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2008 Bob Parrish

In 55 B.C. Julius Caesar landed on the south coast of Britain with two Roman
legions.  After spending less than three weeks he returned to Gaul (modern day
France).  The following year he came back with five legions.  Marching inland
more than a hundred miles and defeating the Britons in several hard-fought
battles, he departed, having spent less than two months in Britain.  The Romans
did not return to Britain for almost 100 years.

In 41 A.D., after the murder of Caligula, Claudius was made emperor.  Probably
to improve his image Claudius ordered the conquest of Britain.  In 43 A.D. a force
of four legions and about the same number of auxiliaries (about 40,000 men)
invaded and began driving north.  Within 35 years Rome had conquered all but
the Highlands of present-day Scotland.

While the Romans had successfully subdued and absorbed the Celtic Brythons
(Britons) they found the Picts--the "wild, painted people" of (what is now)
Scotland--more than they could handle.  In 122 A.D. Emperor Hadrian ordered
a series of forts and an 80-mile long fortified earthen and stone wall built as a
defensive barrier against the Picts.  "Hadrian's Wall" is just south of the present-
day border of Scotland and its trace can still be seen today.

Antoninus Pius succeeded Hadrian as emperor and in 140 A.D. began
reinforcing a series of outposts that had previously been constructed on a 20-mile
line between the Firth of Forth (near Edinburgh) and the Firth of Clyde (near
Glasgow).  These forts and the connecting dirt and stone wall was known as the
"Antoninus" or "Antonine" Wall.  This wall was abandoned 43 years later as
the Roman troops withdrew south, behind Hadrian's Wall.

Britain became a province of Rome, but retained much of its Celtic character.
Its people were a mixture of Celtic and Roman and both Celtic and Latin
languages were spoken.  In religion it was a kaleidoscope, ranging from the
formal rites of the Roman State, through a wide range of religions imported
from neighboring regions, to the local Celtic cults.  Later when the Roman
Empire became Christianized, Britain became a Christian country.  However, it
was only in the towns that the conquered Britains became entirely Romanized.
Much of the countryside remained, by Roman standards, wild, relatively
uncivilized, and Celtic.

Roman Britain lived under constant threat of attack by the Celtic "barbarians"
from the north (the Picts) and from Ireland (the Gaels).  The primary concern
of the Roman governors was always defense.  Two legions (approximately
4,800 men each) were stationed on the west coast, in fortresses at Chester and
at Caerleon.  Another legion was stationed in the north of York.  These regular
legions were reinforced by a very large number of auxiliary units.  Despite this,
coastal raids and cross-border attacks were frequent.  In one such raid
(ca. 400 A.D.) Irish raiders kidnapped the boy who would later become the
patron saint of Ireland--St. Patrick.

Note:  Rome never attempted to land in Ireland.  Rome did not have enough
troops to conquer the Picts in northern Britain let alone tangle with the many
Irish Celts.  Although a few Roman coins were recently found in Ireland, no
archeological excavations or classical writings support the notion of a Roman
expedition to Ireland

2008 NTDWA