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The site of Verulamium was first occupied shortly after the Claudian invasion when a fort was constructed to guard the river crossing. This fort was short-lived and was quickly replaced by a civil settlement which was granted the status of a 'municipium' probably in AD 49. The earliest timber buildings were probably constructed by army engineers, and the town was encircled on three sides by a defensive ditch and on the fourth side by the river. This settlement was destroyed in the Boudiccan revolt of AD 60. Reconstruction was slow and haphazard and was still going on 20 years later in some areas. A new Forum was built and completed by AD 79. The first century defensive ditch was filled in by 125 AD and then built over.

A disastrous fire destroyed at least 52 acres of the town, including the central area, in about AD 155. Reconstruction in masonry included a new forum, theatre, and a number of large town houses. The Fosse earthwork is of this period and was probably a defensive circuit for the town which remained unfinished. The final circuit of the Town Wall was built on a different line and the two monumental arches were also erected at this time. The North-West and South-East Gates may be contemporary with the Fosse and the Wall Towers may be later additions to the Wall. By this time many substantial masonry houses had been built in the town so that little reconstruction was necessary during the 3rd century. Another period of rebuilding took place about AD 300 with occasional new building during the 4th century. The Theatre had gone out of use by about 380-90 but as the Theatre was probably an adjunct of the nearby Temple this may have been due to the spread of Christianity. Occupation continued well into the post-Roman period but had probably ceased by the mid-6th century.

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