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A Roman legionary fortress, colonia, and provincial capital, Eboracum was founded in the early 70s ad as a fortress for legio IX Hispana. After the withdrawal of IX Hispana, its place was taken by legio VI Victrix, which remained in garrison, probably until the end of the Roman period. The fortress lay between the rivers Ouse and Foss. Across the Ouse a civil settlement grew up which was promoted colonia, probably when York became capital of the new province of Britannia Inferior at the beginning of the 3rd cent. York remained a provincial capital in the 4th cent. and a bishop attended the Council of Arles in 314. Fortress and colonia seem to have been abandoned early in the 5th cent.

York re‐emerged in historical record in 627 when the first Christian king of Northumbria was baptized there, and a bishopric established (an archbishopric from 735). By the 8th cent. it was a flourishing river port; between 866 and 954 it was in Viking hands, and was the capital of Danish and Norwegian kings, who fostered a commercial city of international importance, revealed at Coppergate. In 954 it was absorbed into England, and by the 12th cent. it was the fourth wealthiest English town. From about 1460 it declined, despite strong support from Richard III. A modest recovery began with the residence in York of the king's Council in the North (1561–1641), although the civil wars (especially the siege of 1644) were damaging. Late Stuart and Hanoverian York flourished greatly as a social capital, but the city fell back in importance in the 19th cent. Its relative lack of industrialization and war damage has left York with a rich legacy of historic buildings, including an almost intact circuit of medieval walls and gates.

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