Caesaromagus (Chelmsford)

British Capital and Fort

Caesaromagus or Caesaromagvs (The Field of Caesar or Caesar’s Marketplace) – The Roman town of Caesaromagus lies to the west of the crossing of the main London to Colchester road over the Rivers Cam and Chelmer, beneath the modern town of Chelmsford. The Latin name means “Caesar’s Field”, possibly indicating that it was on this site that Claudius Caesar fought and vanquished the remaining British armies prior to the taking of the British capital Camulodunum (Colchester, Essex). The settlement was part-enclosed by earth defences during the period 160-200AD, but these were levelled during the first quarter of the third century.

Classical References to Caesaromagus (Chelmsford)

Roman Chelmsford is mentioned in three of the major classical geographies. The second century Antonine Itinerary lists the town in two of its routes; it appears as the first road station in Iter V “The route from London to Carlisle on the Wall”, as Caesaromago, 28 miles from Londinium (London, Greater London) and 24 miles from Camulodunum (Colchester, Essex), which the itinerary names Colonia. In addition, the town appears toward the end of the Ninth Itinerary, “The route from Caistor St. Edmund to London”, which deals with the same road as the Fifth Itinerary, but in more detail. The town is again named Caesaromago but this time is listed 9 miles from Canonium (Kelvedon, Essex) on the route north to Colchester, and 12 miles from Durolitum (Romford, Greater London) towards London in the south.

The town appears in the seventh century Ravenna Cosmology (R&C#98) as Cesaromago, between the entries for London and Colchester, also as the ultimate legible entry in the Peutinger Table of the eleventh century. This document was an early medieval copy of an original Roman map which was cut into several pieces, and the Chelmsford entry appears on the western edge of the surviving British segment, obviously truncated on the left, the surviving letters of the name read -baromaci. The icon representing this town is shown connected to another icon above labelled Caunonium (Kelvedon, Essex), and the distance indicated between the two stations is 8 miles, which is within a mile of the measure quoted in Antonine Iter IX.

Its Roman place-name of Caesaromagus (Caesar’s Marketplace) is something of a mystery as it was, “…a great honour for a town to have the imperial prefix incorporated in its name, and no other town in Britain was so honoured…”

The Roman Military Presence

A rampart and ditches, found by excavation lying below the level of the Romano-British town, may indicate the presence of one single or two successive Roman forts. A tessellated pavement, discovered in the nineteenth century, may have belonged to a bath-house attached to the above-mentioned fort(s). A mansio was built next to the site of the bath-house to the south-west, and can be dated to c.120AD.

References for Caesaromagvs [trinovantvm]

  • The Towns of Roman Britain by John Wacher (2nd Ed., BCA, London, 1995) pp.207-214 & fig.94;
  • Britannia ii (1971) pp.271/2.The Towns of Roman Britain by John Wacher (2nd Ed., BCA, London, 1995) pp.207-214 & fig.94;

Map References for Caesaromagvs [trinovantvm]

NGRef: TL708063 OSMap: LR167

Roman Roads near Caesaromagvs [trinovantvm]

NNE (11) to Braintree (Essex) NNW (11) to Great Dvnmow (Essex) Iter IX: ENE (13) to Canonivm (Kelvedon, Essex) SW (15) to Dvrolitvm (Harold Wood, Romford, Greater London)