Venta Icenorum

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The site today
North Wall of Venta Icenorum

Venta Icenorum was a town in Roman Britain, which is now Caistor St Edmund in Norfolk.

The name 'Venta' appears in other places in Britain: it is of British origin but of uncertain etymology. One proposal is "central place"[1] or "market place",[2] though the suggestion that it is from the Latin vendere has long been rejected by place-name scholars.[3][4] The suffix 'Icenorum' distinguishes this town from others named Venta, so it is "Venta of the Iceni".

The town was the civitas (tribal capital)[5] of the Iceni tribe. The Iceni inhabited the flatlands and marshes of that county and are famous for having revolted against Roman rule under their queen Boudica in the winter of AD 61.

Roman town

The town itself was probably laid out, and its first streets metalled, in approximately the first half of the second century.[6] The town, which is mentioned in both the Ravenna Cosmography and the Antonine Itinerary,[7] was a settlement near the village of Caistor St. Edmund, some five miles south of present-day Norwich, and a mile or two from the Bronze Age henge at Arminghall. The site is beside the River Tas.


In 1928, an aerial reconnaissance flight of a farm near Caistor St Edmund rediscovered the ruins of Venta Icenorum. A five-year archaeological dig soon followed, led by archaeologist Donald Atkinson.[8]

The site subsequently remained uninvestigated until the University of Nottingham reopened it in 2009 seeking Iron Age (Iceni) structures beneath the town. The evidence uncovered revealed that the site was not established on a previous Iron Age town, but was a newly built and sparsely populated frontier town focused on administration and trade.[9] It also revealed a partial integration of the mainly agrarian locals into Roman norms.

The embankments of Venta Icenorum can still be seen at Caistor today. The ruins (TG230034) are in the care of The Norfolk Archaeological Trust. In 2011, the Trust expanded the site by buying an additional 55 acres of land across the river opposite the West Gate.[2]

See also


Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Venta Icenorum)


  1. Matasović, Ranko, Etymological dictionary of Proto-Celtic, Brill, 2009, p. 413
  2. 2.0 2.1 Caistor Roman Town: Norfolk Archaeological Trust
  3. A. L. F. Rivet & C. Smith, The place-names of Roman Britain, p.262-5
  4. R. Coates, Remarks on 'pre-English' in England: with special reference to *uentā, *ciltā and *cunāco, Journal of the English Place-Name Society 16 (1983-4) 1-7; T. S. Ó Máille Venta, Gwenta, Finn, Guen, Nomina XI (1987), 145-152).
  5. Ptolemy, Geography 2.2
  6. The Urban Plan of Venta Icenorum and its Relationship with the Boudican Revolt. William Bowden. Britannia / Volume 44 / , pp. 145-169. Published by The Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies. doi:10.1017/S0068113X13000184. Published online: April 2013. "it is much more likely that the earliest metalled streets were laid out at some point in the second century, probably during its first half. We know that at least one of the main streets of the grid (the North-West Street) was not formalised until the late second century at the earliest and so it can reasonably be argued that the street plan developed more gradually. Consequently the earliest lay-out of the town was smaller than that covered by the streets at their greatest extent." accessed 19 November 2013.
  7. Roman Britain: Venta Icenorum]
  8. Donald-Atkinson-(1886-1963)-(Biography) - Norfolk Heritage Explorer
  9. Team Special 45 - YouTube (2011) - Boudica's Lost Tribe


  • Peterson, John W. M.: 'Iron Age and Roman square enclosures near Venta Icenorum: Roman changes in a prehistoric ritual landscape' (2003), pages 161–184

Major towns of Roman Britain

Capitals: Londinium (London)Eboracum (York)Camulodunum (Colchester)

Caesaromagus (Chelmsford)Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester)Corinium Dobunnorum (Cirencester)Deva Victrix (Chester)Durovernum Cantiacorum (Canterbury)Durnovaria (Dorchester)Glevum (Gloucester)Isca Augusta (Caerleon)Isca Dumnoniorum (Exeter)Isurium Brigantum (Aldborough) • Lactodurum (Towcester) • Lindum Colonia (Lincoln)Luguualium (Carlisle)Moridunum (Carmarthen)Noviomagus Reginorum (Chichester)Petuaria (Brough)Ratae Corieltauvorum (Leicester)Venta Belgarum (Winchester)Venta Silurum (Caerwent)Verulamium (St Albans)Viroconium Cornoviorum (Wroxeter)

Lost:   Alchester (Wendlebury) Bannaventa (Northamptonshire)Cunetio (Wiltshire)Venta Icenorum (Norfolk)