Boudica (or Boadicea), the Queen of the Celtic Iceni tribe, inscribed her name in the annals of history by leading a bloody revolt against the Romans circa 60 AD. At the apical stage of the revolt in Britain, she might have commanded the Iceni, the Trinovantes and other assorted tribes, against the might of Legio IX Hispana of the Imperial Roman army. And according the Tacitus, in the chaotic aftermath, the military encounters might have left around 80,000 Romans and Britons dead, while cities like Londinium (London), Camulodunum (Colchester) and Verulamium (St Albans) were completely destroyed. And now there are archaeological evidences to complement such high figures – thus suggesting how the ancient Romans might have felt the pressure after Boudica’s revolt. We are talking about a recently discovered Roman fort that was (possibly) built after the Iceni Queen’s demise, as a result of the mercurial events circa 60-61 AD.
To that end, the excavations have revealed the ruins of a substantially big complex around 3.7 acres in area (around 161,000 sq ft – almost equal to three American football fields), located at the Plantation Place in London. Probably comprising defensive structures constructed of earthwork and timber, the ancient fort compound had its own defensive parameters of 10 ft high banks that were accompanied by timber-made reinforcements and walls. The Roman engineers placed flat platforms atop these timber walls for fighting against the besieging troops, while the parameters were interspersed by towers at the gates. Furthermore, this expansive Romano-British fort was defensively encircled by three different ditches (one 10-ft deep and the other two 7-ft deep), thus serving as effective obstacles against the approaching foe.
According to the researchers from MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology), the layout of this Roman fort was planned efficiently, with its locational attribute overlooking the strategic passage into London from the London Bridge – which was a permanent timber piled bridge (circa 60 AD) occasionally guarded by a small Roman garrison. In fact, this fort might have dominated the cityscape of ancient Londinium, until the construction of the larger Cripplegate Fort in 120 AD and the subsequent defensive walling of the trade town itself in the later centuries. As Julian Hill, Roman London Expert at MOLA, made it clear –
The discovery of this early Roman fort provides precious new information about how the Romans re-established control of Britain following Boudica’s damaging blow. It also demonstrates the strategic importance of London at this time.
However, in spite of the defensive compound’s relatively large size, it was probably only occupied for ten years. This suggests that the Roman legionaries stationed inside may have very well resided in tents as opposed to permanent barracks, while the fort was used as an emergency structure for the Romans to fall back on in case of any local revolt. But in line with the Roman meticulousness when it comes to sheer organization, the Plantation Place fort did have its own network of serviceable roads (or pathways), along with a cookhouse, granaries, storage facilities and even latrines.
The entire study was originally published in MOLA publication ‘An early Roman fort and urban development on Londinium’s eastern hill’ by Lesley Dunwoodie, Chiz Harward and Ken Pitt.