LONDINIVM AVGVSTA

Provincial Capital

London, Greater London

NGRef: TQ3281
OSMap: LR176/177; Londinium.
Type: Provincial Capital, Walled City, Claudian Auxiliary Fort, Hadrianic Legionary Fort, Governor's Palace, Mithraeum.
Roads
Ermine Street: N (28) to Braughing (Hertfordshire)
Itinera II, VI & VIII: Watling Street: NW (11) to SVLLONIACIS (Brockley Hill, Greater London)
NE (32) to Great Dunmow (Essex)
Itinera V & IX: ENE (14) to DVROLITVM (Harold Wood, Romford, Greater London)
Iter VII: W (18) to PONTES (Staines, Surrey)
Via London Bridge:
Itinera II, III & IV: Watling Street: ESE (13) to NOVIOMAGVS (Crayford, Greater London)
Stane Street: SSW (14) to Ewell (Surrey)
SSE (17) to Titsey (Surrey)
S (44) to Hassocks (West Sussex)

Londinium - The Town of Lugh

The standard second century geographical reference work by Claudius Ptolemaeus, mentions both the town of Londinium (vide infra) and the Tamesa Aestuarium (the Thames Estuary), on the upper reaches of which the settlement was located.

"Next to these,¹ but farther eastward, are the Canti² among whom are the towns: Londinium 20*00 5400 Darvernum 21*00 5400 Rutupie 21*45 5400.³"
  1. The Atrebates tribe of Hampshire and Berkshire.
  2. The Cantiaci tribe inhabited Cantium (Kent). This is curious, for London is generally thought to have been located in the territories of the Catuvellauni.
  3. These three towns are, respectively; London, Canterbury, and Richborough, the latter two being in Kent.

The work which best describes the location of Londinium is the Antonine Itinerary, an official imperial document of the late-second century which listed many of the major road routes of the Roman empire, fifteen of them in Britain, over half of which mention Londinium.

IterRouteLocation in Itinerary
IIFrom Hadrian's Wall to Richborough (Kent)12 miles from Sulloniacis (Brockley Hill, Greater London)
10 miles from Noviomago (Crayford, Greater London)
IIIFrom London to Dover (Kent)27 miles from Durobrivis (Rochester, Kent)
IVFrom London to Lympne (Kent)27 miles from Durobrivis (Rochester, Kent)
VFrom London to Carlisle (Cumbria) on the Wall28 miles from Caesaromago (Chelmsford, Essex)
VIFrom London to Lincoln21 miles from Verolami (St. Alban's, Hertfordshire)
VIIFrom Chichester (West Sussex) to London22 miles from Pontibus (Staines, Surrey)
VIIIFrom York to London21 miles from Verolamo (St. Alban's, Hertfordshire)
IXFrom Caistor St. Edmund (Norfolk) to London15 miles from Durolito (Romford, Greater London)
Above table compiled from data contained in the Antonine Itinerary
"Part XI - The Count of the Sacred Bounties
Under the control of the illustrious count of the sacred bounties:
... The accountant of the general tax of the Britains.
Provosts of the storehouses:
... In the Britains: The provost of the storehouses at London. ...
Procurators of the weaving-houses:
... The procurator of the weaving-house at Winchester in Britain. ..."
Above quote from the Notitia Dignitatum of the 4th/5th century AD

London also appears in the Ravenna Cosmology of the seventh century as Londinium Augusti (R&C#97), which appears between the entries for Verulamium (St. Albans, Hertfordshire) and Caesaromagus ( Chelmsford, Essex).

The Meaning of the Name - Londinium

"London Londinium c.AD115. An ancient name often explained as 'place belonging to a man called Londinios'. From a Celtic personal name with adjectival suffix, but now considered obscure in origin and meaning."
Entry from the Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names by A.D. Mills.

Epigraphic Evidence from London

HOMINIBVS BAGIS BITAM
"For mankind I would go to the ends of the Earth.¹"
(RIB 1; statuary group)
  1. Literally; 'For mankind to Bagae I would go'. Bagae was a town in Africa Province near the northern edge of the Sahara Desert, which is known to have possessed a Christian bishop prior to the Council of Nicea in AD325. The unnamed dedicator probably used this town merely to represent a location far removed from Britain, with the meaning quoted above. The inscription itself perhaps expresses the dedicator's Christian sentiment.

There are thirty-nine Latin inscriptions on stone recorded in the R.I.B. for London, about a fifth of which are fragmentary or otherwise illegible. A selection of the more interesting inscriptions are presented on this page, under several categories; the Roman military presence in London, the gods and religious institutions, also military and civilian tombstones.

The Claudian Encampment

A length of an early camp ditch was found at Fenchurch Street (Britannia 18 (1987) p.333; Brit. 20 (1989) pp.305-6) and Duke's Place (Brit. 4 (1973) p.306), evidence suggests that the ditch was filled-in soon after it was dug. There is room on the east hill for a camp of no more than c.75 acres (30.5ha), which is slightly more than half the size of the enclosure at Richborough. Because of this, it has been suggested that another large camp was erected near the Westminster Crossing, probably somewhere near Hyde Park.

The Roman Military

The only type of Roman military unit attested on stone at London are those of the Legions, even though it is generally thought that an auxiliary unit was stationed here nothing 'concrete' has been turned up. Three of Britain's legions are represented at London, The Second Augusta is attested on an altar dedicated to the god Mithras and on two tombstones of former soldiers from the legion (respectively, RIB 3, 17 & 19), one of them dated to the first quarter of the third century, the Twentieth Legion is represented by another two tombstones (RIB 13 & 18), and the Victorious Sixth is mentioned only on a single funerary inscription (RIB 11). All of these Latin texts are detailed and translated separately below.

Legio Secundae Augusta - The Second Augustan Legion

D M VIVIO MARCIANO LEG II AVG IANVARIA MARTINA CONIVNX PIENTISSIMA POSVIT MEMORAM
"To the spirits of the departed and Vivius Marcianus of Legio Secundae Augusta. Januaria Martina his most faithful wife placed this in his memory."
(RIB 17; tombstone)

The Second Augusta is famously mentioned on a relief of the Persian sun-god Mithras found near the Bank of England (RIB 3 infra), also on two tombstones; that of an ordinary soldier placed by his bereaved wife (RIB 17 supra), and that of a speculator or legionary scout, whose epitaph was dedicated by his fellow soldiers (RIB 19 infra).

DIS MANIBVS VALER L F C CELSVS ...SPEC LEG II AVG ANTON DARDANVS CVRSOR VALERIVS PVDENS ...S PROBVS SPEC LEGIONIS
"To the spirits of the departed and Gaius Valerius Celsus, son of Lucius, [soldier and] speculator¹ of the Second Augustan Legion, Atoninus Dardanus, Cursor,² and Valerius Pudens and [...] Probus, speculatores of the legion [place this memorial]."
(RIB 19; tombstone; dated: AD212-17³)
  1. A speculator is usually described as a spy, scout, or look-out, but an alternate school of thought is that the speculatores formed a sort of military police force attached to the general staff.
  2. The cursor was a military runner or courier, responsibile for communicating the legate's orders to outlying garrisons.
  3. The arguments for this date, which is quoted directly from the RIB, are unknown.

Legio Sextae Victrix - The Sixth Victorious Legion

D M FL AGRICOLA MIL LEG VI VICT V AN XLII D X ALBIA FAVSTINA CONIVGI INCOMPARABILI F C
"To the spirits of the departed and Flavius Agricola, a soldier of the Sixth Victorious Legion, who lived for forty-two years and ten days. Albia Faustina, for an unequalled husband, arranged for this to be made."
(RIB 11)

This legion is represented at London by a single undated funerary inscription dedicated to a miles, an ordinary soldier, by his wife (RIB 11 supra).

Legio Vicesimae Valeria Victrix - The Twentieth Legion, Valiant and Victorius

D M IVL VALENS MIL LEG XX VV AN XL H S E C A FLAVIO ATTIO HER
"To the spirits of the departed and Julius Valens, a soldier of the Twentieth Legion, Valiant and Victorious, forty years old, he lies here. [This memorial was] arranged by Flavius Attius his heir."
(RIB 13; tombstone)

Again, this legion is attested at London only on tombstones, two of them, both dedicated to the memory of ordinary soldiers or milites. One tombstone is dedicated by the heir of the deceased (RIB 13 supra), while the dedicator of the other epitaph is unknown, the latter part of the inscription being lost or damaged (RIB 18 infra).

SATVRNINO LEG XX VV G ACI M
"To Saturninus, of the Twentieth Legion, Valiant and Victorious, of the Galerian voting tribe, from Acium.¹ To [his] memory."
(RIB 18; tombstone; last part damaged and uncertain)
  1. A town at the foot of Mount Aetna in Sicily, lying at the mouth of the Acis river on the shores of the Mare Siculum - a small part of the Mediterranean Sea south of the Straits of Messina, the narrow channel which separates Sicily from the Italian mainland.

The Gods of Roman London

I O M TEMPLVM VETVSTATE CONLABSVM AQVILINVS AVG LIB ET MERCATOR ET AVDAX ET GRAEC RESTITVER
"For Jupiter Best and Greatest, this temple, collapsed through old age, was restored by Aquilinus, freedman of the emperor, a trader, a man of courage, a Greek."
(RIB 39a; altarstone; Britannia vii (1976), p.378, no.1)

Considering that Londinium was the largest and most populous town in the entire British province, the gods are not very well represented, with only half a dozen altarstones or religious inscriptions on stone recorded in the RIB. The god best represented is Mithras with two inscriptions (RIB 3 & 4), and there are other altarstones dedicated to the Spirit of the Emperor (RIB 5), to the head of the Roman pantheon Jupiter Optimus Maximus (RIB 39a), to the Syrian goddess Isis (RIB 39b) and a plinth dedicated to the Mother Goddesses (RIB 2).

MATRIBVS VICINIA DE SVO RESTITVIT
"For the Mothers, Vicinia restored this from her own resources."
(RIB 2; plinth)
NVM CAES AVG PROVINCIA BRITANNIA
"To the Spirit of the Caesar Augustus, [from] the province of Britain."
(RIB 5)

Known or Suspected Temples

The Temple of Mithras

VLPIVS SILVANVS EMERITVS LEG II AVG VOTVM SOLVIT FACTVS ARAVSIONE
"Ulpius Silvanus, veteran soldier of the Second Augustan Legion, in fulfillment of a vow, makes this altar [as the result of] a vision."
(RIB 3; relief of Mithras)

A large temple dedicated to the god Mithras, a Persian solar deity who especially appealed to the Roman military, was built on the east bank of the Walbrook stream sometime between AD240 and 350. A relief of the god discovered in 1880 bears an inscription dedicated by a veteran soldier of the Second Augustan Legion (RIB 3 supra) and another with a dedicatory text dateable to c.AD307-10 (RIB 4 infra) was found when the remains of the mithraeum itself was uncovered during building work near the Bank of England in 1957. The entire building was subsequently moved, piece-by-piece, one hundred yards across the Walbrook to the west, where the temple now lies on public display on the south side of Queen Victoria Street.

PRO SALVTE D N CCCC ET NOB CAES DEO MITHRAE ET SOLI INVICTO AB ORIENTE AD OCCIDENTEM
"For the Salvation of our lords the four emperors and the noble Caesar,¹ to the god Mithras, from the east to the west, the Invincible Sun.²"
(RIB 4; dated: AD307-310?)
  1. I am inclined to assign a date between AD307 to AD310, biased towards the latter. During this time the Roman world was ruled by the tetrarchy of Galerius, Maxentius and Constantine, while their fourth colleague Maximian was replaced by Licinius in 308. In AD310 Galerius appointed a fifth Caesar to replace himself in the east, Maximinus Daia, who may be the 'noble Caesar' mentioned in this inscription. Galerius himself died in 311.
  2. Sol Invictus was a pseudonym of Mithras.

The Temple of Isis

A temple to the great Egyptian goddess Isis was tantalizingly suggested by the discovery of an earthenware jug at Southwark on the opposite side of the Thames from the Londinium settlement, close to the line of the Watling Street through Cantium. This object was inscribed with the words LONDINI AD FANVM ISIDIS or "From London at the temple of Isis", and has been dated to the latter half of the second century. It was not until the mid-1970's that a Roman altarstone dedicated to the goddess was finally discovered (vide RIB 39b infra).

IN H D D M MARTIANNIVS PVLCHER V C LEG AVGG PRO PRAET TEMPLM ISIDIS C...TIS VETVSTATE COLLAPBSVM RESTITVI PRAECEPIT
"In tribute, a gift donated by Marcus Martiannius Pulcher, most honourable of men, pro-praetorian legate of the emperors, who restored this temple to Isis, which had collapsed through old age and lay in ruins."
(RIB 39b; altarstone; dated: c.3rd century; Britannia vii (1976), p.378-9, no.2)

Click here for details of a new altarstone to Mars Camulos

Possible Apsidal Temple

Aside from the famous temple of Mithras and the suspected temples of Isis and Camulos Mars detailed above, a possible temple is thought to have lain beneath the south-west corner of the 2nd-century forum/basilica, and obviously predated these monumental public buildings. The building is rectangular, measuring about 60 ft. by 34 ft. (c.18.3 x 10.4), with a squarish apse at its northern end. The walls of the building were an almost-uniform 3 ft. thick throughout, including a dividing wall which bisected the building into two, a squat rectangular room to the south had an entrance in its east side, and a portal in the partition wall led through to a square room at the north end with a projecting apse. This building is thought to be an apsidal shrine to some unknown deity.

Click here for the RBO Temples and Shrines Index

Civilian and Military Tombstones

D M SEMPRONIO SEMPRONIANO CENTVRIONI LEG ... VIXIT ANNOS LI ET FRATRIBVS SEMPRONIIS ... ET SECVNDO LEIBERTI EIVS PATRONIS BENE MERENTIBVS POSVERVNT
"For the spirits of the departed and Sempronius Sempronianus, centurion of the [...] Legion, who lived for fifty-one years, from the Sempronian brothers, [...] and from Secundus his freedman, for a patron rightly deserving, they make [this]."
(RIB 15; tombstone)
InscriptionTogo-TranslationRIB
A ALFID POMP OLVSSA EX TESTAMENTO HER POS ANNOR LXX NA ATHENVI H S EST"Aulus Alfidius Pompolussa, as stated in his will, his heirs placed this. Seventy years old, a native of Athens, he lies here."9
M AVR EVCARPO FIL PIENTISSIMO VIXIT ANN XV M VI AVR EVC ARPIA MA POSSVIT"For Marcus Aurelius Eucarpus, a most dutiful son who lived fifteen years and six months, Aurelia Eucarpia [his] mother placed this [memorial]."10
MEMORIAE VALER AMANDINI VALERI SVPERVENTOR ET MARCELLVS PATRI FECER"To the memory of Valerius Amandinus, Valerius Superventor and [Valerius] Marcellus made this for their father."16
D M CL MARTINAE AN XIX ANENCLETES PROVINC CONIVG PIENTISSIMAE"To the spirits of the departed and Claudia Martina, nineteen years old. Anencletes the provincial [slave made this], for a most faithful wife."21
D M GRATA DAGOBITI FIL AN XL SOLINVS CONIVGI KAR F C"To the spirits of the departed and Grata the daughter of Dagobiti, forty years old. Solinus arranged for this to be made for his dearest wife."22

Of the five inscriptions shown in the table above, RIB 16 is a scarcophagus, RIB 22 is a base of some sort, RIB 10 is undefined and the other two are tombstones.

DIS MANIBVS G POMPONI G F VALENTIS VICTRICENSIS B F TRIB LEG
"To the spirits of the departed and Gaius Pomponius, the son of Gaius, from Victorious Velantia,¹ beneficiarius,² legionary tribune."
(RIB 39f; J.R.S. lii (1962), p.191, no.1)
  1. Velantia was one of the ancient names for the city of Rome.
  2. The beneficiarii were privileged soldiers, excused normal duties, who often served on the personal staff of a senior officer.

The Beginnings of Roman London

The settlement of Londinium was established shortly after the Claudian invasion in the summer of AD43. The first Roman building was an Auxiliary Fort, built on the north bank of the Thames to the east of the Walbrook on the instructions of the military governor Aulus Plautius. The fort was established to guard the northern end of a wooden bridge which had been rapidly built across the Thames between Southwark and the north bank, also to secure the western flank during the Roman push eastwards against the British capital at Camulodunum (Colchester, Essex).

A civilian settlement comprised of the soldiers dependents, assorted native tradesmen and foreign merchants soon developed to the east of the Walbrook outside the defences of the fort, which was itself demolished after only a short period of use, probably before the AD50's, as the Roman military campaigns were extended into the Midlands and Wales. Though unprotected, the settlement had become well established as an important provincial town by the time the Iceni and the Trinovantes tribes rose in revolt in the winter of AD60/61 and destroyed the colony at Colchester, fifty miles from London. At the time, the governor Suetonius Paulinus was campaigning on the Isle of Anglesey, over two-hundred miles away.

London Razed During the Boudiccan Revolt

"Suetonius, however, with wonderful resolution, marched amidst a hostile population to Londinium, which, though undistinguished by the name of a colony, was much frequented by a number of merchants and trading vessels.
The Revolt of the Iceni - by Cornelius Tacitus (book XIV)
For an alternative version of the events described by Tacitus:
The Revolt of the Iceni - by Cassius Dio (LXII.1-12)

Upon hearing of the uprising to his rear, the Roman legate immediately gathered together all the legionary and auxiliary forces as he could possibly spare from the Midlands and Wales, then marched south-east to counter the rebel force. Despite his swift response, he was unable to stop the ravaging horde from falling upon defenceless London. The revolting natives razed the entire town to the ground. All who did not flee were massacred, their severed heads thown into the Walbrook stream. Chaos reigned throughout the South-East. Suetonius was forced to retreat back along the Watling Street, surrendering also the thriving town of Verulamium to the rebels as he fled north-west into the Midlands. Here however, as the unruly revolutionaries were delighting in rapine and destruction, he was able to concentrate his forces and a short time afterwards engineered a crushing defeat on the combined British army outside Manduessedum (Mancetter, Warwickshire).

Following the revolt, the province of Britain was very nearly surrendered by Rome, but the emperor Nero was turned from this course of action by the arguments of his advisor and former tutor Seneca, who had invested a lot of money in Britain and would have suffered financially if Rome were not to retain the island. As a result of Seneca's persuasive arguments, Julius Classicanus was appointed to the post of procurator of Britain. This was a non-military position whose main role was to restore economic order in the war-torn province. Classicianus was to succeed in his appointment but died in late AD61, his body cremated and his ashes placed in a small tomb along with containers of food outside the Roman town boundary at Tower Hill, where the fragments of his tomb were later discovered (vide RIB 12 infra).

DIS MANIBVS C IVL C F FAB ALPINI CLASSICIANI ... PROC PROVINC BRITANNIAE IVLIA INDI FILIA PACATA INDIANA VXOR
"To the spirits of the departed and Gaius Julius Alpinus Classicianus, son of Gaius, of the Fabian voting tribe, [...] procurator of the British province. His wife Julia Pacata Indiana, daughter of [Julius] Indus¹ [made this]."
(RIB 12; tombstone)
  1. The elite cavalry regiment the Ala Indiana was formerly commanded by Julius Indus, after whom the unit was later named. This Ala is thought to have seen action during the initial invasion of Britain, and is known to have been posted to the auxiliary fort at Corinium Dobunnorum (Cirencester, Gloucestershire; vide RIB 108) during the early years of Roman administration in Britain.

The Aftermath of the Revolt

Following the revolt, during the last quarter of the first century, Londinium was rebuilt, spreading west to the hill across the Walbrook, and soon became transformed into a Roman city. The first forum and basilica, which included a small temple, was constructed out of timber in the Bank area, while two public baths were built on the west hill at Cheapside and Trinity Lane. Remodelling and refinement of these bathhouses continued into the late second century. The palace of the provincial governor was built c.AD80-100 on the north bank of the Thames, just east of the Walbrook. Evidence of gold smelting was found beneath the Palace area. The original basilica and forum were replaced in the late-first/early-second century by more substantial stone buildings, wooden wharves were constructed on the north bank of the Thames, and the town soon became the centre of both provincial government and trade.

... LEG AVGVSTI IVRIDICVS PROVINCIAE BRITANNIAE OB VICTORIAM DACICAM
"[...] legate of the emperor, adjudicator of the province of Britain, for the victories in Dacica.¹"
(RIB 8; slate panel; restoration uncertain; dated: AD102 or 106)
  1. The emperor Trajan fought a fifteen-year long war in Dacia/Dacica starting in AD102.

The Hadrianic Fort

A large Fort was contructed sometime between AD100 and AD120, possibly in preparation for Hadrians visit to Britain in AD122. It was seemingly built into a grid of city streets already in existance which covered an area of around 330 acres. The fort measured about 750 x 705 feet (c.230 x 215 m) and its four-feet thick ragstone walls backed by an earthen rampart enclosed an area of around 12¼ acres (c.5 ha), sufficient to hold three or four legionary cohorts, between one-and-a-half to two-thousand soldiers. The Romans evidently thought London of such importance that they were willing to garisson ten percent of its British legionary forces here.

Shortly after the fort was built, perhaps around AD125-30, part of the city was destroyed by fire. The conflagration was probably accidental for there is no evidence to support the theory that the damage was the result of an attack. Whatever the cause, it would seem that a number of large public works were undertaken to restore the fire-damaged sectors of the city.

Evidence for the Provincial Capital

By the early second century London had become the recognised capital of the Roman province of Britannia.

A wooden writing tablet has been found near the Walbrook, branded with a circular stamp which bears the words: BRIT PROV - DEDERVNT PROC AVG "The province of Britain - Issued by the imperial procurator".

Roofing tiles: P.PR.BR.LON "The provincial procurator of Britain, at Londinium".

A Sinking in the Thames

During the late second century Britain began to suffer attacks from hostile Picts, Scots and Saxons. These attacks rapidly increased in frequency and destruction, and would naturally have caused some concern in Londinium. Around this same period a boat containing a cargo of ragstone sank in the River Thames in the vicinity of Blackfriars. There is nothing to suggest that the sinking was anything more than an accident, but the same lack of evidence means that the possibility of the boat being involved in some sort of altercation with Saxon pirates also cannot be disproved.

City Defences Started

Around the turn of the third century the city defences were begun. The entire town was enclosed on it's landward sides by a large ditch backed by a twenty-foot (six metre) high rampart wall which consisted of a ragstone facing with a rubble infill, bonded by several courses of flat bricks. Part of the defensive circuit of the existing Hadrianic fort was incorporated into the north-western perimeter of these city defences. Some parts of the wall itself can still be seen between the tall office buildings in the Bank area. In the mid-fourth century the remaining riverside wall was built, completely enclosing the city. Bastions were also added to the existing landward walls at this time.

Map of Londinium in the Fourth Century

Londinium Plan
London in the Fourth Century Based on the plan by R. Merrifield and the DUA, Museum of London.
Hadrianic Forum Amphitheatre Temple Hadrianic Fort Governor's Palace Public Baths Public Baths Public Buildings / Temples Wharf Wharf The Thames Bridge Temple of Mithras

The city wall was pierced by five large gates, through which superbly constructed roads reached out, arrow-straight through the surrounding countryside, linking Londinium with several nearby towns and beyond them, across the entire province. Surviving portions of these roads have been recorded during building work throughout modern times and their destinations are well known, but unfortunately none of the structures of the gates themeselves have survived. The locations of all the gates, however, have been preserved in the names of districts within the City of London; from Aldgate the road ran north-east to Camulodunum (Colchester, Essex), from Bishopsgate the road led north to Durovigutum (Godmanchester, Cambridgeshire), from Aldersgate the Watling Street ran north-west towards Verulamium (St. Albans, Hertfordshire), and the two roads from Newgate and Ludgate converged outside the city perimeter and ran westwards to Calleva (Silchester, Hampshire). London lay at the very hub of the Roman road system in Britain.

The late-third century saw the Roman empire torn apart by the struggles of several rebel generals who each claimed for themselves the right to be emperor. Emperor Constantinus Chlorus saved Londinium from rebels in AD296, and after a century of upheaval, during which London suffered many attacks from Saxon raiders, in AD410 emperor Honorius refused British cities help in defending against invading forces, and Londinium was gradually abandoned.

Click here for the Romano-British Walled Towns Page

See: Chapter 3 of The Towns of Roman Britain by John Wacher (2nd Ed., BCA, London, 1995);
Temples in Roman Britain by M.J.T. Lewis (Cambridge 1966);
The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965).
All English translations, including any inherent mistakes, are my own.

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