1. During excavations a bronze eagle dating from the Roman era was found at Silchester and was made famous in Rosemary Sutcliffe's book The Eagle of the Ninth where it was suggested this was the recovered eagle of the Ninth Legion (Legio IX Hispana). In reality the eagle was probably part of a dedicated statue rather than from a military standard.
The settlement at Silchester existed prior to the Roman invasion but it underwent significant changes as Roman culture was imposed in the decades following the invasion. By the mid-second century it was a prosperous town in the Britannia province justifying an extensive and decorative set of walls.
HISTORY OF SILCHESTER ROMAN WALLS
The site at Silchester has been occupied since at least the first century BC. Originally an Iron Age town it was surrounded by defensive ditches and earthwork ramparts. Following the Roman invasion of AD 43 it was developed by the invaders as the capital for the Atrebates tribe and was named Calleva. Although influenced by the existing layout, by the mid first century AD Silchester had taken on the standard Roman city template with its streets configured in a grid layout and the forum basilica in the centre. An amphitheatre was also added on the outskirts of the settlement and the site as a whole was re-fortified in the third century AD (the stone wall visible today dates from that time). The reason for the fortification could have been defensive - at the time troops were being withdrawn from Southern Britain for use elsewhere - but could also have been linked with status. The latter is suggested by the construction methods used: the levelling blocks within the wall structure were greensand/limestone blocks imported from the Bath region whereas adequate alternative stone could have been sourced locally.
Although occupation continued for over a 100 years after the Roman withdrawal from Britain, Calleva was wholly or partially abandoned sometime in the fifth or sixth centuries. The reason for this is unknown but might be related to tribal fighting in the area. Coupled with the remote location (the River Thames lies 10 miles to the north) it did not evolve into a major medieval town like so many other Roman settlements. Nevertheless a small village (Silchester) continued and the St Mary Parish Church was built within the remains of the walls in the twelfth century seemingly on the remains of at least one Roman temple. This village was itself abandoned circa 1400 possibly due to decimation of the population by the Black Death.