Where did the Romans settle in Britain?

The Romans settled all over Britain or as they called it Britannia, but not in Ireland. The settlements where focused in the South East with most of the settlements South of Hadrian’s wall. Here are some major Towns and their Roman names: London – Londinium, Colchester – Camulodunum, Exeter – Isca, Gloucester – Glevum, York – Eboracum, Chester – Deva, Lincoln – Lindum. Average Romans became aware of Britain in 55 BC when Julius Caesar invaded it. The first invasion only established a beach-head. Caesar reinvaded in 54 BC much more successfully. The initial invasion is thought to have failed because the Romans where not familiar with the military tactics they faced. The Britons had been helping the Gauls in France resist the Romans and some Gauls had fled to Britain. The invasions where conducted to punish the Britons for these actions. Interestingly at the time the Romans had no idea that they were invading an island.

Map of Roman Britain

Map of Roman Britain

To keep control of their captured territories the Romans set up forts. The first civilian Roman settlements catered to the needs of the Roman soldiers. They would normally have a bakery, blacksmith, ale house, brothel, tailor, cobbler and so on. It was illegal for the soldiers to get married, but they would have affairs and a large part of the new population would be dependents of the soldiers.

From the initial settlements and the forts the population spread to areas with natural resources. Industries started to take hold in these areas. With the larger population came the need for a local government, the enforcement of civil law. Additionally temples, bath-houses and Amphitheatres where built to accommodate the masses.

Statue of Constantine

Statue of Constantine

Construction on Hadrian’s Wall started in 122 AD and was completed 6 years later. The wall stretched 120 km across Northern England. Hadrian was the Roman emperor at the time and visited Britain in 122 AD. The wall was built to discourage small raiding groups and cattle thieves from the Northern Scottish tribes.

Londinium

Londinium was established as a town after the the Roman invasion of 43 AD by emperor Claudius. The civilian part of Londinium was setup by 50 AD. The spot for the town was selected because the Thames there was thin enough to build a bridge over it, but deep enough for seagoing vessels.  Initially the town was rather small 350 acres.

The city was sacked in 60 AD by the Iceni led by queen Boudica. The Roman general Gaius Suetonius Paulinus had his troops evacuate the town before the Iceni arrived. The Iceni slaughtered the civilians that had not fled and burned the town down.

The Romans eventually defeated the Britons in a battle that killed 70,000 Britons. After this the town was rebuilt taking about 10 years to recover. In the 1st century Londinium grew quickly eventually replacing Colchester as the capital of Roman Britain. By 140 AD the town had a population of around 50,000.

After 400 AD the Roman Empire went into decline. Between 407 and 409 AD many barbarian tribes invaded Spain and Gaul damaging communication between Britain and Rome, in the far west of the Empire Roman troops started electing their own leaders. The last of these elected leaders was Constantine III. He was declared emperor of a Western Roman Empire. After that Constantine III moved a  force over the Channel. That left Britain without enough troops to defend themselves. In response during 410, the Roman-British government ditched their allegiance to the Western Emperor and appealed for help from the Eastern Emperor Honorius. He declined effectively ending the Roman occupation of Britain.

After that Britain became more at risk of attack by Germanic invaders, such as the Saxons, Frisii and Jutes. There is little evidence of what happened in London after the fall of the Roman Empire. We do know that long distance trade broke down, imperial officials were not paid and the size of London decreased considerably.

Londinium

Londinium

York

Another major Roman settlement was in York. Prior to the Roman incursion of England in 43 AD, the region that's now known as Northern England was governed by a group of tribes called the Brigantes. In 71 AD the the 9th Roman legion was sent to take the Brigantes' territory by the governor Quintus Petillius Cerialis.

The area at the confluence of the Foss and the Ouse rivers was considered of military importance. The legion set up a fort on the Ouse. A town formed next to the fort and it was called Eboracum, which means "place of the yew trees".
So essential did York become, a royal palace was constructed in the city, and Emperor Severus lived here with his court from 209 to 211.

Hadrian's Wall

Hadrian's Wall

Emperor Constantius visited York in 306 and died suddenly. His son was proclaimed the new emperor in York, he was the founder of Constantinople as well as the first Christian Emperor of Rome.

If you enjoyed this article you will love Roman Battles in England.


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