Cirencester has the remains of one of the largest Roman amphitheatres in Britain
Just as today, sport and communal entertainment played a vital role in the Roman community. The residents of the Roman town of Corinium (modern day Cirencester) would have been justifiably proud of their local amenity - the amphitheatre. In the 2nd century AD it is likely to have held a capacity audience of some 8,000 spectators - the entire population of Corinium - and would have been the venue for a wide range of performances.
Imagine the arena, surrounded by a stone wall, with ranked rows of seating constructed from timber and stone, and the walls plastered and painted to give a trompe l’oeil marble effect. Built originally just outside the town’s defences and now overgrown, it is one of the largest amphitheatre ruins in Britain.
Originally a cavalry base, Corinium grew in stature to become a flourishing commercial centre for the wool trade. In the 3rd century, the town was only surpassed by Londinium, or modern London, in importance and status. Its wealth continued to grow and by the 4th 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 Roman towns, forts and fortresses and villas, you 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.