Cirencester has the remains of one of the largest Roman amphitheatres in Britain
In the Roman community, just as today, sport and communal entertainment played a vital role. Residents of the Roman town of Corinium (modern day Cirencester) would have been justifiably proud of their local amenity - the amphitheatre.
In the second century AD the venue would likely have held a capacity audience of some 8,000 spectators - the town's entire population - making it one of the largest amphitheatre ruins in Britain.
The arena, now overgrown, was surrounded by a stone wall. Inside, the banked rows of seating were constructed from timber and stone. The walls were plastered and painted to give a trompe l’oeil marble effect. Originally built just outside the town’s defences it would have been used for a wide range of performances.
Originally a cavalry base, Corinium grew in stature to become a flourishing commercial centre for the wool trade. In the third century, the town was only surpassed by Londinium (London) in importance and status. Its wealth continued to grow and by the foutth century it is likely to have been the base of a Roman provincial governor, making it a highly desirable place to live.
The site of many rich villa estates, Corinium also became one of the leading mosaic centres in Roman Britain, as citizens displayed their status through the commission of elaborate mosaics depicting religious and mythological designs.
Roman sites are widespread across England and Wales and extend into southern Scotland. With more than 200 different sites - including towns, forts and fortresses and villas - we are never far away from a relic of this important part of our history.
The Roman road pattern, emanating from the capital, Londinium, is replicated today in the routes of our modern motorways. This is hardly surprising as a number of Britain’s cities, such as York and Lincoln, have Roman origins. Other towns of great importance in Roman times, such as Bury St Edmunds and Buxton, exist today as lively market towns.