History of the Amphitheatre Part 2


We left part 1 with the Roman army crossing the channel with their buckets and spades expecting a nice few days at the seaside: they got more than they bargained for. Read on.

Before the Romans arrived the site of the Amphitheatre was a gently sloping hillside with outcrops of rock and probably covered with trees and scrub. In Rome events were unfolding that would significantly change Britain for the next 400 years. In January AD 41 the Roman emperor Caligula was murdered by the Praetorian Guard; he was replaced by Claudius who needed to establish his sovereignty. Taking advantage of a dispute between tribes in southern Britain, Claudius mounted an invasion. In AD 43 an army of 40,000 highly trained, battle hardened troops and auxiliaries crossed the channel. The army advanced through Kent where they met a substantial British force. The ensuing battle near Rochester lasted two days, leaving the Romans triumphant.

The Roman army continued across the Thames, firstly towards Colchester and later north and west. The territory of the defeated tribes fell under Roman rule and the taxes and tithes increased the wealth of the empire. It was reported to Claudius that his army had received the surrender of eleven Kings although there were still numerous tribes that refused to accept Roman rule.

By late AD 47 the Romans had secured a frontier that ran from the River Severn to the Wash. This was marked by a defensive ditch locally, and, for additional protection, where the frontier crossed the River Churn, a fort was constructed. This fort at Watermoor marked the arrival of the Romans in Cirencester.

The invasion of Britain continued north and west and as the British forces were diminished by the might of the Roman armies the frontier moved north. Along the line of the early frontier a road was constructed, and as the Latin for ditch is fossa the road became known as the Fosse Way.

The arrival of the Roman fort in Cirencester proved to be a magnet for the local people. The needs of the fort would have created local trade; supplying the troops with food, materials and labour. Subsequently a settlement grew up outside the ramparts of the fort, populated by the Dobunni tribe who moved down from their village in Bagendon.

However, by this time further business had developed. The Fosse Way was one of the country’s major routes providing opportunities for trade, and local sheep and wool products would have been in demand. The settlement continued to prosper and started grow towards being the second largest town in Roman Britain.

Next time – the construction of Corinium Dobunnorum and the Amphitheatre.