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The Defended Vici of Roman Britain: Recent Research and New Agendas

  • Alexander Smith (a1) and Michael Fulford (a2)

Abstract

The evidence of the character and purpose of settlements previously described as defended ‘small towns’ is reviewed in the light of knowledge accrued since the implementation of Planning Policy Guidance 16 in 1990, the same year as the publication of Burnham and Wacher's survey, The ‘Small Towns’ of Roman Britain. This review focuses on four of the more extensively excavated settlements: Alcester, Cambridge, Godmanchester and Worcester. In the absence of convincing urban attributes, it is suggested that this category of settlement should more appropriately be regarded as defended villages (vici). These cluster in and around the West Anglian plain and on Ermine Street, suggesting a strategic function to protect grain and other food supplies and their movement, potentially either to the northern frontier or south to London and, perhaps, export to the Continent.

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