Do you know where to find evidence of the Roman history in London?

At the beginning it was Londinium: that’s how the Roman history in London starts.

The Romans settled here around 50 BC and began to build a village that served during the years as a major commercial centre of the Roman empire.

It suffered assaults, big fires, plagues, but every time the Romans re-built everything up and added some more to the original settlement, until it became a proper Roman town.

Luckily some ruins of those gone days still remain and offer us the chance to see and actually touch a piece of Roman history in London. It only takes a bit of digging up and the ground will reveal its treasures!

For example, right in the very heart of the City, close to the Bank of England, digging to lay some groundwork, an entire treasure just came up from the ground. More than 10,000 Roman artefacts have been found, all of them perfectly preserved. Leather objects, clothes, crockery, plates, incisions and mosaics were waiting to be discovered just 12 meters under the road surface.

Just 6 meters under Liverpool Street, 20 Roman skulls have been found, probably belonging to Romans prisoners beheaded by the Britannic queen Boudica, who led an uprising against the Romans in 61 AC.

And there is much more!

Again underground, the remains of a major Roman bath house have been found near the Thames in Southwark on land being cleared by Network Rail for the Thameslink project.

It’s a complex including a cold plunge bath and rooms heated by underfloor hypocausts, and is one of the most significant finds on the South Bank in recent years. In Roman times the main settlement was on the north bank of the river Thames and was connected to the settlement at Southwark by the first London bridge.

During rebuilding work in 1954 in the City of London a Roman temple was discovered, dedicated to Mithras and built around the mid-3rd century.

Mithras was a very popular god among the Roman soldiers but there were also found white marble likenesses of Minerva, Bacchus and Mercury, plus some clay-figurines of Venus. This is still probably the most famous of all the twentieth-century Roman discoveries in the City and gives a great thrill just looking at it.

There’s another exciting experience offered by the Guildhall Art Gallery: a walk underground among the remains of a Roman Amphitheatre surrounded by sounds and lights effects that offer tourists an amazing feeling in picturing themselves back directly in Roman times!

Finally, let’s not forget something we probably see every day without paying much attention to it: the London Wall, built by the Romans as a defensive wall all around the ancient Londinium.

It appears to have been built in the late 2nd or early 3rd century and it had a number of gates around the outside that led to important Roman roads leading to other towns in the country. The original gates on the wall going clockwise from Ludgate in the West to Aldgate in the East were: Ludgate, Newgate, Cripplegate, Bishopgate and Aldgate.

We walk around London every day, over and underground and most of the times we don’t realise how much history just surrounds us, making us all part of the never-ending stream of human history.

Susanna Fiale

 

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