Latin: Deva Victrix
Caerlegion, Caerlleon, Caistor, Chestre
This city was ruled in Arthur’s time, according to Layamon, by Earl Cursalem.
The author of the Middle English Ywain and Gawain contended that Arthur held his court in Chester. In the Elizabethan play The Birth of Merlin, its lord under Ambrosius is Eldol. Launfal defeats an “Earl of Chester” in Chestre’s Sir Launfal.
This city was named Deva in classical times but it was also known as the City of the Legion, as was Caerleon-upon-Usk. R.B. Stoker, in his The Legacy of Arthur’s Chester (1965), argues that Chester, rather than Caerleon, was Arthur’s chief city. G. Ashe suggest that perhaps Arthur’s battle at the City of Legion was fought there, though there might be some confusion with Caerleon.
Chester | 0 to the 9th century AD
Roman Deva Victrix | 1st – 5th centuries
Chester, known in Roman times as Deva Victrix, was established as a Roman fortress around AD 79 during the reign of Emperor Vespasian. It was strategically located on the River Dee, which provided access to the sea and enabled the Romans to control trade and communication routes. Deva Victrix served as a strategic military outpost for the Romans in the province of Britannia, particularly the Legio XX Valeria Victrix (Twentieth Legion) and the Legio II Adiutrix (Second Adiutrix Legion).
The city was part of the Roman defensive system against potential invaders, and the city’s Roman walls, still largely intact today, were constructed for defensive purposes. Chester’s layout during the Roman period also included gates, a Roman amphitheater (one of the largest in Britain), and other structures. The Roman presence brought significant cultural and architectural influences to the area. Chester was built in the typical Roman style, with a rectangular layout, and a grid of streets.
Anglo-Saxon Period | 5th – 11th centuries
Following the Roman withdrawal from Britain in the early fifth century, Chester became part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia. The exact nature of the transition from Roman to Anglo-Saxon rule is not well-documented, and the region likely underwent cultural and demographic changes.
Viking Invasions and Alfred the Great | 8th – 9th centuries
In the late eighth century and throughout the ninth century, Viking raids and invasions impacted various parts of England, including Chester. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes Viking attacks on Chester in the ninth century, suggesting the city’s vulnerability to raids.
In response to the Viking threats, King Alfred the Great of Wessex implemented defensive measures, including the construction of fortified towns known as burhs. Chester, as a strategically important location, likely saw enhancements during this time.
Cultural and Economic Influences
The early medieval period saw Cheser continuing as a significant settlement with both Anglo-Saxon and Viking influences. The town likely served as a center for trade and cultural exchange.
The city of Chester are sometimes called Caer, from the ancient wall that has encircled it for ages.