Introduction: Classical and post-classical authorities

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in London, Volume 3, Roman London. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1928.

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In this section

INTRODUCTION. By R. E. M. Wheeler.

(Note.—The numbers cited in connection with structures have reference to the large plan at the end of the volume.)

1. Classical Authorities.

London is mentioned by two classical historians, by a panegyrist, and in seven lists compiled in classical times or from classical authorities for geographical, administrative or ecclesiastical purposes. The historians, Tacitus and Ammianus Marcellinus, were both contemporary with the events which they describe in this connection, and the facts and implications which they compress into their brief references to the city form the framework of its early history. Cassius Dio, writing nearly two centuries after the event, seems to refer to the London district in his description of the Roman conquest, and is therefore quoted below; but the passage is vague and unsatisfactory and adds nothing certain to the history of the. site (see p. 19). The panegyrist, probably Eumenius who was at one time private secretary to Constantius Chlorus, distorts the campaign whereby Britain was recovered from Allectus, in order that Constantius, after losing himself and reaching London only in time to police the city, might appear as the real hero of the occasion. To this distortion, however, we owe not merely the bare mention of London (omitted in all other references to the campaign), but a fleeting picture of the city as a natural point of convergence both by land and by sea. The geographers add little. Ptolemy, in including London amongst the cities of Kent, expresses the continental point of view that London was the natural horizon of arrivals from the south-east; a view which may be contrasted with that of Saxon Britain, in which London went with Essex, not with Kent. The Antonine Itinerary emphasises the geographical dominance of London in the British road-system. The Ravennas and Stephen of Byzantium, late compilers depending presumably on earlier material, add nothing to our knowledge. The Notitia Dignitatum, or official summary of the military and civil administration of the Empire, appears for the most part to represent the state of affairs in Britain soon after 400, and seems to indicate that London was then the main financial centre of the province. The ecclesiastical documents show that London was a headquarters of organized Christianity by 314, and preserve the names of two London bishops of the Roman or sub-Roman era.

Tacitus (c. A.D. 55–120), describes the revolt of Boudicca and the Iceni in south-eastern Britain and the hurried return of the Roman governor, Suetonius Paulinus, from North Wales:—

"At Suetonius mira constantia medios inter hostis Londinium perrexit, cognomento quidem coloniae non insigne, sed copia negotiatorum et commeatuum maxime celebre. ibi ambiguus an illam sedem bello deligeret, circumspecta infrequentia militis, satisque magnis documentis temeritatem Petilii coercitam, unius oppidi damno servare universa statuit. neque fletu et lacrimis auxilium eius orantium flexus est quin daret profectionis signum et comitantes in partem agminis acciperet: si quos inbellis sexus aut fessa aetas vel loci dulcedo attinuerat ab hoste oppressi sunt. eadem clades municipio Verulamio fuit, quia barbari omissis castellis praesidiisque militarium, quod uberrimum spolianti et defendentibus intutum, laeti praeda et laborum segnes petebant. ad septuaginta milia civium et sociorum iis quae memoravi locis cecidisse constitit. neque enim capere aut venundare aliudve quod belli commercium, sed caedes patibula ignes cruces, tamquam reddituri supplicium ac praerepta interim ultione, festinabant." [Annals, XIV, 33, Oxford Ed.]

"Now Suetonius with remarkable determination marched straight through the midst of the enemy to London, a place not indeed distinguished by the title of 'colony' but crowded with traders and a great centre of commerce. There he deliberated whether he should stand and fight on that spot, but, considering the small numbers of his troops, and in view of the fact that Petilius [whose legion had already been routed by the rebels] had only his rashness to thank for his defeat, he decided to sacrifice the single town in the interest of the province as a whole. Neither the tears nor the entreaties of the stricken citizens bent him from his purpose. He gave the order for departure, taking those who would follow as part of his column; and those whom the weakness of sex, frailty of age, or reluctance to leave their homes retained within the town were overwhelmed by the enemy. The same disastrous fate befell the municipality of Verulam; for the rebels, avoiding fortifications and places under military protection, and eager for booty easily won, sought only what was most worth the plundering and was unguarded by defenders. In the places I have mentioned [Colchester, London and Verulam] no less than 70,000 Roman citizens or other members of the loyal population are estimated to have perished. For the enemy neither took nor sold prisoners nor indulged in any of the traffic incidental to ordinary warfare, but massacred, hanged, burned and crucified with a headlong fury that was stimulated by the knowledge of forthcoming retribution and by the desire to snatch meanwhile at the vengeance within reach."

Cassius Dio (c. A.D. 150–235), in describing the advance of the Roman army of invasion under Aulus Plautius in the year 43, apparently refers to the London district although he does not name the town:—

"ἀναχωρησάντων δὲ ἐντευθεν τῶν Βρεττανῶν ἐπὶ τὸν Ταμέσαν ποταμόν, καθ' ὁ ἔς τε τὸν ᾠκεανὸν ἐκβάλλει πλημμύροντός τε αὐτοῦ λιμνάζει, καὶ ῥᾳδίως αὐτὸν διαβάντων ἅτε κὰι τὰ στέριφα τά τε εὔπορα τοῠ χωρίου ἀκριβῶς εἰδότων, οἰ Ῥωμαιοι ἐπακολουθήσαντές σφισι ταύτῃ μεν ἐσφάλησαν, διανηξαμένων δ' αὐθις τῶν Κελτῶν, καί τινῶν ἑτέρων διὰ γεφύρας ολίγον ἄνω διελθόντων, πολλαχόθεν τε ἅμα αὐτοις προσέμιχαν καὶ πολλοὺς αὐτῶν κατέκοψαν, τούς τε λοιποὺς ἀπερισκέπτως ἐπιδώκοντες ἔσ τε ἕλη δυσδιέξοδα ἐσέπεσον καὶ συχνοὺς ἀπέβαλον."

Ῥωμαικὴ Ἱστορία, LX, 20.

"Thence the Britons retired to the river Thames at a point near where it empties into the ocean and at flood-tide forms a lake. This they easily crossed because they knew where the firm ground and the easy passages in this region were to be found; but the Romans in attempting to follow them were not so successful. However, the Germans swam across again and some others got over by a bridge a little way up-stream, after which they assailed the barbarians from several sides at once and cut down many of them. In pursuing the remainder incautiously, they got into swamps from which it was difficult to make their way out, and so lost a number of men" [Loeb Series Trans., VII, 419].

Ptolemy the geographer (c. A.D. 100–151) mentions London thrice.

"Καὶ Λονδίνιου τῆς Βρεττανίας Νοιόμαγον εἰπων νοιωτέραν μιλίοις νθ´, βορειοτέραν αὐτην δια; των κλιμάτων ἀποφαίνει [ὁ Μαρῖνος]." [Geogr. I, 15; ed. Firmin-Didot, I. 41.]

"And [Marinus], after saying that Noiomagus was 59 miles more to the S. than Londinium in Britain, shows clearly by its relative position that it is to the N. of it."

"Μεθ᾽ οὒς ἀνατολικώτατοι Κάντιοι, ἐν οἷς πόλεις Λονδίνιον κ´ νδ´, Δαρούερνον κά νδ´, ῾Ρουτουπίαι κά L´´ δ´´ νδ'.´´[II, 3.]

"Next to whom [i.e. the Silures], the most easterly are the Cantii, amongst whom the principal cities are Londinium (20°, 54°), Daruernum (21°, 54°), and Rutupiae (21° 45', 54°)."

"Τῆς δὲ ᾽Αλουίωνος νήσου τὸ μὲν Λονδίνιον τὴν μεγίστην ἡμέραν ἔχει ὡρῶν ῑη, καὶ διέστηκεν ᾽Αλεξανδρείας πρὸς δύσεις ὥραις δυσὶ καὶ γό." [VIII, 3.]

"In the Island of Albion, Londinium has its greatest day of 18 hours, and differs from Alexandria to the westward by 22/3 hours."

The Antonine Itinerary (possibly early 3rd-century) begins or ends seven of its fifteen itinera at London:—

473, 1. Iter III. A Londinio ad portum Dubris.

473, 6, 7. Iter IV. A Londinio ad portum Lemanis.

474, 1. Iter V. A Londinio Luguvalio ad vallum.

476, 7. Iter VI. A Londinio Lindo.

477, 10. Iter VII. A Regno Londinium.

478, 6. Iter VIII. Ab Eburaco Londinio.

479, 10. Iter IX. A Venta Icinorum Londinio.

Moreover, 466, 5, 6, Iter II, "A vallo ad portum Ritupis," passes through Londinium. [Itinerarium Antonini Augusti, ed. Parthey and Pinder.]

Eumenius (c. A.D. 260–311), in his Panegyric to the Caesar Constantius Chlorus, describes how, in the year 296, Constantius sailed from Boulogne under adverse weather conditions to recover Britain from the hands of the usurper Allectus. He proceeds:—

"Siquidem, ut ex ipsorum relatione comperimus, ad tempus ipsum tantae se dorso maris nebulae miscuerunt, ut inimica classis, apud Vectam insulam in speculis, atque insidiis, collocata, ignorantibus omnino hostibus praeteriretur, ne vel moraretur impetum, quamvis non posset obsistere. Jam vero quod idem ille vestro auspicio invictus exercitus, statim atque Britanniae litus invaserat, universis navibus suis injecit ignes, quinam alii nisi divinitatis vestrae monitus impulerunt? aut quae alia ratio persuasit nullum praesidium fugae reservare, nec vereri dubia bellorum, nec Martem, ut dicitur, putare communem, nisi quod vestri contemplatione constabat, de victoria non posse dubitari ? . . . .

"Ipse ille autem signifer nefariae factionis, cur ab eo litore, quod tenebat, abscessit, cur classem portumque deseruit, nisi quod te, Caesar invicte, cujusimminentia vela conspexerat, timuit jam jamque venturum ? Utcunque cum ducibus tuis maluit experiri, quam praesens majestatis tuae fulmen excipere. Demens, qui nesciebat, quacunque fugeret, ubique vim vestrae divinitatis esse, ubi vultus vestri, ubi signa colerentur.

"Te tamen ille fugiens incidit in tuorum manus; a te victus, a tuis exercitibus oppressus est. Denique adeo trepidus, et te post terga respiciens, et in modum amentis attonitus properavit ad mortem, ut nec explicarit aciem, nec omnes copias, quas trahebat, instruxerit, sed cum veteribus illis conjurationis auctoribus, et mercenariis cuneis barbarorum, tanti apparatus oblitus, irruerit. Adeo, Caesar, hoc etiam reipublicae tribuit vestra felicitas, ut nemo fere Romanus occiderit, imperio vincente Romano.....

"Enimvero, Caesar invicte, tanto deorum immortalium tibi est addicta consensu omnium quidem, quos adortus fueris, hostium, sed praecipue internecio Francorum, ut illi quoque milites vestri, qui per errorem nebulosi, ut paulo ante dixi, maris abjuncti ad oppidum Londiniense pervenerant, quidquid ex mercenaria illa multitudine barbarorum praelio superfuerat, cum, direpta civitate, fugam capescere cogitarent, passim tota urbe confecerint; et non solam provincialibus vestris in caede hostium dederint salutem, sed etiam in spectaculo voluptatem. O victoria multijuga . . . .,"etc. [Panegyricus Constantio Caesari; in Monumenta Historica Britannica, I, lxvii].

"Indeed, as we learn from the mouths of eye-witnesses, such thick mists descended upon the surface of the sea at that very moment that the hostile fleet [of Allectus], watching in ambush by the Isle of Wight, was passed by entirely without the knowledge of the enemy; so that it was prevented even from delaying the advance which it was in any case impotent to withstand. And now whose inspiration, other than that of your own divine self, was it that impelled the invincible army under your heaven-sent guidance, as soon as it reached the shores of Britain, to set fire to all its ships ? Or what judgment commended that no base should be garrisoned, that no fear should be felt for the chances of war, or that Mars should not, as he is said, be thought impartial ? What judgment other than that which emerged from your own firm consciousness that victory could not be in doubt ? . . . . As for the standard-bearer of that infamous faction [i.e. Allectus], why did he beat a retreat from the shore which he then held ? Why did he desert his fleet and harbour ?— Unless because he trembled that you, unconquered Caesar, whose threatening sails he had beheld [across the Channel], were ever about to come upon him ? At any rate he was less unwilling to make trial of your generals than to await the fulminations of your own awful presence. Madman, who knew not that, wherever he might fly, the power of your divinity was present in every place where your person and the standards of your troops were revered.

"Nevertheless, fleeing from you, he fell into the hands of your men; vanquished by you, he was left for your armies to crush. At length he was reduced to such a state of panic, with you upon his heels, that dazed with mad terror he hurried to his death; he neither set his battle in array nor marshalled all the forces which he hurried along with him, but, with those old associates of his in the conspiracy and with detachments of mercenaries levied amongst the natives of the frontiers, forgetful of all his military preparations, he rushed without thought to his doom. Thus, Caesar, to your favoured fortune was due also this boon to the State, that a Roman victory was won with scarcely any loss of Roman blood ....

"Moreover, unconquered Caesar, by the approval of all the immortal gods it was granted to you to inflict such slaughter upon the enemy, especially the Franks, that those also of your troops who [instead of landing on the south coast] had been led astray by the sea-fog to which I have referred and had at last reached London found the survivors of the barbarian mercenaries plundering the city, and, when these began to seek flight, landed and slew them in the streets. And not only did they bring safety to your subjects by the timely destruction of the enemy, but, in addition, induced a sentiment of gratitude and pleasure at the sight. O teeming victory !...."

The Council of Arles.—Amongst the clerics who attended the Council of Arles in A.D. 314 were three British bishops:—

"Eborius Episcopus de civitate Eboracensi provincia Britannia.

"Restitutus Episcopus de civitate Londinensi provincia suprascripta.

"Adelfius Episcopus de civitate Colonia Londinensium" [Corbie Codex, 6th-7th century].

"Eborius, bishop of York in the province of Britain.

"Restitutus, bishop of London in the said province.

"Adelfius, bishop of Colonia Londinensium."

The last name is clearly corrupt, and has been variously amended to Colonia Legionensium and equated with Caerleon-on-Usk; to Colonia Lindumensium and equated with Lincoln; and to Camulodunensium and equated with Colchester. The first amendment is on general grounds unlikely; the last is supported by the alternative reading ex civitate Colonia which occurs in the Toulouse Codex [A. W. Haddan and W. Stubbs, Councils and Ecclesiastical Documents, I, 7; F. Haverfield, Eng. Hist. Rev., XI, 419; and S. N. Miller, ibid., XLII (1927), 79].

Ammianus Marcellinus (c. 325–390) mentions London thrice. In the year 360 incursions of the Picts and Scots necessitated special action, and Julian, who was himself detained at Paris by the threatening attitude of the Alemanni, sent his general Lupicinus to Britain.

"Ire igitur ad haec ratione vel vi conponenda Lupicinum placuit, ea tempestate magistrum armorum, bellicosum sane et castrensis rei peritum, sed supercilia erigentem ut cornua,.et de tragico (quod aiunt) coturno strepentem: super quo diu ambigebatur avarus esset potius an crudelis. Moto igitur velitari auxilio, Aerulis scilicet et Batavis, numerisque Moesiacorum duobus, adulta hieme dux ante dictus Bononiam venit, quaesitisque navigiis, et omni imposito milite, observato flatu secundo ventorum, ad Rutupias sitas ex adverso defertur, petitque Lundinium, ut exinde suscepto pro rei qualitate consilio, festinaret ocius ad procinctum" [Rerum Gestarum Lib. XX, 1; ed. C. U. Clark, 1910].

"Therefore, to deal with the situation either through diplomacy or by the strong hand, it was decided to send Lupicinus, who was at that time magister armorum, certainly a good soldier and experienced in matters of the camp, but of haughty demeanour and smacking somewhat of the tragic actor; in whom it was long a matter of doubt whether avarice or cruelty predominated.

"Accordingly with a flying column of Aeruli and Batavi, together with two battalions of Moesians, the aforesaid general came in the midst of winter to Boulogne; and collecting transports and embarking his troops, he sailed with a fair wind to Richborough on the opposite coast. Thence he marched to London, that he might there take such decision as the aspect of affairs demanded and might more quickly hasten to the task in hand."

The second mention is in connection with the similar but more serious crisis of the year 367–8. The commander of the Saxon Shore in Britain had been slain and the commander of the northern frontier captured. Valentinian, who was in Gaul, despatched his general Theodosius to the island.

"Postremo ob multa et metuenda, quae super eadem insula rumores adsidui perferebant, electus Theodosius illuc properare disponitur, ofhciis Martiis felicissime cognitus: adscitaque animosa legionum et cohortium pube, ire tendebat, praeeunte fiducia speciosa.....

"Eo tempore Picti in duas gentes divisi, Dicalydonas et Vecturiones, itidemque Attacotti, bellicosa hominum natio, et Scotti, per diversa vagantes, multa populabantur. Gallicanos vero tractus Franci et Saxones, isdem confines, quo quisque erumpere potuit, terra vel mari, praedis acerbis incendiisque, et captivorum funeribus omnium violabant.

"Ad haec prohibenda, si copiam dedisset fortuna prosperior, orbis extrema dux efficacissimus petens, cum venisset ad Bononiae litus, quod a spatio controverso terrarum, angustiis reciproci distinguitur maris, attolli horrendis aestibus adsueti, rursusque sine ulla navigantium noxa, in speciem complanari camporum, exinde transmeato lentius freto, defertur Rutupias, stationem ex adverso tranquillam. Unde cum consecuti Batavi venissent et Heruli, Ioviique et Victores, fidentes viribus numeri, egressus tendensque ad Lundinium, vetus oppidum, quod Augustam posteritas appellavit, divisis plurifariam globis, adortus est vagantes hostium vastatorias manus, graves onere sarcinarum, et propere fusis, qui vinctos homines agebant et pecora, praedam excussit, quam tributarii perdidere miserrimi. isdemque restituta omni praeter partem exiguam, inpensam militibus fessis, mersam difficultatibus suis antehac civitatem, sed subito, quam salus sperari potuit recreatam, ovantis specie laetissimus introiit" [Lib., XXVII, viii, §§ 3, 5–9].

"Lastly, on account of the many formidable reports which a continual stream of messengers brought about that island, Theodosius was appointed to proceed thither, and ordered to make great haste. He was an officer already distinguished for his prowess in war, and, having collected a numerous force of cavalry and infantry, he proceeded to assume the command in full confidence.....

"It will be sufficient here to mention that at that time the Picts, who were divided into two nations, the Dicalidones and the Vecturiones, and likewise the Attacotti, a very warlike people, and the Scots were all roving over different parts of the country and committing great ravages. While the Franks and the Saxons who are on the frontiers of Gaul were ravaging the country of their neighbours, the Gauls, wherever they could effect an entrance by sea or land, plundering and burning, and murdering all the prisoners they could take.

"To put a stop to these evils, if a favourable fortune should afford an opportunity, this most energetic general set out for the very ends of the earth; and when he reached the coast of Boulogne, which is separated from the opposite coast by a narrow strait of the sea that, ebbing and flowing, now is raised by tides of horrible violence and now sinks flat as a level plain, without doing any injury to those afloat upon it, he crossed the strait in a leisurely manner, and reached Richborough, a sheltered haven on the opposite coast.

"And when the Batavi and Heruli, and the Jovian and Victorian legions who followed from the same place, had also arrived, he then, relying on the force of numbers, landed and marched towards London, an ancient town which has since been named Augusta; and dividing his army into several detachments, he attacked the predatory and straggling bands of the enemy who were loaded with the weight of their plunder, and having speedily routed them while driving prisoners in chains and cattle before them, he deprived them of their booty which they had carried off from these miserable tributaries of Rome.

"To whom he restored the whole except a small portion which he allotted to his own weary soldiers; and then, amid scenes of jubilation which recalled a Roman triumph, he made his entry into the city which had just before been overwhelmed by disasters, but was now suddenly re-established almost before it could have hoped for deliverance."

The third mention relates to the concluding phase of the same episode, in 369:—

"Theodosius vero, dux nominis inclyti, animi vigore collecto, ab Augusta profectus, quam veteres appellavere Lundinium, cum milite industria conparato sollerti, versis turbatisque Brittannorum fortunis, opem maximam tulit oportuna ubique ad insidiandum barbaris praeveniens loca, nihilque gregariis imperans cuius non ipse primitias alacri capesseret mente. Hocque genere cum strenui militis munia et praeclari ducis curas expleret, fusis variis gentibus et fugatis, quas insolentia nutriente securitate, adgredi Romanas res inflammabat, in integrum restituit civitates et castra, multiplicibus quidem damnis adflicta, sed ad quietem temporis longi fundata" [Lib., XXVIII, iii, §§ 1–2].

"But Theodosius, a general of outstanding reputation, marched with resolution from Augusta, which the ancients used to call Lundinium, with an army which he had collected with great energy and skill; bringing a mighty aid to the embarrassed and disturbed fortunes of the Britons. His plan was to seek everywhere favourable situations for laying ambuscades for the barbarians; and to impose no duties on his troops of the performance of which he did not himself cheerfully set the example.

"And in this way, while he performed the duties of a gallant soldier, and showed at the same time the prudence of an illustrious general, he routed and vanquished the various tribes in whom their past security had engendered an insolence which led them to attack the Roman territories: and he entirely restored the cities and the fortresses which through the manifold disasters of the time had been injured or destroyed, though they had been founded to secure the age-long tranquillity of the country."

The Notitia Dignitatum [Oc. XI, 37; ed. Seeck, 150] includes amongst the "praepositi thesaurorum" (who are "sub dispositione viri illustris comitis sacrarum largitionum"), under the sub-heading "In Britannis," the solitary entry:—

"Praepositus thesaurorum Augustensium."

"Officer in charge of the Treasury at Augusta (London)."

The British section of the Notitia has been ascribed in part to c. 300 by Mommsen, to 428 by Bury, and to c. 400 by other writers [see J. B. Bury in Journ. Rom. Studies, X, 131; R. G. Collingwood, Ib., XII, 74; F. S. Salisbury, Ib., XVII]. The use of the name Augusta seems to indicate that the entry above quoted is after, and perhaps considerably after, 326 (see p. 59).

St. Jerome.—The martyrology wrongly ascribed to St. Jerome but compiled apparently not later than 630 on a 5th-century foundation mentions an otherwise unknown bishop of London, the record of whose martyrdom dates from the time when the city was known as "Augusta"—i.e. presumably from the 4th century:—

"VII Idus Febr.—In Britanniis, civitate Augusta, natalis Auguli Episcopi ...." [A. W. Haddan and W. Stubbs, Councils and Ecclesiastical Documents, I, 27].

Stephen of Byzantium (probably early 6th-century), in his geographical dictionary entitled ᾽Εθνικά refers to London:—

"Λινδόνιον, πόλις τῆς Βρεττανίας. Μαρκιανὸς ἐν περίπλῳ αὐτὴς. τὸ ἐθνικὸν Λινδονινος."

"Lindonion, a city of Britain; Marcian in his circumnavigation thereof is my authority. The name of the inhabitants is Lindonini" [ed. Meineke, 417].

Anonymus Ravennas, or the Ravenna Geographer (7th-century, based on earlier authorities), mentions London thrice:—

"Londinis" [V, 31, p. 425, 14; ed. Parthey and Pinder].

"Landini" [V, 31, p. 428, 7].

"Londinium Augusti" [V, 31, p. 429, 12].

2. Post-Classical Writers on Roman London.

John Horsley, in an age still prone to err on the side of credulity, saw fit to open the Introduction to his scholarly Britannia Romana (1732) with the protest: "To enter into the fabulous accounts of the monkish historians would be lost time and labour." To-day it would be pedantic to insist upon this austere attitude towards mediæval fable; rather may it be permitted to regard the legends which grew up round the earlier history of London as, in a secondary sense, an integral part of that history. We may therefore follow Stow rather than Horsley, and begin with Geoffrey of Monmouth (1100 ?–1154) in a summary list of those whose work has, in one way or another, enriched the literature of the subject. Let Stow's own Elizabethan paraphrase stand:—

"As the Romane writers to glorifie the citie of Rome drew the originall thereof from Gods and demie Gods, by the Troian progenie: so Giffrey of Monmouth the Welsh Historian, deduceth the foundation of this famous Citie of London, for the greater glorie thereof, and emulation of Rome, from the very same originall. For he reporteth that Brute, lineally descended from the demy god Eneas, the sonne of Venus, daughter of Iupiter, about the yeare of the world 2855. and 1108. before the natiuitie of Christ, builded this city neare vnto the riuer now called Thames, and named it Troynouant or Trenouant. But herein as Liuie the most famous Hystoriographer of the Romans writeth, Antiquitie is pardonable, and hath an especial priuiledge, by interlacing diuine matters with humane, to make the first foundation of Cities more honourable, more sacred, and as it were of greater maiestie. King Lud (as the foresaid Giffrey of Monmouth noteth) afterward, not onely repaired this Cittie, but also increased the same with faire buildings, Towers and walles, and after his owne name called it Caire-Lud, as Luds towne, and the strong gate which he builded in the west part of the Cittie, he likewise for his owne honour named Ludgate. This Lud had issue two sons, Androgeus, and Theomantius, who being not of age to gouerne at the death of their father, their vncle Cassibelan took upon him the crowne: about the eight yeare of whose raigne, Iulius Caesar arriued in this land, with a great power of Romans to conquer it, the manner of which conquest I will summarily set down out of his owne Commentaries, which are of farre better credit, then the relations of Giffrey Monmouth." (fn. 1)

Two other mediæval chroniclers deserve a passing notice, as they provide information from an unknown source and not elsewhere recorded, which may possibly be based on earlier British records or tradition. The first of these, Jocelin, a monk of Furness (c. 1200), wrote a work De Britonum Episcopis from which Stow seems to have copied the list of the Archbishops of London; the work itself is now lost. The second Giraldus Cambrensis (c. 1146–1220), in a work entitled De Invectionibus, is the sole authority for the statement that London was the capital of Flavia Caesariensis (below, p. 61).

John Stow himself (c. 1525–1605) was sufficiently near to Geoffrey to follow him in his etymology of the supposed earlier name of London. "Caesar nameth the Cittie of Trinobantes, which hath a resemblance with Troy nova, or Trinobantum, having no greater difference in the Orthographie, than changing b. into v." Indeed Stow, although he was, for all his lapses, the first scientific historian of London, contributes little to our knowledge of the Roman city. His only reference of any length to the antiquities of that period is his account of the cemetery in Spitalfields (below, p. 159). His Survey of London was first published in 1598 and was reprinted in 1603, 1613, 1633, etc. The standard edition is that of C. L. Kingsford (2 vols., 1908).

From Stow onwards, the significant references to Roman London are cited elsewhere in this volume in their appropriate contexts, and in the present Section little more than a list of the principal names will suffice. The first of these names is that of William Camden (1551–1623), whose Britannia, published first (in Latin) in 1586, quickly ran through six editions and was enlarged to folio form in 1607. It contains a summary of the history of Roman London with some account of its defences, but includes little original information. The editions of Edmund Gibson, 1695 and 1753, and Richard Gough, 1789 and 1806, contain some additional information on Roman discoveries in London and its vicinity.

Another contemporary writer, John Weaver (1576–1632) makes incidental mention of Roman burials in London in his Ancient Funerall Monuments, published in 1631, but his interests were almost entirely mediæval.

Sir William Dugdale (1605–1686) also was mainly interested in mediæval and later matters. His works, however, contain certain incidental references to Roman remains; in particular, his History of Imbanking and Drayning, 1662, includes an account of discoveries in Southwark.

Sir Christopher Wren (1632–1723), after the Great Fire of 1666, was appointed "Surveyor-General and principal Architect for rebuilding the whole city" (Parentalia, 263). He thus had unrivalled opportunities for observing the Roman remains which then came to light. His observations, however, preserved in Parentalia, are of quite a casual nature and except for a fairly detailed account of the finds on the site of St. Paul's they are of no great value. His general conclusions as to the extent and arrangement of the Roman city are on a level with the general state of archæological knowledge of his age, but he exhibited an incredulity in advance of his time when dealing with the supposed sites of the Roman temples of Diana and Apollo (St. Paul's and Westminster).

Dr. John Woodward (1665–1728) was not primarily interested in antiquities. He published, however, a pamphlet—"An account of some Roman Urns.... with reflections on the Antient and Present state of London," 1713, containing two letters addressed to Wren and Hearne, dated 1707, on various Roman discoveries in London. Dr. Woodward's account of the town-wall at Bishopsgate, and the burials just inside it, is marked by careful and exact observation.

John Strype (1643–1737) published an enlarged edition of Stow's Survey in 1720, containing a certain amount of information regarding discoveries of Roman remains at that period.

William Stukeley (1687–1765), in his Itinerarium Curiosum, 1724, includes some remarks upon the approaches to the city and elaborate accounts, with illustrations, of supposed camps of Caesar at St. Pancras and Hounslow, but adds nothing of value to the study of Roman London.

William Maitland (1693?–l757), in his History of London, 1739, devoted several chapters to the Roman period. His remarks show little power of selection or judgment, but include a few valuable notes on matters which came under his own immediate notice.

James Peller Malcolm (1767–1815), in his parochial history entitled Londinium Redivivum, 1802–7, barely touched upon Roman antiquities, but occasionally included a useful note upon individual discoveries.

Charles Knight (1791–1873) allotted to the Roman period 24 pages of the discursive work which he edited and largely wrote under the title of London (1841–4). This short chapter represents the first attempt to bring together a reasoned summary of the archæology of the subject, and, although some of the views expressed are naturally out of date, it incorporates information of permanent value.

Alfred John Kempe (1785 ?–1846) contributed useful reports on current discoveries of Roman structures and other relics in London to Archæologia and the Gentleman's Magazine from 1816 onwards, and was largely responsible for directing C. Roach Smith's interests towards archæology.

Charles Roach Smith (1807–1890) is the outstanding name in connection with the antiquities of Roman London. For many years he was a chemist in the City, and, amidst much discouragement, spent his spare time in watching London excavations and in collecting antiquities from them. His collection was ultimately acquired by the British Museum; and his records, preserved in the pages of Archæologia, the Journal of the British Archæological Association, the Gentleman's Magazine, Collectanea Antiqua, Illustrations of Roman London, and other works, are the permanent basis of research in the subject.

Other 19th- and 20th-century writers on Roman London include Sir William Tite, the architect of the Royal Exchange, who published in 1848 a Descriptive Catalogue of the Antiquities found in the Excavations at the New Royal Exchange; General Pitt-Rivers who (as Colonel Lane Fox) recorded in the Anthropological Review (1867) the excavation of pile-structures in the valley of the Walbrook; E. P. Loftus Brock and J. E. Price, both of whom contributed notes on current discoveries to the British Archæological Association and other bodies, whilst the latter published monographs on The Roman Tessellated Pavement found in Bucklersbury (1870) and A Bastion of London Wall (1880); Dr. Philip Norman and Mr. Francis W. Reader, to whose work, published in Archæologia, the Journal of the Royal Archæological Institute and elsewhere, we are indebted for much of our knowledge of the Roman town-wall and other structures; Mr. Frank Lambert who, during his tenure of office at the Guildhall Museum, watched London excavations and published his observations in a series of papers in Archæologia; and Dr. William Martin and others who have contributed valuable notes on Roman discoveries to the Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archæological Society. Mr. Reader collaborated with Mr. Reginald A. Smith and Mr. H. B. Walters in the preparation of the Roman chapter in the Victoria County History of London (1908), which has been of the utmost service in the preparation of the present volume; and F. Haverfield and Sir George Macdonald have subsequently published concise recensions of the evidence, the former in the Journal of Roman Studies (1911), and the latter in Pauly-Wissowa, Real-Encyclopädie der Classischen Altertumswissenschaft (1927). Other summaries include Londinium: Architecture and the Crafts (1923), by Professor W. R. Lethaby; and London: its Origin and Early Development (1923), by Mr. William Page.


  • 1. For other references to London in Geoffrey's work, see below, p. 16 and 63n.