Roman Britain

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Provincia Britannia
provinces of the Roman Empire

Location of Roman Britain
Britain within the Roman Empire
Capital city Camulodunum
Historical era Classical antiquity
 -  Annexed by Claudius 43
 -  Severan Division 197
 -  Diocletian Division 296
 -  Withdrawal 410
Today part of  United Kingdom
Roman conquest of Britain.

Roman Britain (Britannia) was the part of Great Britain in the Roman Empire from AD 43 to 409 or 410.[1]:129–131[2][3] The first invasion was led by Julius Caesar, in the days of the Roman Republic. He defeated the dominant Catuvellauni tribe in 54 BC near Wheathampstead in Hertfordshire. Their capital was taken over by the Romans.[4] Trouble in Gaul prevented Caesar from staying in Britain, and the full conquest of Britain was delayed for almost a century.[5]

In 43 AD, the Emperor Claudius sent an invasion force,[6] led by Aulus Plautius, a distinguished senator. He was given four legions, totalling about 20,000 men, plus about the same number of auxiliaries. The legions were:

The II Augusta was commanded by the future emperor Vespasian. The other three legions were also led by high-ranking men.

The invasion was one of the most significant events in British history. Roman legions left in 410 AD after almost four centuries, and the administration of the country was taken over by prominent local chieftains. This was known as Sub-Roman Britain, with a Romano-British culture and the people may have used a Latin-based language. It lasted for about two centuries but gave way to an increasingly Anglo-Saxon England by the start of the seventh century.

Technology[change | change source]

Although the Romans brought some technology, much British technology was well advanced and the Romans tried to improve on the existing skills. Although the invention of concrete is sometimes attributed to the Romans there is evidence that it was already in use in a limited form in Britain during the first century BC.

The British were skilled in the arts, and produced ornamental jewellery and pottery which had been exported to Europe. They had constructed defensive structures such as hill forts. They were proficient in warfare with spears, bows and arrows. Small round stones found in such sites indicate the use of slings or catapults.

To maintain Roman control, forts and garrisons were established throughout Britain and the existing roads improved. The local people had to maintain the Roman roads in Britain, and got tax relief for their efforts. Roman roads allowed for troop movements and the distribution of supplies. The forts and garrisons needed food and other services. Vast areas produced these goods. For example, the often flooded Somerset levels was like a huge market garden that provided supplies for the garrisons at Exeter, Gloucester, Bath and the forts in between. Local fishermen supplied fresh fish, and farmers reared sheep, pigs, cattle and poultry for the garrisons.

Christanity[change | change source]

Missionaries from Gaul began to introduce Christianity to the West country. Before the end of the first century AD they had a Church of Celtic Christianity. This spread such that by the mid second century much of Cornwall, Devon, Western Dorset, and South Somerset had adopted Christianity. The spread of Christianity continued eastward and strongly northward into Wales through the next two centuries, especially after the adoption of Christianity by Rome. The Romans had built shrines and temples to their pagan gods and continued to patronize these, even after the adoption of Christianity by Rome.

References[change | change source]

  1. Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth, ed. (1998). The Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-1986-0165-4 .
  2. Alan and Veronica Palmer (1992). The Chronology of British History. Century Ltd. pp. 20–22. ISBN 0-7126-5616-2 .
  3. Hornblower, Spawforth eds. 1998. The Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization. Oxford University Press, 129–131.
  4. The Romans renamed it Verulamium, now St Albans.
  5. Robinson, Cyril E. 1932. A history of the Roman Republic. London: Methuen, p376/8.
  6. Dio Cassius, Roman History 60.19-22

Related pages[change | change source]