Roman York

Len Collins gave a wide ranging review of Roman York. This included what York looked like in its Roman heyday, the remains that can still be seen, and what life was like there.

The Romans occupied Eboracum (Roman York) from 71 to 410AD, delayed after their invasion in the south in 43AD. Len blamed the delay on restless tribes which had to be quelled first, not the least of which was the Iceni and their rebellious leader Boudica.

York became a regional centre.  Len was able to show a map with a large fort for the 6000 men of the 9th Legion between the Ouse and Foss rivers. Close by on the west bank of the Ouse was a Colonia, a large Roman town. A long lost bridge would have linked them.

Len reviewed the Roman emperors linked to York.  These included Hadrian who visited in 122AD, Septimius Severus from Libya who lived in York from 193AD until his death in 211AD. The most famous was Constantine, son of Constantius. Constantine was proclaimed emperor in York in 306AD on the death of his father and later became known as Constantine the Great.

Roman remains are still visible in York. Len pointed out the Roman elements of the multi-angular tower, the east angle tower, the column re-erected near the Minster in 1971, and the Roman baths.

Another link back to Roman times is the fact that the Archbishop of York’s signature is traditionally “Ebor”, short for Eboracum. The present minster sits on top of the Roman forts principal buildings, remains of which can be seen in the crypt.

Len looked at Roman life in York including dress, diet, and entertainment in the form of gladiatorial combat. He showed pictures of the recently discovered gladiators’ cemetery. He covered religious beliefs, from the Roman gods to Christianity.

Len can find no reference to York in the famous Vindolanda tablets, but inscriptions and carvings discovered locally and on display in the Yorkshire Museum in York give us an insight into what Roman York was like.

The vote of thanks was given by Jane Payne. She thanked the speaker for his wide ranging talk which had answered all the questions she had thought of beforehand.