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Archaeological Finds


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In the square of St. Nicholas, eastwards of the church, Remains of a Temple near large heaps of animal bones were long ago discovered, St. Nicholas' giving rise to the appellation of "Ivory Bones" to this side Church of the square.

This fact, together with that of portions of columns having been found on digging near the spot, and since placed in the churchyard, renders it almost certain that in Roman times an important Temple, probably dedicated to the God Janus, and which tradition has always associated with this locality, stood on the site of St. Nicholas' Church.

One of the principal offices of this god being to protect the avenues and entrances into cities, it seems probable that the neighbouring massive wall and arches originally formed the Western gateway of the Roman city.

The whole square of St. Nicholas was probably at one time covered with buildings, and the church, in its most ancient parts, is largely composed of Roman bricks and material corresponding to that used in the Jewry Wall, which renders it unique in interest as an ecclesiastical structure.

Other imposing erections must also have stood in the line of St. Nicholas Street and High Street, bases of columns having been found near the Methodist Chapel in the former street, and at both corners of its junction with High Cross Street.

It is somewhat remarkable that no definite traces either of an Amphitheatre or of a Circus should have come to light, for no Roman city of the size and importance of Ratae would have been without these places of amusement.

But a small clue to their local existence has been afforded in the discovery of a fragment of Samian pottery, part of the rim of a bowl with a hole pierced through for suspension round the neck, and on it certain rudely scratched Lucius the letters indicating that it was the token or gift of Lucius Gladiator to Verecunda Lydma, one of those waifs and strays of evidence which announce so little and yet convey so much to our ready interest and unchanging human sympathies. This unique relic was found in the year 1854, during excavations in Bath Lane.

We must bear in mind that, apart from other causes, many changes would occur during the 400 years of Roman occupation. Old buildings would fall into decay, and their materials would become absorbed into new structures, or buried deep below the surface before tradition had fixed their various localities.

This of course applies in a far greater degree to the transformations that would occur in the street architecture during the centuries that have elapsed since the Romans dwelt in Leicester. It is now certain that an immense quantity of material has during this period been actually destroyed or ground up by process of time, or otherwise disposed of. This is the only reasonable solution of the fact that so few remains of Roman buildings have been recently unearthed in the deep excavations made along High Street and St. Nicholas Street for the widening of those thoroughfares.

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