It is situated at the confluence of two estuaries, the River Test and the River Itchen. There has been an important settlement in the area since Roman times, when it was known as Clausentum. The modern city is situated on the site of the Saxon walled city. Although the city was bombed very heavily during World War II, many of the city's walls and fortifications survive today, most notably the 'Bargate' in the city centre.
Although an important medieval port, Southampton fell into a gentle decline and only became a major centre again after the opening of the London and Southampton Railway in 1840 and the subsequent decision by the London and South Western Railway (successor of the L&SR) to develop docks there. By the early decades of the twentieth century, it was a hub of transatlantic traffic, serving as an endpoint for the many cruise ships. The fated cruise ship RMS Titanic left from Southampton on her maiden voyage. With the advent of mass aviation, its importance has declined somewhat, but it still plays host to luxury cruise liners, in particular the QE2.