Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

period London may, for some reason or other, of which we know and can know nothing, have been accounted a town of the Cantii, even although divided by the river from the rest of their territory; or, what is more likely, a mistake as to such a matter may very easily have been made by Ptolemy, this same part of whose work is not free from much more serious errors. It will hardly, at any rate, be pretended, looking to the mere evidence of remains, that there was no London on the north bank of the Thames when Ptolemy wrote; and yet, unless that also be assumed, the correctness of his account, on the supposition that he really means to place London on the south side of the river, cannot be maintained.

The next mention that is made of London is so late as the year 297, when, immediately after the usurper Allectus, the murderer and successor of the more famous Carausius, had himself been overthrown and put to death by the Præfect Asclepiodotus, a body of Franks, who had been in his service, fell upon the town, and had begun to plunder it, when the opportune arrival of a part of the fleet of the Emperor Constantius in the Thames—" which always,” remarks Camden, "stood the Londoners a true friend"—made the marauders take to their heels or their horses. And seventy years later there is recorded another deliverance of the place by the great Theodosius, then commanding the forces of the Emperor Valentinian I., from a combination of more ferocious enemies, wild Picts and Scots from the north mixed with Franks and Saxons from the opposite coast, who for nearly a century preceding had infested Roman Britain, till, growing bolder with every successful inroad, they had of late begun to push their incursions to the very heart of the country, and to attack its oldest seats of wealth and civilization. The account given by Ammianus Marcellinus sets forcibly before us the insecure and exposed state to which London itself and its neighbourhood were now reduced, in the old age and rapidly increasing weakness of the far extended empire of which it had formed a part for some three or four centuries. Theodosius, he tells us, having disembarked his forces at Rutupiæ, or Sandwich-still the common landing-place from the Continent, as it had been from the days of Julius Cæsar—immediately set out for London. On his march he met various roving bands of the enemy, laden with the spoils of the unhappy tributaries or provincials, and driving before them strings of human beings bound, as well as herds of cattle. He had no difficulty in putting these small parties, encumbered as they were, to the rout, and forcing them to surrender their booty, which he restored to its owners, after reserving only a small portion as a gratuity for his men, by whose exertions it had been recovered. London is described as having been before his landing reduced to extremities (mersam difficultatibus); but the citizens had now recovered their spirits, and their deliverer made his entry into the place amid universal rejoicing, and in a sort of triumphant fashion.* Theodosius seems to have remained for some time in London; and it is stated that before he left the island he restored to their ancient sound and secure condition both the towns and the military strongholds throughout the country, many of which had suffered much injury or dilapidation.t From

Ammianus Marcellinus, xxvii. 8. t. In integrum restituit civitates et castra multiplicibus quidem damuis adflicta. And again, Instaurabat urbes, et praesidiaria, ut diximus, castra.— Ibid.

Am. Marcellin. xxviii. 3.

these expressions it has been conjectured that London was now first surrounded with a wall; but they would rather seem to warrant the supposition that the wall was only now repaired by Theodosius, and that its original construction is probably to be referred to an earlier date. The old tradition is, that it was built by the Emperor Constantine the Great, at the request of his mother Helena, soon after the beginning of this fourth century. Coins of Helena, Camden affirms, had often been found under the wall. The story, in so far as Helena figures in it, is perhaps founded on nothing better than the notion, which is most probably erroneous, that that celebrated lady was a native of Britain; but the date which it would assign to the building of the wall is a probable enough one. It is most likely that London was still without any fortifications when it was fallen upon and partially plundered, apparently without having offered any resistance, by the Frank auxiliaries of Allectus in the year 297 ; and that very incident might naturally suggest the expediency of furnishing it with a defence against such attacks in future. By this time the predatory descents of the continental pirates had become so incessant and formidable that, notwithstanding the appointment a few years before of a Count of the Saxon Shore with a powerful fleet for the protection of the eastern and southern coasts (Carausius was the first who held that command, to which he was appointed about the year 284), there was no town in any part of Roman Britain that could be considered as any longer secure from attack.

It would seem to have been soon after its deliverance by Theodosius that London received, or assumed, the name of Augusta—a distinction which was enjoyed, it has been reckoned, by about seventy cities in all throughout the empire, for the most part the capitals of their provinces or districts. Ammianus, in the places to which we have just been referring, describes it as an old town, and appears to intimate that it was called Lundinium at the time of which he speaks, but that when he wrote (which must have been within half a century after) it was designated Augusta.* It may have adopted the latter name, in compliment or flattery to its deliverer and restorer, Theodosius, on his becoming Emperor of the West, in the year 394. However acquired, the title may be held to imply that it was now regarded as a town of the first pretension, and most probably as the capital of Roman Britain. Its metropolitan character may also be inferred from the figure it makes in the Itinerary of Antoninus (about the end of the third century), in which, of fifteen British roads that are given, four begin from London, and three others terminate at that city. Camden, with great probability, considers the famous London Stone, of which a small fragment still remains encased in another stone standing against the south wall of St. Swithin's Church, in Cannon Street, as the central Milliarium, or milestone, similar to that in the Forum at Rome, from which the chief British high roads radiated, and the distances on them were reckoned. Watling Street, of which Cannon Street is a part, is supposed by Wren to have been the principal street of Roman London, and it is not unlikely that it may have been a British road before the arrival of the Romans. Extending to the north-west, it may have joined the other great highway, which appears to have run along the line of Cheapside,

* Egressus, teudensque ad Lundinium vetus oppidum, quod Augustam posteritas appellavit. .Im. Marcel. xxvii. 8. And again-Ab Augusta profectus, quam veteres appellavere Lundinium.—xxviij. 3.

most probably at the north-east corner of St. Paul's Church-yard, whence it seems to have proceeded over Holborn Bridge (at the northern extremity of the present Farringdon Street) to the west, and perhaps also in another line towards the north, or the north-west-forming the road afterwards called Hermin Street by the Saxons. In the opposite direction, again, it is generally supposed to have passed, under the name of the Vicinal Way-perhaps the same with that called the Ikenild Street-through Aldgate, towards the north-east; and, it may be, also to have sent out a branch due north along the line of the present Bishopsgate. The roads from the south side of the river, of which that from Rutupia was the chief, may have been brought to Watling Street and London Stone either over a bridge near where London Bridge still is, or by a ferry a little higher up at Dowgate--supposed to be a corruption of Dwr-gate, that is, the water-gate--opposite to Stoney Street on the Surrey side, the mere name of which would seem to attest it to have been an ancient causeway.* London Stone, it may

be observed, stood anciently on the south side of Cannon Street, pitched upright, near the channel or kennel, according to Stow, who adds, that it was "fixed in the ground very deep, fastened with bars of iron, and otherwise so strongly set, that, if carts do run against it through negligence, the wheels be broken, and the stone itself unshaken.” Possibly the cart-wheels were made stronger afterwards, the better to stand the perils to which they were thus exposed; for it is pretty evident that the old stone has not always had the best of it in such encounters. It is now reduced, judging from what may be seen of it, to a fragment not a great deal larger than a man's head. Still, even this relic of so ancient and venerable a monument is interesting and precious; and we ought not to omit the name of the worthy citizen to whom we owe its preservation-Mr. Thomas Maiden, of Sherbourn Lane, printer, who, it is said, when St. Swithin's Church was about to undergo a repair in 1798, prevailed on the parish officers to consent that the stone should be placed where it still remains, after it had been doomed to destruction as a nuisance. For before this it stood close to the edge of the kerb-stone on the same side of the street, to which, it seems, it had been removed from its original position on the opposite side, in December 1742. Its foundations were uncovered in the course of the operations that took place after the great fire; and were found to be so extensive, that Wren, who does not appear to have doubted that they were Roman, was inclined to think that they must have supported some more considerable monument than even the central milliarium.“ In the adjoining ground to the south, upon digging for altars,” we are told in the Parentalia, were discovered some tesselated pavements, and other extensive remains of Roman workmanship and buildings.” Probably,” adds the account, “ this might in some degree have imitated the Milliarium Aureum at Constantinople, which was not in the form of a pillar as at Rome, but an eminent building; for under its roof, according to Cedrenus and Suidas, stood the statues of Constantine and Helena, Trajan, an equestrian statue of Hadrian, a statue of Fortune, and many other figures and decorations." The recorded history of London Stone, we may add, reaches beyond the Conquest. Stow found it mentioned as a land-mark in a list of rents belonging to Christ's Church, in Canter

* It will be perceived that these lines do not exactly coincide with those traced on the annexed plan of Roman London. But it would require half-a-dozen plans to exhibit all the conjectures that have been proposed in regard to the courses of the Roman roads in London and its neighbourhood.

bury, at the end of “a fair-written Gospel-book,” given to that foundation by the West Saxon King Athelstane, who reigned from 925 to 941.

[graphic][merged small]

Roman London in course of time certainly extended over a much greater space than was occupied by the original British town, or even probably by that which Boadicea sacked and laid waste. Appearances which still exist, and numerous remains that have been discovered in modern times, prove that it must have spread out from the central height, which appears to have been first built upon, not only to the east and the west, but also to the north, and even across the river to the south. With the exception of two or three sepulchral stones, which throw hardly any light upon the matter, no ancient inscriptions have been found in London ; but there are two great classes of indications by which we are assisted in conjecturing the probable limits of the Roman city; although, in consequence of the various facts not being all referable to the same epoch, they might not always, separately considered, conduct us to precisely the same conclusions.

I. The first evidence we have is that afforded by the situations of the several Roman burial grounds connected with the city, as established by the different collections of sepulchral remains that have been discovered. It was the custom of the Romans, and indeed of most of the other nations of antiquity, to inter their dead always without the city, but at the same time generally in its near neighbourhood. Frequently the cemeteries were immediately without the gates, and were extended for some distance along both sides of the road beyond, as is still to be seen in what is called the Street of Tombs at Pompeii. Stow has given us a very particular account from his own observation of the first discovery that has been recorded of a burial-place belonging to Roman London. It was found, he tells us, about the year 1576, in course of digging for clay in "a large field, of old time, called Lottesworth, now Spitalfield,” on the east side of the churchyard of the dissolved priory of St. Mary Spital, which stood nearly where Christ Church, Spitalfields, is now built, to the east of Bishopsgate Without. Many earthen urns were dug up here, full of ashes and burnt human bones, and each containing a piece of money, the customary classical viaticum. Stow particularly mentions copper coins of Claudius, Nero, Vespasian, Trajan, and Antoninus Pius. “Besides those urns,

[graphic]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »