Verulamium is next to the city of St Albans and was one of the largest Roman towns in Britain. It is approximately 20 miles north-west of London.|
On Julius Caesar's second visit to Britain in 54 B.C., he marched against the Catuvellauni, an indigenous tribe in the area to the north of the Thames, and their leader, Cassivellaunus. The locals were defeated, possibly at their stronghold, Wheathampstead. Or at least, the result was a draw, for Caesar, having gained enough glory, sailed for home.
By about 5 B.C., the Catuvellauni were ruled by Tasciovanus, who was by now minting coins with his name on. By 10 A.D., he was succeeded by Cunobelin (Shakespeare's Cymbeline) who took over the territory of the Trinovantes, which was situated in modern-day Essex and Suffolk. Although he moved his base to Camulodunum (Colchester), Verlamiom still enjoyed great prestige and coins in gold, silver and bronze were minted there.
During the rule of Cunobelin's sons, Togidumnus and Caractacus, who succeeded him in about 40 A.D., the Emperor Claudius decided to invade Britain. This took place in 43 A.D., but the Catuvellauni seem to have welcomed the Romans and consequently, the Celtic town of Verlamiom, became the Roman Civitas of Verulamium.
The town developed rapidly, but the revolt by the Queen of the Iceni around 60 A.D., led to the pillaging and burning of the town, an event confirmed by burnt material in archaeological excavations. The town recovered and public buildings in the Roman manner, including a forum and basilica, were constructed.
After the withdrawal of the Roman legions in 410 A.D., the town declined and fell to the Saxon invaders. Eventually it was abandoned, though it may have been occupied up until 600 A.D.
However, Alban's martyrdom was not forgotten, and in about 940 A.D. a monastery church was built on the site of his execution. This church was to become St Albans Abbey and Cathedral. Like any monastery in Saxon times, it attracted people and houses to it, and the new town became the city of St Albans.
The museum has to be visited to appreciate the wealth of Celtic and Roman items there. It has several very well preserved mosaic floors and wall paintings, not usually found so intact in northern climes.
Mention must be made of the moulds used for making coin blanks - a clay tray with small "pots" where scraps of metal were placed for melting. Also on display, as well as coins of all periods, is a coin die, used for making the coins.
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