This site is for students in my class A Brief History of Roman Britain. Links to articles, interesting websites and other blogs will be posted here. This site will also provide a forum for class members to interact outside of the classroom and share information they have found with the rest of the class.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Excavations at Ham Hill Hillfort

NB: even though our class is over, I am going to continue to post news and other relevant "Roman Britain" information here for everyone that took "A Brief History of Roman Britain" to continue learning about this fascinating topic.

Like Maiden Castle, Ham Hill Hillfort was a stronghold of the Durotriges, and was captured by Roman forces under the command of the future emperor Vespasian.

This morning Martin Hesp at the news site This Is Devon UK reported on the findings of archaeologists working at the Ham Hill Hillfort:

The complex contours of Ham Hill – the steep-sided escarpment that looms high above the A303 near Stoke-Sub-Hamdon in Somerset – have always evoked impressions of a rich and busy ancient past, but now archaeologists can reveal that the ridge once played host to the largest Iron Age fort in Britain. Researchers from the University of Cambridge have been studying the massive defensive works, which cover more than 80 hectares, for the past three years in an attempt to understand more about their function, and how such a large structure was defended by the local population.

Now the final round of excavations at Ham Hill have revealed more about how the fort was developed by its defenders in response to the Roman invasion. The university team has concentrated on the final phase of construction, which occurred towards the end of the Iron Age and was probably a response to the fact that Roman legions were marching north and west from the English Channel. Despite the scale of fortifications, archaeologists now believe the place was attacked and that the invaders did breach the defences.

"There is obvious evidence of violence and assault in the ramparts – researchers found de-fleshed and chopped-up human remains dating back to the time of the Roman Conquest," a spokesman from the university told the Western Morning News.

"A wide variety of tools and weapons have been unearthed, including a bronze dagger and an iron ballista bolt," she said, adding that the final ramparts built at Ham Hill consisted of box-revetted stone defences situated on top of previously built, three to four metre-high earthen banks."

However, previous to the Roman threat, the massive ramparts up on Ham Hill may have been built for non-military purposes...

Read more about the excavation here

Wikipedia also has an extensive list of references and sources on this site.
Ham Hill Hillfort

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Late Roman and Sub-Roman Britain

In this post, I am going to provide some additional information about third and fourth century Roman Britain and period following the departure of the last Roman legionaries, referred to by historians and archaeologists as Sub-Roman Britain. Some of this post is from my own writing on this topic, and some will be quoted from other sources with links to the original source for further reading.

The basic nature of the Roman Empire underwent fundamental changes in response to the military and economic crisis of the third century. While Britain was spared most of the depredations of the barbarian invasions and constant warfare the provinces on the Continent were subject to, the subsequent reorganization of the provincial government and the tax system did impact Britain significantly and permanently. Beginning with Septimus Severus, the Roman army had begun to receive ever-increasing rates of pay, while the emperors continuously debased Roman coinage in order to pay their armies. This lead to a runaway inflation, the psychological effect of which is believed to have caused more harm through the loss of faith in the government than it did in terms of loss of buying power. One indirect but important effect was “a reduction in the real value of cash taxes collected through the civitates.” Although taxes continued to be levied, the problems due to inflation led eventually to taxation in kind (annonae), which led to a decrease in the importance of the civitas capitals in their role as tax-collectors and money-changers. These revisions would have a significant impact on Britain.

The military reorganization of Britain was also begun by Septimus Severus. During the civil war that accompanied his ascension to the purple, one of his rivals for the throne was the governor of Britain, Decimus Clodius Albinus. In 197 while the Severus and Albinus fought in Gaul, the northern defenses were overrun by the Caledonians and the Maetae as far as York, while the Brigantes revolted as well in Wales. The northern defenses were so badly damaged that later generations believed Severus responsible for the original construction of the wall, so extensive were the repairs made during his reign. More importantly, he divided the province in two, a move designed to reduce the number of legions available to future usurpers. Caracalla went on to bestow universal citizenship to the empire, albeit to increase his tax base , and furthered the process of Romanization in the province.

Sometime in the early third century, Saxon pirates from Frisia began raiding the southern coast: the classis Britannica, or channel fleet, based out Richborough and then Dover , seems to have been ineffective at stopping the raids. The Romans responded by gradually building a series of forts along channel, which became known as the Saxon Shore. Based on an inscription found at Regulbium in Kent, the fort there was likely constructed in the 220’s. Around 287 Carausius, commander of the Saxon Shore, (who may or not have been involved in a conspiracy and a kickback scheme with these very same Saxon pirates), rebelled against Maximian upon learning of his impending
liquidation and formed his own empire in Britain and along the Gallic coast until his assassination in 293. His coins, minted from good silver demonstrate both the prosperity of the province, and with such inscriptions as ‘Carausius and his Brethren’ ‘The Peace of the Three Emperors’ his desire for official recognition and restored relations with Maximiam and Diocletian.

After the province was finally restored to official Roman rule by the caesari Constantius in 296, it was further reorganized by Diocletian , who sub-divided the province into four diocese: Britannia Prima (Cirenchester), Britannia Secunda (York), Maxima Caesariensis (London), and Flavia Caesariensis (Lincoln). Diocletian also separated civil and military authority in his governmental reforms; the diocese were civil units run by governors known as praesides, who had civil but no military authority and were under the civil command of officials known as vicars (vicarius), while the army was under the
command of separate officials known as duces (or duke) as well as officials known as comes (or count). Under the reign of Diocletian the civil service was greatly expanded. This was part of an overall scheme by Diocletian to re-enfranchise the elite, who had during the Principate controlled the municipalities, but in the Dominate were invited to join the newly expanded imperial bureaucracy. This “transferred (elite) competition to a plane above that of the individual city and gave those participating more extensive opportunities for progress and prestige than those available in the municipalities.” Along with this, the legal burden upon public officials of financing urban projects and their accountability for tax shortfalls made civic duty unpalatable all over the Empire; many aristocrats retreated to their rural quarters, and the number of villas increased at the expense of the Public Towns in Britain . Hence the new system removed the motivational factors which had caused the provincial cites to flourish in the Principate and laid the seeds for their decline in the Late Empire. Diocletian hence saved the Roman Empire from a downward spiral of warfare and invasion which, if allowed to continue, would have spelled an early end for the Roman Empire. Moreover, in his method of doing so Diocletian laid the foundations for medieval European institution of manorialism, while postponing the fall of the Roman Empire (in the West) for another two centuries.

Roman authority in Britain collapsed in the early fifth century as a result of the incursions of barbarian invaders in the western empire. Britain itself was subject to several invasions, rebellions and usurpations of Roman authority in the fourth and early fifth century, the last one resulting in the end of Roman power in Britain. The problems of the fourth century began in 343, when several outposts along the northern frontier were attacked and the Emperor Constans responded personally, even crossing the channel in the wintertime of that year to head off a possible invasion of Picts (Caledonians and other northern tribes) and Scots, and to reorganize the frontier scouts. Constans built the fort at Pevensey along the south-eastern coast, in addition to those already extant along the Saxon Shore, and the office of the Count of the Saxon Shore is believed to have been instituted by this time, if not earlier. Historical accounts describe an assault across the northern frontier in 367 that ravaged the province until Count Theodosius quelled it in 369, although archaeological evidence for these attacks ranges from slight to none at all.

A fifth province Valentia, was created nonetheless after this invasion, likely carved out of Britannia Secunda, whose capital lie at Eboracum. The Wall was attacked again in 382, and was repelled by Dux Britanniarium Magnus Maximus. His men then elected him emperor; he crossed over to Gaul with an army, where he overthrew the emperor Gratian and ruled the western provinces until 388. The removal of Legio XX from Chester had laid the western section of the province vulnerable to attacks from Irish tribes, who began arriving shortly thereafter. In 396-8, Honorius’ regent Stillicho responded to sea borne assaults along the Saxon Shore, restoring some semblance of security by 399, but in 401 he removed even more of Britain’s depleted garrison for a war against Alaric.

The last payment of coins arrived in 402. Four years later, the unpaid British garrison rebelled, worried, according to the historian Zosimus that the barbarians pillaging Gaul would cross the channel and invade Britain. The soldiers chose three leaders in short succession. The first, Marcus (who may have been Count of Britain) was assassinated almost immediately; the second, Gratian, was a municeps tyrannus, an urban aristocrat; he too, was assassinated. The third, one Constantine, was a soldier with a lucky name: the original Constantine was only successful usurper of all the British generals who had attempted to seize the purple, and exactly 100 years after the fact to boot. In 407 Constantine preemptively struck across the channel to head off the barbarian invasion from Gaul, and most importantly with him went the last of the Roman troops left in Britain. By 409, Honorius acknowledged Constantine’s success in Gaul and Spain and “sent Constantine the imperial apparel;” ultimately Constantine was betrayed by both his British magister militum who rebelled in Spain and the barbarians whom he had settled in Gaul, and he was captured and executed by Honorius in 411 . Meanwhile a barbarian
invasion of Britain apparently was repelled by the natives in 408, since there was no longer any Roman troops left there, excepting the possibility of small bodies of regular troops garrisoned in the walled towns. In 410 Honorius “wrote letters to the cities in Britain bidding them to take precautions on their own behalf.” This letter has been interpreted as either recognizing the fact that Britain was now free of imperial obligations and protection, or, since it was technically illegal for citizens to bear arms, Honorius may have merely been authorizing ex post facto the breach of the lex Julia de vi publica which had been committed in 408. Whatever the intent of Honorius or the rebels in Britain, “probably all parties would have been surprised to learn that the revolt permanently severed Britain from the rest of the empire.”

There are few historical accounts that refer to Britain after this time, but from these, particularly the ‘Life of St. Germanus’ and the ‘Life of St. Patrick,’ indicates that a continuation of some form of Romanitas continued through the first few decades of the fifth century, as each refers to Roman officials and organizations surviving as late as 430. Thereafter the sources become increasingly obscure in regard to actual events in Britain, and historical interpretations become increasingly difficult to test against any real evidence. While historians most no longer subscribe to a single massive Saxon invasion which swept violently away the vestiges of civilized life, the essential fact is that Saxons had no use for towns, and did not develop the institution in those areas they settled until later medieval times. It is the overall consensus that the eastern lowlands, those parts of Britain first invaded by the Romans and earliest regions to be Romanized, came under the pale of the Anglo-Saxons by AD 500, and that by 600 most of Britain had succumbed, except for the north-west, Wales and parts of the Pennines, and the Dumnonian peninsula.


Christopher Snyder

"Sub-Roman Britain" is a label applied by specialists to Britannia in the fifth and sixth centuries AD. Geographically, Britannia is that territory south of the Forth-Clyde line that was part of the Roman Empire from AD 43 to 410. Gaining their independence from Rome, the sub-Roman Britons created a culture that was a unique hybrid of Roman, native "Celtic," and Christian elements. These first two centuries of the Early Middle Ages also gave birth to medieval kingdoms that would become England, Scotland, and Wales. Vibrant yet enigmatic, the sub-Roman period came to an end with the expansion of the Anglo-Saxons westward in the late sixth century and the establishment of a Roman ecclesiastical mission in Kent in 597.

This period has become more popularly known as the Age of Arthur. Both King Arthur and Merlin are associated with these two centuries, Arthur as a warleader battling the Saxon invaders and Merlin as a British bard with prophetic gifts. Modern quests for the historical Arthur (e.g. Alcock 1971; Morris 1973; Ashe 1985) and Merlin (Tolstoy 1985) have increased popular interest in the period, but have convinced few historians (Dumville 1977; Snyder 1998; Higham 2002). Indeed, the limitations of both the historical and archaeological evidence have made it difficult to discuss any person, place, or event in sub-Roman Britain with confidence, leaving us with cautious and colorless models that admittedly lack the appeal of Arthurian romance (Thomas 1981, 245-53). Historians, it has recently been declared, can as yet say little of value about King Arthur (Charles-Edwards 1991).

Historians can, however, say much of value about the fifth and sixth centuries, the period in which either Arthur or his legend was born. To do this we should eventually discard the label "sub-Roman," first used by archaeologists to describe fifth-century pottery that had "degenerated" from Roman forms. To say that sub-Roman Britain was simply "Roman Britain in decay" is to overlook both its achievements (monasticism, penitentials) and the continuity with its Roman (Latin education, Mediterranean trade) and Celtic (La Tène jewelry, the bardic tradition) past. Accessing the culture of the sub-Roman Britons, however, means dealing with three often difficult types of evidence: literary, epigraphic, and archaeological.

Read the rest of Chris Snyder's article, where he discusses written sources, inscriptions and archaeological sources, here.

More on Sub-Roman Britain

Perhaps the most ambitious attempt to demonstrate continuity between Roman and medieval institutions was the 1989 Cambridge doctoral thesis of Kenneth Dark, which was eventually published in 1994 . The basic thesis is that Roman Britain did not end in the fifth century, but rather in the seventh. While noting that major Roman towns are “big places” while “most excavations are small,” and hence not very representative for any kind meaningful statistical analysis, he makes a case for the pervasiveness of ‘dark earth’ at many sites as representative of an occupation level during the very time that the general consensus has been one of urban decline and abandonment. Microscopic soil analysis of the ‘dark earth’ layer suggests to Dark the remains of wattle and daub, domestic and industrial debris, rather than desertion of the site. To clarify, he points out that while many forts were abandoned, there is no layer of ‘dark earth’ present at these clearly deserted sites. Meanwhile ‘dark earth’ is a major component of strata in London dated to as early as the late second century. Why would the Romans designate an abandoned city as the capital of a Roman province (and later capital of a diocese) or build extensive walls around “a deserted and derelict town?”

After this, Dark describes the “four general stages” in the development of Roman towns in the first millennium AD:

Stage 1: The Classical city (defined as “an expression of Mediterranean classical urbanism,” replete with fora/basilica, baths, classical temples Roman-style urban government, market functions and “dependance on an agricultural hinterland.”

Stage 2: The Late Antique town (defined as having a larger and lower status population, walls, military presence, suburbs, and both temples and churches, with an economy less dependent of markets and more on industrial functions.

Stage 3: The Polyfocal Administrative Center (defined as consisting only of elite residences and religious buildings, lacking any productive role or significant center of population.)

Stage 4: The Medieval Town (defined as ranging in size “from a large population concentration with mercantile and administrative functions to a small agricultural village… distinguished by succeeding a stage 3 site but lacking the characteristics of stage 1.”)

Through these stages, Dark asserts, the foci of medieval towns arise, and is the means which enabled the “survival of important locations from Antiquity to the Middle Ages, alongside the survival of the urban community overall.” However, the examples he uses to provide as proof of this continuity are often the same ones that others had also identified as possible sites of urban continuity, but who cautiously declare that there is not enough evidence yet to generalize a regional continuity. At any rate, Dark makes the most of a tremendous range of historical and archaeological and theoretical evidence from Britain and other parts of the Empire to make his case. He identifies a potential connection between the re-occupation of hill-fort sites and a possible continuity of LPRIA dynasties with sub-Roman kings; and in addition to this, because the Romans had utilized tribal boundaries in their establishment of the civitates, Dark contends that
the western civitates essentially survive through the sub-Roman period. Vestiges of Romanitas are much less than those in Gaul but are still present. Some of this is based on manuscript production, where Latin continues on as the language of scholarship, along with his theory that fourth century Roman coins continued to circulate in sub-Roman Britain throughout the fifth century, based on the fact that similar obsolete coins are believed to have been in circulation in the Balkans. The hill-forts are maintained to have relocated the economic and defensive function of near-by and now defunct small-towns. Dark also makes a case for continuity with the Roman past via claims of long-range contact between Constantinople and the western British sub-Roman kingdoms based on the discovery of Byzantine pottery sherds and references to Britain by the Byzantine historian Procopius. It is a period of transition, with elements of the medieval combined with urbane traditions that connect the sub-Roman to the Roman past:

“A sixth century British king might be educated in the Late Antique fashion, read sophisticated Latin texts, converse (presumably in Latin) with merchants from Constantinople, and participate in Christian life; but these were also leaders of warriors, riding out from their hill-forts against their neighboring rulers.”
Dark then connects sub-Roman Britain to the origins of Wales as well as Cornwall between 600-800, and concludes with

"...the same view as historian James Campbell, that the final conquest of Llewellyn, prince of Gwynedd, by Edward I in 1282 marked the end of 900 year struggle between the Anglo-Saxons and the “last piece of the Roman Empire in the West which was still in the hands of the race which had inhabited it before the Romans came.”

Kenneth Dark's book derived from his doctoral thesis is Civitas to Kingdom: British Political Continuity 300-800 (Studies in the Early History of Britain).

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Britons vs Romans: 47 BC - 61 BC

Part 1
Maiden Castle: The Romans vs the Durotriges

Video: Maiden Castle. Dorset

The largest and most famous pre-Roman fortress in Britain. The site is nearly 100 acres in size, with banks as high as 80 feet enclosing a hill-top site of some 45 acres. It was inhabited as early as the Bronze Age, but most of the visible ramparts were erected in the 1st century BC. In 43 AD the Romans besieged the "castle". The defenders huge store of some 40,000 sling stones proved useless against the Roman's leather shields, and the site fell to the invaders. A mass grave of defenders who died in the assault was found in 1937 near the eastern entrance. A site worth seeing.

Archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler excavated Maiden Castle between 1934 and 1937. He published a report of his findings in 1943 that included this narrative of the siege of Maiden Castle and the defeat of the Durotriges.

And so we reach the Roman invasion of A. D. 43. That part of the army of conquest wherewith we are concerned in Dorset had as its nucleus the Second Augustan Legion, whose commander, at any rate in the earlier campaigns, was the future Emperor Vespasian Precisely how soon the invaders reached Maiden Castle can only be guessed, but by A. D. 47 the Roman arms had reached the Severn, and Dorset must already have been overrun. Suetonius affirms that Vespasian reduced “two very formidable tribes and over twenty towns (oppida), together with the Isle of Wight,” and it cannot be doubted that, whether or no the Durotriges (as is likely enough) were one of the tribes in question, the conquest of the Wessex hill-fort system is implied in the general statement. Nor is it improbable that, with the hints provided by the mention of the Isle of Wight and by the archaeological evidence for the subsequent presence of the Second Legion near Seaton in eastern Devon, a main line of advance lay through Dorset roughly along the route subsequently followed by the Roman road to Exeter. From that road today the traveller regards the terraced ramparts of the western entrance of Maiden Castle; and it requires no great effort of the imagination to conjure up the ghost of Vespasian himself, here confronted with the greatest of his “twenty towns.” Indeed, something less than imagination is now required to reconstruct the main sequence of events at the storming of Maiden Castle, for the excavation of the eastern entrance has yielded tangible evidence of it. With only a little amplification it may be reconstructed as follows.

Approaching from the direction of the Isle of Wight, Vespasian’s legion may be supposed to have crossed the River Frome at the only easy crossing hereabouts-where Roman and modern Dorchester were subsequently to come into being. Before the advancing troops, some 2 miles away, the sevenfold ramparts of the western gates of Dunium towered above the cornfields which probably swept, like their modern successors, up to the fringe of the defenses. Whether any sort of assault was attempted upon these gates we do not at present know; their excessive strength makes it more likely that, leaving a guard upon them, Vespasian moved his main attack to the somewhat less formidable eastern end. What happened there is plain to read. First, the regiment of artillery, which normally accompanied a legion on campaign, was ordered into action, and put down a barrage of iron-shod ballista-arrows over the eastern part of the site. Following this barrage, the infantry advanced up the slope, cutting its way from rampart to rampart, tower to tower. In the innermost bay of the entrance, close outside the actual gates, a number of huts had recently been built; these were now set alight, and under the rising clouds of smoke the gates were stormed and the position carried. But resistance had been obstinate and the fury of the attackers was roused. For a space, confusion and massacre dominated the scene. Men and women, young and old, were savagely cut down, before the legionaries were called to heel and the work of systematic destruction began. That work included the uprooting of some at least of the timbers which revetted the fighting-platform on the summit of the main rampart; but above all it consisted of the demolition of the gates and the overthrow of the high stone walls which flanked the two portals. The walls were now reduced to the lowly and ruinous state in which they were discovered by the excavator nearly nineteen centuries later.

That night, when the fires of the legion shone out (we may imagine) in orderly lines across the valley, the survivors crept forth from their broken stronghold and, in the darkness, buried their dead as nearly as might be outside their tumbled gates, in that place where the ashes of their burned huts lay warm and thick upon the ground. The task was carried out anxiously and hastily and without order, but, even so, from few graves were omitted those tributes of food and drink which were the proper and traditional perquisites of the dead. At daylight on the morrow, the legion moved westward to fresh conquest, doubtless taking with it the usual levy of hostages from the vanquished.

Thereafter, salving what they could of their crops and herds, the disarmed townsfolk made shift to put their house in order. Forbidden to refortify their gates, they built new roadways across the sprawling ruins, between gateless ramparts that were already fast assuming the blunted profiles that are theirs today. And so, for some two decades, a demilitarized Maiden Castle retained its inhabitants, or at least a nucleus of them. Just so long did it take the Roman authorities to adjust the old order to the new, to prepare new towns for old. And then finally, on some day towards the close of the sixties of the century, the town was ceremonially abandoned, its remaining walls were formally “slighted,” and Maiden Castle lapsed into the landscape among the farm-lands of Roman Dorchester.

So much for the story; now for its basis. First, scattered over the eastern end of Maiden Castle, mostly in and about the eastern entrance and always at the same Romano-Belgic level, were found upwards of a dozen iron arrowheads of two types: a type with a pyramidal point, and the simple flat- bladed type with turn-over socket. Arrowheads occurred at no other Iron Age level, but both types are common on Roman military sites where ballistae but not hand-bows are to be inferred. There, then, in the relatively small area uncovered, are the vestiges of the bombardment.

Secondly, the half-moon bay which represents the Iron Age B adaptation of the Iron Age A barbican, close outside the portals of the eastern entrance, was covered with a thick layer of ash associated with the postholes of three or more circular or roundish huts. In and immediately below this ash were quantities of late Belgic or “Belgicizing” pottery. In the surface of the ash was similar pottery with scraps of pre-Flavian Samian. There are the burned Belgic huts, covered by the trodden vestiges of the continued post-conquest occupation for which more tangible evidence will be offered shortly.

Thirdly, into this ash a series of graves had been roughly cut, with no regularity either of outline or of orientation, and into them had been thrown, in all manner of attitudes — crouched, extended, on the back, on the side, on the face, even sitting up — thirty-eight skeletons of men and women, young and old; sometimes two persons were huddled together in the same grave. In ten cases extensive cuts were present on the skull, some on the top, some on the front, some on the back. In another case, one of the arrowheads already described was found actually embedded in the vertebra, having entered the body from the front below the heart. The victim had been finished off with a cut on the head. Yet another skull had been pierced by an implement of square section, probably a ballista bolt. The last two and some of the sword-cuts were doubtless battle wounds; but one skull, which had received no less than nine savage cuts, suggests the fury of massacre rather than the tumult of battle — a man does not stay to kill his enemy eight or nine times in the melee; and the neck of another skeleton had been dislocated, probably by hanging. Nevertheless, the dead had been buried by their friends, for most of them were accompanied by bowls or, in one case, a mug for the traditional food and drink. More notable, in two cases the dead held joints of lamb in their hands joints chosen carefully as young and succulent. Many of the dead still wore their gear: armlets of iron or shale, an iron finger-ring, and in three cases bronze toe- rings, representing a custom not previously, it seems, observed in prehistoric Britain but reminiscent of the Moslem habit of wearing toe-rings as ornaments or as preventives or cures of disease. One man lay in a double grave with an iron battle-axe, a knife and, strangely, a bronze ear-pick across his chest. The whole war cemetery as it lay exposed before us was eloquent of mingled piety and distraction; of weariness, of dread, of darkness, but yet not of complete forgetfulness.

The date of the cemetery was indicated by a variety of evidence. Most obvious is the Roman arrowhead embedded in the vertebra, but other associated relics point to the same conclusion. The seventeen pots put into the graves at the time of burial are all of that Wessex “Romano-Belgic overlap” class which has long been recognized at Jordan Hill, Weymouth, and elsewhere. The gear with one of the skeletons included, as has been remarked above, a Roman ear-scoop,” the use of which may or may not have been understood more clearly by its Belgic possessor than by the modern antiquary; at least it implies Roman contacts which, in Wessex, appear not long to have anticipated the Roman Conquest. One grave, moreover, contained a late British coin, and though it was impossible to say safely whether the coin was inserted at the interment or was incorporated in the loose ash into which the grave was cut, at least it was dropped within a very short time of the event. And finally, the materials included in the strata which “bracket” the cemetery are themselves, as noted above, sufficient to indicate a date at the end of the pre-Conquest period.

There, then, is the climax of the more human side of the story of conquest. But on the structural side the evidence for that event and for its sequel is no less vivid. On the topmost Belgic road-metal, in both portals of the eastern entrance but particularly in the southern, excavation revealed the tumbled stones from the massive walls that had formerly flanked the entrances. Here and there the fallen stones lay overlapping, like a collapsed pack of cards, in the sequence in which they had formerly stood as a vertical wall. With them was no cascade of rampart-earth such as might have implied a fall through subsidence, even could one presuppose the coincidence of the simultaneous fall of every part of the structure; the walls had been deliberately pulled down and no attempt had been made to replace them. But that was not all. Over the debris in each portal a new road had been built, metalled like the Belgic roads now buried beneath them. The new roads partially covered the surviving bases of the flanking walls, showing that the condition of these today is identical with their condition at the time of the road-building and confirming the permanence of the structural ruin. No provision of any kind was made in the new scheme for a gate; not a single post-hole was associated with the new road, and indeed the mutilated rampart-ends would have provided a poor setting for a fixed barrier. The implications of all this are evident. The entrance had been systematically “slighted’ and its military value reduced permanently to a minimum; but traffic through it did not cease, no interval occurred in the continuity of the occupation.

The picture is now complete in outline. Disarmed at the Roman Conquest, Maiden Castle remained in use for about a quarter of a century after the invasion, a pre-Roman city still in all essentials, partaking only a little of the cultural equipment of its conquerors. The picture is a reasonable and convincing one. The first generation of Roman rule was preoccupied with the subjugation of the difficult hill-countries of the north and west, with the development of mining areas, the planning of arterial roads, the founding or development of those few towns which had an immediate military or commercial function. Dorset offered, it is true, iron ore on a modest scale; but between Sussex and the Mendips there was little mineral wealth to attract the Roman prospector in the first flush of conquest. Wessex could wait. There was no urgent need to upset the traditional economic basis of the urbanized peasantry which crowded the downlands. To do so would have been to court added political difficulties at a time when difficulties were already manifold. It was better that, under surveillance, the Wessex farmers should for a time (and doubtless in return for the periodical payment of just or unjust dues) be allowed to maintain themselves in the fashion which they knew. The removal or, alternatively, the ennoblement of their rulers would rob them of independent leadership. A few police patrols would do the rest.

Ref: Wheeler, R. E. M. 1943. Maiden Castle, Dorset. Oxford: printed at the University Press by J. Johnson for the Society of Antiquaries.
Link to this excerpt: CLIO History Journal - The Siege of Mai Dun

Part 2
Boudica's Rebellion: The Romans vs the Iceni and Trinovantes

In AD 60, two British tribes revolted against the heavy-handed rule of the Roman Empire under Nero and his provincial procurator Catus Decianus. The Iceni and the Trinovantes combined their forces and burned three Roman settlements, the colony of Camulodunum (Colchester),Londinium (London) and Verulamium (St Albans) and killed an estimated 80,000 settlers. The leader of the rebellion, Queen Boudica of the Iceni, has become a folk hero despite her ultimate defeat in the Battle of Watling Street by the Roman governor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus.

Below is a video of the rebellion and the final confrontation from the series Decisive Battles, which uses "video game technology" to recreate "the view the generals wished they'd had." With this defeat, southern Britain was finally pacified by the Roman occupation.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Posting Comments

In response to the news today that students are having problems commenting to this blog, I attempted to make a comment to the "Council for British Archaeology Research Reports" post. At first the site asked me to sign in, so I used my 'WRICHS archivist' Gmail account, and it looked as if I was about to successfully post a comment when a little triangle with an exclamation point appeared with the words
Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.
I signed back in using the Gmail account with which I created this blog and changed the settings for comments, and I am no longer requiring "members only" to make comments. I think that after looking at all the options, the easiest way to go is to open it up to comments from anyone; otherwise some of you might be restricted from participating if you don't have an OpenID, Google or Twitter account. I also set the blog comments to allow me to moderate the comments after they have been posted, not before. This way, you will be able to comment and converse with each other without waiting for me to "moderate" them(i.e., review comments before they they are posted).

However, experience on other blogs and web forums suggests that "spammers" and "trolls" will eventually find this opportunity to promote whatever product they are selling or make inappropriate comments. I think this is a compromise I am willing to risk in the interest of the free exchange of speech and ideas; if a spam problem arises I can always change it back to allow 100% moderation. And please don't feed the trolls, should any appear.

The only "hoop" still in place is that you are required to complete a word verification before leaving a comment, but at least bots (computer programs that go on the web and post "spam") won't be able to spam up our comments. I also ask that if you do comment, please sign your posts (with either your first and last name or with your email address), just to make certain only students from class are posting comments.

Finally, I am considering offering this course again, perhaps in the Spring, as a six-week course. Whether I do that or not depends entirely on if OLLI has room in its in schedule and if the public history & civics ed. grants I am applying for go through. If they are all funded, I probably won't have time. But getting grant funding is p. tough, and it is more likely that most or all won't get approved, in which case I will have the time to teach this class in an extended format. And regardless of that, I have very much enjoyed 'dusting off' my Roman history chops for this "Brief HIstory of Roman History" class, and appreciate all the positive feedback I have received.

I will be posting some more "History of Roman Britain" content here for your perusal between now and next class.

Mark Gardner

Monday, August 12, 2013

Hoards of Ancient Britain

Hoards are collections of objects or materials that were buried, usually with the intention of returning to dig them back up, but not always -- some hoards are buried as part of a ritual. Hoards can include gold, silver, or bronze objects, coins, tools, ceramics, glass; even organic materials such as textiles or animal remains. There are several classification of hoards that have been identified by archaeologists and treasure-hunters:

Personal hoards are collections of personal belongings buried in times of unrest. Most were probably buried with the intention by their owners to recover them at a later time.

Merchant's hoards are collections of objects which appear to have been buried by a traveling merchant who at some point feared for either his safety or the security of his inventory. Most were probably buried with the intention by their owners to recover them at a later time.

Founder's hoards are metal objects, ingots, castings and waste, even finished objects buried by a 'worker of metals,' such as a smith or foundryman. Most were probably buried with the intention by their owners to recover them at a later time.

Hoards of loot are the archetype of buried treasure, collections of objects where robbers, thieves or pirates have buried their ill-gotten gains. Most were probably buried with the intention by their owners to recover them at a later time using a treasure map where "X marks the spot."

Even during the Pax Romana, rebellions and warfare with the tribes from Scotland and later from Saxon raiders took place frequently enough that both Britons and Romans at times found their security to be in question, and opted to bury their valuables and try to come back for them later. Here are some extensive (though not definitive) lists of Iron Age hoards and Roman-era hoards in ancient Britain. Over 660 hoards are known from Britain containing coins just from the period AD 253-96. The number of hoards suggests that life in the LPRIA and during the Roman occupation was fraught with insecurity and violence.

Votive hoards are different from these other collections of buried objects. In a votive context the objects were buried with the intent to abandon them permanently, usually for ritual purposes, and the owners have no intent to recover them later. Certain clues can indicate that a hoard had votive intent - bones of sacrifices mixed in with the objects or the location of the hoard near water (Celtic peoples regarded water zones such as bogs and springs as a sacred places). Sometimes votive offerings were ritually destroyed/broken before being buried.

Example of a votive offering: the Frome Hoard

The Frome Hoard is a hoard of 52,503 Roman coins dating from c. AD 305, found tightly packed in a clay pot. It is the largest coin hoard to have been found in a single container. The hoard has been valued at £320,250.

According to the Frome Hoard website it was discovered by metal detectorist David Crisp, whose

quick thinking...meant that the Frome hoard was not disturbed upon its initial discovery. This crucial action has allowed for a systematic study of the hoard beginning with its archaeological excavation. As the pot was excavated the ceramic sherds and coins were removed in layers. Each layer was carefully numbered and individually packaged. The British Museum received the hoard in around 60 bags, there being several bags from each layer of the pot. It was hoped that by excavating the hoard in layers it would reveal clues as to why and how the hoard was collected and deposited. These context layers formed a framework for organising the coins and retaining essential deposition information. Having reliable contextual information can help us answer questions like:

• Were all the coins put in the pot at the same time?

Because the latest coins, of Carausius, are in the middle of the pot this does seem to be the case.

• Did the coins come from a variety of different individuals or sources?

The answer seems to be yes because there are two distinct groups with coins of Carausius in them: a number of earlier Carausian coins were in the last group to be put in the hoard, at the top of the pot, while a large number of later Carausian coins were in a group in the middle of the pot.

• How many different groups (smaller pots, leather bags etc) were emptied into the hoard?

We hope that by analysing all the coins, by layer and bag once they have been catalogued, we will gain an insight into how many different groups of coins were in the hoard.

For more information on the conservation methods being used to restore the coins and the efforts to exibit this extraodinary discovery, visit the Frome Hoard website.Especially check out the time-lapse video of the excavation of the hoard from its burial site!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Homework: Caesar's Gallic Wars

Excerpts from Book 4 - The Gallic Wars

By Julius Caesar
Translated by W. A. McDevitte and W. S. Bohn

Synopsis: In the spring of 55 BC two Germanic tribes crossed the Rhine into Celtic Gaul, supposedly to escape the Suebi, a Germanic tribe with a fierce reputation. Caesar used this incident to move his legions into the Rhine borderlands. After agreeing to a truce, the Germans unexpectedly attacked the Romans. In response to Germanic duplicity, when Germanic leaders and elders arrived in the Roman camp to negotiate for terms of peace, Caesar imprisoned them. Caesar then scattered the remaining Germans. Caesar then decided to take his legions into Germania. Roman engineers constructed a wooden bridge across the Rhine, and for 18 days the Romans burned abandoned villages and fields while avoiding a large Germanic force that was assembling to do battle with them. After this show of force, Caesar and his legions returned to Gaul, pulling the bridge down after them.

Caesar then invaded Britain to punish the Celts there for aiding rebellions among the Gauls. Although the ships carrying the Roman infantry succeeded in crossing the English Channel, the cavalry did not. The Britons were waiting in force and attacked the Romans as they disembarked, but they were routed by the Roman infantry. The Britons submitted to the Romans and dispersed. However, a storm damaged Caesar’s fleet; the Romans were stranded and lacked sufficient provisions. The Britons attacked the Romans again and caught them off guard, but the legions recovered and drove the Britons inland yet again. When the Romans were finally able to cross back over to the Channel to Gaul, they were attacked by the warriors of the Morini tribe, who were defeated by the Roman, and Caesar established his winter quarters. When Caesar’s exploits were reported back in Rome, the Senate rewarded him with unprecedented twenty-day long thanksgiving.

Group 1: summarize each paragraph (chapter) below in your assigned section in a single sentence.

Guiding Question: What can we learn about the Germans or the Britons from the these readings? Make a list of what you find.

Chapter 16

The German war being finished, Caesar thought it expedient for him to cross the Rhine, for many reasons; of which this was the most weighty, that, since he saw the Germans were so easily urged to go into Gaul, he desired they should have their fears for their own territories, when they discovered that the army of the Roman people both could and dared pass the Rhine…

Chapter 17

Caesar, for those reasons which I have mentioned, had resolved to cross the Rhine; but to cross by ships he neither deemed to be sufficiently safe, nor considered consistent with his own dignity or that of the Roman people. Therefore, although the greatest difficulty in forming a bridge was presented to him, on account of the breadth, rapidity, and depth of the river, he nevertheless considered that it ought to be attempted by him, or that his army ought not otherwise to be led over. He devised this plan of a bridge. He joined together at the distance of two feet, two piles, each a foot and a half thick, sharpened a little at the lower end, and proportioned in length, to the depth of the river. After he had, by means of engines, sunk these into the river, and fixed them at the bottom, and then driven them in with rammers, not quite perpendicularly, dike a stake, but bending forward and sloping, so as to incline in the direction of the current of the river; he also placed two [other piles] opposite to these, at the distance of forty feet lower down, fastened together in the same manner, but directed against the force and current of the river. Both these, moreover, were kept firmly apart by beams two feet thick (the space which the binding of the piles occupied), laid in at their extremities between two braces on each side, and in consequence of these being in different directions and fastened on sides the one opposite to the other, so great was the strength of the work, and such the arrangement of the materials, that in proportion as the greater body of water dashed against the bridge, so much the closer were its parts held fastened together. These beams were bound together by timber laid over them, in the direction of the length of the bridge, and were [then] covered over with laths and hurdles; and in addition to this, piles were driven into the water obliquely, at the lower side of the bridge, and these, serving as buttresses, and being connected with every portion of the work, sustained the force of the stream: and there were others also above the bridge, at a moderate distance; that if trunks of trees or vessels were floated down the river by the barbarians for the purpose of destroying the work, the violence of such things might be diminished by these defenses, and might not injure the bridge.

Chapter 18

Within ten days after the timber began to be collected, the whole work was completed, and the whole army led over. Caesar, leaving a strong guard at each end of the bridge, hastens into the territories of the Sigambri. In the mean time, embassadors from several nations come to him, whom, on their suing for peace and alliance, he answers in a courteous manner, and orders hostages to be brought to him. But the Sigambri, at the very time the bridge was begun to be built, made preparations for a flight (by the advice of such of the Tenchtheri and Usipetes as they had among them), and quitted their territories, and conveyed away all their possessions, and concealed themselves in deserts and woods.

Chapter 19

Caesar, having remained in their territories a few days, and burned all their villages and houses, and cut down their corn, proceeded into the territories of the Ubii; and having promised them his assistance, if they were ever harassed by the Suevi, he learned from them these particulars: that the Suevi, after they had by means of their scouts found that the bridge was being built, had called a council, according to their custom, and sent orders to all parts of their state to remove from the towns and convey their children, wives, and all their possessions into the woods, and that all who could bear arms should assemble in one place; that the place thus chosen was nearly the centre of those regions which the Suevi possessed; that in this spot they had resolved to await the arrival of the Romans, and give them battle there. When Caesar discovered this, having already accomplished all these things on account of which he had resolved to lead his army over, namely, to strike fear into the Germans, take vengeance on the Sigambri, and free the Ubii from the invasion of the Suevi, having spent altogether eighteen days beyond the Rhine, and thinking he had advanced far enough to serve both honor and interest, he returned into Gaul, and cut down the bridge.

Group 2: summarize each paragraph (chapter) below in your assigned section in a single sentence.

Guiding Question: What can we learn about the Germans or the Britons from the these readings? Make a list of what you find.

Chapter 20

During the short part of summer which remained, Caesar, although in these countries, as all Gaul lies toward the north, the winters are early, nevertheless resolved to proceed into Britain, because he discovered that in almost all the wars with the Gauls succors had been furnished to our enemy from that country; and even if the time of year should be insufficient for carrying on the war, yet he thought it would be of great service to him if he only entered the island, and saw into the character of the people, and got knowledge of their localities, harbors, and landing-places, all which were for the most part unknown to the Gauls. For neither does any one except merchants generally go thither, nor even to them was any portion of it known, except the sea-coast and those parts which are opposite to Gaul. Therefore, after having called up to him the merchants from all parts, he could learn neither what was the size of the island, nor what or how numerous were the nations which inhabited it, nor what system of war they followed, nor what customs they used, nor what harbors were convenient for a great number of large ships.

Chapter 21

He sends before him Caius Volusenus with a ship of war, to acquire a knowledge of these particulars before he in person should make a descent into the island, as he was convinced that this was a judicious measure… In the mean time, [Caesar’s] purpose having been discovered, and reported to the Britons by merchants, embassadors come to him from several states of the island, to promise that they will give hostages, and submit to the government of the Roman people. Having given them an audience, he…sends them back to their own country, and [dispatches] with them Commius, whom…[Caesar] had created king there, a man whose courage and conduct he esteemed, and who he thought would be faithful to him, and whose influence ranked highly in those countries…Volusenus, having viewed the localities as far as means could be afforded one who dared not leave his ship and trust himself to barbarians, returns to Caesar on the fifth day, and reports what he had there observed.

Chapter 22

…Having collected together, and provided about eighty transport ships, as many as he thought necessary for conveying over two legions… There were in addition to these eighteen ships of burden which were prevented, eight miles from that place, by winds, from being able to reach the same port… He ordered P. Sulpicius Rufus, his lieutenant, to hold possession of the harbor, with such a garrison as he thought sufficient. Chapter 23 These matters being arranged, finding the weather favorable for his voyage, he set sail about the third watch, and ordered the horse to march forward to the further port, and there embark and follow him. As this was performed rather tardily by them, he himself reached Britain with the first squadron of ships, about the fourth hour of the day, and there saw the forces of the enemy drawn up in arms on all the hills. The nature of the place was this: the sea was confined by mountains so close to it that a dart could be thrown from their summit upon the shore. Considering this by no means a fit place for disembarking, he remained at anchor till the ninth hour, for the other ships to arrive there…meeting both with wind and tide favorable at the same time, the signal being given and the anchor weighed, he advanced about seven miles from that place, and stationed his fleet over against an open and level shore.

Chapter 24

But the barbarians, upon perceiving the design of the Romans, sent forward their cavalry and charioteers, a class of warriors of whom it is their practice to make great use in their battles, and following with the rest of their forces, endeavored to prevent our men landing. In this was the greatest difficulty, for the following reasons, namely, because our ships, on account of their great size, could be stationed only in deep water; and our soldiers, in places unknown to them, with their hands embarrassed, oppressed with a large and heavy weight of armor, had at the same time to leap from the ships, stand amid the waves, and encounter the enemy; whereas they, either on dry ground, or advancing a little way into the water, free in all their limbs in places thoroughly known to them, could confidently throw their weapons and spur on their horses, which were accustomed to this kind of service. Dismayed by these circumstances and altogether untrained in this mode of battle, our men did not all exert the same vigor and eagerness which they had been wont to exert in engagements on dry ground.

Chapter 25

When Caesar observed this, he ordered the ships of war, the appearance of which was somewhat strange to the barbarians and the motion more ready for service, to be withdrawn a little from the transport vessels, and to be propelled by their oars, and be stationed toward the open flank of the enemy, and the enemy to be beaten off and driven away, with slings, arrows, and engines: which plan was of great service to our men; for the barbarians being startled by the form of our ships and the motions of our oars and the nature of our engines, which was strange to them, stopped, and shortly after retreated a little. And while our men were hesitating [whether they should advance to the shore], chiefly on account of the depth of the sea, he who carried the eagle of the tenth legion, after supplicating the gods that the matter might turn out favorably to the legion, exclaimed, "Leap, fellow soldiers, unless you wish to betray your eagle to the enemy. I, for my part, will perform my duty to the commonwealth and my general." When he had said this with a loud voice, he leaped from the ship and proceeded to bear the eagle toward the enemy. Then our men, exhorting one another that so great a disgrace should not be incurred, all leaped from the ship. When those in the nearest vessels saw them, they speedily followed and approached the enemy.

Chapter 26

The battle was maintained vigorously on both sides. Our men, however, as they could neither keep their ranks, nor get firm footing, nor follow their standards, and as one from one ship and another from another assembled around whatever standards they met, were thrown into great confusion. But the enemy, who were acquainted with all the shallows, when from the shore they saw any coming from a ship one by one, spurred on their horses, and attacked them while embarrassed; many surrounded a few, others threw their weapons upon our collected forces on their exposed flank. When Caesar observed this, he ordered the boats of the ships of war and the spy sloops to be filled with soldiers, and sent them up to the succor of those whom he had observed in distress. Our men, as soon as they made good their footing on dry ground, and all their comrades had joined them, made an attack upon the enemy, and put them to flight, but could not pursue them very far, because the horse had not been able to maintain their course at sea and reach the island. This alone was wanting to Caesar's accustomed success.

Group 3: summarize each paragraph (chapter) below in your assigned section in a single sentence.

Guiding Question: What can we learn about the Germans or the Britons from the these readings? Make a list of what you find.

Chapter 27

The enemy being thus vanquished in battle, as soon as they recovered after their flight, instantly sent embassadors to Caesar to negotiate about peace. They promised to give hostages and perform what he should command. Together with these embassadors came Commius the Altrebatian, who, as I have above said, had been sent by Caesar into Britain. Him they had seized upon when leaving his ship, although in the character of embassador he bore the general's commission to them, and thrown into chains: then after the battle was fought, they sent him back, and in suing for peace cast the blame of that act upon the common people, and entreated that it might be pardoned on account of their indiscretion. Caesar, complaining, that after they had sued for peace, and had voluntarily sent embassadors into the continent for that purpose, they had made war without a reason, said that he would pardon their indiscretion, and imposed hostages, a part of whom they gave immediately; the rest they said they would give in a few days, since they were sent for from remote places. In the mean time they ordered their people to return to the country parts, and the chiefs assembled from all quarter, and proceeded to surrender themselves and their states to Caesar.

Chapter 29

It happened that night to be full moon, which usually occasions very high tides in that ocean; and that circumstance was unknown to our men. Thus, at the same time, the tide began to fill the ships of war which Caesar had provided to convey over his army, and which he had drawn up on the strand; and the storm began to dash the ships of burden which were riding at anchor against each other; nor was any means afforded our men of either managing them or of rendering any service. A great many ships having been wrecked, inasmuch as the rest, having lost their cables, anchors, and other tackling, were unfit for sailing, a great confusion, as would necessarily happen, arose throughout the army; for there were no other ships in which they could be conveyed back, and all things which are of service in repairing vessels were wanting, and, corn for the winter had not been provided in those places, because it was understood by all that they would certainly winter in Gaul.

Chapter 30

On discovering these things the chiefs of Britain, who had come up after the battle was fought to perform those conditions which Caesar had imposed, held a conference, when they perceived that cavalry, and ships, and corn were wanting to the Romans, and discovered the small number of our soldiers from the small extent of the camp (which, too, was on this account more limited than ordinary, because Caesar had conveyed over his legions without baggage), and thought that the best plan was to renew the war, and cut off our men from corn and provisions and protract the affair till winter; because they felt confident, that, if they were vanquished or cut off from a return, no one would afterward pass over into Britain for the purpose of making war. Therefore, again entering into a conspiracy, they began to depart from the camp by degrees and secretly bring up their people from the country parts.

Chapter 33

Their mode of fighting with their chariots is this: firstly, they drive about in all directions and throw their weapons and generally break the ranks of the enemy with the very dread of their horses and the noise of their wheels; and when they have worked themselves in between the troops of horse, leap from their chariots and engage on foot. The charioteers in the mean time withdraw some little distance from the battle, and so place themselves with the chariots that, if their masters are overpowered by the number of the enemy, they may have a ready retreat to their own troops. Thus they display in battle the speed of horse, [together with] the firmness of infantry; and by daily practice and exercise attain to such expertness that they are accustomed, even on a declining and steep place, to check their horses at full speed, and manage and turn them in an instant and run along the pole, and stand on the yoke, and thence betake themselves with the greatest celerity to their chariots again.

Chapter 34

Under these circumstances, our men being dismayed by the novelty of this mode of battle, Caesar most seasonably brought assistance; for upon his arrival the enemy paused, and our men recovered from their fear; upon which thinking the time unfavorable for provoking the enemy and coming to an action, he kept himself in his own quarter, and, a short time having intervened, drew back the legions into the camp. While these things are going on, and all our men engaged, the rest of the Britons, who were in the fields, departed. Storms then set in for several successive days, which both confined our men to the camp and hindered the enemy from attacking us. In the mean time the barbarians dispatched messengers to all parts, and reported to their people the small number of our soldiers, and how good an opportunity was given for obtaining spoil and for liberating themselves forever, if they should only drive the Romans from their camp. Having by these means speedily got together a large force of infantry and of cavalry they came up to the camp.

Chapter 35

Although Caesar anticipated that the same thing which had happened on former occasions would then occur - that, if the enemy were routed, they would escape from danger by their speed; still, having got about thirty horse, which Commius the Atrebatian, of whom mention has been made, had brought over with him [from Gaul], he drew up the legions in order of battle before the camp. When the action commenced, the enemy were unable to sustain the attack of our men long, and turned their backs; our men pursued them as far as their speed and strength permitted, and slew a great number of them; then, having destroyed and burned every thing far and wide, they retreated to their camp.

Chapter 36

The same day, embassadors sent by the enemy came to Caesar to negotiate a peace. Caesar doubled the number of hostages which he had before demanded; and ordered that they should be brought over to the continent, because, since the time of the equinox was near, he did not consider that, with his ships out of repair, the voyage ought to be deferred till winter. Having met with favorable weather, he set sail a little after midnight, and all his fleet arrived safe at the continent, except two of the ships of burden which could not make the same port which the other ships did, and were carried a little lower down.

Chapter 38

…Caesar fixed the winter quarters of all the legions among the Belgae. Thither only two British states sent hostages; the rest omitted to do so. For these successes, a thanksgiving of twenty days was decreed by the senate upon receiving Caesar's letter.

Excerpts from Book 5 - The Gallic Wars

By Julius Caesar
Translated by W. A. McDevitte and W. S. Bohn

Synopsis: Caesar commands that as many boats as possible be prepared during the winter for a campaign against Britain in the Spring. He orders all boats to assemble at Portus Itius (near modern day Boulogne-sur-Mer). The Romans sail to Britain to begin their campaign. There are some skirmishes between the Romans and the Britons, and a storm destroys many of the Roman boats. The British tribes, although previously at war with one another, band together to face the Roman threat with Cassivellaunus as their commander in chief. Caesar discovers the stronghold of Cassivellaunus near the Thames River and routs the Britons there. The Trinovantes, a powerful tribe, offer to become Rome's allies, and several other British tribes follow suit. From these tribes Caesar learns the location of Cassivellaunus and successfully attacks him there. Cassivellaunus orders the tribes in Kent to attack the British ships, but they are defeated. Cassivellaunus surrenders to Caesar, enabling Caesar to quickly return to the continent before winter arrives.

Group 4: summarize each paragraph (chapter) below in your assigned section in a single sentence.

Guiding Question: What can we learn about the Germans or the Britons from the these readings? Make a list of what you find.

Chapter 8

When these things were done [and] Labienus, left on the continent with three legions and 2,000 horse, [Caesar] with five legions and a number of horse, equal to that which he was leaving on the continent, set sail at sun-set…when the sun rose, espied Britain passed on his left. Then, again, following the change of tide, he urged on with the oars that he might make that part of the island in which he had discovered the preceding summer, that there was the best landing-place… All the ships reached Britain nearly at mid-day; nor was there seen a [single] enemy in that place, but, as Caesar afterward found from some prisoners, though large bodies of troops had assembled there, yet being alarmed by the great number of our ships, more than eight hundred of which, including the ships of the preceding year, and those private vessels which each had built for his own convenience, had appeared at one time, they had quitted the coast and concealed themselves among the higher points.

Chapter 9

Caesar, having disembarked his army and chosen a convenient place for the camp, when he discovered from the prisoners in what part the forces of the enemy had lodged themselves, having left ten cohorts and 300 horse at the sea, to be a guard to the ships, hastens to the enemy, at the third watch, fearing the less for the ships, for this reason because he was leaving them fastened at anchor upon an even and open shore; and he placed Q. Atrius over the guard of the ships. He himself, having advanced by night about twelve miles, espied the forces of the enemy. They, advancing to the river with their cavalry and chariots from the higher ground, began to annoy our men and give battle. Being repulsed by our cavalry, they concealed themselves in woods, as they had secured a place admirably fortified by nature and by art, which, as it seemed, they had before prepared on account of a civil war; for all entrances to it were shut up by a great number of felled trees. They themselves rushed out of the woods to fight here and there, and prevented our men from entering their fortifications. But the soldiers of the seventh legion, having formed a testudo and thrown up a rampart against the fortification, took the place and drove them out of the woods, receiving only a few wounds. But Caesar forbade his men to pursue them in their flight any great distance; both because he was ignorant of the nature of the ground, and because, as a great part of the day was spent, he wished time to be left for the fortification of the camp.

Chapter 10

The next day, early in the morning, he sent both foot-soldiers and horse in three divisions on an expedition to pursue those who had fled. These having advanced a little way, when already the rear [of the enemy] was in sight, some horse came to Caesar from Quintus Atrius, to report that the preceding night, a very great storm having arisen, almost all the ships were dashed to pieces and cast upon the shore, because neither the anchors and cables could resist, nor could the sailors and pilots sustain the violence of the storm; and thus great damage was received by that collision of the ships.

Chapter 11

These things being known [to him], Caesar orders the legions and cavalry to be recalled and to cease from their march; he himself returns to the ships [that] seemed capable of being repaired with much labor. Therefore he selects workmen from the legions…In these matters he employed about ten days, the labor of the soldiers being unremitting even during the hours of night. [Caesar then] sets out in person for the same place that he had returned from. When he had come thither, greater forces of the Britons had already assembled at that place, the chief command and management of the war having been intrusted to Cassivellaunus, whose territories a river, which is called the Thames, separates, from the maritime states at about eighty miles from the sea. At an earlier period perpetual wars had taken place between him and the other states; but, greatly alarmed by our arrival, the Britons had placed him over the whole war and the conduct of it.

Chapter 12

The interior portion of Britain is inhabited by those of whom they say that it is handed down by tradition that they were born in the island itself: the maritime portion by those who had passed over from the country of the Belgae for the purpose of plunder and making war; almost all of whom are called by the names of those states from which being sprung they went thither, and having waged war, continued there and began to cultivate the lands. The number of the people is countless, and their buildings exceedingly numerous, for the most part very like those of the Gauls: the number of cattle is great. They use either brass or iron rings, determined at a certain weight, as their money. Tin is produced in the midland regions; in the maritime, iron; but the quantity of it is small: they employ brass, which is imported. There, as in Gaul, is timber of every description, except beech and fir. They do not regard it lawful to eat the hare, and the cock, and the goose; they, however, breed them for amusement and pleasure. The climate is more temperate than in Gaul, the colds being less severe.

Chapter 13

The island is triangular in its form, and one of its sides is opposite to Gaul. One angle of this side, which is in Kent, whither almost all ships from Gaul are directed, [looks] to the east; the lower looks to the south. This side extends about 500 miles. Another side lies toward Spain and the west, on which part is Ireland, less, as is reckoned, than Britain, by one half: but the passage [from it] into Britain is of equal distance with that from Gaul. In the middle of this voyage, is an island, which is called Mona: many smaller islands besides are supposed to lie [there], of which islands some have written that at the time of the winter solstice it is night there for thirty consecutive days. We, in our inquiries about that matter, ascertained nothing, except that, by accurate measurements with water, we perceived the nights to be shorter there than on the continent. The length of this side, as their account states, is 700 miles. The third side is toward the north, to which portion of the island no land is opposite; but an angle of that side looks principally toward Germany. This side is considered to be 800 miles in length. Thus the whole island is [about] 2,000 miles in circumference.

Group 5: summarize each paragraph (chapter) below in your assigned section in a single sentence.

Guiding Question: What can we learn about the Germans or the Britons from the these readings? Make a list of what you find.

Chapter 14

The most civilized of all these nations are they who inhabit Kent, which is entirely a maritime district, nor do they differ much from the Gallic customs. Most of the inland inhabitants do not sow corn, but live on milk and flesh, and are clad with skins. All the Britons, indeed, dye themselves with wood, which occasions a bluish color, and thereby have a more terrible appearance in fight. They wear their hair long, and have every part of their body shaved except their head and upper lip. Ten and even twelve have wives common to them, and particularly brothers among brothers, and parents among their children; but if there be any issue by these wives, they are reputed to be the children of those by whom respectively each was first espoused when a virgin.

Chapter 15

The horse and charioteers of the enemy contended vigorously in a skirmish with our cavalry on the march; yet so that our men were conquerors in all parts, and drove them to their woods and hills; but, having slain a great many, they pursued too eagerly, and lost some of their men. But the enemy, after some time had elapsed, when our men were off their guard, and occupied in the fortification of the camp, rushed out of the woods, and making an attack upon those who were placed on duty before the camp, fought in a determined manner; and two cohorts being sent by Caesar to their relief.... The enemy, since more cohorts were sent against them, were repulsed.

Chapter 19

Cassivellaunus, as we have stated above, all hope [rising out] of battle being laid aside…and about 4,000 charioteers only being left, used to observe our marches and retire a little from the road, and conceal himself in intricate and woody places…The result was, that Caesar did not allow excursions to be made to a great distance from the main body of the legions, and ordered that damage should be done to the enemy in ravaging their lands…

Chapter 20

In the mean time, the Trinobantes, almost the most powerful state of those parts…send embassadors to Caesar, and promise that they will surrender themselves to him and perform his commands; they entreat him to protect [their king] Mandubratius from the violence of Cassivellaunus, and send to their state some one to preside over it, and possess the government. Caesar demands forty hostages from them, and corn for his army, and sends Mandubratius to them. They speedily performed the things demanded, and sent hostages to the number appointed, and the corn.

Chapter 21

The Trinobantes being protected and secured from any violence of the soldiers, the Cenimagni, the Segontiaci, the Ancalites, the Bibroci, and the Cassi, sending embassies, surrendered themselves to Caesar. From them he learns that the capital town of Cassivellaunus was not far from that place, and was defended by woods and morasses, and a very large number of men and of cattle had been collected in it. (Now the Britons, when they have fortified the intricate woods, in which they are wont to assemble for the purpose of avoiding the incursion of an enemy, with an intrenchment and a rampart, call them a town.) Thither he proceeds with his legions: he finds the place admirably fortified by nature and art; he, however, undertakes to attack it in two directions. The enemy, having remained only a short time, did not sustain the attack of our soldiers, and hurried away on the other side of the town. A great amount of cattle was found there, and many of the enemy were taken and slain in their flight.

Chapter 22

While these things are going forward in those places, Cassivellaunus sends messengers into Kent…over which districts four several kings reigned…and commands them to collect all their forces, and unexpectedly assail and storm the naval camp. When they had come to the camp, our men, after making a sally, slaying many of their men, and also capturing a distinguished leader named Lugotorix, brought back their own men in safety. Cassivellaunus, when this battle was reported to him as so many losses had been sustained, and his territories laid waste, being alarmed most of all by the desertion of the states, sends embassadors to Caesar [to treat] about a surrender through the mediation of Commius the Atrebatian. Caesar, since he had determined to pass the winter on the continent, on account of the sudden revolts of Gaul, and as much of the summer did not remain, and he perceived that even that could be easily protracted, demands hostages, and prescribes what tribute Britain should pay each year to the Roman people; he forbids and commands Cassivellaunus that he wage not war against Mandubratius or the Trinobantes.

Chapter 23

When he had received the hostages, he leads back the army to the sea, and finds the ships repaired. After launching these, because he had a large number of prisoners, and some of the ships had been lost in the storm, he determines to convey back his army at two embarkations. And it so happened, that out of so large a number of ships, in so many voyages, neither in this nor in the previous year was any ship missing which conveyed soldiers…and, a very great calm coming on, after he had weighed anchor at the beginning of the second watch, he reached land at break of day and brought in all the ships in safety…


Julius Caesar, “Book 4,” in Commentarii de Bello Gallico, trans. W. A. McDevitte and W. S. Bohn, in The Internet Classics Archive,

Julius Caesar, “Book 5,” in Commentarii de Bello Gallico, trans. W. A. McDevitte and W. S. Bohn, in The Internet Classics Archive,

Monday, August 5, 2013

Council for British Archaeology Research Reports

Here is an outstanding set of archaeological reports on Ancient Britain from the Council for British Archaeology and the Archaeology Data Service.

List of reports

The complete series of CBA Research Reports, including microfiche, has been digitised and is being made available by the CBA as a staged process. Those reports now available are linked below.

Link to ADS Archive Website

Access to all ADS resources is free, but you must accept the ADS Terms.

They are available in PDF format, which preserves the layout of the original publication. To read the PDF files you will need the Adobe Acrobat Reader.
Lots of in-depth information for some light extra reading. Some of the more relevant articles will have links posted in future blog updates, but in the meantime feel free to browse and read what interests you ...

Since the CBA and ADS were so kind as to provide this for us, here is a little information about them.

The Council for British Archaeology is an educational charity working throughout the UK to involve people in archaeology and to promote the appreciation and care of the historic environment for the benefit of present and future generations.

The Archaeology Data Service supports research, learning and teaching with freely available, high quality and dependable digital resources. It does this by preserving digital data in the long term, and by promoting and disseminating a broad range of data in archaeology. The ADS promotes good practice in the use of digital data in archaeology, it provides technical advice to the research community, and supports the deployment of digital technologies.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Welcome Students!

Looking forward to class starting up this week. Please feel free to become a member of this blog so that you can post comments and ask questions!