Roman Britain

Essay, 2007

7 Pages, Grade: 1.0


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Roman advance to Britain by trade
2.1 Roman invasion by military forces
2.2 Romanisation in Britain

3. End of Roman Britain

4. References

1 Introduction

There are several reasons why the Roman’s interest in Britain increased from the beginning of the second century BC. Therefore, I would like to illustrate one of them as an introductory approach to Roman Britain based on the book called Greeks, Romans and Barbarians by Barry Cunliffe. Since Rome had become an imperial power and had destroyed its two most powerful trading rivals, Carthage and Corinth, in 146 BC, the Roman state required a constant flow of raw materials such as iron and bronze. This need, and the endemic militarism of the state, led inevitably to a process of economic exploitation of peripheral areas, followed by conquest (Cunliffe 1988: 10). In this way, as Cunliffe points out, the Roman traders and the army leapfrogged over each other across barbarian Europe, beginning to absorb the largely Celtic tribes into the Roman system from 54 BC to 440 AD when the Romans left Britain due to shrinking empire.

2 Roman advance to Britain by trade

Britain had enjoyed commercial contracts of one sort or another with the Continent from distant prehistoric times. These commercial contracts were mainly based on the tin trade of Cornwall which flourished in Britain (Frere 1967: 320). As a result of Roman process of economic exploitation of Britain, an opening-up of the Atlantic routes to Roman entrepreneurs and their agents who were principally engaged in tin trade developed (Cunliffe 1988: 101). Until the end of the first century BC prime exports of Britain were iron and bronze as well as argentiferous copper and lead with which silver was refined (103). Due to the arrival of many Roman merchants in Britain, an impact of the civilisation of Rome upon the Celtic people in Britain took place which did not result in a replacement of cultures, but rather, as Sheppard Frere in his book Britannia indicates, in a dual character of Romano-British civilisation (Frere 1967: 342). The Roman civilisation thus introduced was not really the metropolitan culture of Rome (343). That is, outwardly Britain remained Roman but inwardly, with its native burial-rite, consisting of an iron-bound wooden bucket and two sceptres, remained Celtic. Fortunately, an inner conflict between the two different cultural aspects did not arise since the British people came to realize the advantages of peace and wealth conferred by the membership of the empire (342).

2.1 Roman invasion by military forces

In the following, I will focus on the military invasion of Britain partly based on the Linguistics Surveyor by Raymond Hickey, Sheppard Frere’s Britannia and Barry Cunliffe’s Greeks, Romans and Barbarians. In 55 or 54 BC Julius Caesar invaded Britain and in leaving an account of this invasion for posterity written history in Britain starts. Though Britain had a flourishing tin trade, the Romans were never really interested in conquering it entirely. Thus the West Cornwall and Wales remained firmly Celtic, as did the North and all of Scotland. Although Hadrian’s Wall (built as c. 122-130 AD) is located far north near the present-day border with Scotland, Roman settlements in the north of England were rare (Hickey 2005: Ling. Surveyor). Two of the main Roman groups were the Catuvellauni north and the Atrebates south of the Thames. These Roman groupings tended to distance themselves from Rome and so to enter alliances with local Celtic leaders. Consequently, the Roman leaders who found refuge in the Celtic areas were in conflict with the fellow Romans in Britain. This conflict came to an end, in the early part of the first century AD through a further Roman invasion of Britain in 43-47 AD under the Emperor Claudius landing in Kent (Cunliffe 1988: 158). Throughout the first and the second century AD the army’s military engagement though a rebellion caused a severe setback for Rome continued under the reign of Claudius as well as under the reign of Flavius who dealt with the rebellion’s aftermath (Frere 1967: 343). But Wales remained a stronghold of Celtic resistance to Roman rule, which is why no attempt to subdue the Welsh by Roman military forces was successful (Hickey 2005: Ling. Surveyor).

2.2 Romanisation in Britain

As I have already mentioned the progress to Britain, first by merchants and secondly by the soldiers of the occupying army before, it is to be expected that the extent to which the Romanisation in Britain took place was greatest in the towns and among the ruling classes. By the end of the first and throughout the second century AD education was available in these rapidly developing towns (Frere 1967: 344). Besides, public buildings of some splendour were rising and a Romanised life was led in which the Latin language, Roman dress and continental habits of life such as visiting the baths and giving dinner parties were becoming fashionable. The increase of amphorae shows that wine-drinking became common among the aristocracy which is another proof of the towns being the vehicle and focus of Romanisation in Britain.


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Roman Britain
University of Duisburg-Essen
Old English
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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A short description of the historical background of the Romanisation in Britain from 54 BC till 440 AD and its consequences up to the Old English period beginning in 450 AD.
Roman, Britain, English
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Hildegard Schnell (Author), 2007, Roman Britain, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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