Roman London – Decline and Fall (late C2-early C5)

Roman London  declined during the later second century, through the “crisis” of the third, and into the fourth, during which time the Roman Empire as a whole came under increasing attack from within as well as without – Britain was ruled by its own rival Emperors Clodius Albinus in the late second century, and Carausius and Allectus in the “Carausian Revolt” of the third, after which latter, it was retaken by the Emperor Constantius Chlorus in 296.   It appears that many of Roman London’s  public buildings, including the “Governor’s Palace”, the Basilica and Forum, and possibly also the Amphitheatre, were  substantially  demolished at the turn of the third and fourth centuries  – perhaps as punishment for its perceived support of the “Carausian Revolt”.  “Barbarian” raids – by Picts and Scots, and by Saxons and other Germanic tribes – began in the fourth  century.   The city  finally fell, and was essentially abandoned,  in the early fifth, around 410, when the legions were recalled  to Rome on the orders of the Emperor Honorius.

New building works from this period include:

Wall, Tower Hill.JPG

the City wall, dating to the late second to early third century,

Wall, Tower of London.JPG

and the river wall, dating to the mid to late  third (*);

Temple of MIthras.JPG

the Temple of Mithras, dating to the early third century;

and an   enigmatic, only partially excavated, building, variously interpreted as a late Roman Basilica or – on the basis of similarity to the Basilica di Santa Tecla in Milan – a “palaeo-Christian” church or cathedral, between  Pepys Street and Trinity Square, dating to the fourth century.

(*) There being no local source of stone, the wall was constructed  out an estimated 85000 tons of Kentish Ragstone, quarried near Maidstone and transported down the Medway and up the Thames to London on barges, the remains of one of which  have been found at Blackfriars, with its 50-ton cargo intact.

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