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Verlamion, or Verlamio, was a settlement in Iron Age Britain. It was the centre of Tasciovanus' power and a major center of the Catuvellauni from about 20 BC until shortly after the Roman invasion of AD 43.[1] Its location was on Prae Hill, 2 km to the west of modern St Albans.


The etymology is uncertain: perhaps the name means "settlement above the marsh", or "[settlement of] Uerulamos [Broad-Hand]" in Brittonic.[2] The elements *wer- and *lamā- meant "high" and "hand" respectively in Common Brittonic (*-i- is adjectival, denoting a place, and *-on is the usual o-stem neuter suffix). An alternative etymology may be guessed via back construction from modern Welsh, as bank of the (River) Ver, where Ver could mean short, or be a contracted form of Veru, or Berw, meaning a foaming or bubbling river (cf Berwyn).

Iron age

It is believed that the tribal capital was moved to the site by Tasciovanus (around 25 to 5 BC). The location of the previous capital is not certain, but it is possible to speculate on the basis of evidence in Caesar's Commentarii de Bello Gallico and archaeological evidence for Iron Age sites in the area. One possible site is a few miles to the north near Wheathampstead, where a feature called the Devil's Dyke has been interpreted as part of the defences of a large oppidum near the River Lea.

Tasciovanus was the first king to mint coins at Verlamion, beginning around 10 BC. There is evidence that the oppidum may have had a significant ritual function.[3] The centre grew under Tasciovanus' son, Cunobelinus.

Cunobelinus may have constructed Beech Bottom Dyke, a defensive earthwork near the settlement whose significance is uncertain. It has been suggested that it is part of an unusually large defensive scheme including Devil's Dyke mentioned above, running from the River Ver to the River Lea.

Roman and later history

The Latinised name for the oppidum, and the Roman city which replaced it, was Verulamium.[4] In Saxon times St Albans was founded on an adjacent hill.

Local museum

Verulamium Museum has a pre-Roman section.[5]

See also


  1. Wacher, John. 1976, The Towns of Roman Britain, p. 202, both for Tasciovanus and the Catuvellauni.
  2. Isaac, G. R., "Place-Names in Ptolemy's Geography: An electronic data base with etymological analysis of the Celtic name-elements (2004).
  3. Williamson, Tom. The Origins of Hertfordshire, Univ of Hertfordshire Press, 2010, ISBN 9781905313952
  5. Verulamium Museum,

Further reading

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