From 43 – 410 A.D., Britain was ruled by Roman forces. Before invading the island, the Roman Empire was strong and expansive, spanning across continents; the age of conquest had ended centuries before the invasion of Britain, but the Roman forces had their reasons for their desire to conquer the nation.
Roughly one hundred years prior to the Roman conquest, Julius Caesar failed in his attempt to conquer the region and reported on its wealth of resources from bountiful food supplies to people he deemed would be suitable slaves. At the time, the Roman army lacked the vitality and numbers necessary to invade and conquer Britain, so the ambition to take over this territory suffered.
Under the rule of Emperor Claudius, the Roman army invaded Britain. This aggressive movement was not to secure more land or resources but instead to prove the emperor’s military prowess. After the assassination of the former ruler, Caligula, Claudius had been placed upon the throne. Facing heavy criticism from the Senate, he realized he needed to secure their trust and the people’s respect in a quick, impressive fashion. With this motivation, the attack on Britain was considered a war of prestige. By 47 A.D., all of South Britain had been conquered, and Claudius declared that Britain was then part of the Roman Empire.
During the conquest, many tribes fought against the Roman forces. The Durotriges of Dorset and Celtic tribesmen staged defiant oppositions, and while their military camps and efforts were commendable, the Romans ultimately defeated them, often with such efficiency that remnants of their battles (such as catapult bolts used to subdue the Celts) can still be recovered from the ground.
A notable leader in the fight against the Roman forces was Queen Boudicca. After her husband, King Prasutagus, died, she rose to power and had initially planned to remain peaceful with the Roman forces. However, upon his death, the Romans declared that all his property belonged to them and attacked the Iceni tribe. Following the initial attack, Boudicca joined forces with another tribe and laid siege to London, Colchester, and St. Albans, burning the cities. In order to combat this resistance, the Romans were forced to raise the largest military they had ever needed, and they slaughtered all who opposed them. Rather than succumb to the Roman’s military might, Boudicca poisoned herself.
For more than 300 years, the Roman hold on Britain remained strong. As time went on, the Roman emperors began to raise taxes and failed to protect their people, all the while their enemies grew more powerful. After attacks on other territories demanded additional troops from Britain and regular raids from the Anglo-Saxons in the north, the Roman forces ultimately lost control of Britain and retreated.
Jorge J. Perez is an attorney in South Florida. He is a self-professed history buff. Visit JorgeJPerez.net often to learn more.