The city of London is an incredibly old and complex beast. Founded back around 40 AD by the Romans, the city remains today as one of the most important cities in the world and an important economic powerhouse. Over the years, the city has received terms such as the most powerful, the most desirable and the most visited cities in the world. London managed to survive a large number of disasters since it was founded, going through periods such as the Black Plague that engulfed Europe as well as the Great Fire of London that destroyed major parts of the city.
Londinium – Ancient London
When the city was founded by the Romans, it consisted of 3 distinct city centers, an area which today is known simply as the City of London or the Square Mile. By 1800 the city reached a population of 1 million people and to 6.5 million by 1900. The years predating the Roman invasion there is no known evidence of a major settlement in the area where the city is located, leading to the conclusion that the Romans were the first ones to settle the area. The name of the city when it was first settled was Londinium and is the area where previously mentioned the City of London lies today. This area encompassed all of London from its founding in the 1st century AD to the Middle Ages.
As mentioned, the city faced a wide variety of problems, even during the Roman period. During this time, the city was also attacked by surrounding tribes such as the Picts, Scots, and Saxon raiders. Around the 4th century AD, the city was almost, if not, completely abandoned and its buildings fell into disrepair and most of its population moved about 1 mile away from the city to the Anglo-Saxon settlement known as Lundenwic, where the modern Covent Garden is located. After a few years, what remained of the city was regained by the Saxons and after that, the city became once again a settlement of great importance and continued to grow. Despite the city’s importance during the Roman period, Londinium was not the capital of Roman Britain. That title was maintained by Camulodunum, which is modern-day Colchester.
Ancient Sites in London
1. Billingsgate Roman Bath House
To this day, several sites are dating back to the time of Londinium and the Romans. An example would be the Billingsgate Roman Bath House which is suggested to have been used until the moment that the city fell into ruin during its abandonment. It was during the construction of the London Coal Exchange in 1848 that the bathhouse was discovered. After it was discovered, the ruin remains preserved in the basement and it was only during redevelopment that archeologists had the opportunity to further explore the ruin. During the excavation, it was determined that the bathhouse dated back in the 2nd century AD and once looked out onto the Thames. It continues to remain one of the best examples of Roman buildings in the city.
2. Roman London Wall
As the name suggests, this ancient structure was built by the Romans around Londinium during the late 2nd century and it is now the name of a street in The City. It was one of the great construction projects undertaken by the Romans during their stay in Britain. The wall continued to be maintained until the 18th century. The wall was once a boundary for the city, however, once the city expanded to the west, this was no longer the case. Because the wall continued to be maintained until the 18th century, it is not entirely Roman, however, it does have Roman masonry at its core.
3. The Temple of Mithras
The London Mithraeum was discovered during the construction of a building in 1954 and became one of the most important Roman discoveries in London. Here, figures that resembles Roman gods were found including, Minerva, Mercury, Mithras and Serapis, artifacts that are displayed at the Museum of London. There was an entire religion that was formed around the god Mithras and it is known to have been a rival religion to Christianity and was eliminated by the end of the 4th century. The religion known as Mithraism was very secretive and until today, 4 known temples have been discovered in the UK. The temple is built on one of London’s lost rivers known as Wallbrook which was gradually lost due to the expanding city. For those interested in the city’s ancient history, visiting the temple is a must as it contains a lot of information regarding the cult of Mithras as well as well-preserved artifacts.
4. London Roman Amphitheatre
Built somewhere around the 1st century AD, the Roman Amphitheatre was discovered during the construction of the Guildhall Art Gallery in the 20th century and 3 excavations took place over 40 years. The first one was in 1951, the second in 1985, and lastly in 1987. All of the excavations were made under the direction of the Museum of London. It was discovered that the Amphitheatre went through extensive renovations during the 2nd century AD and its scale says a lot about the importance of Londinium during the Roman occupation of Britain. One impressive feature regarding this ancient structure is the timber-lined drain sump and how well they were preserved. Visiting the site today, tourists are able to see portions of the walls that composed the structure, the original wooden drains and 2 chambers which may have served as waiting rooms for gladiators.
Today, the city is a major attraction for tourists around the world and the city has no shortage of activities. Besides visiting the ancient sites mentioned before, the city has many other attractions. The London Eye is an iconic landmark of the city from which offers a great view of the skyline, including iconic buildings such as Big Ben and Tower Bridge. Other places of interest include the famous Hippodrome Casino, which is one of London’s most popular entertainment venues, welcoming a large number of visitors since the casino opened in 2012. Many tables games such as poker, roulette and blackjack can be enjoyed here as well as a large number of the latest known slot games similar to the ones such as Diamond Link: Mighty Elephant.
A more comfortable gambling alternative is the London Palm Beach Casino, a more modest resort that also offers a wide variety of gambling options. One last casino to mention would be the Colony Casino Club, however, entering the casino requires a membership. Compared to the previous 2 casinos mentioned it has a much more modern design and a premier destination in the world of casinos. The casino floor features around 22 gaming tables with many varieties of casino games that include American roulette, blackjack, and poker.
One of the buildings that have greatly impacted the city skyline is 20 Fenchurch Street, more famously known as the “Walkie-Talkie” because of its distinctive shape. Many believe that the shape of the building has negatively impacted London’s skyline, however, the Sky Garden that occupies the 36th and 38th stories offers an unparalleled view of the city and it is described as a largely free, public viewing space. London remains to be a city that continues to change rapidly and will also continue to remain one of the most important cities in the world, as well as one of the most visited.