The Romans in Colchester (1)

Posted: October 6, 2015 in Essex, History, Roman History, UK
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Map of Roman Colchester

Map of Roman Colchester

A trip with the History group to Colchester in Essex.

Prior to the arrival of the Romans in Britain, Camulodunum had been the Royal seat of Cunobelin, Leader of the Trinovantes. When the Roman invaded in 43AD the Emperor Claudius himself (during his brief 14 day visit) led the Roman legions into the settlement, where they proceeded to construct a legionary fortress on the high ground overlooking the Trinovantes settlement, In the initial years of the Roman conquest this newly founded Roman settlement served as the capital of the province of Britannia.

By 49AD it had become a civilian colonia named Colonia Claudia and the military presence was mostly comprised of retired soldiers. A dispute in AD60 with the Iceni following the death of their king led to his widow Boudica leading the Iceni and the Trinovantes against the colonia. It was ill-prepared and the rebels stormed through the city burning and killing. Those that could took refuge in the Temple of Claudius, on the site of the current castle. Here they held out for 2 days waiting for relief that never came and finally the rebels burnt it down and massacred any survivors.

Model of Temple of Claudius (Colchester Museum)

Model of Temple of Claudius (Colchester Museum)

Roman helmet from destruction layer of AD60 (Colchester Museum)

Roman helmet from destruction layer of AD60 (Colchester Museum)

Building Material from destruction layer of AD60 (Colchester Museum)

Building Material from destruction layer of AD60 (Colchester Museum)

The colonia was rebuilt following the suppression of the rebellion, but lost it status as provincial capital to the fast growing settlement of Londinium. During this rebuilding a city wall was added to ensure that the city would never be undefensible again.

Roman city wall

Roman city wall

Balkerne Gate, Colchester. Built as one of the entrances through the city wall. It originally had 4 arches, two for pedestrians and two for traffic. This made it the largest entrance arch found in the UK. Today only one pedestrian arch survives as part of a stretch of the Roman city wall.

Balkerne Gate, Colchester. Built as one of the entrances through the city wall. It originally had 4 arches, two for pedestrians and two for traffic. This made it the largest entrance arch found in the UK. Today only one pedestrian arch survives as part of a stretch of the Roman city wall.

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