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Roman Britain (43 AD - 410 AD)
Map of Roman Britain
Roman Britain was the name of the British islands while they were under Roman control between 43 AD and 410 AD. After the conquering of Britain, the two cultured merged to create the Romano-British culture. This time period and culture's impact can still be seen today in the British culture, and even some of the forts and buildings of the Romans still exist as ruins or landmarks.
The First Attack
After the invasion of Gaul, Julius Caesar used the fact that British soldiers fought along with Gaul to then go to invade Briton itself. In 55 AD, Julius Caesar’s Roman army attacked an area near Dover, but the Britons fought much harder than expected, although they did ultimately withdraw. Seeing how the Britons fought, Caesar realized that he would need a full-scale invasion to take Britain. The next year, Caesar sent legions of soldiers to Briton, where they had great success, but had to withdraw due to an uprising of the Gaul people, once they realized the Roman’s forces were diverted.
The Invasion of Britain
In 43 AD, Emperor Claudius, as a new emperor, attempting to gain prestige and respect, invaded Britain. He sent four legions of his soldiers to England, Richborough specifically. Although quickly met with significant British resistance, the roman legions, led by the young general Vespasian, pushed forward. Although Rome was very well known and praised for their effectiveness in war, the Britons proved much more fierce and skilled than expected. Many British tribes fought back, although fiery and good fighters, they were outnumbered. Also, due to Briton’s lack of a major government, they were too spread out, and many British tribes did not even offer any resistance, immediately surrendering to the intimidation of the Roman legions. Due to the spread out nature of the British tribes it took the Romans thirty years to completely take Briton over.
Romans in Britain
After the invasion, Britons basically lived as they pleased, except they now had to pay taxes, and couldn’t speak ill of their emperor. Besides a few intrusive Roman forts and cities over run by Roman veterans, they lived in some sort of harmony. There were reports of a Roman soldier being beaten occasionally, and the Romans did mock the Britons with racial slurs and nicknames, but for the most part, there was peace between the races. However, we don’t really know for sure how the Britons and Romans lived because of the age and lack of written content from the time. We do know that around the third century the Romans had fully assimilated into Briton.
A Depiction of Boudicca
In 60 AD, the Romans had integrated into society. They bribed the high class of Britons into adopting some of the ways and customs of the Romans. If they did adopt Roman ways, they were given substantial power, and they were to use this power to influence the British people to turn to Roman ways and ideals.
However, then conflict arose. After the death of King Prasutagus, leader of the Iceni, he left half of his wealth and kingdom to the emperor, Nero, and the other half to his wife, Boudicca. Half was not good enough for Nero, so his officers went to the royal family’s house to take what he believed should have been his. Boudicca and her family showed resistance though, and she was flogged and her daughters raped. Due to this, the Iceni people revolted, led by Boudicca. Along with other British tribes who also were angered at the Romans, they attacked. They attacked with great success due to the fact that a large portion of the nearby Roman forces were elsewhere. After the initial surprise, the Roman forces returned, and bested the Iceni in an unknown location. Boudicca was defeated and committed suicide.
The End of Roman Britain
Around 400 AD, Britain was under heavy attack, and the Roman Empire decided it was no longer worthwhile for them to militaristically support them. In 400 AD and again in 405 AD, the Romans withdrew many troops and left Britain to fend for themselves. And in 410 AD, the Romans completely cut off their influence over Britain when the British civitates sent a letter to the Roman emperor, requesting aid in their battles against the Anglo-Saxons. The Roman Empire, Honorius, responded for them to “look to their own defences”. Although not overly effective to Rome straight forwardly, Rome’s weakness and inability to defend its land was a sign of things to come for the great Roman Empire.
Those living in Britain prior to the Roman invasion spoke Celtic languages. Upon their invasion, the Romans brought with them thier Latin language. However, Latin never really overtook the Celtic langauges.
While Latin literature was popular in Britain while the Romans were there, the native Britains adhered to their traditions of oral storytelling.
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