Foundation

Having been established after the the Roman conquest in 43 AD, Londinium seems to have quickly become an important commercial trading gateway, probably due to its location at the first crossing point of the Thames from the sea, with the wide and shallow tidal river at this point also providing ideal landing ground for sea going vessels.

After suffering a severe sacking, by Boudican forces during the rebellion of 60 AD, the settlement was razed to the ground by fire and any citizens that had failed to evacuate were put to the sword.

Prosperity

Despite this, and setting a morbid pattern of calamity and resurrection for the future, Londinium was re-planned and is thought to have recovered within about 10 years, so much so that by the end of the 1st century AD, Londinium took over from Camulodunum (Colchester) the role of capital city for Roman Britain.  

Map of Londinium
Map of 3rd century Londinium cast in bronze, situated at Tower Hill, London.

The city continued to prosper and it is estimated that at it’s peak in around 140 AD the population of Londinium was between 45,000 to 60,000 citizens. It was during this period of the late 1st century and 2nd centuries, that the major civic building works in London were completed, including the basilica and forum, amphitheatre, public baths and fort.

The defensive city walls were constructed between 190-220 AD, encircling Londinium on three sides, with the river Thames providing a natural defence for the remaining side.

The bronze relief map featured in the photo above can be found in Wakefield Gardens, Tower Hill, and is a part of large sundial sculpture recording the history of London from AD 43 until 1992. It shows the main features of Londinium in about the mid-3rd century AD. The forum, amphitheatre, fort, and defensive walls with their original gates are clearly depicted, though obviously not to scale!

Late Roman occupation and withdrawal

In the 3rd and 4th century the population of Londinium declined, and it changed from being a crowded, busy town of merchants and craftsmen, to being a less densely-populated settlement, a resort of the wealthy and influential. During this period of transition, many of the earlier public buildings were demolished, but many new “resort” style facilities such as spas and bath houses were built. Many wealthy domestic houses were also built, frequently featuring heated rooms and fine mosaics.

Londinium was finally abandoned following the Roman withdrawal from Britain in the early 5th century about 410 AD.