The Ancient World in London – Londinium Basilica Forum, Walbrook, Temple of Mithras and Guildhall

The Ancient World in London – Londinium Basilica Forum, Walbrook, Temple of Mithras and Guildhall


Addison Lee is proud to sponsor the Ancient World in London series. London’s always been explored. In our last episode we left our adventurer Nicole Favish
on a guided tour of Roman Londinium with history expert Ian Smith. This episode we’re going to pick them up where they left
off as they travel towards the ancient city centre. Where we are was on the basilica forum. The church behind us is a new church which was built by Wren after the
Great Fire in 1666, but this is the original site of Christianity in Britain. During the week here, this is a hugely busy area –
this is the global part of the global economy. Just like in those days, the Roman Empire covered a huge area, so too
today, the city of London extends out to all parts of the world. So was the basilica forum like a town centre? That’s right. Almost like Leicester Square, Oxford Street.. This was the heart of Roman London with huge shopping complex. This
was where everything happened – the parties, the drinking, the socialising. They bought great eating habits, food and exotic menus; they
had their chefs of the day who were celebrities. They brought oysters, for instance, to England, so any Roman site you find these days has lots
of discarded oyster shells from when they used to banquet on oysters and drink wine. You’ve made me a little bit peckish now, I
think we should go and get some oysters! We’re here in Walbrook and I want to know
why we’re here, so lets ask Ian. This is St. Stephen Walbrook which was originally
developed or established in the 7th century. When the Saxons came, they pushed the Roman/Celtic habitants to
the less salubrious eastern part of the Walbrook. So over here the Anglo Saxons started developing the Western part of the river. I talked earlier about Boudica’s revolt in AD60, so she and her hoards
swept through here killing 80,000 people between Colchester, London and St Albans and actually, in excavations recently they found a bunch of skulls underneath here in the riverbank
of the Walbrook, which was probably some of the people that Boudica butchered in AD60. So where are we heading to next? We were supposed to be sending Nicole and Ian to the Temple
of Mithras but unfortunately the Temple of Mithras is not there, as it’s currently being moved, and it’s all boarded up. Which is a little bit rubbish, but don’t fear because we’re
going to be virtually reconstructing the Temple of Mithras. So we’ve been looking around the Temple of Mithras and we have actually
found it but it’s behind a load of big green boards, so what I’m asking Ian is that if we
did find it, what would it have been? Well it was a temple that was built in AD250 right on the
bank of the Walbrook. Mithras was very popular with Roman soldiers he was a Persian god and he was born in a cave so the Temple
of Mithras was half underground, and was a very holy and rather spooky place, So why has this particular site so important to you? Well, the Walbrook river was a very crucial river in the development of
London. It’s flowing underground now, but it’s still flowing below our feet, and that topography, that morphology really defined how people
settle London and where they establish things. The Roman city developed here, the temple developed here, the Saxons
built a church St. Stephen Walbrook in the 7th Century. We now have the modern religion of finance, commerce and the Bank of England. We’re standing on 2000 years of history right between our feet, starting
with a muddy river that ran down into the Thames. So we’re at our last stop of the day, here at
the Guildhall. Why have you bought us here, Ian? Well this is where the Roman amphitheatre was, so you should think
of the Colosseum in Rome, though not as big as that. But this is where the entertainment was – this is
where they came for the Saturday football match. The black stone here is the periphery of the amphitheatre. So you’d come here, you’d see gladiators kill each other, you’d see gladiators killing
wild animals but they’d also put on theatre and entertainment, jugglers, circus. How many people can it fit in? You’d get a couple of thousand people in there, and it’d be a really entertaining
day out, probably lots of drinking, selling popcorn and really having a good time. The gladiators who were successful were the real rockstars of the
day, they were the David Beckhams of the day. They could have any women they wanted, they were bought drinks when they
went into pubs, they were very revered people like modern sportspeople. Would that be more of a male orientated? No, women loved that stuff. The groupies would be down on the front row, making eyes at their heroes
or enjoying the bloody gore as another gladiator got killed and went down. It’s been an absolute pleasure hanging out with you today! It’s been great fun, thank you very much! I didn’t realise there was so much guts and blood back in
Roman times – I don’t think I could have handled it! The history is just under our feet and we just need to dig that slightly bit deeper, so
I really urge you guys to go out and explore as much as you can of London. Cos I’m still starting, and it’s been my first solid
day of exploring, and I’ve absolutely loved it! If you want to find out more go to heritage-key.com Okay, so join us for our next adventure. Turrah!

4 thoughts on “The Ancient World in London – Londinium Basilica Forum, Walbrook, Temple of Mithras and Guildhall

  1. Ian mentions the skulls discovered under Walbrook & hypothesises their origin involving Bodiccea and all she is "shown" to say is "Where to next?" REALLY???

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