History explorer: Extravagance in Roman Britain

As part of our series in which experts nominate British locations to illustrate historical topics, Miles Russell visits Fishbourne Roman Palace, once a sumptuous building with possible royal connections.

Historian Miles Russell.

This article was first published in the January 2014 issue of BBC History Magazine

Fishbourne is one of the great success stories of British archaeology. The site was first discovered in 1960, when a mechanical excavator digging a trench for a water main hit a mass of tile and rubble. Subsequent excavations revealed a well-appointed, mosaic-filled palace (it is quite wrong to call it a ‘villa’) comprising four colonnaded wings set around an open courtyard. Put together by an army of highly skilled architects and craftsmen brought in from the European mainland, the site would have cost, in today’s terms, around £8m to build.

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