London, the capital city of the United Kingdom, has a long and fascinating history. But what was London called in ancient times? It may surprise you to learn that the city has had many different names over the centuries.
The Early History of London
London has been inhabited for thousands of years, and evidence of human presence dates back to at least 4500 BCE. However, it wasn’t until the Roman conquest of Britain in 43 CE that London began to take shape as a city.
The Romans named their new settlement Londinium, which is thought to have been derived from an earlier Celtic name for the river Thames. Londinium quickly became an important trade and administrative center for the province of Britannia.
The Anglo-Saxon Period
After the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century CE, London fell into decline. It wasn’t until the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons in the 6th century that the city began to recover.
The Anglo-Saxons referred to London as Lundenwic or Lundenburh, which meant “London trading town” or “London fortified town,” respectively. During this period, London grew rapidly as a center of commerce and culture.
The Norman Conquest
In 1066 CE, William the Conqueror invaded England and brought about a new era in London’s history. Under Norman rule, London became known as Lundenburg, which was similar to its Anglo-Saxon name but with a slightly different spelling.
During this period, many important landmarks were built in London, including Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London. The city also became an important center for international trade and finance.
The Middle Ages
By the Middle Ages, London had become one of Europe’s largest cities. Its population was estimated at over 50,000 by 1300 CE, and it continued to grow rapidly in the centuries that followed.
During this period, London was known as the “Great Wen” due to its size and perceived ugliness. However, it was also a center of innovation and cultural achievement, with famous writers such as Chaucer and Shakespeare calling the city their home.
The Modern Era
In the 17th century, London underwent a period of major transformation. The Great Fire of 1666 destroyed much of the city, but it also paved the way for a new era of urban planning and development.
During this period, London became known simply as “the City,” a name that is still used today to refer to its financial district. The city continued to grow and prosper throughout the Industrial Revolution and into the modern era.
London has had many different names over its long history, reflecting its changing fortunes and shifting cultural influences. From Londinium to Lundenwic, Lundenburg to “the Great Wen,” each name tells us something about the city’s past and helps us understand how it has become the vibrant metropolis it is today.