nexus and major port, serving as a major commercial centre in Roman Britain until its abandonment during the 5th century.

Following its foundation in the mid-1st century, early Londinium occupied the relatively small area of Lua error in Module:Convert at line 1851: attempt to index local 'en_value' (a nil value)., roughly equivalent to the size of present-day Hyde Park, with a fortified garrison on one of its hills. In the year 60 or 61, the rebellion of the Iceni under Boudica forced the garrison to abandon the settlement, which was then razed. Following the Iceni's defeat at the Battle of Watling Street, the city was rebuilt as a planned Roman town and recovered within about a decade. During the later decades of the 1st century, Londinium expanded rapidly and quickly became Great Britain's largest city. By the turn of the century, Londinium had grown to about 60,000 people and almost certainly replaced Camulodunum (Colchester) as the provincial capital. During the 2nd century, Londinium was at its height. At the time, its forum and basilica were the largest north of the Alps. Emperor Hadrian visited in 122. Excavations have discovered evidence of a major fire which destroyed most of the city shortly thereafter, but the city was again rebuilt. In the second half of the 2nd century, Londinium appears to have shrunk in both size and population.

Although Londinium remained important for the rest of the Roman period, it appears never to have recovered fully from this slump, as archaeologists have found that much of the city after this date was covered in dark earth, which remained undisturbed for centuries. Some time between 190 and 225, the Romans built a defensive wall around the landward side of the city. Along with Hadrian's Wall and the road network, this wall was one of the largest construction projects carried out in Roman Britain. The London Wall survived for another 1,600 years and broadly continues to define the perimeter of the old City of London.

Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.


<templatestyles src="Module:Hatnote/styles.css"></templatestyles>

The etymology of the name Londinium is unknown. Following Geoffrey of Monmouth's pseudohistorical History of the Kings of Britain,[2][3] it was long derived from an eponymous founder named Lud, son of Heli. There is no evidence such a figure ever existed. Instead, the Latin name was probably based on a native Brittonic placename reconstructed as *Londinion.[5] Morphologically, this points to a structure of two suffixes: -in-jo-. However, the Roman Londinium was not the immediate source of English "London" (Old English: Lunden), as i-mutation would have caused the name to have Lyndon. This suggests an alternative Brittonic form Londonion;[8] alternatively, the local pronunciation in British Latin may have changed the pronunciation of Londinium to Lundeiniu or Lundein, which would also have avoided i-mutation in Old English.[9] The list of the 28 Cities of Britain included in the 9th-century History of the Britons precisely notes London[10] in Old Welsh as Cair Lundem[11] or Lundein.[13][10]

A map of Roman Britain[14]


The site guarded the Romans' bridgehead on the north bank of the Thames and a major road nexus. It centered on Cornhill and the River Walbrook, but expanded west to Ludgate Hill and east to Tower Hill. Just prior to the Roman conquest, the area had been contested by the Catuvellauni based to its west and the Trinovantes based to its east; it bordered the realm of the Cantiaci on the south bank of the Thames.

The Roman city ultimately covered at least the area of the City of London, whose boundaries are largely defined by its former wall. Londinium's waterfront on the Thames ran from around Ludgate Hill in the west to the present site of the Tower in the east, around 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi). The northern wall reached Bishopsgate and Cripplegate near the Museum of London, a course now marked by the street "London Wall". Cemeteries and suburbs existed outside the city proper. A round temple has been located west of the city, although its dedication remains unclear. Substantial suburbs existed at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Westminster and around the southern end of the Thames bridge in Southwark, where inscriptions suggest a temple of Isis was located[citation needed].


The status of Londinium is uncertain. It seems to have been founded as a mere vicus and remained as such even after its recovery from Boudica's revolt.[15] Ptolemy lists it as one of the cities of the Cantiacs,[citation needed] but Durovernum (Roman Canterbury) was their tribal capital (civitas). Starting as a small fort guarding the northern end of the new bridge across the River Thames, Londinium grew to become an important port for trade between Britain and the Roman provinces on the continent. The initial lack of private Roman villas (plentiful elsewhere) suggests military or even Imperial ownership.[citation needed] Tacitus wrote that, at the time of the uprising of Boudica, "Londinium... though undistinguished by the name of 'colony', was much frequented by a number of merchants and trading vessels."[17][18] Depending on the time of its creation, the modesty of Londonium's first forum may have reflected its early elevation to city (municipium) status or may have reflected an administrative concession to a low-ranking but major Romano-British settlement.[19] It had almost certainly been granted colony (colonia) status prior to the complete replanning of the city's street plan attending the erection of the great second forum around the year 120.[20]

By this time, Britain's provincial administration had also almost certainly been moved to Londinium from Camulodunum (Colchester in Essex). The precise date of this change is unknown and no surviving source explicitly states that Londinium was "the capital of Britain" but there are several strong indications of this status: 2nd-century roofing tiles have been found marked by the "Procurator" or "Publican of the Province of Britain at Londinium",[22] the remains of a governor's palace and tombstones belonging to the governor's staff have been discovered, and the city was well defended and armed, with a new military camp erected at the beginning of the 2nd century, despite being far from any frontier.[23] Despite some corruption to the text, the list of bishops for the 314 Council of Arles indicates that either Restitutus or Adelphius came from Londinium.[26] The city seems to have been the seat of the diocesan vicar and one of the provincial governors following the Diocletian Reforms around the year 300; it had been renamed Augusta—a common epithet of provincial capitals—by 368.[27]



<templatestyles src="Module:Hatnote/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Prior to the arrival of the Roman legions, the area was almost certainly lightly rolling open countryside traversed by numerous streams now underground. No major Celtic settlement has been found at the site, but the city's Latin name now seems to have derived from an originally Brittonic one and artifacts have been found showing that the hills of the London were frequented if not inhabited by small villages.[28]

Londinium grew up around the point on the River Thames narrow enough for the construction of a Roman bridge but still deep enough to handle the era's seagoing ships.[29] Its placement on the Tideway permitted easier access for ships sailing upstream against the current.[29][30] The remains of a massive pier base for such a bridge were found in 1981 close by the modern London Bridge. Some Claudian-era camp ditches have been discovered,[31] but archaeological excavations undertaken since the 1970s by the Department of Urban Archaeology at the Museum of London (now MOLAS) have suggested the early settlement was largely the product of private enterprise.[32] A wooden drain by the side of the main Roman road excavated at No 1 Poultry has been dated by dendrochronology to AD 47, which is likely to be the foundation date.[33]

Following its foundation in the mid-1st century, early Roman London occupied a relatively small area, about 350 acres (1.4 km2) or roughly the area of present-day Hyde Park. Archaeologists have uncovered numerous goods imported from across the Roman Empire in this period, suggesting that early Roman London was a highly cosmopolitan community of merchants from across the Empire and that local markets existed for such objects.

A map of the known Roman road network, highlighting the routes included in the Antonine Itinerary


<templatestyles src="Module:Hatnote/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Of the fifteen British routes recorded in the 2nd- or 3rd-century Antonine Itinerary, seven ran to or from Londinium.[27][35] Most of these have been shown to have been initially constructed near time of the city's foundation around AD 47.[36] The roads are now known by Welsh or Old English names, as their original Roman names have been entirely lost due to the lack of written and inscribed sources. (It was customary elsewhere to name roads after the emperor during whose principate they were completed, but the number and vicinity of routes completed during the time of Claudius would seem to have made this impractical in Britain's case.)

The road from the Kentish ports of Rutupiae (Richborough), Dubris (Dover), and Lemanis (Lympne) via Durovernum (Canterbury) seems to have first crossed the Thames at a natural ford near Westminster before being diverted north to the new bridge at London.[43] The Romans enabled the road to cross the marshy terrain without subsidence by laying down substrates of one to three layers of oak logs.[36][42] This route, now known as Watling Street, then passed through the town from the bridgehead in a straight line to reconnect with its northern extension towards Viroconium (Wroxeter) and the legionary base at Deva Victrix (Chester). The Great Road ran northeast across Old Ford to Camulodunum (Colchester) and thence northeast along Pye Road to Venta Icenorum (Caistor St Edmund). Ermine Street ran north from the city to Lindum (Lincoln) and Eboracum (York). The Devil's Highway connected Londinium to Calleva (Silchester) and its roads to points west over the bridges near modern Staines. A minor road led southwest to the city's main cemetery and the old routes to the ford at Westminster. Stane Street to Noviomagus (Chichester) did not reach Londinium proper but ran from the bridgehead in the southern suburb at Southwark. These roads varied from 12–20 m (39–66 ft) wide.[36]

After its reconstruction in the AD 60s, the streets within Londinium itself largely adhered to a grid. By analogy with Roman forts, the main east-west street is now generally called the Via Decumana[45] ("Tenth Cohort Way"),[46] while the main north-south street (interrupted by the forum north of its intersection with the Via Decumana) is known as the Via Principalis ("Headquarters Way").[46] These names would not have been used for the civilian settlement at the time.[citation needed] The main streets were 9–10 m (30–33 ft) wide, while side streets were usually about 5 m (16 ft) wide.[36]

Regions Caesar never knewThy posterity shall sway
The rediscovery of Tacitus's works revived English interest in Boudica, particularly during the 19th century, when she was used as a symbol for Queen Victoria and the British Empire. (Boadicea and Her Daughters by Thomas Thornycroft, 1860s, cast by his son in 1902.)


<templatestyles src="Module:Hatnote/styles.css"></templatestyles>

In the year 60 or 61, a little more than ten years after Londinium was founded, the king of the Iceni died. He had possibly been installed by the Romans after the Iceni's failed revolt against P. Ostorius Scapula's disarmament of the allied tribes in AD 47[47] or may have assisted the Romans against his tribesmen during that revolt. His will had divided his wealth and lands between Rome and his two daughters, but Roman law forbade female inheritance and it had become common practice to treat allied kingdoms as life estates which were annexed upon the ruler's death, as had occurred in Bithynia[48] and Galatia.[49] Roman financiers including Seneca called in all the king's outstanding loans at once[50] and the provincial procurator confiscated the property of both the king and his nobles. Tacitus records that, when the king's wife Boudicca objected, the Romans flogged her, raped her two daughters, and enslaved their nobles and kinsmen.[51] Boudica then led a failed revolt against Roman rule.

200 ill-equipped men were sent to defend the provincial capital and Roman colony at Camulodunum, probably from the garrison at Londinium.[52] The Iceni and their allies overwhelmed them and razed the city. The 9th Legion under Q. Petillius Cerialis, coming south from the Fosse Way, was ambushed and annihilated. The procurator, meanwhile, escaped with his treasure to Gaul, probably via Londinium.[52] G. Suetonius Paulinus had been leading the 14th and 20th Legions in the invasion of Anglesey now known as the Menai massacre; hearing of the rising, he immediately returned along Watling Street with the legions' cavalry.[52] The first historical record of London appears in Tacitus's account of his actions upon arriving and finding the state of the 9th Legion:[16][18]

At first, [Paulinus] hesitated as to whether to stand and fight there. Eventually, his numerical inferiority—and the price only too clearly paid by the divisional commander's rashness—decided him to sacrifice the single city of Londinium to save the province as a whole. Unmoved by lamentations and appeals, Suetonius gave the signal for departure. The inhabitants were allowed to accompany him. But those who stayed because they were women, or old, or attached to the place, were slaughtered by the enemy.

Excavation has revealed extensive evidence of destruction by fire in the form of a layer of red ash beneath the city at this date. Suetonius then returned to the legions' slower infantry, who met and defeated the British army, slaughtering as many as 70,000 men and camp followers. There is a long-standing folklore belief that this battle took place at King’s Cross, simply because as a mediaeval village it was known as Battle Bridge. Suetonius's flight back to his men, the razing of Verulamium (St Albans), and the battle shortly thereafter at "a place with narrow jaws, backed by a forest",[16][18] speaks against the tradition and no supporting archaeological evidence has been discovered.[53]

A model of London in 85–90 on display in the Museum of London, depicting the first bridge over the Thames

1st century

After being sacked, the city was rebuilt as a planned Roman town, its streets generally adhering to a grid skewed by major roads passing from the bridgehead and by changes in alignment produced by crossings over the local streams.[54] It recovered after about a decade.[citation needed] A fortified enclosure was erected at Plantation Place on Cornhill. The first forum was constructed in the 70s or 80s[19] and has been excavated, showing it had an open courtyard with a basilica and several shops around it, altogether measuring about 100 m × 50 m (330 ft × 160 ft).[55] The basilica would have functioned as the city's administrative heart, hearing law cases and seating the town's local senate. It formed the north side of the forum, whose south entrance was located along the north side of the intersection of the present Gracechurch, Lombard, and Fenchurch Streets.[56] Forums elsewhere typically had a civic temple constructed within the enclosed market area; British sites usually did not, instead placing a smaller shrine for Roman services somewhere within the basilica. The first forum in Londinium seems to have had a full temple, but placed outside just west of the forum.[57]

During the later decades of the 1st century, Londinium expanded rapidly and quickly became Roman Britain's largest city, although most of its houses continued to be made of wood. By the turn of the century, Londinium was perhaps as large as 60,000 people[58][59] and had replaced Camulodunum (Colchester) as the provincial capital. A large building discovered near Cannon Street Station has had its foundation dated to this era and is assumed to have been the gubernatorial palace (praetorium); it boasted a garden, pools, and several large halls, some of which were decorated with mosaic floors.[60] It was located on the east bank of the now-covered River Walbrook near its entrance to the Thames. Part of the structure, perhaps a portion the main entrance, is speculated to be the origin of the London Stone. Another site dating to this era is the bathhouse (thermae) at Huggin Hill, which remained in use prior to its demolition around the year 200. Brothels were legal but taxed.[61]

A diagram of the Roman structures from the port of Londinium (c.AD 100) excavated along the bank of the Thames.


The bulk of the Roman port was quickly rebuilt after Boudicca's rebellion[62] when the waterfront was extended with gravel to permit a sturdy wharf to be built perpendicular to the shore. The port was built in four sections, starting upstream of the London Bridge and working down towards the Walbrook at the center of Londinium. Expansion of the flourishing port continued into the 3rd century. Scraps of armour, leather straps, and military stamps on building timbers suggest that the site was constructed by the city's legionaries.[63] Major imports included fine pottery, jewelry, and wine.[64] Only two large warehouses are known, implying that Londinium functioned as a bustling trade center rather than a supply depot and distribution center like Ostia near Rome.[63]

A bronze head of Hadrian found in London (British Museum)

2nd century

Emperor Hadrian visited in 122. The impressive public buildings from around this period may have been initially constructed in preparation for his visit or during the rebuilding which followed the "Hadrianic Fire". This fire, which archaeologists have discovered destroyed much of the city, is not recorded by any surviving source and seems to have occurred in a time of relative calm in Britain; for those reasons, it is generally assumed to have been accidental.

A model of the expanded forum at the Museum of London

During the early 2nd century, Londinium was at its height. London recovered from the fire and again had between 45,000 and 60,000 inhabitants around the year 140, with many more stone houses and public buildings erected. Some areas were tightly packed with townhouses (domi). The town had piped water[65] and a "fairly-sophisticated" drainage system.[66] The gubernatorial palace was rebuilt[60] and an expanded forum was built around the earlier one over a period of 30 years from around 90 to 120 into an almost perfect square measuring 168 m × 167 m (551 ft × 548 ft).[55] Its three-storey basilica was likely visible across the city and largest in the empire north of the Alps;[55][67] the marketplace itself rivaled those in Rome and was the largest in the north before the Augusta Treverorum (Trier, Germany) became an imperial capital.[68] The city's temple of Jupiter was renovated,[69] public and private bathhouses were erected, and a fort (arx) was erected around the year 120 that maintained the city garrison northwest of town.[70] The fort was a square (with small rounded corners) measuring more than 200 m × 200 m (660 ft × 660 ft) and covering more than 12 acres (4.9 ha). Each side had a central gatehouse and stone towers were erected at the corners and at points along each wall.[70] The city's amphitheatre has also been discovered under and beside the modern Guildhall;[71] its gladiatorial games would have been free of charge.[72] The large port complex on both banks near the modern London Bridge was discovered during the 1980s.

A Roman mosaic floor from Londinium (British Museum)

By the second half of the 2nd century, Londinium had many large, well-equipped stone buildings, some of which were richly adorned with wall paintings, floor mosaics, and subfloor hypocausts. The Roman house at Billingsgate was built next to the waterfront and had its own bath.[73] In addition to such structures reducing the city's building density, however, Londinium also seems to have shrunk in both size and population in the second half of the 2nd century. The cause is uncertain but plague is considered likely, as the Antonine Plague is recorded decimating other areas of Western Europe between 165 and 190. The end of imperial expansion in Britain after Hadrian's decision to build his wall may have also damaged the city's economy. Although Londinium remained important for the rest of the Roman period, it appears never to have recovered fully from this slump, as archaeologists have found that much of the former city's area was covered after this date with dark earth, which remained undisturbed for centuries.

A surviving fragment of the London Wall behind Tower Hill Station (2005)

London Wall

<templatestyles src="Module:Hatnote/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Some time between 190 and 225, the Romans built the London Wall, a defensive ragstone wall around the landward side of the city. Along with Hadrian's Wall and the road network, the London Wall was one of the largest construction projects carried out in Roman Britain. The wall was originally about 5 km (3 mi) long, 6 m (20 ft) high, and 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in) thick.[citation needed] Its dry moat (fossa) was about 2 m (6 ft 7 in) deep and 3–5 m (9.8–16.4 ft) wide.[74] In the 19th century, Smith estimated its length from the Tower west to Ludgate at about one mile (1.6 km) and its breadth from the northern wall to the bank of the Thames at around half that.[citation needed]

In addition to small pedestrian postern gates like the one by Tower Hill, it had four main gates: Bishopsgate and Aldgate in the northeast at the roads to Eboracum (York) and to Camulodunum (Colchester) and Newgate and Ludgate in the west along at the road which divided for travel to Viroconium (Wroxeter) and to Calleva (Silchester) and at another road which ran along the Thames to the city's main cemetery and the old ford at Westminster. The wall partially utilized the army's existing fort, strengthening its outer wall with a second course of stone to match the rest of the course.[70][75] The fort had two gates of its own—Cripplegate to the north and another to the west—but these were not along major roads.[75] Aldersgate was eventually added, perhaps to replace the west gate of the fort. (The names of all these gates are medieval, as they continued to be occasionally refurbished and replaced until their demolition in the 17th and 18th centuries to permit widening the roads.)[75][76] The wall initially left the riverbank undefended: this was corrected in the 3rd century.

Although the exact reason for the wall's construction is unknown, some historians have connected it with the Pictish invasion of the 180s.[77] Others link it with Clodius Albinus, the British governor who attempted to usurp Septimius Severus in the 190s. The wall survived another 1,600 years and still roughly defines the City of London's perimeter.

Ulpius Silvanus's Tauroctony depicting Mithras killing the bull, discovered in the ruins of the London Mithraeum.

3rd century

Septimius Severus defeated Albinus in 197 and shortly afterwards divided the province of Britain into Upper and Lower halves, with the former controlled by a new governor in Eboracum (York). Despite the smaller administrative area, the economic stimulus provided by the Wall and by Septimius Severus's campaigns in Caledonia somewhat revived London's fortunes in the early 3rd century. The northwest fort was abandoned and dismantled[70] but archaeological evidence points to renewed construction activity from this period. The London Mithraeum rediscovered in 1954 dates from around 240,[78] when it was erected on the east bank at the head of navigation on the now-covered River Walbrook about 200 m (660 ft) from the Thames.[79] From about 255 onwards, raiding by Saxon pirates led to the construction of a riverside wall as well. It ran roughly along the course of present-day Thames Street, which then roughly formed the shoreline. Large collapsed sections of this wall were excavated at Blackfriars and the Tower in the 1970s.[80]

A Carausian coin from his mint at Londinium.
The "Trier medallion" showing a woman kneeling in front of a Roman soldier at the city walls, thanking him for bringing Allectus's rule to an end

Carausian Revolt

<templatestyles src="Module:Hatnote/styles.css"></templatestyles>

In 286, the emperor Maximian issued a death sentence against Carausius, admiral of the Roman navy's Britannic fleet (Classis Britannica), on charges of having abetted Frankish and Saxon piracy and of having embezzled recovered treasure. Carausius responded by consolidating his allies and territory and revolting. After fending off Maximian's first assault in 288, he declared a new Britannic Empire and issued coins to that effect. Constantius Chlorus's sack of his Gallic base at Gesoriacum (Boulogne), however, led his treasurer Allectus to assassinate and replace him. In 296, Chlorus mounted an invasion of Britain which prompted Allectus's Frankish mercenaries to sack Londinium. They were only stopped by the arrival of a flotilla of Roman warships on the Thames, which slaughtered the survivors.[81] The event was commemorated by the golden "Trier Medallion", Chlorus on one side and, on the other, a woman kneeling at the city wall welcoming a mounted Roman soldier.[82] Another memorial to the return of Londinium to Roman control was the construction of a new set of forum baths around the year 300. The structures were modest enough that they were previously identified as parts of the forum and market but are now recognized as elaborate and luxurious baths including a frigidarium with two southern pools and an eastern swimming pool.

4th century

<templatestyles src="Module:Hatnote/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Following the revolt, the Diocletian Reforms saw the British administration restructured. Londinium is universally supposed to have been the capital of one of them, but it remains unclear where the new provinces were, whether there were initially three or four in total, and whether Valentia represented a fifth province or a renaming of an older one. In the 12th century, Gerald of Wales listed "Londonia" as the capital of Flavia, having had Britannia Prima (Wales) and Secunda (Kent) severed from the territory of Upper Britain.[83][84] Modern scholars more often list Londinium as the capital of Maxima Caesariensis on the assumption that the presence of the diocesan vicar in London would have required its provincial governor to outrank the others.

The gubernatorial palace[60] and old large forum seem to have fallen out of use around 300,[67] but in general the first half of the 4th century appears to have been a prosperous time for Britain, for the villa estates surrounding London appear to have flourished during this period. The London Mithraeum was rededicated, probably to Bacchus. A list of the 16 "archbishops" of London was recorded by Jocelyne of Furness in the 12th century, claiming the city's Christian community was founded in the 2nd century under the legendary King Lucius and his missionary saints Fagan, Deruvian, Elvanus, and Medwin. None of that is considered credible by modern historians but, although the surviving text is problematic, either Bishop Restitutus or Adelphius at the 314 Council of Arles seems to have come from Londinium.[26] The location of Londinium's original cathedral is uncertain. The present structure of St Peter upon Cornhill was designed by Christopher Wren following the Great Fire in 1666 but it stands upon the highest point in the area of old Londinium and medieval legends tied it to the city's earliest Christian community. In 1995, however, a large and ornate 4th-century building on Tower Hill was discovered: built sometime between 350 and 400, it seems to have mimicked St Ambrose's cathedral in the imperial capital at Milan on a still-larger scale.[85] It was about 100 m (330 ft) long by about 50 m (160 ft) wide.[86] Excavations by David Sankey of MOLAS established it was constructed out of stone taken from other buildings, including a veneer of black marble.[85][87] It was probably dedicated to St Paul.[86]

From 340 onwards, northern Britain was repeatedly attacked by Picts and Gaels. In 360, a large-scale attack forced the emperor Julian the Apostate to send troops to deal with the problem. Large efforts were made to improve Londinium's defenses around the same time. At least 22 semi-circular towers were added to the city walls to provide platforms for ballistae[75] and the present state of the river wall suggested hurried repair work around this time.[80] In 367, the Great Conspiracy saw a coördinated invasion of Picts, Gaels, and Saxons joined with a mutiny of troops along the Wall. Count Theodosius dealt with the problem over the next few years, using Londinium—then known as "Augusta"—as his base.[88] It may have been at this point that one of the existing provinces was renamed Valentia, although the account of Theodosius's actions describes it as a province recovered from the enemy.

In 382, Magnus Maximus organized all of the British-based troops and attempted to establish himself as emperor over the west. The event was obviously important to the Britons, as "Macsen Wledig" would remain a major figure in Welsh folklore and several medieval Welsh dynasties claimed descent from him. He was probably responsible for London's new church in the 370s or 380s.[85][86] He was initially successful but was defeated by Theodosius I at the 388 Battle of the Save. A new stretch of the river wall near Tower Hill seems to have been built further from the shore at some point over the next decade.[80]

Roman Britain around AD 410, without speculative provincial borders.

5th century

<templatestyles src="Module:Hatnote/styles.css"></templatestyles>

With few troops left in Britain, many Romano-British towns—including Londinium—declined drastically over the next few decades. Many of London's public buildings had fallen into disrepair by this point,[citation needed] and excavations of the port show signs of rapid disuse.[62] Between 407 and 409, large numbers of barbarians overran Gaul and Hispania, seriously weakening communication between Rome and Britain. Trade broke down. Officials went unpaid and British troops elected their own leaders. Constantine III declared himself emperor over the west and crossed the Channel, an act considered the Roman withdrawal from Britain since the emperor Honorius subsequently directed the Britons to look to their own defence rather than send another garrison force. Surviving accounts are scanty and mixed with Welsh and Saxon legends concerning Vortigern, Hengest, Horsa, and Ambrosius Aurelianus. Even archaeological evidence of Londinium during this period is minimal.

Despite remaining included on lists of the Roman provinces, the provinces of Britain seem to have dropped their remaining loyalties to Rome. Raiding by the Irish, Picts, and Saxons continued but Gildas records a time of luxury and plenty[91] which is sometimes attributed to reduced taxation. Archaeologists have found evidence that a small number of wealthy families continued to maintain a Roman lifestyle until the middle of the 5th century, inhabiting villas in the southeastern corner of the city. Medieval accounts state that the invasions that established Anglo-Saxon England (the Adventus Saxonum) did not begin in earnest until some time in the 440s and 450s.[97] Bede recorded that the Britons fled to Londinium in terror after their defeat at the Battle of Crecganford (probably Crayford),[94][95] but nothing further is said. By the end of the 5th century, the city was largely an uninhabited ruin,[98] its large church on Tower Hill burnt to the ground.[85]

Over the next century, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and Frisians all arrived and established tribal areas and kingdoms. The area of the Roman city was administered as part of the kingdom of the East Saxons (Essex), although the Saxon settlement of Lundenwic was not within the Roman walls but to the west in Aldwych. It was not until the Viking invasions of England that King Alfred the Great moved the settlement back within the safety of the Roman walls, which gave it the name Lundenburh. The foundations of the river wall, however, were undermined over time and had completely collapsed by the 11th century.[80] Memory of the earlier settlement survived: it is generally identified as the Cair Lundem[11] counted among the 28 cities of Britain included in the History of the Britons traditionally attributed to Nennius.[10][12]

A Romano-Celtic temple being excavated at 56 Gresham Street.


<templatestyles src="Module:Hatnote/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Many ruins remain buried beneath London, although understanding them can be difficult. Owing to London's own geology, which consists of a deep bed of brickearth, sand, and gravel over clay,[99] Roman gravel roads can only be identified as such if they were repeatedly relayered or if the spans of gravel can be traced across several sites. The minimal remains from wooden structures are easy to miss and stone buildings may leave foundations, but—as with the great forum—they were often dismantled for stone during the Middle Ages and early modern period.[20]

The known floorplan of the presumed "governor's palace".

The first extensive archaeological review of the Roman city of London was done in the 17th century after the Great Fire of 1666. Christopher Wren's renovation of St Paul's on Ludgate Hill found no evidence supporting Camden's contention[100] that it had been built over a Roman temple to the goddess Diana.[101] The extensive rebuilding of London in the 19th century and following the German bombing campaign during World War II also allowed for large parts of old London to be recorded and preserved while modern updates were made.[103] The construction of the London Coal Exchange led to the discovery of the Roman house at Billingsgate in 1848. In the 1860s, excavations by General Rivers uncovered a large number of human skulls and almost no other bones in the bed of the Walbrook.[104] The discovery recalls a passage in Geoffrey of Monmouth's pseudohistorical History of the Kings of Britain where Asclepiodotus besieged the last remnants of the usurper Allectus's army at "Londonia". Having battered the town's walls with siegeworks constructed by allied Britons, Asclepiodotus accepted the commander's surrender only to have the Venedotians rush upon them, ritually decapitating them and throwing the heads into the river "Gallemborne".[2][3] Asclepiodotus's siege was an actual event that occurred in AD 296, but further skull finds beneath the 3rd-century wall place at least some of the slaughter before its construction, leading most modern scholars to attribute them to Boudica's forces.[105][106] In 1947, the city's northwest fortress of the city garrison was discovered.[107] In 1954, excavations of what was thought to have been an early church instead revealed the London Mithraeum, which was relocated to permit building over its original site. (The building erected at the time has since been demolished, and plans to return the temple to its former location are under way.) Archaeologists began the first intensive excavation of the waterfront sites of Roman London in the 1970s. What was not found during this time has been built over making it very difficult to study or discover anything new.[4] Another phase of archaeological work followed the deregulation of the London Stock Exchange in 1986, which led to extensive new construction in the City's financial district. From 1991, many excavations were undertaken by the Museum of London's Archaeology Service, although it was spun off into the separately-run MOLA in 2011 following legislation to address the Rose Theatre fiasco.

A reconstructed Roman kitchen (culina) at the Museum of London (2014)


Major finds from Roman London, including mosaics, wall fragments, and old buildings were formerly housed in the London and Guildhall Museums.[64] These merged after 1965[108] into the present Museum of London near the Barbican Centre. Museum of London Docklands, a separate branch dealing with the history of London's ports, opened on the Isle of Dogs in 2003. Other finds from Roman London continue to be held by the British Museum.[64]

Much of the surviving wall is medieval, but Roman-era stretches are visible near Tower Hill Station, in a hotel courtyard at 8–10 Coopers Row, and in St Alphege Gardens off Wood Street.[75] A section of the river wall is visible inside the Tower.[80] Parts of the amphitheatre are on display at the Guildhall Art Gallery.[71] The southwester tower of the Roman fort northwest of town can still be seen at Noble Street.[70] Occasionally, Roman sites are incorporated into the foundations of new buildings for future study, but these are not generally available to the public.[55][73]

See also


  1. Note that this image includes both the garrison fort, which was demolished in the 3rd century, and the Mithraeum, which was abandoned around the same time. The identification of the "governor's palace" remains conjectural.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Galfredus Monumetensis [Geoffrey of Monmouth]. Historia Regnum Britanniae [History of the Kings of Britain], Vol. III, Ch. xx. c. 1136. (Latin) Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "herb" defined multiple times with different content
  3. 3.0 3.1 Geoffrey of Monmouth. Translated by J.A. Giles & al. as Geoffrey of Monmouth's British History, Vol. III, Ch. XX, in Six Old English Chronicles of Which Two Are Now First Translated from the Monkish Latin Originals: Ethelwerd's Chronicle, Asser's Life of Alfred, Geoffrey of Monmouth's British History, Gildas, Nennius, and Richard of Cirencester. Henry G. Bohn (London), 1848. Hosted at Wikisource. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "herb2" defined multiple times with different content
  4. 4.0 4.1 Haverfield, p. 145
  5. This etymology was first suggested in 1899 by d'Arbois de Jubainville and is generally accepted, as by Haverfield.[4]
  6. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  7. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  8. This is the argument made by Jackson[6] and accepted by Coates.[7]
  9. Peter Schrijver, Language Contact and the Origins of the Germanic Languages (2013), p. 57.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Ford, David Nash. "The 28 Cities of Britain" at Britannia. 2000.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Nennius (attrib.). Theodor Mommsen (ed.). Historia Brittonum, VI. Composed after AD 830. (Latin) Hosted at Latin Wikisource.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Newman, John Henry & al. Lives of the English Saints: St. German, Bishop of Auxerre, Ch. X: "Britain in 429, A. D.", p. 92. James Toovey (London), 1844.
  13. Bishop Ussher, cited in Newman[12]
  14. Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th edition. 1911.
  15. Merrifield, p. 61.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Tacitus. Ab Excessu Divi Augusti Historiarum Libri [Books of History from the Death of the Divine Augustus], Vol. XIV, Ch. XXXIII. c.AD 105. Hosted at Latin Wikisource. (Latin)
  17. Latin: Londinium..., cognomento quidem coloniae non insigne, sed copia negotiatorum et commeatuum maxime celebre.[16]
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Tacitus. Translated by Alfred John Church & William Jackson Brodribb. Annals of Tacitus, Translated into English, with Notes and Maps, Book XIV, §33. Macmillan & Co. (London, 1876. Reprinted by Random House, 1942. Reprinted by the Perseus Project, c. 2011. Hosed at Wikisource.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Merrifield, pp. 64–66.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Merrifield, p. 68.
  21. Egbert, James. Introduction to the Study of Latin Inscriptions, p. 447. American Book Co. (Cincinnati),1896.
  22. Latin: P·P·BR·LON [Publicani Provinciae Britanniae Londinienses] & P·PR·LON [Publicani Provinciae Londinienses][21]
  23. Wacher, p. 85.
  24. Labbé, Philippe & Gabriel Cossart (eds.) Sacrosancta Concilia ad Regiam Editionem Exacta: quae Nunc Quarta Parte Prodit Actior [The Sancrosanct Councils Exacted for the Royal Edition: which the Editors Now Produce in Four Parts], Vol. I: "Ab Initiis Æræ Christianæ ad Annum CCCXXIV" ["From the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Year 324"], col. 1429. The Typographical Society for Ecclesiastical Books (Paris), 1671. (Latin)
  25. Thackery, Francis. Researches into the Ecclesiastical and Political State of Ancient Britain under the Roman Emperors: with Observations upon the Principal Events and Characters Connected with the Christian Religion, during the First Five Centuries, pp. 272 ff. T. Cadell (London), 1843. (Latin) & (English)
  26. 26.0 26.1 "Nomina Episcoporum, cum Clericis Suis, Quinam, et ex Quibus Provinciis, ad Arelatensem Synodum Convenerint" ["The Names of the Bishops with Their Clerics who Came Together at the Synod of Arles and from which Province They Came"] from the Consilia[24] in Thackery[25]
  27. 27.0 27.1 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  28. Grimes, Ch. I.
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 Merrifield, p. 40.
  30. It may have spanned the tidal limit of the Thames at the time, with the port in tidal waters and the bridge upstream beyond its reach.[29] This is uncertain, however: in the Middle Ages, the Thames's tidal reach extended to Staines and today it still reaches Teddington.
  31. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  32. Wacher, pp. 88–90.
  33. Number 1 Poultry (ONE 94), Museum of London Archaeology, 2013. Archaeology Data Service, The University of York.
  34. Antonine Itinerary. British Routes. Routes 2, 3, & 4.
  35. Although three of them used the same route into town.[34]
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 36.3 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  37. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  38. 38.0 38.1 38.2 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  39. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  40. 40.0 40.1 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  41. 41.0 41.1 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  42. 42.0 42.1 Merrifield, pp. 32–33.
  43. Margary,[37] cited by Perring,[38] although he notes that this remains conjectural: the known roads would not meet at the river if continued in a straight line,[38] there is no evidence textual or archaeological at the moment for a ford at Westminster,[38] and the Saxon ford was further upstream at Kingston.[39] Against such doubts, Sheppard notes the known routes broadly direct towards Westminster in a way "inconceivable" if they were meant to be directed towards a ferry at Londinium[40] and Merrifield points to routes directed towards the presumed ford from Southwark.[41] Both include maps of the known routes around London and their proposed reconstruction of major connections now-lost.[40][41][42]
  44. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  45. As by Rowsome.[44]
  46. 46.0 46.1 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  47. Tacitus, Annals, 12.31.
  48. H. H. Scullard, From the Gracchi to Nero, 1982, p. 90
  49. John Morris, Londinium: London in the Roman Empire, 1982, pp. 107–108
  50. Cassius Dio, Roman History 62.2
  51. Tacitus, Annals, 14.31
  52. 52.0 52.1 52.2 Merrifield, p. 53.
  53. "Highbury, Upper Holloway and King's Cross", Old and New London: Volume 2 (1878:273–279). Date accessed: 26 December 2007.
  54. Merrifield, pp. 66–68.
  55. 55.0 55.1 55.2 55.3 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  56. Merrifield, p. 62.
  57. Merrifield, p. 63–64.
  58. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  59. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  60. 60.0 60.1 60.2 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  61. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  62. 62.0 62.1 Milne.
  63. 63.0 63.1 Brigham.
  64. 64.0 64.1 64.2 Hall & Merrifield.
  65. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  66. Merrifield, p. 50.
  67. 67.0 67.1 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  68. Merrifield, p. 68.
  69. According to a recovered inscription. The location of the Temple of Jupiter has not been discovered yet.
  70. 70.0 70.1 70.2 70.3 70.4 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  71. 71.0 71.1 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  72. Emerson, pp. 76–77.
  73. 73.0 73.1 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  74. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  75. 75.0 75.1 75.2 75.3 75.4 75.5 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  76. In the 1170s, William FitzStephen mentioned seven gates in London's landward wall, but it's not clear whether this included a minor postern gate or another, now unknown, major gate. Moorgate was later counted as a seventh major gate after its enlargement in 1415, but in William's time it would have been a minor postern gate.[75]
  77. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  78. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  79. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  80. 80.0 80.1 80.2 80.3 80.4 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  81. Eumenius.
  82. The medallion is named for its mint mark from Augusta Treverorum (Trier); it was discovered in Arras, France, in the 1920s.
  83. Giraldus Cambriensis [Gerald of Wales]. De Inuectionibus [On Invectives], Vol. II, Ch. I, in Y Cymmrodor: The Magazine of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, Vol. XXX, pp. 130–31. George Simpson & Co. (Devizes), 1920. (Latin)
  84. Gerald of Wales. Translated by W.S. Davies as The Book of Invectives of Giraldus Cambrensis in Y Cymmrodor: The Magazine of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, Vol. XXX, p. 16. George Simpson & Co. (Devizes), 1920.
  85. 85.0 85.1 85.2 85.3 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  86. 86.0 86.1 86.2 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  87. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  88. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  89. Giles, John Allen (ed. & trans.). "The Works of Gildas, Surnamed 'Sapiens,' or the Wise" in Six Old English Chronicles of Which Two Are Now First Translated from the Monkish Latin Originals: Ethelwerd's Chronicle, Asser's Life of Alfred, Geoffrey of Monmouth's British History, Gildas, Nennius, and Richard of Cirencester. Henry G. Bohn (London), 1848.
  90. Habington, Thomas (trans.). The Epistle of Gildas the most ancient British Author: who flourished in the yeere of our Lord, 546. And who by his great erudition, sanctitie, and wisdome, acquired the name of Sapiens. Faithfully translated out of the originall Latine in 8 vols. T. Cotes for William Cooke (London), 1638.
  91. 91.0 91.1 The Ruin of Britain, Ch. 22 ff, John Allen Giles's revision[89] of Thomas Habington's translation,[90] hosted at Wikisource.
  92. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  93. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  94. 94.0 94.1 Beda Venerabilis [The Venerable Bede]. Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum [The Ecclesiastical History of the English People], Vol. I, Ch. XV, & Vol. V, Ch. XXIIII. 731. Hosted at Latin Wikisource. (Latin)
  95. 95.0 95.1 Bede. Translated by Lionel Cecil Jane as The Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, Vol. 1, Ch. 15, & Vol. 5, Ch. 24. J.M. Dent & Co. (London), 1903. Hosted at Wikisource.
  96. Anonymous. Translated by James Ingram. The Saxon Chronicle, with an English Translation, and Notes, Critical and Explanatory. To Which Are Added Chronological, Topographical, and Glossarial Indices; a Short Grammar of the Anglo-Saxon Language; a New Map of England during the Heptarchy; Plates of Coins, &c., p. 15., "An. CCCCLV." Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, & Brown (London), 1823. (Old English) & (English)
  97. The near-contemporary 452 Gallic Chronicle recorded that "The British provinces, which to this time had suffered various defeats and misfortunes, are reduced to Saxon rule" in the year 441;[92] Gildas described a revolt of Saxon foederati[91] but his dating is obscure;[93] Bede dates it to a few years after 449 and opines that invasion had been the Saxons' intention from the beginning;[94][95] the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle dates the revolt to 455.[96]
  98. Roman London: A Brief History, Museum of London
  99. Grimes, Ch. I.
  100. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  101. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  102. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  103. For a map of the locations of bombed sites in the City of London excavated by the Society of Antiquaries of London's Roman and Medieval London Excavation Council during this period, see Grimes.[102]
  104. Thorpe, Lewis. The History of the Kings of Britain, p. 19. Penguin, 1966.
  105. Merrifield, p. 57.
  106. Morris, John. Londinium: London in the Roman Empire, p. 111. 1982.
  107. Grimes, Ch. II, §2.
  108. Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.


  • Billings, Malcolm (1994), London: a companion to its history and archaeology, ISBN 1-85626-153-0
  • Brigham, Trevor. 1998. “The Port of Roman London.” In Roman London Recent Archeological Work, edited by B. Watson, 23–34. Michigan: Cushing–Malloy Inc. Paper read at a seminar held at The Museum of London, 16 November.
  • Hall, Jenny, and Ralph Merrifield. Roman London. London: HMSO Publications, 1986.
  • Haverfield, F. "Roman London." The Journal of Roman Studies 1 (1911): 141–72.
  • Inwood, Stephen. A History of London (1998) ISBN 0-333-67153-8
  • John Wacher: The Towns of Roman Britain, London/New York 1997, p. 88–111. ISBN 0-415-17041-9
  • Gordon Home: Roman London: A.D. 43–457 Illustrated with black and white plates of artefacts. diagrams and plans. Published by Eyre and Spottiswoode (London) in 1948 with no ISBN.
  • Milne, Gustav. The Port of Roman London. London: B.T. Batsford, 1985.

Further reading

  • Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.

External links

Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.