The Roman era
Before 54 BC the Atrebates tribe crossed the channel to
Britain, they headed northwards and nearly a century later when Claudius invaded
in AD 43 they were the most powerful tribe in the area south of the Thames. The
tribal capital of the Atrebates was at Calleva (now Silchester) eight miles
north of modern Basingstoke.
The Romans used local tribes as a form of
local government and to romanise the local population. The tribal capital of
Atrebates became known as Calleva Atrebatum, the wooded town, Calleva of the
Atrebates. This was the seventh largest town of Roman Britain and the centre of
government for the surrounding area. From the town main roads went to London,
Winchester, Salisbury and Cirencester. One of these roads, the Silchester to
Winchester road passed close to where Basingstoke is today, part of this road
still exists in the town and is still called Roman Road.
For the next three and a half centuries Basingstoke enjoyed the highest level of
civilisation it had ever known, no inter-tribal warfare and no invasions. The
southern part of Britannia knew peace it had never known before. Trade and
agriculture flourished and Britannia became one of the granaries of the Empire.
Only the leaders of the Celtic society could afford to adopt the Roman ways and
live in town houses or villas. A Roman building of some sort existed near where
the Wheatsheaf Inn stands today, south of Basingstoke, also at Basing House is a
large Roman well.
With the decline of the
Roman Empire, Britain entered the "Dark Ages", a period when
civilisation was on a much lower level.