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OE wyrtig, adj: Garden-like, full of plants;
On anum wyrtige hamme, Homl. Skt. ii. 30:312




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The Gardens at Camulodunum

Camulodunum sphinx, from Wikimedia CommonsCamulodunum was an Iron Age settlement that became a Roman walled fortress. It is actually mentioned by Pliny the Elder, who in about 60 CE wrote that Mona -- modern Anglesey -- was 200 miles distant from Camaloduno Britanniae oppido, "Camulodunum, a British fortress." As such, it is the first British settlement in history to be called by name.

It was at Camulodunum that, in 43 CE, six British leaders officially surrendered to invading emperor Claudius. Six years later, the Romans established a colony of veterans on this site, which they called Colonia Claudia Victricensis, the City of Claudius’ Victory. For two decades, the settlement flourished. Then it was the first city to fall to Boudicca's army, which burnt it to the ground. When modern archaeologists sifted through the ashy remains of the city, they found a dish containing two charred dates and a plum.

Roman wall in Camulodunum

After the revolt was put down, the  provincial capital was moved to Londinium, but Camulodunum was rebuilt, not surprisingly with defenses that eventually included a wall and deep ditch. From 80-125 CE, new construction in Camulodunum included a large Romano-Celtic temple, built to incorporate an earlier British temple, and a substantial theater. A smaller Romano-British temple and a shrine were located outside the city walls.

A monumental victory arch was also erected to celebrate the Claudian conquest of Britain, Though nothing remains of the arch, the opening was later incorporated into the Roman wall when that was extended around the city, and today it survives as the Balkerne Gate, below.

Balkerne Gate at Camulodunum

Map of Camulodunum

In about 275 CE, the ditch that ran outside the wall was widened and deepened to increase its effectiveness. The spoil dirt was spread over the adjacent fields to the west, and this preserved several gardens just outside Balkerne Gate. These were probably market gardens; in one area, patterns of furrows and posts may indicate vineyards, possibly interplanted with asparagus.

Within the city walls were urban villas, some of which were also found to have gardens. In an area known as Lions Walk, archaeologists found garden soil near two of the houses, but little else to inform us of their nature.


Remains of a number of plants were found at Camulodunum, including:



Avena sp


Hordeum vulgare

Barley, hulled

Triticum sp,

T. aestiva    

Bread wheat

T. dicoccum    

Emmer wheat

T. spelta     

Spelt wheat

Broadleaved plants

Agrostemma githago

Corn cockle

Bromus mollis
or B. secalinus

B. mollis, Soft brome, Soft cheatgrass
B. secalinus, Rye brome

Chenopodium album

Lamb's quarters, Goosefoot, Fat hen

Galium aparine

Cleavers, goosegrass

Lathyrus sp




Polygonum aviculare

Common knotgrass

Ranunculus sp


Vicia hirsuta


Trees and shrubs

Alnus glutinosa

Black alder

Buxus sempervirens

European boxwood

Corylus avellana


Fagus sylvatica

European beech

Larix decidua



Fruitwood (apple, pear, crabapple)

Prunus domestica ssp domestica




Rhamnus cathartica


Rubus fruticosus


Salix sp or Populus

Willow, poplar

Sambucus nigra


Viburnum, ? opulus




Colchester Archaeology Report 3: Excavations at Lion Walk, Balkerne Lane, and Middleborough, Colchester, Essex

Gardens of the Roman Empire -- W.F. Jashemski

Roman England: Camulodunum


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