Calleva Atrebatum – Roman Silchester

Related Articles

Related Articles

Calleva Atrebatum, also known as Silchester Roman City was a large Roman settlement located near the modern-day village of Silchester in Hampshire, England.

Calleva Atrebatum was the centre of the Iron Age Atrebates, a Belgic tribe that migrated from Gaul around 54 BC and was ruled by successive client Kings of Rome before becoming absorbed into the new Roman province of Britannia after the Romans invaded in AD 43.

The Iron Age oppidum was constructed on a gravel plateau spur around 20-10 BC, comprising of a series of defensive earthworks that covered an area of 79 acres. Excavations have revealed various period structures that include several roundhouses, wells, rectangular buildings, and a large gathering hall.


Roman Silchester – Image Credit : Peter Stewart

With the arrival of the Romans, there was a movement towards organising urban spaces into a grid-like street plan to imply a Romanised way of conferring civilisation. The Iron Age oppidum was reorganised into a system of rectilinear gravelled streets that stood at the junction of a number of major Roman roads connecting Calleva Atrebatum to Londinium (London), Venta Belgarum (Winchester), Noviomagnus Reginorum (Chichester) and Dorcic (Dorchester).

Calleva Atrebatum grew into a major commercial centre for trade and the administration of taxation in the region. The city included a forum, basilica, temples, workshops and shops, thermal baths, villas, and a large amphitheatre that could accommodate between 3500-7250 spectators.

Roman Silchester – Image Credit : Peter Stewart

In AD 200, construction began on a rampart of earth and clay that encircled the city. This was later reinforced with a stone wall in AD 270 that covered a length of 2.4km. Why the wall was constructed has been somewhat of an enigma for archaeologists and historians.

Calleva Atrebatum was no longer a frontier settlement, nor was there any evidence of a sizeable threat to the inhabitants. It is possible that the withdrawal of the Legions by Clodius Albinus in AD 196 (to claim the title of Emperor) led to the fortifications being erected in response to the sudden absence of the Roman military in the province.

Occupation of the town continued into the beginning of the fifth century, possibly extending to the late sixth-early seventh century. Unlike most major Roman settlements in southern England, Calleva Atrebatum never re-emerged as a substantial settlement, but instead became a small medieval village until it was deserted around AD 1400, possibly as a result of the black death plague that devastated medieval England.

Header Image Credit : Carole Raddato

Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic


Ancient Mosaic Criticises Christianity

An ancient mosaic from a 4th-century house in the centre of the ancient city of Paphos in Cyprus, was a 'pictorial' criticism of Christianity according to experts.

Geoscience: Cosmic Diamonds Formed During Gigantic Planetary Collisions

It is estimated that over 10 million asteroids are circling the Earth in the asteroid belt. They are relics from the early days of our solar system, when our planets formed out of a large cloud of gas and dust rotating around the sun.

Vettuvan Koil – The Temple of the Slayer

Vettuvan Koil is a rock-cut temple, located in Kalugumalai, a panchayat town on the ancient trade routes from Kovilpatti to courtallam, in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

The Testimony of Trees: How Volcanic Eruptions Shaped 2000 Years of World History

Researchers have shown that over the past two thousand years, volcanoes have played a larger role in natural temperature variability than previously thought, and their climatic effects may have contributed to past societal and economic change.

Sentinels of Ocean Acidification Impacts Survived Earth’s Last Mass Extinction

Two groups of tiny, delicate marine organisms, sea butterflies and sea angels, were found to be surprisingly resilient--having survived dramatic global climate change and Earth's most recent mass extinction event 66 million years ago.

The Venerable Ensign Wasp, Killing Cockroaches For 25 million Years

An Oregon State University study has identified four new species of parasitic, cockroach-killing ensign wasps that became encased in tree resin 25 million years ago and were preserved as the resin fossilized into amber.

Modern Humans Reached Westernmost Europe 5,000 Years Earlier Than Previously Known

Modern humans arrived in the westernmost part of Europe 41,000 - 38,000 years ago, about 5,000 years earlier than previously known, according to Jonathan Haws, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Louisville, and an international team of researchers.

Akrotiri – The Ancient Town Buried by a Volcano

Akrotiri is an archaeological site and a Cycladic Bronze Age town, located on the Greek island of Santorini (Thera) near the present-day village of Akrotiri (for which the prehistoric site is named).

Popular stories

The Secret Hellfire Club and the Hellfire Caves

The Hellfire Club was an exclusive membership-based organisation for high-society rakes, that was first founded in London in 1718, by Philip, Duke of Wharton, and several of society's elites.

Port Royal – The Sodom of the New World

Port Royal, originally named Cagway was an English harbour town and base of operations for buccaneers and privateers (pirates) until the great earthquake of 1692.

Matthew Hopkins – The Real Witch-Hunter

Matthew Hopkins was an infamous witch-hunter during the 17th century, who published “The Discovery of Witches” in 1647, and whose witch-hunting methods were applied during the notorious Salem Witch Trials in colonial Massachusetts.

Did Corn Fuel Cahokia’s Rise?

A new study suggests that corn was the staple subsistence crop that allowed the pre-Columbian city of Cahokia to rise to prominence and flourish for nearly 300 years.