Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Roman London

Map of London with Roman fortifications superimposed with the street grid of present day London.

The early history of London remains shrouded in the clouds of time. One thing is certain, London was founded by the Romans in the First Century AD, however there are two hypotheses, it was founded as a military camp and subsequently a settlement grew around it. Or the second hypothesis, London was founded as a planned town from inception. Regardless of the origin, the natural geography of the area surround London was conducive to the formation of a settlement, which as it were compliments both hypotheses. The hills surrounding the Thames were suited to defense, and the River Fleet to the west added an additional defensive barrier. Most importantly, the Thames was easily navigable and it would be precisely at this area that the Romans would construct a bridge over the Thames. It was at this point where the Thames was narrow enough to span, yet deep enough to handle marine vessels.

Archeological remains of a massive pier base for a roman bridge were discovered in 1981, only yards away from modern day London Bridge. However, one does not need to look underwater for traces of Roman London. It is possible to see the effect of Roman fortifications on the urban fabric of present day London. In the image above it is possible to see how the Roman wall to the North influenced the path of the street grid. Even the names Ludgate, Newgate, Moorgate, Bishopgate, and Aldgate make reference to the original gates of the Roman fortification. It is possible to see this influence throughout present day cities that were once part of the Roman Empire.

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