‘Corinium’ was the Roman name given to modern-day Cirencester and ‘Dobunnorum’ refers to the local native tribes who lived in the area.
When the Romans invaded Britain in 43 AD they landed on the Kent coast near Sandwich. They marched their way north-west until they were able to cross the River Thames at Londinium (London).
The Romans pushed further north-west, establishing frontier forts and connecting them with well-built, straight roads such as Watling Street, The Fosse Way, Akeman Street and Ermine Street.
A frontier fort was established in 44 AD on the edge of The Cotswolds in the friendly territory of the native Dobruni tribe. The fort protected the point where the Fosse Way crossed the River Churn. Around 49 AD a provincial town grew up around the fort and soon became the market and administrative centre of the region. Only Londinium was a larger and more important city than Corinium.
When the frontier moved to the north following the conquest of Wales, the fort was closed and its fortifications levelled c. 70 AD, but the town continued to grow. Even in Roman times there was a flourishing wool trade.
Over the next twenty years, a street grid was laid out and the town was furnished with an array of large public stone buildings, two market places and numerous shops and private houses.
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A large forum and basilica was built on the site of the demolished fort. It was decorated with beautifully carved Corinthian columns, Italian marble wall veneers and Purbeck marble mouldings. Unfortunately, it was built over the ditch of the old fort and the walls cracked and sank, forcing a major rebuilding project in the mid-2nd century.
There was a cattle market adjoining the forum with a market hall and several butchers' shops. A quarry underwent redevelopment into an amphitheatre in the 2nd century providing entertainment for the population.
A system of wooden water pipes indicates there was an aqueduct providing a good source of water. Surprisingly for such a large and modern town there were no public baths (perhaps they have just not been discovered yet), or a Temple although numerous fine sculptures show there was much religious activity in the town.
Excellent Roman roads converged at Corinium bringing iron from the Forest of Dean across the River Severn, farm produce, sheep and wool from all over the Cotswolds and exotic imported goods from the ports of Glevum (Gloucester) and Londinium (City of London). Corinium’s proximity to the health-giving spa waters of Aqua Sulis - (Roman Baths & Pump Room - Bath) increased its popularity as a desirable place to live.
When a wall was erected around the Roman city in the late 2nd century, it enclosed an area of 240 acres (1km²). There were five gates and polygonal towers were later added to the walls.
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Development continued and Corinium was made the seat of the Roman province of Britannia Prima in the 4th century. By now the town was supporting the services of bakers, glass-makers, blacksmiths and goldsmiths.
At this time the town was inhabited by many wealthy Rommans living luxurious lifestyles in private stone dwellings decorated with mosaic floors and fine sculptures. It is thought that Corinium was the centre of a stone carving and mosaic industry with two schools of art.
All over the Cotswolds Romans became successful farmers, growing grain and raising sheep. The remains of their farms and villas are dotted all over the area such as Chedworth Roman Villa.
With the decline of the Roman Empire came withdrawal from Britain. Corinium was finally abandoned around 430 AD.