As Britain came under Roman domination, so its inhabitants either embraced Romanisation or chose to turn their backs on it. If you lived in the towns, and especially if you lived in a new town like Londinium, you must have supported the Roman way of life. If you lived and worked in the countryside around Roman London, the arrival of the Romans meant little more than exchanging a native, tribal landlord for a Roman tax official.
It is possible to gain an insight into who were the people of Roman London from a variety of sources: from the survival of written records in the form of inscriptions and graffiti - virtually every region of the Empire is represented in inscriptions from Roman Britain but slightly more come from Germany than anywhere else; from the evidence and artefacts that they left behind them that may indicate their social status or trade.
However, the excavations of some of Roman London’s cemeteries and the work of the bioarchaeologists who research the skeletons are providing us with something more tangible, especially now when the latest scientific and forensic techniques are adding a helping hand and are producing reliable information as to countries of origin, ancestry, diet and health.
Daily life for most Roman Londoners would have been hard but whatever their origins people maintained a life-style, reflecting the influences and traditions introduced to the new town by its Romanised population. The evidence is there in all areas of their lives, public and private.
While the wealthy may have lived in sizeable houses away from the main roads, the bulk of the workforce were probably crammed into small family dwellings or cheap rented accommodation in the centre of town.
So every social class, rich or poor, would have lived in Roman London. They were in the main native Britons who were influenced by and integrated with many other nationalities of the Empire. So were our Roman Londoners a normal urban population? What did they look like?
Evidence from Roman London’s cemeteries has enabled us to begin to produce average statistics. On average, they were a little shorter than modern Londoners with average male stature being 186.9cm (just under 6' 2") and female 165.8cm (just over 5' 5") and were quite robust in build. Their bones reflect the usual degenerative complaints of old age, although they did not live as long as Londoners today. They enjoyed an adequate diet, were well-fed, but suffered greatly from dental problems, such as tooth decay, and tooth loss was a serious problem in later life.
The greatest numbers of deaths occurred in mature adulthood, between the ages of 36 and 45 years, and the most apparent characteristic of the living population would be that it would probably appear younger than seen in a British town today.
Much of the information about Roman Londoners has been adapted from the chapter on 'Roman Bodies' by J Hall and J Conheeney in the book entitled 'London Bodies', published by the Museum of London in 1998, to accompany the exhibition of the same name, and updated by data derived from the Centre for Human Bioarchaeology.