At a crossing of the river Stour.
The name is recorded by Ptolemy and later ancient
sources. Caesar had crossed the river here or nearby in
54 B.C., but occupation of the site began only ca. A.D. 1,
when a large oppidum grew up on each bank. Canterbury
has been continuously inhabited ever since, but opportunity for large-scale excavation occurred only after
WW II as a result of bombing.
The Belgic oppidum was found to cover a wide area
with sporadic huts and gulleys; it was probably a regional
capital and a silver coin of Voicenos attests an otherwise unknown ruler. Soon after A.D. 43 gulleys were
filled in and a Roman street-grid laid down; thus Durovernum was one of the earliest civitas capitals to be developed, and presumably reflects the pro-Roman character of the region. The Cantiaci were not a single tribe;
their name, derived from Cantium, suggests a Roman
amalgamation of small groups to form an administrative area of convenient size. The earliest buildings were
of half-timber and/or clay; masonry structures began to
appear ca. A.D. 100. About this time a theater or amphitheater was built; it was entirely remodeled as a large
classical theater with vaulted substructure in the early
3d c. Two bath buildings are known.
The town lacked defenses until ca. 270, when a wall
and bank were constructed enclosing 52 ha. The defended area was confined to the E bank of the Stour, and
occupation ceased on the other side. Excavation has
yielded evidence for a regular settlement (early 5th c.)
by Germanic immigrants using Anglo-Frisian pottery
and living in Grubenhäuser
that are probably of the
period of Hengist. Another important discovery was a
late 4th c. silver treasure carrying Christian symbols,
which had been concealed just outside the walls near the
river. It reminds us of the Christian churches which,
according to Bede, could still be identified by St. Augustine.
S. S. Frere, Roman Canterbury
ed., 1962); id., “The end of towns in Roman Britain,”
in J. S. Wacher, ed., The Civitas Capitals of Roman
(1966); id., “The Roman Theatre at Canterbury,”
I (1970) 83-113; K. Painter, “A Roman Silver
Treasure,” Journal of the British Archaeological Association
ser. 3, 28 (1965) 1-15.
S. S. FRERE