ROMAN CONQUEST OF BRITAIN

ROMAN INVASION OF BRITAIN


Standard Bearer of the Tenth Legion

Dr Mike Ibeji wrote for the BBC: “Rome invaded Britain because it suited the careers of two men. The first of these was Julius Caesar. This great republican general had conquered Gaul and was looking for an excuse to avoid returning to Rome. Britain afforded him one, in 55 B.C., when Commius, king of the Atrebates, was ousted by Cunobelin, king of the Catuvellauni, and fled to Gaul. Caesar seized the opportunity to mount an expedition on behalf of Commius. He wanted to gain the glory of a victory beyond the Great Ocean, and believed that Britain was full of silver and booty to be plundered. [Source: Dr Mike Ibeji, BBC, February 17, 2011 |::|]

“His first expedition, however, was ill-conceived and too hastily organised. With just two legions, he failed to do much more than force his way ashore at Deal and win a token victory that impressed the senate in Rome more than it did the tribesmen of Britain. In 54 B.C., he tried again, this time with five legions, and succeeded in re-establishing Commius on the Atrebatic throne. Yet he returned to Gaul disgruntled and empty-handed, complaining in a letter to Cicero that there was no silver or booty to be found in Britain after all. |::|

“Caesar's military adventurism set the scene for the second exploitation of Britain - by the Emperor Claudius. He was to use an identical excuse to Caesar for very similar reasons. Claudius had recently been made emperor in a palace coup. He needed the prestige of military conquest to consolidate his hold on power. Into this situation came Verica, successor to Commius, complaining that the new chief of the Catuvellauni, Caratacus, had deprived him of his throne. |::|

“Like Caesar, Claudius seized his chance. In A.D. 43, he sent four legions across the sea to invade Britain. They landed at Richborough and pushed towards the River Medway, where they met with stiff resistance. However, the young general Vespasian forced the river with his legion supported by a band of 'Celtic' auxiliaries, and the British were routed. |::|

“Vespasian marched west, to storm Maiden Castle and Hod Hill with such ruthless efficiency that the catapult bolts used to subdue them can still be dug out of the ground today. Hod Hill contains a tiny Roman fort from this time, tucked into one corner of its massive earthworks. Meanwhile, Claudius arrived in Britain to enter the Catuvellaunian capital of Colchester in triumph. He founded a temple there, containing a fine bronze statue of himself, and established a legionary fortress. He remained in Britain for only 16 days. |::|

“It took another 30 years to conquer the rest of the island (bar the Highlands). Once in, Rome was prepared to defend her new acquisition to the death. Yet Britain was originally invaded not for its wealth, not for strategic reasons, not even for ideology, but for the plain and simple reason that it furthered a politician's career. It has been said that Rome conquered an empire in a fit of absent-mindedness. Britain is a case in point. |::|

Websites on Ancient Rome: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Forum Romanum forumromanum.org ; “Outlines of Roman History” forumromanum.org; “The Private Life of the Romans” forumromanum.org|; BBC Ancient Rome bbc.co.uk/history; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; Lacus Curtius penelope.uchicago.edu; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org The Roman Empire in the 1st Century pbs.org/empires/romans; The Internet Classics Archive classics.mit.edu ; Bryn Mawr Classical Review bmcr.brynmawr.edu; De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors roman-emperors.org; British Museum ancientgreece.co.uk; Oxford Classical Art Research Center: The Beazley Archive beazley.ox.ac.uk ; Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org/about-the-met/curatorial-departments/greek-and-roman-art; The Internet Classics Archive kchanson.com ; Cambridge Classics External Gateway to Humanities Resources web.archive.org/web; Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy iep.utm.edu; Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy plato.stanford.edu; Ancient Rome resources for students from the Courtenay Middle School Library web.archive.org ; History of ancient Rome OpenCourseWare from the University of Notre Dame /web.archive.org ; United Nations of Roma Victrix (UNRV) History unrv.com

Why Britain?


Roman coin in Britain

Dr. Neil Faulkner of the University of Bristol wrote for the BBC: “Why did the Romans invade Britain in 43 AD? Their empire already extended from the Channel coast to the Caucasus, from the northern Rhineland to the Sahara. The great age of conquest had ended a few decades before. Three legions had been destroyed in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest by rebellious German tribesmen in 9 AD, and the emperor Augustus concluded that the empire was overextended and called a halt to new wars of conquest. “Britain was an afterthought. It was not about economics. Rome's rulers were already the richest men in history. Nor was it about military security. The Channel was as effective a frontier as one could wish for. [Source: Dr Neil Faulkner, BBC, March 29, 2011 |::| ]

About the author: Dr Neil Faulkner is an honorary lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. He is editor of the popular magazines Current Archaeology and Current World Archaeology, and has written four books, including The Decline and Fall of Roman Britain and Apocalypse: The Great Jewish Revolt against Rome. His TV appearances include Channel Four’s Time Team, BBC TWO's Timewatch, and Channel Five's Revealed. |::|

“The invasion of Britain was a war of prestige. The 'mad' emperor Caligula had been assassinated in 41 AD, and an obscure member of the imperial family, Claudius, had been elevated to the throne. The new emperor faced opposition from the Senate, Rome's House of Lords. Claudius needed a quick political fix to secure his throne. What better than a glorious military victory in Britain? |::|

The army was the core of the Roman state. In a few centuries, it had transformed Rome from a small city-state into the greatest empire of antiquity. Its conquests more than paid for themselves in booty, slaves and tribute. War was highly profitable. Roman culture reflected this, valuing military achievement above all else. Roman leaders had to prove themselves first and foremost as army commanders. And where better for Claudius to prove himself than in Britain? |::|

Caesar in Britain

Caesar invaded Britain twice. His conquests there are regarded as little more than the first steps of Rome’s effort to take over Britain. Britain did become fully Romanized until Emperor Claudius launched a more sustained campaign about a hundred years after Caesar’s invasion and that campaign was completed by Tacitus' father-in-law Agricola.

Dr Mike Ibeji wrote for the BBC: “The first Roman to seize the opportunities for glory provided by Britain was Julius Caesar. Having essentially conquered Gaul by 56 B.C., he found himself in a position where he was compelled to return to Rome and disband his army, unless he could find an excuse to stay in the field. He found that excuse in Britain. By claiming that the British tribes had helped the Gauls he had just cause to invade. In fact, as his own writings and the letters he sent to Cicero indicate, he was much more interested in the glory he would gain for crossing the Great Ocean and in the wealth of silver rumoured to be on the island, than in any so-called security risk. [Source: Dr Mike Ibeji, BBC, February 17, 2011 |::|]


Britons ready for battle

in 55 B.C., when Commius, king of the Atrebates, was ousted by Cunobelin, king of the Catuvellauni, and fled to Gaul. Caesar seized the opportunity to mount an expedition on behalf of Commius. He wanted to gain the glory of a victory beyond the Great Ocean, and believed that Britain was full of silver and booty to be plundered.

“His first expedition, however, was ill-conceived and too hastily organised. With just two legions, he failed to do much more than force his way ashore at Deal and win a token victory that impressed the senate in Rome more than it did the tribesmen of Britain. In 54 B.C., he tried again, this time with five legions, and succeeded in re-establishing Commius on the Atrebatic throne. Yet he returned to Gaul disgruntled and empty-handed, complaining in a letter to Cicero that there was no silver or booty to be found in Britain after all.” |::|

By the time of the second expedition in 54 B.C. “he had received the accolades he desired and ...pulled out of the island, exacting tribute and hostages and concentrated on pacifying the troublesome tribes of Gaul before crossing the Rubicon with his army and returning to Rome as its most powerful son. His power and prestige were so great, in fact, that his enemies were forced to assassinate him, sparking the civil war that destroyed the Republic. |::|

“Caesar's military adventurism set the scene for the second exploitation of Britain - by the Emperor Claudius. He was to use an identical excuse to Caesar for very similar reasons. Claudius had recently been made emperor in a palace coup. He needed the prestige of military conquest to consolidate his hold on power. Into this situation came Verica, successor to Commius, complaining that the new chief of the Catuvellauni, Caratacus, had deprived him of his throne. |::|

Plutarch on Caesar in Britain

Plutarch wrote in “Lives”: “In the passage of his army over it he met with no opposition; the Suevi themselves, who are the most warlike people of all Germany, flying with their effects into the deepest and most densely wooded valleys. When he had burnt all the enemy's country, and encouraged those who embraced the Roman interest, he went back into Gaul, after eighteen days' stay in Germany. But his expedition into Britain was the most famous testimony of his courage. For he was the first who brought a navy into the western ocean, or who sailed into the Atlantic with an army to make war; and by invading an island, the reported extent of which had made its existence a matter of controversy among historians, many of whom questioned whether it were not a mere name and fiction, not a real place, he might be said to have carried the Roman empire beyond the limits of the known world. He passed thither twice from that part of Gaul which lies over against it, and in several battles which he fought did more hurt to the enemy than service to himself, for the islanders were so miserably poor that they had nothing worth being plundered of. When he found himself unable to put such an end to the war as he wished, he was content to take hostages from the king, and to impose a tribute, and then quitted the island. At his arrival in Gaul, he found letters which lay ready to be conveyed over the water to him from his friends at Rome, announcing his daughter's death, who died in labour of a child by Pompey. Caesar and Pompey both were much afflicted with her death, nor were their friends less disturbed, believing that the alliance was now broken which had hitherto kept the sickly commonwealth in peace, for the child also died within a few days after the mother. The people took the body of Julia, in spite of the opposition of the tribunes, and carried it into the field of Mars, and there her funeral rites were performed, and her remains are laid. [Source: Plutarch (A.D. c.46-c.120), Life of Caesar (100-44 B.C.), written A.D. 75, translated by John Dryden, MIT]


fighting during Caesar's landing

“Caesar's army was now grown very numerous, so that he was forced to disperse them into various camps for their winter quarters, and he having gone himself to Italy as he used to do, in his absence a general outbreak throughout the whole of Gaul commenced, and large armies marched about the country, and attacked the Roman quarters, and attempted to make themselves masters of the forts where they lay. The greatest and strongest party of the rebels, under the command of Abriorix, cut off Cotta and Titurius with all their men, while a force sixty thousand strong besieged the legion under the command of Cicero, and had almost taken it by storm, the Roman soldiers being all wounded, and having quite spent themselves by a defence beyond their natural strength. But Caesar, who was at a great distance, having received the news, quickly got together seven thousand men, and hastened to relieve Cicero. The besiegers were aware of it, and went to meet him, with great confidence that they should easily overpower such a handful of men. Caesar, to increase their presumption, seemed to avoid fighting, and still marched off, till he found a place conveniently situated for a few to engage against many, where he encamped. He kept his soldiers from making any attack upon the enemy, and commanded them to raise the ramparts higher and barricade the gates, that by show of fear they might heighten the enemy's contempt of them. Till at last they came without any order in great security to make an assault, when he issued forth and put them in flight with the loss of many men.

“This quieted the greater part of the commotions in these parts of Gaul, and Caesar, in the course of the winter, visited every part of the country, and with great vigilance took precautions against all innovations. For there were three legions now come to him to supply the place of the men he had lost, of which Pompey furnished him with two out of those under his command; the other was newly raised in the part of Gaul by the Po. But in a while the seeds of war, which had long since been secretly sown and scattered by the most powerful men in those warlike nations, broke forth into the greatest and most dangerous war that was in those parts, both as regards the number of men in the vigour of their youth who were gathered and armed from all quarters, the vast funds of money collected to maintain it, the strength of the towns, and the difficulty of the country where it carried on. It being winter, the rivers were frozen, the woods covered with snow, and the level country flooded, so that in some places the ways were lost through the depth of the snow; in others, the overflowing of marshes and streams made every kind of passage uncertain. All which difficulties made it seem impracticable for Caesar to make any attempt upon the insurgents. Many tribes had revolted together, the chief of them being the Arverni and Carnutini; the general who had the supreme command in war was Vergentorix, whose father the Gauls had put to death on suspicion of his aiming at absolute government.

Caesar’s Landings in Britain


Caesar lands in Britain

Deal Beach — a beach made up of small stones or shingles near Walmer Castle in Kent — is probably in the area where Julius Caesar and his troops landed during the two Roman excursions to Britain of 55 and 54 B.C. From there the cliffs of Dover can seen to the south In the distance.

Professor Konnilyn Feig of Foothill College wrote: “In the first century B.C., Britain was settled by Iron Age societies, many with long-term roots in Britain, and others closely tied to tribes of northern France. Commerce was flourishing, populations were relatively large, and at least seven different British tribes had their own coinages. Tribes in southwest Britain and Wales controlled considerable mineral wealth in tin deposits and copper mines. [Source: Professor Konnilyn Feig, Foothill College, Los Altos, California, Athenapub ***]

“For this period, Caesar is the only extant source providing first-hand descriptions of Britain. His observations, while confined to the southeast areas of Kent and the lower Thames, are thus essential to understanding those regions. While no doubt self-serving in a political sense when written, Caesar's account is nevertheless regarded as basically accurate and historically reliable both by earlier scholars such as C. Rice Holmes (1907), and by today's authorities including Sheppard Frere (1987). ***

“Both the 55 and 54 B.C. Roman expeditions left from Boulogne (Portus Itius), and landed at Deal, a few miles northeast of Dover. In 55 B.C., the Roman cavalry ships were forced back to Gaul by a storm, and Caesar's troops were confined to the shore. In 54 B.C., a larger Roman expedition landed at Deal and penetrated inland along the River Thames.” After that they left. The Romans did “not to return again for 97 years, when the Claudian invasion of A.D. 43 began the active Roman conquest of Britain. Caesar's two expeditions, meanwhile, provided basic information on the terrain, inhabitants, and political, economic and military customs of Britain, our only direct historical record for that time period.” ***

Caesar on His Invasion of Britain in 55 B.C.

Caesar invaded Britain in 55 B.C. partly in hope of "getting pearls." Describing the invasion Caesar wrote: "The Romans were faced with grave difficulties. The size of the ships made it impossible to run them aground except in fairly deep waters and the soldiers, unfamiliar with the ground, with their hands full, and weighed down by the heavy burden of their arms, had at the same time to jump down from the ships, get a footing in the waves, and fight the enemy." [Source: Eyewitness to History, edited by John Carey, 1987, Avon Books]

“The enemy, who, standing on dry land or advancing only a short way into the water, fought with all their limbs unencumbered and on preferably familiar ground, boldly hurling javelins and galloping their horses, which were trained for this kind of work. These perils frightened our soldiers, who were quite unaccustomed to battles of this kind, with the result that they did not show the same alacrity and enthusiasm as they usually did in battles on dry land."


Caesar

"Seeing this, Caesar ordered the warships---which were swifter and easier to handle than the transports, and likely to impress the natives more by their unfamiliar appearance---to be removed a short distance from the others, and then to be rowed hard ashore on the enemy's right flank, from which position slings, bows, and artillery could be used by men on deck to drive them back."

"The maneuver was highly successful. Scared by the strange shape of the warships, the motion of the oars, and the unfamiliar machines, the natives halted and then retreated a little. But as the Romans hesitated, chiefly on account of the depth of the water, the man who carried the eagle of the tenth legion, after praying to the gods that his actions might bring good luck to the legion, cried in a loud voice, 'Jump down comrades, unless you want to surrender our eagle to the enemy; I, at any rate, mean to do my duty to my country and general.'"

"With these word he leapt out of the ship and advanced towards the enemy with the eagle in his hands. At this the soldiers, exhorting each other not to submit to such a disgrace, jumped with one accord from the ship, and the men from the next ships, when they saw them, followed them and advanced against the enemy."

First Roman Landing in Britain in 55 B.C.

Professor Konnilyn Feig wrote: “Caesar probably planned an expedition to Britain in 56 B.C., a year when the Armorican tribes in the coast of Britanny revolted against the Romans with aid from the tribes of southern Britain. The operation was further delayed by battles with the Morini and Menapi, Belgic tribes who controlled the Straits of Dover. [Source: Professor Konnilyn Feig, Foothill College, Los Altos, California, Athenapub ***]

“Finally, on August 26, 55 B.C., two Roman Legions (about 10,000 soldiers) under Caesar's personal command crossed the channel in a group of transport ships leaving from Portus Itius (today's Boulogne). By the next morning (August 27), as Caesar reports, the Roman ships were just off the chalky cliffs of Dover, whose upper banks were lined with British warriors prepared to do battle. The Romans therefore sailed several miles further northeast up the coastline and landed on the flat, pebbly shore around Deal. ***

“The Britons met the legionaries at the beach with a large force, including warriors in horse-drawn chariots, an antiquated fighting method not used by the Roman military. After an initial skirmish, the British war leaders sought a truce, and handed over hostages. ***

“Four days later, however, when Roman ships with 500 cavalry soldiers and horses also tried to make the channel crossing, they were driven back to France by bad weather. The same storm seriously damaged many of the Roman ships on the beach at Deal. This quirk of fate resulted in Caesar's initial landing force having no cavalry, which seriously restricted the mobility of the 55 B.C. operations. It was also disastrous for the planned reconnaissance since the legionary soldiers were forced to repair the ships and were vulnerable to the British forces who began new attacks. ***

“Thus immobilized, the Roman legions had to survive in a coastal zone which they found both politically hostile, and naturally fertile. The need to procure food locally resulted in scouting and foraging missions into the adjacent countryside. Caesar reports abundant grain crops along a heavily populated coastline; and frequent encounters with British warriors in chariots. After repairing most of the ships, Caesar ordered a return to Gaul, thus curtailing the reconnaissance of 55 B.C.” ***



Second Roman Expedition to Britain in 54 B.C.

Professor Konnilyn Feig of Foothill College wrote: “The next year saw the Romans organize a much larger expedition to Britain, with a total of 800 ships used to transport five legions and 2000 cavalry troops, plus horses and a large baggage train. They sailed from Boulogne at night on July 6, and landed unopposed the next day on the beach between Deal and Sandwich. [Source: Professor Konnilyn Feig, Foothill College, Los Altos, California, Athenapub ***]

“Upon seeing the large size of the Roman force, the Britons retreated inland to higher ground. Caesar immediately marched inland with most of his troops to the Stour River, about 12 miles from the beach landing camp. At daybreak on the 8th of July, 54 B.C., the Romans encountered British forces at a ford on the Stour (later the town of Canterbury). The Romans easily dispersed the Britons, who retreated to a hill fort or stronghold (oppidum), which from Caesar's description, is probably the hill fort at Bigbury, a site with earthwork and ditch enclosures mile and a half from the river ford. The Seventh Roman legion attacked the hillfort but were blocked out by trees piled in the entrance by the Britons. To advance, the Roman troops filled in the outer ditch with earth and brush, making a ramp across it, and then capturing the fort. ***

“Bad news came for the Romans, however, shortly thereafter from the beach camp at Deal. An overnight storm had driven most of the Roman ships on shore. The main body of troops returned to the beach, to find at least forty boats completely wrecked. Security precautions required Caesar's army to spend ten long days building a land fort within which the entire fleet of 760 ships was transported. This, the second catastrophe for Roman ships in as many years caused by storms on the open beach, could have been averted had Caesar sailed only a few miles further up the coast to the protected harbor at Richborough (where the Romans landed when they next invaded Britain, in 43 AD). ***

“During this ten day hiatus, a large British force was briefly united under a single commander, Cassivellaunus, who ruled the Catuvellauni tribe on the north side of the River Thames. The army of Cassivellaunus met the Romans again at the Stour crossing. The Britons used chariot warfare, with two horses pulling a driver and warrior, the latter hurling javelins, then dismounting at close quarters to fight infantry-style. After a hard-fought battle, the Romans eventually drove back the Britons, and then pursued Cassivellaunus toward the Thames. ***

“In the wooded terrain north of the River Thames, Cassivellaunus adopted scorched-earth, guerrilla-warfare methods, destroying local food sources and using chariots to harrass the Roman legions. But neighboring tribes who resented the domination by Cassivellaunus, including the Trinovantes and their allies the Cenimagni, Segontiaci, Ancalites, Bibroci and Cassi (the latter five tribes, known to us only through Caesar's account) then went over to the Romans. ***

“Caesar thus learned from native informants the location of the secret stronghold of Cassivellaunus, probably the hill fort at Wheathampstead, located on the west bank of the River Lea, near St. Albans. Even as the Roman army under Caesar were massing outside his fort's gates, however, Cassivellaunus made the bold move of ordering his allies in Kent to attack the Roman beach camp at Deal. This attack failed, and Cassivellaunus then gave up. Yet the terms of surrender he negotiated with the Romans seem to have been moderate, as Caesar had learned of mounting problems back in Gaul, and wanted to return there. The Roman legions left Britain in early September, 54 B.C.” ***

Trinovantes and Catuvellauni


Trinovantes and Catuvellauni

Dr Mike Ibeji wrote for the BBC: “Camulodunum (present-day Colchester) was a hugely important site in pre-Roman times. It was most likely the royal stronghold of the Trinovantes, on whose behalf Julius Caesar invaded in 55 and 54 B.C. At this time, the Catuvellauni under their king Cassivellaunus were spreading their authority as southern Britain's largest tribe across the south-eastern counties. It seems that Cassivellaunus invaded Trinovantian territory and murdered its king, whose son, Mandubracius, fled to Caesar for help. [Source: Dr Mike Ibeji, BBC, February 17, 2011 |::|]

“This gave Caesar the excuse he was looking for to invade, and after a botched attempt in 55 (which even his own propaganda cannot quite disguise), Caesar returned to finish the job in 54 B.C. He chased Cassivellaunus back to his stronghold, which he stormed from two sides, forcing Cassivellaunus to flee and come to terms. |::|

“It is a moot point where this encampment was. Our best guess is Wheathamstead, Herts, but it is possible (though I do not think probable) that Cassivellaunus had transferred his capital to Camulodunum. Part of the problem is one of dating, since we do not know when Camulodunum came into Catuvellaunian hands. Our best dating criteria are by coins, but the earliest coins in the area are for the Catuvellaunian king, Tasciovanus, who ruled c.25-15 B.C. By c.AD 10, Cunobelin the nephew of Cassivellaunus, had taken over the area and his coinage reflects this. |::|

“The last Trinovantian king was called Addedomaros. It is possible that his remains are buried in the Lexden Tumulus, close to Gosbecks. The king who was buried here had been ritually burned along with his goods, which were a mixture of Celtic and Roman ornaments. Among them were the fragments of a small casket, within which was a medallion bearing the head of the Emperor Augustus.” |::|

Claudius I's Conquest of Britain


Claudius

The most important event of the reign of Claudius was the invasion and partial conquest of Britain. Britain was conquered in A.D. 43 by four Roman legions under the Claudius. In A.D. 51 the native leader Cartatcus was captured and taken to Rome. Later an insurrection led by Boudicca, queen of Iceni, was brutally put down.

Since the invasion of Julius Caesar a hundred years before, the Romans had taken little interest in this island. With the aid of his lieutenants, Aulus Plautius and Vespasian, Claudius effected a permanent landing in Britain. He was opposed by the famous Celtic chief Caractacus, but succeeded in subduing the southern part of the island. Britain was thus opened to Roman conquest. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\]

Dr. Neil Faulkner of the University of Bristol wrote for the BBC: “A century before, in both 55 and 54 B.C., Julius Caesar had invaded Britain with the aim of conquest. But revolt in Gaul (modern-day France) had drawn him away before he had beaten down determined British guerrilla resistance. Britain had remained free – and mysterious, dangerous, exotic. In the popular Roman imagination, it was a place of marsh and forest, mist and drizzle, inhabited by ferocious blue-painted warriors. Here was a fine testing-ground of an emperor's fitness to rule. [Source: Dr Neil Faulkner, BBC, March 29, 2011 |::|]

Claudius’s Invasion of Britain

Dr. Neil Faulkner of the University of Bristol wrote for the BBC: ““For the Claudian invasion, an army of 40,000 professional soldiers - half citizen-legionaries, half auxiliaries recruited on the wilder fringes of the empire - were landed in Britain under the command of Aulus Plautius. |Archaeologists debate where they landed - Richborough in Kent, Chichester in Sussex, or perhaps both. Somewhere, perhaps on the River Medway, they fought a great battle and crushed the Catuvellauni, the tribe that dominated the south east. | [Source: Dr Neil Faulkner, BBC, March 29, 2011 |::|]

Dr Mike Ibeji wrote for the BBC: “When Claudius became Roman emperor in A.D. 41, he understood that in order to survive he needed a triumph. He used the appeal of the British chieftain, Verica, as his excuse for action. Verica was a king of the Atrebates who had been driven out by Cunobelin's successor, Caratacus. The Roman legions under Aulus Plautius landed at Richborough, surprised the British army at the River Medway and pushed Caratacus back to his stronghold at Camulodunum (Colchester). [Source: Dr Mike Ibeji, BBC, February 17, 2011 |::|]

“There, Plautius waited for the Emperor Claudius to arrive from Rome, bringing additional troops including a force of elephants with him. Claudius himself led the final storming of the Catuvellauni stronghold, which went very like Caesar's earlier assault. Caratacus and his followers escaped in their chariots from the back of the fort and went on the run. He was eventually betrayed by Queen Cartimandua of the Brigantes and handed over to Rome, to be paraded in chains through Rome. |::|

“As the royal stronghold of the major tribe in the south-east, Camulodunum was of immense strategic importance, which is why a legionary fortress was immediately begun on an spur of flat land nearby. Britain had never seen anything like it. Vast quantities of timber, sand, gravel and clay were brought from the surrounding area to create a huge, regimented settlement completely unlike the sprawling hill-forts the Britons were used to. For the first time, bricks and mortar were used in Britain to create buildings which we would not find unfamiliar today. |::|



Augustus and Britain

Dr Mike Ibeji wrote for the BBC: “One might legitimately ask why, if Britain was such a land of opportunity, Caesar's ultimate successor Augustus had no interest in it. Strabo makes it perfectly clear that despite the perceived wealth of the country, Augustus did not think that it was worth conquering. These comments have often been used to argue that Britain was not economically viable to the Empire. Yet to argue this is to misunderstand the way the Roman system worked. Cost did not come into it, except as a reason to justify inaction. [Source: Dr Mike Ibeji, BBC, February 17, 2011 |::|]

“There was nothing to be gained for Augustus in invading Britain. Caesar had already won the prestige for crossing the Great Ocean and claiming to have settled the country. There was more kudos then in conquering Germany north of the Elbe or beating up on Rome's favourite enemy, the Parthians (the precise geographical equivalent of modern-day Saddam bashing) than in belittling his adoptive father's claims. It was not until the German frontier was closed by the disaster of A.D. 9 in which Varus lost three legions at Teutoberger Wald and Parthia became too strong to seriously contemplate war that any Roman emperor could seriously contemplate a return to Britain. |::|

Paulinus, Roman Governor Britain

Dr Mike Ibeji wrote for the BBC: “The governorship of Suetonius Paulinus, the ex-governor of Britain whose support tipped the balance in favour of Otho at the start of the war, illustrates what those who received a posting in post-invasion Britain hoped to gain out of it. Tacitus says that when Paulinus arrived in Britain 'He was ambitious to achieve victories as glorious as his rival Corbulo's reconquest of Armenia.' Consequently, he planned to attack the isle of Anglesey, which was controlled by druids and provided a refuge to those disaffected Britons ousted by the inexorable Roman conquest. [Source: Dr Mike Ibeji, BBC, February 17, 2011 |::|]

“Britain was at this time very much a wild frontier, with all the opportunities for glory that this entailed; so wild, in fact, that while the governor was away in Wales the province erupted into the Boudiccan Revolt. This had been prompted by the over-zealous exploitation of the natives by those in power. Centurions assigned to supply saw a chance for profiteering and veteran colonists established at Colchester were only too willing to steal land from the natives in an attempt to make a killing on the new frontier. Instead, it was they who were massacred in their thousands. |::|

“Paulinus quelled the revolt with ruthless efficiency but his methods were frowned upon by the new procurator (finance official), Classicianus. Classicianus' influence was such that he could have Paulinus removed from office. Yet Paulinus' prestige had been so enhanced by his sojourn in Britain that even though he had a high profile on the wrong side in the ensuing civil war, he was untouched by the purges that followed. Classicianus meanwhile became so rich as procurator that he could afford a tomb as big as a small house, which can now be found in the British Museum. |::|



Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Forum Romanum forumromanum.org ; “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\; “The Private Life of the Romans” by Harold Whetstone Johnston, Revised by Mary Johnston, Scott, Foresman and Company (1903, 1932) forumromanum.org |+|; BBC Ancient Rome bbc.co.uk/history/ ; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; MIT, Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org ; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Live Science, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Discoverers" [∞] and "The Creators" [μ]" by Daniel Boorstin. "Greek and Roman Life" by Ian Jenkins from the British Museum.Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, World Religions edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); History of Warfare by John Keegan (Vintage Books); History of Art by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated October 2018

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