WHEN it comes to tracing the City of London back to its origins, the Roman Wall
is old news. Around 2,000 years old, in fact.
These towering piles of bricks around the Barbican Estate and Tower Hill are some of the most impressive fragments of the City’s heritage, but they’re certainly not the only things the Romans left behind when they were driven out by the Anglo Saxons.
As with many treasures in life, most of the good stuff is kept from public view, buried deep underground or locked behind the City’s layers of historic architecture.
But that’s all set to change with Londinium, the City of London Corporation’s three-month season of exhibitions, walks, talks, theatre, film and special events celebrating our Roman heritage in the heart of the Capital.
The programme is designed to reveal the hidden history of Roman London and bring it to life for a 21st-century audience, from spectacular live outdoor events to the unveiling of seldom-seen landmarks to the public.
These include three unique landmarks that offer unparalleled insight into the lives and culture of our Roman ancestors; each will be open for guided tours throughout the season.
Check out the Roman amphitheatre in the basement of the Guildhall Art Gallery, the private house and baths of a wealthy Roman Londoner below Billingsgate, and the Temple of Mithras, home to the mysterious Mithraic cult, returning to the location of its original discovery at the site of Bloomberg’s new European headquarters. Who needs the Colosseum?
So if you are staying put over summer, make it a Roman holiday and check out our must see’s and do’s from the Londinium season.
Guildhall Yard will return to its bloody roots as the site of London’s Roman amphitheatre, hosting the Gladiator Games over the August Bank Holiday Weekend.
An epicly choreographed clash of swords, shields and spears will see gladiators fight for glory and attempt to convince both the emperor and the audience to set them free. No word yet on whether Russell Crowe will be reprising his role. All together now: “My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North…”
Guildhall Yard, 25 to 28 August
The Museum of London is bringing some of its rarest Roman artefacts out for show and tell, starting with a human skull, thought to be that of a gladiator who died around 150AD. Discovered during excavations of the Walbrook stream, the skull displays evidence of extreme trauma around the time of death, and is the closest archaeologists have come to identifying a potential gladiator in Londinium. It will be on display as part of the Trauma exhibition, which looks at representations of gladiators in Londinium and imagines what life may have been like for the gladiators and those who cheered them on.
Guildhall Art Gallery, until 29 October
Swords and Sandals Outdoor Cinema
Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Pompeii, Roman Holiday, Jesus Christ Superstar, Carry On Cleo and Gladiator will be on the big screen once again. Italian street food, beers and cocktails will be available to buy but you can also bring your own picnic (no glass please).
7-15 August, doors open at 6.30pm, tickets £8-£10 via
They might have lived a couple of thousand years ago, but hip hop producers Boy Blue Entertainment will demonstrate exactly how much influence the Romans have on contemporary culture with a one-of-a-kind outdoor show that brings together dance, music and digital animation. Barbican favourites Boy Blue will be joined by students from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in using cutting edge motion tracking technology, live dance, and urban music to illustrate the horror of battle and the triumph of the gladiatorial spirit.
Guildhall Yard, 20 to 21 October