Durovernum Cantiacorum

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Watling Street linked Britannia to the rest of the Roman Empire.

Durovernum Cantiacorum was a town (oppidum) in the Roman province of Britannia. Today it is known as Canterbury, located in the English county of Kent. It occupied a strategic location on Watling Street, at the convergence of the roads coming from the rest of the Roman Empire via the ports of Dubris (Dover), Rutupiae (Richborough), Regulbium (Reculver) and Portus Lemanis (Lympne).

Considerable archaeological evidence of Roman activity has been found in Canterbury, much of which can now be found in the Roman Museum built on the remains of a Roman townhouse.

Origins[edit]

Durovernum is the Latin form of the Brythonic Durovernon referring to the Iron Age oppidum which existed on the site, with a triple-ditched homestead at its centre. Not long after the Roman conquest of Britain in AD 43, a Roman fort was established there to guard the best local crossing of the River Stour. Military occupation continued until at least AD 60.

Development[edit]

There is no evidence of much development in Durovernum until the Flavian period (69-96), after demilitarisation.[1] It became the civitas capital of the Cantiaci (Cantii) tribes.

A large religious and administrative complex was soon established at its centre, consisting of forum and basilica, temple enclosure and theatre. The theatre, originally built around AD 80, was totally rebuilt in the early 3rd century. It was probably associated with religious festivals as much as the dramatic arts. The public baths were just to the north-east. A number of other possible temple and/or church sites have also been identified. The town was enclosed by defensive walls in the late 3rd century and was given single-arched gateways. Private buildings within the walls were originally of timber, but were later replaced with stone and some furnished with mosaic floors. An extensive complex of wooden pipes serviced the town. Industries included brick, tile and pottery production, as well as bronze working. There were many commercial shops, notably a baker's shop with donkey-driven millstone. Cemeteries outside the town appear to have continued in Christian use and St Martin's Church appears to be built around an old Roman mausoleum which stood in one of these.

Decline[edit]

Because of its links with Gaul, Durovernum seems to have survived in good order until the Romans administration left around AD 410. However, after that, its decline was rapid. Hired mercenaries were used to defend the town, but they revolted and, by the time of the Battle of Aylesford in the mid-5th century, the Anglo-Saxons had taken over the area.

Archaeology[edit]

The Canterbury Roman Museum houses Roman artifacts from across the town, as well as an in situ Roman town house and its mosaics.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Todd, Malcolm (2004). A companion to Roman Britain. Volume 9 of Blackwell companions to British history. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 174. ISBN 978-0-631-21823-4. 
  • Wacher, John (1995). The Towns of Roman Britain. London: B T Batsford. 

Further reading[edit]

Coordinates: 51°16′43″N 1°4′55″E / 51.27861°N 1.08194°E / 51.27861; 1.08194