Colchester was called Kaercolun by the Welsh, which means “Fortress of Colchester” or “Colchester’s Fort.” The Romans called it Camulodunum, which has been suggested as the source of Camelot. This association coming from the similarity of the Roman name, though this could also be said about any place-name that has “Cam” in it, whether Roman or British.
According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Colchester was ruled in the fourth century by Coel and was probably named after him. According to Chrétien, Count Branles (Brandes) was the ruler of Colchester in Arthur’s time.
Colchester | 0 to the 9th century AD
Roman Foundation | 1st century AD
Colchester, known as Camulodunum, was established by the Romans in AD 43 as the first Roman-founded city in Britain. It served as the capital of Roman Britain and was granted the status of a Roman colonia, indicating a settlement for retired Roman soldiers. The town had a forum, basilica, and a temple dedicated to the Emperor Claudius. During the fifth and sixth centuries, the town still bore traces of its Roman past, including the Roman walls, gates, and other structures.
Boudica’s Rebellion | 60-61
In AD 60 or 61, Colchester played a significant role in the rebellion led by Queen Boudica against Roman rule. Boudica’s forces sacked and burned Colchester, and the Roman garrison suffered heavy losses during the conflict.
Roman Decline and Saxon Period | 3rd – 5th centuries
The Roman influence in Britain begain to decline in the third century, marked by economic and political challenges. In the late fourth century, as the Roman Empire faced external pressures, Roman rule in Britain weakened. After the Roman legions withdrew from Britain in the early fifth century, the town experienced a period of transition and change.
Like many Roman settlements, Colchester faced the influence of Anglo-Saxon migrations and incursions in the post-Roman period. Colchester, with its Roman fortifications, was likely a target for raids. Over time, the Saxons gradually settled in eastern England, and Colchester became part of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of East Anglia. The Saxons established their own rule and governance in the area.
Colchester’s location in East Anglia brought it into contact with neighboring Anglo-Saxon kingdoms such as Mercia and Wessex. Trade, diplomacy, and conflicts between these kingdoms could have affected the town’s development.
Viking Raids | 9th century
In the ninth century, Viking raids became a threat to various coastal areas in Britain, and Colchester, located near the coast, may have faced such raids.
The Welsh name for Colchester is Caer Colun or Caer Colwn. The term Caer in Welsh means fort or fortified settlement. Colun or Colwn is the Welsh adaption of Colchester. Therefore, “Caer Colun” can be translated as the “Fort of Colchester.”
Battle of Colchester | The Legend of King Arthur
Camelot | The Legend of King Arthur
Historia Regum Britanniae | Geoffrey of Monmouth, c. 1138
Erec | Chrétien de Troyes, late 12th century