Colchester is reputed to be the oldest recorded Roman town in England, although it existed as a Celtic settlement before the Roman conquest. Its Celtic name was "Camulodunon", meaning "the Fortress of Camulos". (Camulos was the Celtic god of war.) This name was modified by the Romans to "Camulodunum" (written "CAMVLODVNVM").
It was the capital of King Cunobelinus (or "Cunobelin") (Cymbeline in William Shakespeare's play and "Old King Cole" of the nursery rhyme) when the Romans invaded Britain in 43 AD. Later it became a colonia when the Roman frontier moved north. It was completely destroyed during Boudicca's rebellion in 61 AD.
Its main landmark is Colchester Castle, which is 11th century and built atop the vaults of an old Roman temple. It is surrounded by the landscaped Castle Park. The castle is a minute's walk from the high street.
The Benedictine abbey of St. John the Baptist, generally known as "Colchester Abbey" or "Colchester Priory," had a beautiful late 11th century church until the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the execution of its abbot in 1539. Now all that remains of it is its gate, which is still a tourist attraction.
Other tourist attractions in the area include Colchester Zoo, situated in Lexden and a number of museums . The borough is home to the University of Essex and the Colchester United football club.
During World War II the town was ringed by over 120 pilboxes or other defensive structures.