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About Colchester
Roman History.
Colchester was founded on the River Colne in the county of Essex. If history had turned out differently, Colchester could have been the capital of England instead of London. Indeed, at the time of Queen Boudica in AD60, it was the capital, although its name then was Camulodunum. Boudica led a local tribal community called the Iceni and until recently she was often referred to as Boadicea. Much of what we know about this period comes from the writings of the Roman historian Tacitus.

Plaque at the entrance to Balkern Gate, the largest surviving Roman gateway in Britain

When the Roman Empire invaded Britain in AD43 they made the capture of Camulodunum one of their main priorities. They quickly subdued the local defenders and built a fortress at the settlement. By AD49 the Romans mistakenly thought they had nothing to fear from the local tribes and the fortress became a civilian settlement populated mainly by retired soldiers and their families. It was named Colonia Claudia in honour of the Emperor, the first capital of the Roman Province Britannia.
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In AD54 Claudius died and the Romans built the Temple of Claudius to worship his memory. However they made the mistake of heavily taxing the local Britains and using many of them as slaves in order to build the monument. They also forced the locals to worship there. This made the temple an object of great hatred amongst the local people and a symbol of the hate they felt for Rome.

In AD60 Prasutagus, the Iceni king, died without a son to succeed him. The Romans refused to recognise Boudica and his daughters as heirs and instead assaulted the women. This was to ignite a revolt which led to the destruction of the Roman town at Colchester, and also later those at St. Albans and London. Boudica and the Iceni formed an alliance with another tribe the Trinovantes and attacked the now civilian town of Colchester.

The destruction of the Temple of Claudius.

The colonial residents took refuge in the last remaining large substantial building, unfortunately for them the despised Temple of Claudius. Here they met their doom and were violently tortured and slaughtered and the temple burnt to the ground.

Boudica and her army moved on to destroy St. Albans and London before she became over-confident and was defeated. The Romans returned to Colchester and this time built a defensive wall around the town of which about two-thirds can still be seen today. The Roman rule of Colchester was to last for over 400 more years.

Roman Chariot Track unearthed in Colchester
During 2004 building developments on Abbey Field, Colchester Barracks unearthed the remains of a huge Roman Chariot Racing Arena. The arena is estimated to have been built at sometime after 100AD when Roman rule had been returned to Colchester following the Boudican Revolt. It may have seated up to 10,000 people and at up to 5 metres high, 400 metres long and 69 metres wide is the largest known Roman building ever to have been unearthed in Britain and the first Roman Circus to be discovered. If you want to know more visit the Colchester Archaeological Trust website.

 

 

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