In 55 B.C. Julius Caesar landed on the south coast of Britain with two
legions. After spending less than three weeks he returned to Gaul
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
In 41 A.D., after the murder of Caligula, Claudius was made
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
While the Romans had successfully subdued and absorbed the
(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
Christianized, Britain became a Christian country. However, it
in the towns that the conquered Britains became entirely Romanized.
the countryside remained, by Roman standards, wild, relatively
Roman Britain lived under constant threat of attack by the
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
reinforced by a very large number of auxiliary units. Despite
coastal raids and cross-border attacks were frequent. In one such
(ca. 400 A.D.) Irish raiders kidnapped the boy who would later become
patron saint of Ireland--St. Patrick.
Note: Rome never
attempted to land in Ireland. Rome did not have enough
conquer the Picts in northern Britain let alone tangle with the many
Celts. Although a few Roman coins were recently found in Ireland,
archeological excavations or classical writings support the notion of a