Roman Empire and Its Growth over Europe
The Roman empire stretched at its peak a huge distance from it's northern border with Scotland to its southern border in Egypt. From the western edges of Portugal to Syria in the East. Having conquered the Gauls (French) Julius Caesar turned his attention to the North to Brittannia the year was 55BC.

The first expedition, more a reconnaissance than a full invasion, gained a foothold on the coast of Kent (South East England) but, undermined by storm damage to the ships and a lack of cavalry, was unable to advance further. The expedition was a military failure, but was at least a political success. The Roman Senate declared a 20-day public holiday in Rome in honour of the unprecedented achievement of obtaining hostages from Britain and defeating Belgian tribes on returning to the continent. A year later Julius would try again.

In his second invasion, Caesar took with him a substantially larger force and proceeded to coerce or invite many of the native Celtic tribes to pay tribute and give hostages in return for peace. A friendly local king, was installed, and his rival, was brought to terms. Hostages were taken, but  the tribute agreed was paid by the Britons after Caesar's return to Gaul with his forces. Britain would wait nearly 90 years before they next saw a Roman army.

Caesar had conquered no territory and had left behind no troops, but had established clients on the island and had brought Britain into Rome's sphere of political influence. This made Britain into a part of the Roman empire without being conquered. Trade with the Romans and friendly cheiftains meant the Romans had little to do with Britain until around 46bc when Claudius received two tribal leaders who had been exiled by their tribes no longer friendly chiefs meant reduced trade and higher prices this could only mean one thing a full scale invasion of the commercially viable southern English people.

The army when assembled then proceeded to mutiny against their leaders because they were scared of crossing the channel. Eventually they were persuaded to get on the boats and in 43ad they set off. They probably landed around Fishbourne in Kent, one of the shortest channel crossings. No record has been made about how many Legions (Legions consisted of around 6000 men) were sent to Britain we know for sure that there were 4 legions in 60bc when a small revolt was squashed so we can assume that they had been there since the invasion.

Roman armies were obviously better equipped and better led with far superior military tactics. This isn't to say that it was a walk over as I stated before some tribes actually quite liked the Romans so in some areas resistance was minimal. A battle was fought in Kent and the Romans pushed up towards the river Thames and London. The Emperor Claudius was then summoned with reinforcements which included Elephants, we can only guess what the Britains thought of these animals as we can be pretty sure they had never seen them before.

By 60AD most of Southern England was under Roman control, this isn't to say that everything was now peaceful. Romans trying to push into Wales were meeting with severe resistance to their occupation. Northern England too both due to their Hill and moor terrain meant that ambushes and guerilla style tactics could come into play. Remembering of course that most of Britain at the time was forested too. Some people in southern England were quick though to adapt to Roman ways and new styles of buildings and the luxury living that the Romans brought with them were starting to appear as early as 60ad. Although 60ad was a bad year to be a Roman in Southern Britain. In what is now East Anglia in the far east of Britain lived a tribe called the Iceni. The Iceni were led by a king called Prasutagus who died he left in his will half his lands to the Roman Emperor Nero in the hope that the other half would remain untouched. His widow was called Boudica. The Romans decided to take all of the Iceni lands and raped two of Boudica's daughters in the process and whipped a lot of the rest of the tribe into submission. In response, the Iceni, joined by the Trinovantes, destroyed the Roman colony at Colchester (which was then the capital city of the new Roman province) and routed the part of the IXth legion that was sent to relieve it. Boudica then went on to also burn to the ground the cities of St Albans and London. The scorch marks of the fierce burning can still be seen in the ground today as a bright red layer filled with charcoal. Between seventy and eighty thousand people are said to have been killed in the three cities. But the Romans regrouped with two of the three legions still available, chose a battlefield, and, despite being heavily outnumbered, defeated the rebels. Boudica died not long afterwards, by self-administered poison or by illness. There was further turmoil in 69ad. Rome was at civil war in a year which saw 4 emperors come and go usually by murderous means. Unable to control the legions in Britain several commanders took their chance including one Venutius of the Brigantes who quickly took control of most of northern Britain. Eventually he too was defeated by the Emperor Vespasian. In the following years, the Romans conquered more of the island, increasing the size of Roman Britain. Contrary to popular belief the Romans did enter Scotland they even defeated the Caledonians in battle but a influential commander called Agricola was recalled and the Romans pulled back to the more defensible position today occupied by Hadrian's wall.

Hadrian's Wall Built around 120ad
Hadrian's Wall was 80 Roman miles (73 statute miles or 120 km) long. its width and height dependent on the construction materials which were available nearby. East of River Irthing the wall was made from squared stone and measured 3 metres (9.7 ft) wide and five to six metres (16–20 ft) high, while west of the river the wall was made from turf and measured 6 metres (20 ft) wide and 3.5 metres (11.5 ft) high. This does not include the wall's ditches and forts. The central section measured eight Roman feet wide (7.8 ft or 2.4 m) on a 10-foot (3.0 m) base. Some parts of this section of the wall survive to a height of 10 feet (3.0 m). It wasn't built to keep the Scottish In or the English out it was to stop raiding parties from coming south and it also forced the Scottish traders to pay taxes. Life on the wall was fairly peaceful if not a remote posting for the soldiers posted there. One of the forts on the wall was called Vindolanda. When they were digging they found some of the most personal Roman remains ever found wax tablets with writting on them allow us to know what life was like on the frontier in Roman times. Things like invitations to birthday parties and feast days are common as well as asking for supplies usually heavy clothing to cope with the cold and bitter weather. But one thing they allow us to do is show where the Roman soliders came from. They were coming from all over the Roman Empire from northern Africa, Spain even Turkey. Most of the large forts were fitted with the modern luxuries such as plumbing, bath houses, running water,

A further wall was built north of Hadrian's wall called the Antonine wall. The occupation of Scotland ended as a result of a further crisis in 155-157 AD, when the Brigantes revolted. With limited options to despatch reinforcements, the Romans moved their troops south, and this rising was suppressed  Within a year the Antonine Wall was recaptured, but by 163 or 164 AD it was abandoned. Since the retreat to the Hadrianic frontier occurred not long after his death when a more objective strategic assessment of the benefits of the Antonine Wall could be made. However the Romans did not entirely withdraw from Scotland.

after the first century AD the Celts who lived in what is now England were, to a certain extent, Romanised. Many towns appeared. Some were created deliberately. Others grew up by Roman forts as the garrisons provided markets for townspeople's goods. Roman towns were usually laid out in a grid pattern. Streets were often covered in gravel. When people walked on the gravel it became compacted. Very often streets had drains at the sides.

At first Roman towns were unprotected. Then in the late 1st and 2nd centuries fortifications were built. They consisted, at first, of ditches with earth ramparts and wooden palisades. Later many towns had stone walls.

In the centre of Roman towns was a space called the Forum. It was lined by shops and by a public building called the basilica. Markets were also held on the forum. In the towns another important building was the public baths. In Roman times people went to the baths not just to get clean but also to socialise. Roman Baths consisted of a frigidarium or cold room, a Tepidarium or warm room and a caldarium or hot room. You usually finished with a dip in a cold pool.

Roman Baths in Bath (Aqua Sulis)
To clean themselves Romans rubbed their skin with oil and scraped it off with a tool called a strigil.
Larger towns also had an amphitheatre where 'sports' such as cock fighting were held and sometimes gladiators fought to the death. Some Roman towns also had theatres. The Romans gambled with dice. They also played board games. Roman children played with wooden or clay dolls. They also played ball games.Roman Britain was, of course, an agricultural society where most people made their living from farming (although there were many craftsmen). Only a small minority of the population (probably around 10%) lived in towns. he Romans also introduced new foods into Britain, among them celery, cabbages, radishes, carrots, cucumbers, broad beans and walnuts. Romans cooked on charcoal stoves. Olive oil was imported. So were olives, figs and grapes. Wine was also imported (although the Romans attempted to grow vines in Britain).
The Romans were also very fond of fish sauce. They also liked oysters, which were exported from Britain.

A Roman dining room was called a triclinium. The Romans ate a breakfast of bread and fruit called the ientaculum. At midday they ate a meal called the prandium of fish, cold meat, bread and vegetables. The main meal was called the cena and was eaten in the evening.

Life in Roman Britain was, if you wern't a slave good living. By the year 200ad the era known as the Pax Romana (Roman Peace) had started and the country became more and more romanised.....Like all good things this wasn't to last more of that in Part 5.....



Leave a Reply

    Simon Knowles

    Sadistic, Satirical, Sarcastic, Socialist, with enough time on his hands to waste yours.

    Old Stuff

    April 2011
    March 2011



    RSS Feed