Roman Britain for the Visitor


Antonine Guard

In AD 43 a force comprising some 45,000-50,000 men comprising four legions (II Augusta, IX Hispana, XIV Gemina and XX Valeria) successfully invaded what is now Southern England, an event which was the precursor to the Roman domination of mainland Britain which lasted until AD 410. Overall, Britain was subject to Roman influence for a period of some 450 years. Despite the long period of time, Britain was always at the edge of Roman influence and never achieved the wealth, status and sophistication of countries at the heart of the Empire. However, in Britain the Romans left a massive physical legacy as manifested in roads, towns, cities, villas, palaces, hoards of coins and valuables and engineering feats that we can still appreciate today.

Towns in Roman Britain: Londinium (London), Durovernum (Canterbury), Verulamium (St. Albans), Camulodunum (Colchester), Venta Icinorum (Norwich), Calleva (Silchester), Regnum (Chichester), Venta Belgarum (Winchester), Sorbiodunum (Old Sarum), Durnovaria (Dorchester), Isca Dumnuniorum (Exeter), Aqua Sulis (Bath), Corinium (Cirencester), Clevum (Gloucester), Venta Silurum (Caerwent), Isca Augusta (Caerleon), Magnae (Kenchester), Virconium (Wroxeter), Ratae (Leicester), Durobrivae (Castor), Lindum (Lincoln), Deva (Chester), Eburacum (York), Isurum ( Aldborough), Luguvallium (Carlisle), Corstopitum (Corbridge). Most of these towns were under civilian control.

 Remains at Roman Wroxeter

Industry in Roman Britain: This was the iron-age with Britain essentially an agrarian society. Key manufacturing industries were:

  • Pottery manufacture in the Nene Valley , Medway and New Forest.
  • Glass-working in N.E. England.
  • Bronze and silver brooches.
  • Enamelling.

Roman Potter

Roman Military Remains: There is a considerable legacy of camps, forts, walls, legionary centres (e.g. York, Chester, and Caerleon) plus, of course, the World Heritage sites comprising  Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine Wall. In Perthshire (Scotland) can be found an early Roman frontier known as the Findo Gask Ridge.

Roman Villas:  In the main these were undefended grand country houses occupied by local Britons who had become romanised. These properties are mainly found in Southern England reflecting the wealth derived from the fertile farming lands. The principal sites are: Bignor, Chedworth, Fishbourne Palace  and Lullingstone.Recently a high quality, replica Roman Villa has been constructed at The Newt in Somerset.

 Bath House at Chedworth

Public Buildings and Baths: The forum in each town was a combination of market-place and civil administration; examples have been excavated at Silchester and Caerwent. Amphitheatres (for public entertainment) have been found at Dorchester, Caerleon, Richborough, Silchester and Cirencester. Bathing was an integral part of everyday life for the wealthier section of the community. Roman Baths are similar to modern-day Turkish baths and essentially comprise a three stage process: frigidarium (cool room), tepidarium (warm room) and caldarium (hot room). The skin was scraped as soap was not available. In addition to the famous baths at Bath (Aqua Sulis), bathing facilities were widespread encompassing military establishments and civilian residences such as villas.


  Amphitheatre at Chester (Deva)

Roman Coins: Britain participated in the monetary system of the Western Roman Empire. Most coins in circulation were struck in mints on continental Europe. The most common coins discovered feature the following emperors: Constantine, Gallienus, Claudius Gothicus, Carausius and Constans, Vespasian, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Faustina I. Hoards of Roman coins continue to be discovered.

Roman Roads: It is estimated that the Romans built some 10,000 miles (16,000km) of roads, a network which today still forms the skeleton of Britain’s road system. In the early years of the occupation the roads were probably built by military engineers to a very high standard but subsequently standards slipped as the communications emphasis switched to commercial and agricultural needs.


Clearly, tangible evidence of the Roman period in Britain is widespread and easily accessible thus offering a wide range of opportunities for visitors to make a connection and gain an appreciation for the skills and civilisation introduced by the Romans.


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