gtp logo

Location information

Listed 2 sub titles with search on: Information about the place  for wider area of: "LONDON Town ENGLAND" .

Information about the place (2)

Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)


  Londinium (Londinion, Ptol. ii. 3. § 27; Lindonion, Steph. B. s. v.; Londinium, Tac. Ann. xiv. 33; Oppidum Londiniense, Eumen. Paneg. Const. 17; Lundinium, Amm. Marc. xx. 1), the capital of Roman Britain. Ptolemy (l. c.) places Londinium in the district of the Cantii; but the correctness of this position has very naturally been questioned. Modern discoveries have, however, decided that the southern limits of the city, in the time of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius, extended a considerable distance into the territory of the Cantii; and Ptolemy, therefore, was not altogether unwarranted in placing Londinium in this division of Britain. In earlier times the city was confined to the northern bank of the Thames.
  The earliest mention of it is by Tacitus, in his well-known account of the insurrection of the Britons in the reign of Nero. As Britain was only fully subjugated by Claudius, Londinium must have rapidly advanced to the importance it assumes in the narrative of this historian. Although it is not mentioned by Julius Caesar or by other early writers, the peculiar natural advantages of the locality point it out as one of the chief places of resort of the merchants and traders who visited Britain from the Gaulish ports and from other parts of the continent. At the comparatively early period in the Roman domination referred to, Londinium is spoken of as a place of established mercantile reputation. The three chief cities of Britain at this period were Verulamium, Camulodunum, and Londinium. At Camulodunum a colony of veterans had been established; Verulamium had received the rights and privileges of a municipium Londinium, without such distinctions, had attained by home and foreign trade that pre-eminence which ever marked her as the metropolis of Britain:--Londinium.... cognomento quidem coloniae non insigne, sed copia negotiatorum et commeatuum maxime celebre. (Tac. Ann. xiv. 33.) At this period we must infer that Londinium was without external walls; and this absence of mural defences appears to have been common also to Verulamium and to Camulodunum. The Britons passed by the fortified places and attacked at once the rich and populous cities inadequately defended. Camulodunum was the first to fall; Londinium and Verulamium speedily followed in a similar catastrophe.
  The Itinerary of Antoninus, which is probably not later than the time of Severus, affords direct evidence of the chief position which Londinium held among the towns and cities of Britain. It occurs in no less than seven of the itinera, and in six of these it stands either as the place of departure or as the terminus of the routes; no other town is introduced so conspicuously.
  The next historical mention of Londinium occurs in the panegyric of Eumenius addressed to Constantius Caesar (c. 17), in which it is termed oppidum Londiniense. After the defeat of Allectus, the victorious Romans marched directly on Londinium, which was being plundered by the Franks and other foreign mercenaries, who made up the greater part of the usurper's forces.
  Ammianus Marcellinus, who wrote at a later period, states that, in his time, Londinium was called Augusta, an honourable appellation not unfrequently conferred on cities of distinction. In this writer we find the word written as it is pronounced at the present day: - Egressus, tendensque ad Lundinium vetus oppidum, quod Augustam posteritas appellavit (xxvii. 8, comp. xxviii. 3). In the Notitia Dignitatum tatum we find mention of a Praepositus Thesaurorum Augustensium in Britanniis; and in the Chorography of Ravenna the complete form, Londinium Augusta, is given.
  Monumental remains show that Londinium contained buildings commensurate in grandeur and extent with its historical claims. The foundations of the wall which bordered the river, when laid open a few years since, was almost wholly composed of materials used in buildings which were anterior to the period when the wall was built ; but it was impossible to decide the dates of either. The stones of which this wall was constructed were portions of columns, friezes, cornices, and also foundation stones. From their magnitude, character, and number, they gave an important and interesting insight into the obscure history of Roman London, in showing the architectual changes that had taken place in it. Similar discoveries have been made in various parts of the modern city which more fully developed the debris of an ancient city of importance : other architectural fragments have been found; walls of vast strength and thickness have been noticed; and within the last twenty years, at least thirty tessellated pavements have been laid open, of which some were of a very fine kind. (Archaeologia, vols. xxvii. xxviii. et seq.) Londinium, unenclosed at first, was subsequently in early times walled; but it occupied only part of the site it eventually covered (Archaeologia, vol. xxix.). The line of the wall of Roman London is well known, and can still, in parts, be traced. Where it has been excavated to the foundation, it appears based upon a bed of clay and flints; the wall itself, composed of rubble and hard mortar, is faced with small squared stones and bonding tiles; its thickness is about 12 feet; its original height was probably between 20 and 30 feet; it was flanked with towers, and had a least seven gates. By the sides of the chief roads stood the cemeteries, from which enormous quantities of sepulchral remains have been, and still are, procured. Among the inscriptions, are records of soldiers of the second, the sixth, and the twentieth legions. (Col. Ant. vol. i.) We have no evidence, however, to show that the legions themselves were ever quartered at Londinium. The only troops which may be considered to have been stationed in this city were a cohort of the native Britons (Col. Ant. vol. i.); but it is not known at what particular period they were here. It is, however, a rather remarkable fact, as it was somewhat contrary to the policy of the Romans to station the auxiliaries in their native countries.
  Traces of temples and portions of statues have also been found in London. The most remarkable of the latter is, perhaps, the bronze head of Hadrian found in the Thames, and the large bronze hand found in Thames Street. In reference to the statues in bronze which adorned Londinium and other cities of Roman Britain, the reader may be directed to a curious passage in Geoffrey of Monmouth. That writer relates (xii. 13), that, after the death of Cadwalla, the Britons embalmed his body and placed it in a bronze statue, which was set upon a bronze horse of wonderful beauty, and placed over the western gate of London, as a trophy of victory and as a terror to the Saxons. All that we are called upon to consider in this statement is, whether it is at all likely that the writer would have invented the details about the works in bronze; and whether it is not very probable that the story was made up to account for some Roman works of art, which, for centuries after the Romans had left Britain, remained a wonder and a puzzle to their successors. Equestrian statues in bronze were erected in Britain by the Romans, as is proved by a fragment found at Lincoln; but in the subsequent and middle ages such Works of art were not fabricated.
  We have above referred to the Praepositus Thesaurorum Augustensium. Numerous coins are extant of the mint of Londinium. Those which may be certainly thus attributed are of Carausius, Allectus, Constantinus, and the Constantine family. (Akerman's Coins of the Romans relating to Britain.) With respect to the precise position of the public buildings, and, indeed, of the general distribution of the Roman city, but little is known; it is, however, very certain, that, with some few exceptions, the course of the modern streets is no guide to that of the ancient. This has also been remarked to be the case at Treves and other ancient cities.

This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited September 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites


Londinium (London) England.
  The largest town in Roman Britain. The site does not appear to have been occupied in pre-Roman times, but owed its importance to its position at the lowest point where the roads built by the imperial government could cross the Thames by bridge, and to its suitability as a terminal for maritime trade with the Rhine, Seine, Loire, and Garonne estuaries. It is probable that Julius Caesar crossed the river here in 54 B.C., and Aulus Plautius in A.D. 43. There was, however, a subsidiary crossing at Westminster, at which the Kentish and Hertfordshire Watling Streets both aim; as these roads are clearly early in date it is possible that the Roman army had a depot at Westminster in 43. No certain trace of a fort of the conquest period there or in London itself has yet been found, but it is inconceivable that the crossings were not guarded.
  London itself is described by Tacitus in connection with the rebellion of A.D. 60 as an important center for merchants and merchandise (Ann. 14.33); it is likely that a large traders' settlement had sprung up around an army stores-depot--a normal development. Though at that date it had no official urban status, it is probable that already the site's advantages had attracted the offices of the provincial procurator, for Catus Decianus was not in Colchester when the rebellion of Boudicca broke out (Tac. Ann. 14.32), and certainly his successor, Julius Classicianus, who appears to have died in office, was buried not at Colchester but in London. At what date the governor's headquarters also migrated to London is uncertain; but that it was there in the 2d c. and probably earlier is suggested by a dedication by the legatus iuridicus giving thanks for Trajan's Dacian victory, and by inscriptions mentioning speculatores and legionaries from all three British legions.
  London's importance as a center of population ever since Roman times has limited opportunities for excavation, while continual rebuilding and digging of pits and wells has ensured that excavated remains will be fragmentary. Only since WW II, when many areas of the city were destroyed by bombing, has planned exploration been possible, but even so commercial interests have on the whole proved inimical to careful investigation. The earliest buildings were almost all of timber framing packed with clay, which burnt easily when the settlement was sacked in A.D. 60. A map of these burnt remains indicates that of the two low hills occupied by the later city only the one to the E was originally settled, with some development along the main road to the W. The Wallbrook stream which divides the hills was the effective limit of occupation. The debris of a later fire, however, which destroyed London in Hadrian's reign, ca. A.D. 130, is much more widely distributed on each side of the stream. By this date, though the city was still unwalled, a large fort of ca. 4.8 ha had been built on the NW outskirts, another indication of the exceptional importance of London in the British province.
  A town wall was at length provided early in the 3d c., incorporating two sides of the existing fort and enclosing an area of 132 ha. No trace has yet been discovered of any earlier earthwork surrounding the city, though the majority of Romano-British towns were thus defended late in the 2d c. before walls were added; it is possible, however, that such a defense, if it existed, enclosed a more constricted area. At 132 ha within its walls Roman London was 40 ha larger than either Cirencester, Verulamium, or Wroxeter, its nearest rivals, and in size compares favorably with the majority of towns in the W provinces. The wall was provided with external towers along part of the circuit probably ca. A.D. 370 (into one of which was built much of Classicianus' tombstone); the purpose of these towers was to make greater use of artillery in the defense of the wall and thus save manpower. Thereafter, with successive restorations, the Roman wall continued to defend and bound the city throughout the mediaeval period.
  By Hadrianic times, if not some 30 years earlier, a very large forum and basilica had been erected; recent excavations have confirmed that it succeeded a smaller courtyard structure on the same site (also probably a forum), built soon after Boudicca's rebellion. Since the forum-with-basilica is usually found only in administrative centers, it can be deduced that the city gained self-governing status in the 1st c., and as it was not the capital of a tribal civitas it was probably created a municipium. There were also offices of the provincial government, as shown by tile-stamps and a wooden writing-tablet stamped by the procurator's office, and by the recent excavation of a large building in Canon Street, overlooking the Thames, which is best interpreted as the governor's praetorium. The first stages of this building go back to the reign of Domitian. There is, indeed, much other evidence for developments in the later 1st c., including part of a public baths at Huggin Hill; the most illuminating perhaps are the wooden tablets of this date which illustrate the thriving commercial life of the city. Remains indicating the presence of gold- and bronze-smiths have been found, and the cutler Basilis, several of whose knives have been found in London, also almost certainly worked there. Pottery kilns were unearthed by Wren during the rebuilding of St. Paul's Cathedral. The city also certainly served as the main importing and distributing center for the extensive trade in Gaulish terra sigillata, and probably also for Rhineland glass.
  Excavation has shown that the Wallbrook stream, which divided the city, was not the extensive harbor once imagined: its bed was only 4.5 m wide, but the margins were subject to extensive flooding. At first the banks were revetted with timber, and continual sinkage led to dumping earth to maintain the levels. Vast quantities of well-preserved metal objects have been preserved in the mud; they suggest a market in the vicinity, though some may be votive offerings. Towards the end of the 2d c. a small Mithraeum was built on the E bank which attracted wealthy worshipers; excavation has recovered some distinguished sculptures in imported marble which had apparently been buried during the reign of Constantine I, perhaps as a precaution against Christian persecution. The building itself continued in use for another generation. The Severan period was also prosperous: a large bath structure in Lower Thames Street is now known to have formed part of a residence built ca. A.D. 200. The city wall erected a little later was built of Kentish ragstone, quarried probably in the vicinity of Maidstone and brought by barge to London. Part of a river barge with a cargo of this stone was excavated in 1962 at Blackfriars Bridge: the boat seems to have foundered when its cargo shifted.
  During the 3d c., after the Severan reorganization, London served as capital of Britannia Superior. At the end of the century a mint, established there by the usurper Carausius, continued to issue coins until 326; in 383 another usurper, Magnus Maximus, reopened the mint for the issue of gold and silver. In 296 the struggle between Carausius' successor and the legitimate regime culminated in the rescue of London by the forces of Constantius I from the danger of looting by the defeated mercenaries of Allectus. The event is immortalized on a large gold medallion of the conqueror which was found at Arras, France, in 1922. It depicts a city gate and the kneeling figure of Lon(dinium) welcoming the mounted Caesar and a galley-load of his men. The recovery of Britain in 296 resulted in reorganization after the pattern of Diocletian. London, which perhaps in 306 received the title Augusta, became the capital of Maxima Caesariensis, one of the four new provinces into which the island was divided, but was also almost certainly the seat of the vicarius Britanniarum, who represented the praetorian prefect in the Diocese of Britain. The Notitia Dignitatum tells us that it was also the seat of the Treasury.
  Of the fate of the city in the 5th and 6th c. little is known. There is some evidence from the distribution of early Anglo-Saxon cemeteries that an effort was made to defend its approaches by settlements of barbarians who may represent foederati. A 5th c. Saxon saucer-brooch was found in the ruins of the Lower Thames Street bath block, suggesting that this building did not become ruinous much before 500. Other finds earlier than the 7th c. are rare. Though London may never have become completely depopulated, its surviving population shrank considerably. The recovery of its prosperity, which has always depended upon commerce, occurred only with the return of more settled conditions under the established Saxon monarchy.

S.S. Frere, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Feb 2006 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains 502 image(s), bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.

You are able to search for more information in greater and/or surrounding areas by choosing one of the titles below and clicking on "more".

GTP Headlines

Receive our daily Newsletter with all the latest updates on the Greek Travel industry.

Subscribe now!
Greek Travel Pages: A bible for Tourism professionals. Buy online

Ferry Departures