As if we needed to be reminded of London’s history as a financial centre, yesterday’s announcement of hand-written tablets found there take us back with a whoosh to Roman merchants, traders and administrators of almost 2,000 years ago. Over 700 documents or artefacts from an archaeological dig reveal serious business bookkeeping as well as chatty personal memos.
All this has been dated to within the first decade of the Roman occupation of England and shows that a second wave of invasion must have occurred very soon after the soldiers arrived in AD 43. Due to its situation, London must have been a busy port linking the Mediterranean and the Baltic. It very possibly already had resident Roman traders there long before the invasion. In any case, the initial changeover in administrations must have been remarkably peaceful.
It’s yet more evidence that, although relationships between different cultures can be fraught with problems and instability — as it was indeed in Roman England in later decades — the two-way act of trading with perceived gains to both sides can be carried out totally harmlessly.