London (Founding)London - The greatest city on the British Isles and the capital of England began as a tiny Roman outpost in the province of Britannia. London was founded as a Roman settlement, shortly after the Romans invaded the island in 43 A.D. (Julius Caesar invaded a century earlier, but did not stay), probably around the year 50 A.D.. In all liklihood, the settlement probably sprang up around a bridge the Romans built across the Thames, the first to span the great river. It became the capital of Brittannia and the Romans named it Londinium. The etymology of the word is uncertain, though it may come from a Celtic word Londinios which means "place of the bold one". Geoffrey of Monmouth, however, has a much older story of the city's origin in his Historia Regum Britanniae. According to him, the legendary Brutus of Troy, a descendant of Aeneas, survivor of the Trojan War, journeyed all the way to the British Isles and found it inhabited by giants. He slew two of them, Gog and Magog, built a city on the site, and named it Troia Nova (New Troy), which eventually became London. According to Geoffrey, however, the city's name derives from one of its early monarchs, King Lud, who renamed it Caer Ludein. It turned out to be an excellent location for a city. The Thames was deep enough to accept ocean going vessels (at the time), so the Romans built a port along the bank. Yet it was far enough inland to be safe from coastal raids. Under Roman occupation it grew to a population of 45,000 which made it the largest town on the island. But by the time the Romans left in 410, London shrank to only about 10,000 people.

 

London (Founding)Almost nothing is known of the city for the next 200 years until monks began the work of converting the newly arrived Saxons to Christianity around the year 600. It was quickly repopulated by the Middle Saxons, and so the region became known as Middlesex, which today is the name of the county in which London sits. It was called Middlesex because it was situated between Essex and Wessex; however, it was unable to stand on its own and eventually was absorbed into Essex. After the Saxons settled into their new home, the city began to grow again and develop rather quickly. Although, they built their town to the west of the old Roman city, and called it Lundenwic (London marketplace). By the middle of the 7th century, it had its first mint which was producing silver coins. But by the 8th century, it became the target of Viking raids, and once again went into decline. It was revived a second time when Alfred the Great defeated the "Danes" (as the Vikings were called) and rebuilt London in 886, but returned to the original Roman site because of its defensive walls. When William the Conqueror was crowned monarch on Christmas Day in 1066, his coronation was held in Westminster, and London effectively became the seat of government. Shortly thereafter, he built the first Tower of London, which was a wooden structure. He also began construction on a new stone bridge to replace the old Roman bridge, which was built of wood. The new "London Bridge" (which became known as the "Old" London Bridge after the now famous one was built) was completed in 1209. Also, the original wooden Tower of London was replaced by a stone one between 1078 and 1100, and the city was well on its way to becoming a major European center. Today it is one of the world's cultural and financial capitals.