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Exeter began as settlements on a dry ridge ending in a spur overlooking a navigable river teeming with fish, with fertile land nearby.Although there have been no major prehistoric finds, these advantages suggest the site was occupied early.) originally led by Vespasian, later Roman Emperor, for the next 20 years before they moved to Caerleon in Wales, which was also known as Isca.
Exeter was secured for Parliament at the beginning of the English Civil War, and its defences very much strengthened, but in September 1643 it was captured by the Cornish Royalist Army led by Prince Maurice.The Livery Dole almshouses and chapel at Heavitree were founded in March 1591 and finished in 1594.The city's motto, Semper fidelis, is traditionally held to have been suggested by Elizabeth I, in acknowledgement of the city's contribution of ships to help defeat the Spanish Armada in 1588; however its first documented use is in 1660.In 1001, the Danes again failed to get into the city, but they were able to plunder it in 1003 because they were let in, for unknown reasons, by the French reeve of Emma of Normandy, who had been given the city as part of her dowry on her marriage to Æthelred the Unready the previous year.Two years after the Norman conquest of England, Exeter rebelled against King William.Thus about 70% of the Roman wall remains, and most of its route can be traced on foot.
The Devonian Isca seems to have been most prosperous in the first half of the 4th century: more than a thousand Roman coins have been found around the city and there is evidence for copper and bronze working, a stock-yard, and markets for the livestock, crops, and pottery produced in the surrounding countryside.
Gytha Thorkelsdóttir, the mother of the slain King Harold, was living in the city at the time, and William promptly marched west and initiated a siege.
After 18 days, William accepted the city's honourable surrender, swearing an oath not to harm the city or increase its ancient tribute.
Exeter became a religious centre during the Middle Ages and into the Tudor times: Exeter Cathedral, founded in the mid 11th century, became Anglican during the 16th-century English Reformation.
During the late 19th century, Exeter became an affluent centre for the wool trade, although by the First World War the city was in decline.
In 1136, early in the Anarchy, Rougemont Castle was held against King Stephen by Baldwin de Redvers.