Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

The City of London: Ancient Influences and Modern Times

August 23, 2009 · 3 Comments

Our Roman Wall tour through the City of London this morning opened my eyes to just how great a stamp the Romans left on not only the British Isles as a whole, but the city of London itself.  Previous to this walk, I had been under the impression that once they pulled out the only things of Italian origin left in the city were those that had been built specifically by the legions in residence.  Perhaps I should have considered that the Romans had been occupying this piece of land for several centuries, much longer than living memory, and so their architecture and culture were all the citizens of Londinium knew.  Of course they would have continued to build in the style to which they were accustomed.  Despite the Norman conquest in 1066, the city’s Roman roots continue to show through.  Several buildings, most notably churches, in the area of Old London are blatently Roman in design.  One goes so far to look remarkably like the Pantheon from the front, despite the steeple rising in the back.  Even Christopher Wren’s memorial to the Great Fire looks remarkably like the Column of Trajan in Rome, complete with internal stairs and a overlook.  And these buildings are not the

left overs of the Roman occupation, but rather creations of the 16th and 17th centuries, and while we no longer see forums or bath houses, we only need to look to realize that the founders of this city are not as distant as we thought.

Categories: Campbell
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3 responses so far ↓

  •   abarron76 // Aug 23rd 2009 at 17:49

    I have always believed that the word ‘juxtapose’ should exclusively be used in scholarly writing, NEVER conversation. Touring The Square Mile turned that belief upside down. I was in a state of shock and awe after seeing centuries (or more) old buildings neighboring modern displays of glass and steel that would make Frank Lloyd Wright feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The city I am most familiar with is New York, and to compare architectural styles is like apples and oranges. It just can’t be done. London is the most unique place I have ever been, especially because of the even mix of old and new.

  •   abarron76 // Aug 23rd 2009 at 17:49

    oh, yeah…JUXTAPOOOOSE

  •   allisonmschell5 // Aug 23rd 2009 at 18:00

    I was surprised too to see so much of the Roman roots of the city still shinning through. Many of the street signs and Tube stops still use many of the old Roman and Anglo-Saxon names. Today when we walked around the Bloomsbury tour, one of the last places we stopped was a church built by a contemporary of Sir Christopher Wren and was in the Roman style, which is unique for a church design. The old style just keeps on resurfacing, even after centuries and centuries of it being “dead”, it is pretty fascinating! Good observations, I know you are looking through the city in an “archaeologist’s eye”.

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