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What the Romans did to Us

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  • Joe Geranio
    If you love the Julio Claudian Dynasty join at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/julioclaudian/ What the Romans did to usSep 21 2006 Western Mail Our interest in
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 21, 2006
      If you love the Julio Claudian Dynasty join at
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/julioclaudian/



      What the Romans did to usSep 21 2006




      Western Mail


      Our interest in ancient Rome shows no sign of abating, as a major
      new programme starring Michael Sheen as the Emperor Nero begins
      tonight. Here Duncan Higgitt looks back at the Romans' influence in
      Wales - and how this country played a large part in bringing their
      wrath down upon the Britons

      IT was 42AD and a tribesman who would soon become a Welsh hero was
      sitting uncomfortably in the thoughts of the Roman emperor.

      Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, better known just as
      Claudius, was stuttering and spluttering his way through his
      indignation, the disabled administrator - whom many had
      underestimated to their cost - apoplectic with rage, an anger
      directed at the head of relatively unremarkable Essex tribe dwellers
      known as the Catuvellaunis.

      Their chieftain, Caratacus, whom some have since said most closely
      resembles legendary Welsh warrior Caradog in history, had set his
      face against Roman rule. His campaigning in southern England had
      forced the Roman vassal Verica to flee to Rome, and had thrown the
      British Isles into anarchy.

      To Claudius, who was succeeded by his adoptive son Nero, there was
      only one answer to this upstart: invasion. He dispatched four battle-
      hardened legions - II Augusta, IX Hispana, XIV Gemina and XX Valeria
      Victrix - totalling some 20,000 men, to bring the rebellious isle
      back under boot.


      The legions, who included commanders such as future emperor
      Vespasian, landed in 43AD, probably in Kent, and won a memorable
      victory near Rochester, pursuing the remnants of the British army to
      the Thames and the Essex marches, where it was destroyed. Claudius
      subsequently took the surrender of 11 British tribal chiefs.


      Vespasian pushed west into England, and the task of capturing
      Caratacus and subduing Wales was handed to the new governor of
      Britain, Ostorius Scapula, who began his campaign in 47AD.


      Despite the relative ease with which successive invaders have pushed
      into Wales, owing to the direction in which rivers flow, with the
      exception of the Severn, the Romans found stiff opposition in the
      Marches.


      At the time, there were five tribal groupings in Wales, all of them
      speaking Brythonic, which would later develop into Welsh. There were
      the Ordovices in the north-west, the Demetians in the south-west,
      the Silurians in the south-east, the Cornovii in the central
      borderlands, and the Deceangli in the north-east.


      It was the Deceangli that would meet them first. In a successful
      attempt to divide the mountains of Wales from the highlands of
      England, the first Roman set foot in Wales after crossing the River
      Dee. It did not take the legionnaires long to win the submission of
      the Deceangli.


      The following year, they attempted the same in the south, dividing
      the Silurians, whom Caratacus had joined with, from tribes in south
      western England, by establishing a major fortress in Gloucester. But
      it wasn't plain sailing. The South Walians' hit-and-run tactics
      caused immense problems for the Romans and led to the defeat of a
      legion in 52AD.


      It was already all over for Caratacus. In AD50, at a place near the
      Severn which historians now believe is the Iron Age fort of British
      Camp, at Herefordshire Beacon in the Malvern Hills, he was defeated
      handing all of southern Britain to the invaders.


      Caratacus fled to the Brigantes in the Pennines. Their queen,
      Cartimandua, already had a truce with the Romans and handed him over
      in chains (this action would later lead to a revolt against her rule
      by her own tribesmen).


      Caratacus was sent to Rome, with plans that he would be executed.
      However, he was allowed to address the Roman senate. Senators were
      so impressed that they pardoned him.


      Ostorius died in 52AD, and his successor Aulus Gallus eventually
      subdued the Welsh borders. He made no further move into Wales
      because, it is thought, the country was not considered to be a prize
      worthy of the effort of taking it.


      However, that all changed in AD54 when Nero succeeded Claudius. He
      appointed Quintus Veranius, a man with experience in subjugating the
      warlike hill tribes of Asia Minor. He was dead within a year, but
      both he and his successor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus mounted a new
      campaign against the Silurians and their Welsh allies, using, it is
      claimed, up to 30,000 troops.


      Legionnaires infamously destroyed the renowned druidic centre at
      Mona on Anglesey. But they were unable to conquer the Silurians
      until 76AD, more than 30 years after landing on British soil. This
      is partly because the legions were called away to deal with Boudica
      and her rebellion.


      New governor Sextus Julius Frontinus was credited with the
      successful campaign, and it was he who established Isca Silurum
      beside the River Usk at Caerleon, near Newport, for Legio II Augusta.


      Caerleon was one of three major garrisons, each capable of housing a
      legion of 6,000 men. The others were situated at York and Chester.


      Outposts included sites at Abergavenny, Usk and Monmouth in
      Monmouthshire, Loughor in Glamorgan, and Castle Collen near
      Llandrindod Wells.


      It did not take long for the Silurians to get used to Roman rule,
      and many of the forts based around South Wales were soon
      unnecessary. The Silurians were rewarded with Venta Silurum now
      known as Caerwent, a provincial capital close to Caerleon and the
      first ever town in Wales.


      But the Romans never settled in North Wales. The spirited Ordovices
      put up such a fight that, if you visit the Forum in Rome today, the
      vast mosaic map of the Roman Empire there does not show what is now
      Gwynedd as part of the territories.


      Tiring of attacks and the disruption of supplies, the Romans built
      Segontium fort in Caernarfon in AD78, and it would remain in use
      until 410AD.


      The Romans also built a tribal capital for the Demetae at Maridunum,
      or Carmarthen. In fact, it had more in common with the
      fortifications at Segontium than the country villas around Caerwent,
      as well as those found at Llantwit Major and Ely, in Cardiff.


      Despite over a dozen villas across Wales, there were far more forts
      here, at places like Llandovery and Y Gaer, near Brecon. The Romans
      also exploited the country's gold reserves such as those at Dolau
      Cothi Gold Mine near Pumsaint in Carmarthenshire.


      The Romans also had a go at persuading the Welsh to follow their
      gods instead of the Celtic deities. But they had much more success
      in converting heathens here after Christianity was adopted as the
      official religion of the empire in the 4th century.


      Rome's grip on Britain began to dissolve as early as 192 when,
      following the death of the tyrant Commodus, a civil war ensued.
      British governor Clodius Albinus became a front runner for the
      purple and his rival Septimius Severus offered to support him if he
      helped him deal with a third claimant, Pescennius Niger. However,
      once Niger was out of the way, Severus reneged on the deal and won a
      battle over Albinus in Gaul in 196, leading to the latter's suicide.


      A number of militarily-skilled governors tried and failed to bring
      order to the isles, with one, Lucius Alfenus Senecio, reporting in
      207 that barbarians were "rebelling, over-running the land, taking
      booty and creating destruction".


      Severus led an imperial expedition, but his presence ultimately led
      to the loss of Scotland. However, his dividing of the rest of the
      country into Upper and Lower Britain led to a century of what was
      called the Long Peace.


      But by 250, the entire empire was being picked apart by barbarian
      invasions, rebellions and breakaway countries that Britannia, on the
      edge, could not fail to become caught up in.


      It was briefly part of the Gallic Empire, and was invaded by Vandals
      and Burgundians on the orders of the emperor Probus after half-
      Brythonic usurper named Bononus led a rebellion here.


      Then a naval commander called Carausius established himself as
      emperor in Britain and northern Gaul, and remained in power until he
      was murdered.


      There was a further imperial mission here in 306, again aimed at the
      north. A successful campaign would put Constantine I on the throne
      in Rome, but the country faced increasing attacks from the Saxons
      and the Irish. It led to the building of large defence walls around
      Caerwent.


      Another usurper, Magnus Maximus, began his revolt in Segontium in
      383, and took much of the western empire. But he drew troops away
      from Britain, which allowed the Irish to settle in North Wales.


      Some 30 years later, and the Britons were fighting by themselves
      against the Saxons, as much of the higher levels of government
      within the empire had disappeared. Saxons took an invitation from
      Brython chieftain Vortigern to help him fight the Picts and Irish as
      an excuse to revolt once they arrived, establishing a firm foothold
      once and for all. And, while many leaders may have once been loyal
      to Roman rule, there were no longer any legions capable of throwing
      out the North Germans. It was the beginning of modern Britain.


      Ancient Rome - The Rise and Fall of an Empire is on BBC1 tonight at
      9pm
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