Verulamium was one of the largest towns in Roman Britain. It was established on the location of a late Iron Age settlement and a major centre of the Catuvellauni tribe. Its ruins now stand in the southwest of the modern city of St Albans in Hertfordshire, 33 km northwest of London. The excavations uncovered parts of the city walls and a hypocaust under a mosaic floor, but the Roman theatre was the most spectacular. Since much of the modern city has been built upon the ancient town, a large portion of Verulamium remains unexcavated.
Verulamium was founded on the ancient Celtic site of Verlamion (meaning ‘settlement above the marsh’), a late Iron Age settlement and a major centre of the Catuvellauni tribe. After the Roman invasion of AD 43, the city was renamed Verulamium and became one of the largest and most prosperous towns in the province of Britannia. Around AD 50, Verulamium was granted the rank of municipium, meaning its citizens had “Latin Rights”. It grew into a significant town and, as such, was a prime target during the revolt of Boudicca in AD 61. Verulamium was sacked and burnt to the ground on her orders, but the Romans crushed the rebellion, and the town recovered quickly. In its heyday, Verulamium was the third-largest city in Roman Britain.
By AD 140, the town had doubled in size, covering 100 acres, and featured a forum with a basilica, public baths, temples, many prosperous private townhouses and a theatre. Despite two fires, one in AD 155 and the other around AD 250, Verulamium continued to grow and remained a central Roman town for the next four hundred years until the end of the Roman occupation.
Today the site of Verulamium sits in a beautiful public park. Archaeological excavations were undertaken in the park during the 1930s, during which the 1800-year-old hypocaust and its covering mosaic floor were discovered. Further large-scale excavations uncovered the theatre, a corner of the basilica nearby and some of the best-preserved wall paintings of Roman Britain. On the outskirts of the park is the Verulamium Museum which contains hundreds of archaeological objects relating to everyday Roman life.