Londinium, now London was the largest city and capital of the Roman province of Britannia. Located on the Thames, which in turn provided a good connection to the sea and the hinterland, Londinium was also an important trading center.

The history of Londinium can be from a few scattered mentions in ancient authors reconstruct in outline with reference to the general history of Britain and excavations in the city. At the end of the third century it was even residence of the emperor Carausius counter and thus capital of a special empire in Britain. As a major Roman city, they had all the public buildings of such, only a portion of them could be identified by excavations. The major forum in the center of the city, the largest building of its kind north of the Alps, bears witness to the strong economic position of Londinium. This is also confirmed by the remains of numerous warehouse on the banks of the Thames.

  • 2.1 Londinium as a provincial capital
  • 3.1 Art
  • 3.2 Remains of Roman wall painting
  • 4.1 Area of the city
  • 5.1 Forum
  • 5.2 Praetorium
  • 5.3 Temple
  • 5.4 Other public buildings
  • 5.5 Warehouse
  • 5.6 military camp
  • 5.7 residential Buildings
  • 5.8 ramparts
  • 5.9 suburbs
  • 5:10 necropolis
  • 6.1 The visible remains in the present town of
  • 8.1 General
  • 8.2 Ancient Authors
  • 8.3 Excavation Reports


In the year 43 AD, large parts of present-day England were conquered by the Romans. In the years after the conquest there were several city -ups, which are mostly concerned about the main places of indigenous tribes. The cities whose foundation is often preceded by the establishment of a military camp, the starting point of the Romanization of the country were. With the soldiers and traders and artisans who sought their fortune in the new province came.

Unlike many other Roman towns in Britain Londinium appears to have had no Celtic Vorgängerort, and the city was never the capital of a tribal area ( civitas ). In today's city of London there are several prehistoric settlements, but to describe any of them as true ancestor settlement. It is a Roman military camp on the site of the presumed future town, but this could not be demonstrated so far archaeologically and therefore remains very speculative. Nevertheless, a strong Celtic influence is already in the naming ( Londinium is probably of Celtic origin and may contain the Celtic personal name Londinos ) recognizable. Maybe the place name is derived from the pre-Celtic but ( ureuropäischen ) Word Plowonida what about " settlement on the wide river " means.

The location of the resort was very low. Here the Thames (Latin Tamesis ) was relatively flat and therefore could be crossed without difficulty. The river provided a good connection to the sea and thus to Gaul and the Mediterranean. From Londinium could also be reached other places in Britain by land. Even during the Roman invasion in 43, the site of the later city was a central point of the Romans.

Before the revolt of Boudicca 47-60 AD

Archaeologists now believe that Londinium was created a few years after the invasion as a civilian settlement, starting from Cornhill in the east of the present city center. Along the former, running east -west Roman main street, a wooden sewer line was discovered during construction of the house No. 1 Poultry. The dendrochronological investigation revealed that it originates from the year 47 AD; This is often indicated in modern times as the most probable founding year of the city.

On either side of the marshy Walbrooktals ( the Walbrook stream here flowed into the Thames ), the town was built on slopes. However, so far could neither a bridge nor a castle nor buildings, which were usually built to be proven. This settlement gained early significant proportions. At the site of the later forum there was a large open space, which probably acted as a market. The former houses were all made ​​of wood. The Report concluded that Tacitus, the city was famous for its many merchants and extensive trade relations. Tacitus ' statements were substantiated by numerous archaeological finds in the port area. The early special importance was Londinium so by trading in mainland Europe. In the uprising of Boudicca in 60 AD, the rebels took the place that was certainly not fixed, and burned him down completely. The Roman legate Gaius Suetonius Paulinus could not hold the city and the rebels left the thriving city feel their particular anger. The destruction of archaeological horizon is clearly visible today.

Second and third century

In the years after the uprising, the city was rebuilt. Londinium was now the capital of the British province, the exact date of the move of the provincial administration of Camulodunum (Colchester ) to Londinium is not safe. But speaking of the importance of the city, for example, that here the province of managers Gaius Julius alpinus Classicianus was buried. West of the Walbrook public stone buildings were erected, as a forum, a praetorium and spas. The Forum has been expanded to 120. In the north- west of the city, a four-hectare castle, which can be seen in a context of the officium of the governor was. In the immediate vicinity there was an amphitheater. Around the year 100 began with the extension of the quays, which were built from huge oak beams along the banks of the Thames.

Although there have been numerous stone early, the majority of residential development initially consisted of wooden houses. The city had a plan with streets intersecting at right angles, of course, with many irregularities that might be attributable to the unplanned early growth of the city. There were several fires in the town, in which parts of the city were destroyed. These are only archaeologically tangible. The most devastating of these fires can be dated to the reign of Emperor Hadrian. From this time, a burned warehouse could be dug up, full of imported, still unused terra sigillata.

In the year 122 the Emperor Hadrian visited Britain and probably Londinium, and it is believed that the construction and expansion of some public buildings have been made at the suggestion of the Emperor. In the period following the ancient city reached its greatest flowering time and it can be assumed that tens of thousands of people lived here.

In the years 185 to 187 of the future emperor Pertinax was governor of Britain and resided in the city. Shortly after he was Clodius Albinus to 195, who was also governor of Britain, probably, that is levied in Londinium for Caesar as co-emperor.

Between 190 and 220 was built in the north, east and west of the municipal area, a wall that was extended towards the end of the third century to the River Thames. The exact reasons for the construction of the London Wall remain in the dark, it did so at a time, as well as many other Britannic cities were given a city wall. To 200 Britannic province was divided in two. Londinium was now the capital of Britannia Superior. During the third century, the ratios were restless, and the city also appears to target of attacks by various barbarians to have been. At the end of the third century (286 ) the city was probably the seat of government of the emperor Carausius counter. 296 retook the legitimate Emperor Constantius I., on whose coins we find the oldest image of the city, this special Britannic Empire. The sources report of an impending looting of the city by the Franks, who just could not prevent the emperor. Shortly thereafter, there was a renewed provincial division. Londinium was now the capital of the province of Maxima Caesariensis. The whole of the third century is archaeologically in the city are poorly documented. Compared to the second century Londinium obviously made by a phase of decline.

Fourth century

Order 314, the city had a bishop. Restitutus this year took part in the Christian council in Arles and is mentioned in this context. Administratively, however, the city maintained its importance even further. In addition to the survey of Augusta and the stationing of praepositus thesaurum Augustensium in the late 4th century, is mentioned.

During the fourth century there were numerous attacks on Britain by the Franks and Saxons. The extent to which the city was affected by it, is not known. Flavius ​​Theodosius, the father of the future Emperor Theodosius I, put on 368 with his son to Britain and came after Londinium, where he wintered, and then restore order. Nevertheless, Britain was in late antiquity, especially a springboard for usurpers. In the year 383 there was with Magnus Maximus again a rival emperor in Britain, whose capital was probably Londinium briefly and left here also characterize coins. After the usurper Constantine III. 407 had left Britain with the remnants of the Army, the province was largely left to themselves. As with virtually all Britannic cities, a steady decline has taken place, although there were apparently a number of handsome mansions inhabited during the fourth century. In Londinium but the decline seems to have been more dramatic than in other places in Britain. Finds from the end of the fourth century are rare. Coins of this period are in the find material hardly to be found. In the course of the fifth century, the city was largely abandoned, the settlement activity shifted to the outside of the walls in the west, on the other side of the River Fleet. Here also the Anglo-Saxon Lundenwic, which already emerged for signs of recent excavations by 500 originated.

Status of the city

It is unclear today but despite the undoubted importance of the city its status. It is not known whether it was a colonia or civitas. Is likely, however, that the city was elevated to the Flavian period municipium. For the fourth century, there are indications that the city was perhaps really elevated to the status of a colonia. This is suggested that Londinium was renamed Augusta. The population of the city was much more colorful mixed than in all other cities of Britain, which is understandable as the administrative center and in the role of the city. Merchants, soldiers and imperial officials influenced the life in the city sustainable. For example, a wide range of ancient cults was represented. Already in the first century was a temple of Isis, which was renewed by 250. To the east of the Walbrook was from the late 2nd century until its destruction in the early 4th century a richly furnished with sculptures Mithraeum. Not too long ago, it took place on Tower Hill a basilica, which is probably to be identified as a Christian church in the late 4th century.

Londinium as a provincial capital

The function of Londinium as provincial capital is not explicitly mentioned in the ancient sources, but can be inferred from various clues. First, it was the largest Roman city of Britain. It was found in the Nicholas Lane an inscription that perhaps the numina Caesaris Augusti calls for which they are the good spirits of the Emperor; they point to the existence of the imperial cult in the city. This cult was practiced mostly in the provincial capital. In the city there was a wooden writing board, which bears the stamp of the imperial procurator. The board has never been used. It seems unusual that such a board was discarded away from his office. The appropriate office is also supposed in Londinium. There is the grave stone of speculators, in which there is an official who has been witnessed only in the palace of a provincial governor. A centurion named Vivius Marcianus is known of his grave stone from London. It carries a roller and it is believed that it was princeps praetorii. Finally, roof tiles found with the inscription: P.PR.BR.LON - the Provinzprocurator of Britain in Londinium. In the fourth century, the city was but certainly, as in the Notitia Dignitatum is listed, the seat of the Vicar and the Praepositus thesaurorum in which they were each to senior officials of the provincial administration.

Craft and Trade

There is ample evidence for various craft shops. At the site of the later praetorium a goldsmith in the first century seems to have worked. From before the revolt of Boudicca, there is also evidence of Ironforge and copper processing. Remarkably, there is not often seen, are the remains of glass workshops from the first and second centuries. Before the uprising was the city also a pottery, the potters possibly came from the Rhone Valley, where there was a thriving pottery industry before.

Particularly important for the city was the trade, especially with Gaul, Germany, Spain and Italy. On the banks of the Thames wharves could be excavated, and the river was found even a relatively well- preserved ship. Inscriptions prove that the inhabitants of the city came from all parts of the Roman Empire after Londinium. The special importance of trade also confirmed by the large number of excavated warehouse, especially on the banks of the Thames. As a commodity is archaeologically occupied mainly pottery, including lamps and clay figurines belong. In the aftermath of the rebellion of Boudicca simple panel goods were mostly produced in the vicinity of the city or came from different potteries at Verulamium. In the second century this came from pottery from Dorset. Sophisticated table goods, especially Samian ware, imported from Gaul. From the third century, these imports declined, however, and we only used local pottery.

Glassware took, in spite of its own production, certainly as import goods, especially since the second century. Valuable construction materials were partially introduced from far away, even though they certainly did not play a large role in the overall trading volume. Foods were prepared to part locally. In Londinium itself was found the remains of a plant, where fish sauce ( garum ) was produced. Certain sophisticated foods such as olives, fish sauce from Spain, various types of fish, fruits and wine but were imported. In the Thames there was an amphora with 6000 olive. As Britannic African export appear especially textiles in ancient texts. As a special delicacy Britannic oysters are mentioned in Roman sources. As findings show - in the port of Londinium were many oysters - the city was one of the places were shipped from which these shells.


A big city as Londinium was certainly richly adorned with works of art, of which examples are also obtained from all areas. The architecture is however so much destroyed come down to us, that it is hardly possible to get a real picture of her. It can not be said, for example, with certainty whether there were temples in classic style. The well-preserved bath at the bank of the Thames at Huggin Hill acts architecturally rather undemanding and is designed purely functional. In contrast, the Praetorium was a representative building with large halls, a garden and various rooms with apses. In recent excavations were found in the suburbs south of the Thames a district with two Gallo- Roman temples.

Something clearly is the image in the sculptures and flat, the latter can be divided into mosaic and painting.

Like most cities in the Roman Empire, the public squares and temples, and certainly the homes of wealthy citizens were richly decorated with statues. Examples of sculptures can also be found in the cemeteries of the city. It can basically be divided into two styles. A number of works has obviously been produced on the Mediterranean not on site, but in Italy or elsewhere. They fall by their purely classical style (see the bronze head of Hadrian ) on their stylistic perfection and the high technical standard. Several such works were also found in Mithraeum. There usually are small, but also life-size marble sculptures. Local -made sculptures are usually much coarser and act sometimes a bit out of proportion. This was, at least partially, due to the use of local rock types. These sculptures are close to works of the Gallo- Roman culture.

In Londinium over a hundred remains have been found of mosaic floors, which usually depict geometric patterns. The few surviving figurative representations seem rather modest in terms of their quality. This is in contrast to the preserved examples of mural painting. The remains of a wall in Southwark are with her portrayal plastic Architecture hardly Italic examples from the same period of time ( see picture below). Similar residues are also well known from other parts of the city and show how closely this art form was required in Londinium Italian models. Paintings that have been found, for example, in Fenchurch Street, belong to elaborate architectural paintings with Aedikulae. They probably date from the beginning of the second century.

Remains of Roman wall painting

Fragments of a wall painting

Fragments of wall paintings; Fenchurch Street

The city

Londinium was on the Thames; it was in Roman times, much wider than it is today. The urban area retreated to a length of about 1.5 km along the river and was about 600 to 1000 m wide. It was walled by 200. Outside the city walls, where especially the cemeteries are found, the settlement was thin. The center of the city from the beginning was the area around the Forum. In this area were also many costly residential and here found most mosaics. A further concentration of buildings can be found along the River Thames. Here, too, remains important public buildings, richly furnished dwellings, numerous warehouses and wharves were found. To the north, away from the Thames bank, the building seems to have been relaxed, and especially in the time of Bevölerungsrückgangs in the third and fourth century these areas were undeveloped and were used as gardens or farmland. At the end of the fourth century, when the population ever decreased, remained mainly the areas inhabited the banks of the Thames.

Around the town

The entire urban area of ​​today's Greater London (Greater London ), there are Roman finds. Larger settlements there were probably only in Enfield, Brockley Hill and Old Ford in the north and Brentford, Putney, Croydon and Gray Ford in the south. All these places, over which is otherwise little known, are on the arterial roads of the city. Villas are from the immediate environment of the city, however, poorly known. It is questionable whether this is a coincidence or had a special, no longer apparent reason.

The buildings


In the center of the city stood the forum. It was the largest building of its kind north of the Alps. Even before the revolt of Boudicca, there was an empty seat here. From the actual forum, two phases can be distinguished; in the second, the Forum has been greatly expanded. The identification of the building in the first phase as a forum is controversial and it has also been suggested that it was warehouses at residues found. Another possibility would be, finally, that it has acted to macellum. The few remains show rows of spaces that may have belonged to warehouses, but also to the aforementioned buildings.

The expansion in the second phase is often associated with the visit of Emperor Hadrian; could not be proved and the date the thesis it was felt that it could have been expanded under the Flavians ( 69-96 AD). After all, can be repeatedly elsewhere in the Roman Empire observed that Kaiser donated money during their visits for the construction or expansion of public buildings. The forum consisted of a large open space with a pond in the middle. The place was once lined with colonnades and shops. In the north, a basilica joined with apses. The basilica consisted of a central nave. The whole complex was about 168 × 167 m in size. The main entrance was probably in the south. This forum was demolished around 300 and never rebuilt.


On the banks of the River Thames ( in the area of present-day Cannon Street station ) was a large impressive building with a garden, ponds and fountains. Perhaps it is the Praetorium (Palace of the Governor ) of the city, although the remains poorly preserved not completely exclude a different function, such as a large bath. The building plan is preserved only in parts. The construction, however, was once rich with features such remnants of mosaics show. There was a large central hall and components with apses. The building was built in the second half of the first century, with various extensions and alterations could be observed in the following period. The building was used until about 300.


Londinium had several temples. On an altar renovating a temple of Jupiter is mentioned. Through inscriptions of the construction of a temple of the mother goddess, and a temple of the Egyptian goddess Isis is busy. A pitcher bears the inscription of Londinium at the Temple of Isis. An altar finally called the renovation of the temple to Isis. In addition to the construction, perhaps the first forum figured there were the foundations of a rectangular and about 10 × 20 m large temple. There were two rooms, and in the second, larger space a niche, certainly for the cult statue. Before the building was a temple district belonging to the free space. Which deity was worshiped here, is not known. The building was leveled with the establishment of the great Forum.

On the banks of the Thames, rather in the west of the city ( near Peter 's Hill ) strong foundations of an unknown building were found during excavations. It is believed that they belong to a temple. Finally, recent excavations in the suburb of Southwark could detect a small temple district. Here were two Gallo- Roman temple with. The revered deities stay here for the time being, however, unknown. The excavations of the temple complex was donated by the general public attention, as a cream can found here, in the was still the antique cream. Another Gallo- Roman temple with was discovered in winter 2006/2007 in the east of the city.

However, could be identified with certainty only a Mithraeum. The building also contained numerous sculptures at its discovery in 1954. The remains were transferred and are therefore still preserved. West of the city, outside the city walls, they found the remains of an octagonal building, which is perhaps the remains of a temple. It was built around 270 or maybe even until the fourth century.

Other public buildings

Several baths are known, it is not always safe in each individual case whether the remains found belonged to public or private bathing facilities. The bathroom at Huggin Hill ( near the Thames bank ), which was built in the Flavian period and could be almost completely excavated, is certainly a public bath was. It contained one of the largest heated rooms in Roman Britain. However, it was torn down at the end of the second century.

At Fenchurch Street, just east of the forum, they found the remains of a hall, which burned down in the time of Hadrian. The meaning is uncertain, but it could be at the meeting hall of a guild, although this is only one of various proposed interpretations.

Just south of the military camp, the foundations of an amphitheater could be excavated. It was about 130 × 110 m tall and was built in the second century and abandoned in the middle of the fourth century.

South of Peter 's Hill on the River Thames, where the strong foundations that were perhaps a temple were found, also found the remains of a triumphal arch built again. The former site of the arch remains unknown, but with the assumption that he was not far from the temple suspected here, it can be assumed that there was a religious center of the city with various public buildings here.

Remnants of an aqueduct have not yet been found. Probably the city was supplied by the Thames and its tributaries with fresh water. At several places in the city were found sewers made ​​of wood, the continued initiated dirt and rainwater.


On the banks of the Thames 1973-1983 numerous storage buildings were excavated in the years that testify to the economic importance of the city. Here were also found to operate in the so popular for Roman dishes fish sauce was produced. The shoreline pushed it over the centuries more and more to the south, thus bringing new land has been won. Parts of the embankments with the jetties of wood have been found in excavations and were surprisingly well preserved partially. The remains of a wooden box that once stood in the water, the foundations of the suspected Thames bridge could be.

Military camp

North of the city there was an approximately 4.5 -hectare military camp, which was built at the end of the first or early second century. It is unclear in what way was stationed for a military force here, maybe soldiers who were in contact with the resident in Londinium governor. In texts on consecration stones from the city legions appear. But it is very doubtful that they had their camp here. Three legions are attested. It is the Legio II Augusta, XX Valeria Victrix Legio Legio VI Victrix and the.

Residential buildings

Ancient dwellings could be detected throughout the modern city. Since the excavations, however, usually only cover small parts, only a few buildings are visible in their overall plan. In the first and second centuries mainly wooden buildings seem to have dominated that covered tightly packed the city although there were also significant stone houses. As well as several round huts of the first century that will undoubtedly come from indigenous Britons who settled in the city. In the third century, more and more stone buildings were built, these buildings were usually larger and it seems that there was a decrease in trade and industry. During this time, some areas within the city walls seem to have been undeveloped and the arable or horticultural reserved. A particularly large residential building with swimming facilities found on today's Lower Thames Street, near the River Thames, just southeast of the forum.

The larger houses, particularly in the city center, had mosaics, murals, hypocaust and bath facilities. Provides evidence of the prosperity of the city.

City ​​wall

The city wall of stone that was surrounding to go about 3.2 km long is, most city walls of Britain as was built at the end of the second century. Below the wall was found a coin of Commodus. There were at least six goals, one more, if not more, can be expected to the Thames to where there was a bridge over the river. The bridge can also be opened up so far only from the concentration of finds in the area and the location of the suburbs on the other side of the Thames. Unique yet remains were not found. The walls closed the military camp, but also the amphitheater with one, which was not the case in most other cities in the Britannic rule. The course of the city wall is generally secured only on the west side, south of Ludgate Hill, it has not been archaeologically detectable. As the banks of the Thames was secured, is not clearly demonstrated. It was initially based on a series of towers. However, recent excavations on the banks of the Thames brought to light massive walls, which is why there is some evidence that the bank was confirmed through a wall. The problem is that the seawall was probably first built around 270 AD, so much later than the land wall.


On the south side of the Thames (now Southwark ) there was a large suburb that was associated with the city proper by a bridge. The terrain was flat here, was often flooded, so that could be settled only on a series of small hills. The building seems to have been typical of a suburban and developed mainly along the arterial roads. In them, however, also significant stone buildings were excavated with some rich interiors. Here probably was also the Temple of Isis. An inscription that was found on site, lists legionaries by name. It remains unclear what is the purpose of this inscription and why she found herself right here. After all, this inscription may be associated with a suspected here mansio. There was a temple district with two temples.


Outside the walls, there was extensive necropolis with some monumental tombs. The tomb of Gaius Iulius alpinus Classicianus belongs to a historically elusive person. Various inscriptions on grave stones occupy the cosmopolitan character of the population. Alfidus Olussa for example, came from Athens, L. Pomeius Da [ ... ] came from Arretium in Italy. His tomb was decorated with a marble inscription. Urn burials were the rule, until the third century burials are becoming more common. The oldest graves found within the later city wall, near the Forum. In the area of West Tenter Street, east of the city walls, a larger cemetery section was excavated. There were 672 inhumations and 134 cremations. They date from the end of the first until the fifth century. It wooden coffins were found, and a grave contained inlaid with silver, bronze brooches, which are typical of high military officials.


The intensive development of the modern city, the archaeological exploration of Londinium difficult. Many ancient buildings have been demolished in the Middle Ages, but in addition also preserved the thick layers of medieval Roman remains before modern destruction. The Roman city is located in the center of London today, right there where the largest buildings with the deepest cellars are located. The foundations of houses are great since Victorian times often very deep and destroying them many ancient remains, with the damage caused in recent years have proved to be less dramatic than feared. The Victorian walls often form only foundations on the outer sides of the building and leave the space between them undisturbed.

Since the Renaissance, ancient objects that came to light during construction works in the city, attention. Especially after the Great Fire of London ( 1666) were some mighty wall structures belonging to the forum, Praetorium, observed and described by Sir Christopher Wren. Inscriptions and sculptures from the 18th century, mosaics were copied and some are still preserved today. Systematic excavations undertaken since the 19th century and are particularly intense since the end of World War II. It can thereby be detected usually only small sections of the ancient city, which correspond to the modern plots. Therefore, the image of the ancient building remains uneven.

The visible remains in the present town of

In London today only a few remnants of the ancient city can be seen. Ruins of city walls ( which in turn was further used and developed in the Middle Ages ) can be found at the Tower of London and especially in the vicinity of the Museum of London. Some of the amphitheater can be seen today at the Guildhall. The foundations Mithraeum were dismantled and moved. They stand today in the Queen Victoria Street. The individual finds from the excavations can be seen especially in the Museum of London. There is also a life-size reconstruction of a residential space from Roman times with mosaic and mural painting. Some outstanding objects of national importance are also on display in the British Museum.