2.Britain Prior to 55 BC
(i) The Oppida
(ii) Initial Impact of Mediterranean Culture
(iii) Trade and Maritime Ports
(vi) Death of Cunobelinus
(vii) Diplomatic and Commercial Questions
4.The Invasion Text of Cassius Dio
(ii) Text and Translation
(a) Initial Stage
(d) Channel Crossing
(f) Sons of Cunobelin
(g) First Skirmish
(h) Second Skirmish
(j) Claudius’s Journey
(k) Claudius in the Field
The initial premise on which the first part is based is outlined in Chapters 2. & 3.. Briefly summarising theses: Britain at the time of the Roman incursion in AD, 43 was a civilized country, even by Roman standards, and had enjoyed the benefits of Mediterranean trade, culture and social structure for up to seventy years. The Lowland area, South and East of the Jurassic Ridgeway was broken up into seven distinct tribal confederations, the Corieltauni, Iceni, Trinovantes/Catuvellauni, Cantiaci, Atrebates/Regni, Dobunni and Durotriges, and of these seven, only the last had not been Romanized but retained the old Celtic way of life and values. Likewise all the six rulers of the other tribes had received training in the Roman ethos by prolonged and probably enforced stays in Rome during their formative years and had carried its values back with them when taking over the succession in their turn. Rome however always exerted covert powers and allowed inters–tribal rivalries to help bolster this power. So during the seventy years various tribes had held the balance of power cumulating in Cunobelin of the Trinovantes (including the Catuvellauni) who held it for the last forty years and was virtually King of Britain. While Augustus kept matters in perspective, under Tiberius and Gaius the Roman control loosened and the balance of power in Britain became top heavy. When Cunobelin died, just before AD 43, there was no heir strong enough to hold the kingdom together and, more importantly, there was no one in Rome of Augustus's mental stature to create one. The quarrels between Cunobelin's sons, both legitimate and natural, split the kingdom and forced Verika, the legimate son then ruler of the Regni, to flee to Rome for help. He is the Berikos that is mentioned in Cassius Dio and his exile the proffered reason for the Roman incursion. The remaining parts, arising directly from these crcumstances, proposes that if Britain was a civilized society under Rome's sphere of influence, the conventional theories of a formal invasion cannot really be sustained. Therefore, the large Roman military presence in Britain after 43 AD., while undeniable, is likely to have another, more rational, explanation for its initial incursion and subsequent occupation. Therefore the invasion text of Cassius Dio, unbiased by any preconceived ideas of a formal invasion, is critically analysed.
PRE–CLAUDIAN BRITAIN: THE FINAL YEARS
'Having been detailed into three sections, in order not to be confused as to where to disembark, the legions were carried across to the other shore one by one.' [Cassius Dio Roman History, IX 19 4,5.]
This translation of Dio's description of the Claudian landing in Britain in AD 43 uses the verb formproscein instead of prosscein, as footnoted in Loeb,1 and it is seldom that such a choice of a specific verb can have had such a devastating effect on the course of perceived history. For, by choosing the former, it has allowed adventurous historians to venture on the proposition of a full scale invasion of three legions. While the choice of the latter condenses the possibility into a small expedition, of vexillum or cohort strength, to quell a small insurrection, leads to a possibility that has never really been explored. That this eventually led to a formal agreement which allowed three legions to occupy lowland Britain in order to defend the country from incursions from Wales, Ireland and Scotland, is a corollary which would serve as an explanation of equal merit. The invasion scenario raises the question as to whether there might have been three landing places instead of one, posing also the question of whether these could have been wild, heavily defended shores. The small subjugation scenario poses the question of pre–arranged landing places in friendly territory and manned by Roman agents or even officials. This possibility would also argue that there must have been a significant Roman presence in Britain already, albeit a commercial, maritime and administrative one that was there to oversee Rome's interests where vital exports were involved. We know from Strabo the nature of the exports from Britain and the imports that may or may not have balanced the trade. Such an exchange would need agents, if not officials, whose interests would have been with Rome; it could not have been haphazard and left to manage itself. It seems inconceivable that having this infrastructure already in place, geared as it was to receiving merchandise by sea and through port facilities however rudimentary, that a Roman invasion force would not have made use of such facilities. That they should land on an isolated shore, as in commonly suggested, and build bridgeheads seems nonsensical in such a context. However the alternative argument must rest on the probability that Britain had progressed since the days of Julius Caesar and that some maritime urbanisation at least, if not overall Romanisation, had taken place and that there was indeed organisation. In the ninety–seven years that had elapsed it is hard to see why this should not have been possible. Without it happening one would have to suppose that, in the face of much continental contact, very little of the commerce and culture from the Mediterranean had penetrated so far north. An alternative scenario must consider that much had happened to Britain and the Britons during that period of time and that in no way were the people the primitive barbarians or the land a wilderness of swamp and forest as they might be seen to appear to be in Caesar's Commentaries. Is it then possible to detect any evidence, circumstantial or otherwise, in the textual sources or the material record to support such a contention and with it construct this alternative scenario?
In seeking such evidence it will be necessary to suggest answers for certain key areas that must have had a bearing on the development of Britain during those ninety–seven years and indeed, have some regard to the events that precipitated the invasion of Julius Caesar itself. Such areas are: –
· The pattern of events that preceded the Roman invasions of
55/54 BC. and provided the 'Britain' that Julius Caesar saw and
· Whether there was a distinct cultural surge from this Roman
contact, a mere acceleration of pace or whether it was
absorbed naturally into an existing sociological change brought
about by apparent Gallo–Belgic incursions.
· The development of settlements that distinguished Caesar's
'Oppida', whether they were enclosures, hill forts, nucleated
settlements or rudimentary urban communities, and whether they
developed significantly in the years between Julius and
· The evidence of trade and trading ports, the possibility of
their dating from the time of Diviciacus and the impact of
Roman traders and trading matters in the further development of
these facilities up to Claudian times as mentioned in Strabo.
· The evidence of coinage, Gallo–Belgic and British that
preceded and post-dated Julius Caesar and its development up to
· The enigma of the Catuvellauni and the exact nature of the
Catuvellaunian impact on the political structure of Britain
and particularly the power base established by Cunobelin.
· The inter–family and inter–tribal struggles that followed on
the death of Cunobelin.
· The contacts between Britain and Rome during the reigns of
Augustus, Tiberius and Gaius, the evidence for client
Kingdoms, treaties and tributes and what might have been the
political, social and economic situation in Britain
immediately prior to the arrival of Claudius.
Julius Caesar's Britain.
In writing of Britain, Julius Caesar commented that the coastal areas, 'maritima pars', had, by his time come under the influence of people of a Belgic origin, 'ex Belgio transierant.' He further describes Kent, the territory over which he advanced, as 'quae regio est maritima omnis', which some historians, such as Harding2, have interpreted to mean that it was the only maritime territory. However, as Rodwell3 comments,"the sense of Caesar's account suggests that it was an important part of a wider maritime district", an assumption that can be supported by evidence of coinage. Rodwell points out that such evidence "would seem to define 'maritima pars' as the entire stretch of coastline from the Stour/Orwell estuary..... down the east coast, as far as Folkestone. A further maritime tract appears to run from Eastbourne to Selsey." [Coinage, Oppida and the rise of Belgic power in South–Eastern Britain p. 208] Cunliffe4 would carry it even further, to Hengistbury Head, "One of the most important trading centres on the fringe of the Durotrigian territory grew up on Hengistbury Head." [Iron Age Communities in Britain 7, 99] Given this it would be hard to leave out the facilities offered by the Solent and not to assume that the harbour facilities offered by Portsmouth and Southampton waters were not also utilised
Click here for Fig.1 in detail
So that by the time Julius Caesar arrived there was already a considerable penetration of Belgic influence in from the coastal areas, a people different from the indigenous people of early Iron Age Britain. Rodwell, by plotting the find spots of Gallo–Belgic coinage A to E and thereby bringing the situation up to Caesar's arrival, seeks to demonstrate the extent of this penetration by means of a composite map, figure 1, which shows the coinage evidence for the main areas of the tribes mentioned by Caesar. If such a map is valid then it poses a problem; the areas assigned to the Catuvellauni and the Iceni show no evidence of Gallo–Belgic coinage. To the north of the Wash and along the Sussex coast there are possible secondary penetrations shown, that might be assigned to the Coritani and the Belgae respectively but the blank areas remain an enigma. Was this the 'interior pars' of Julius Caesar where the people were still indigenous? Certainly the area of the Catuvellauni, as shown on the coin map, would suit the description; 'cuius fines a maritimus civitatibus flumen dividit, quod appellatur Tamesis'. Harding [Ibid.] assumed from this passage that the land north of the Thames as belonging to this category; Rodwell [Ibid.} agrees to the extent of the blank areas on his coinage map only, but notices the long arm of the Trinovantes joining on to the territory of the Atrebates and almost completely encircling the Catuvellauni territory – "we have arrived at a conclusion which has a good deal in common with the Harding theory, but is less sweeping in its implications." [Ibid. p.211] However, if what he implies for the blank area of the Catuvellauni also holds for that of the Iceni, then the events, pre and post the Claudian 'invasion', that involve these two warlike and intransigent tribes, become understandable.
From this it would seem fair to assume that, by the time of the arrival of Julius Caesar, there could have been a balance of power that was very finely tuned. On the one hand indigenous people that had retained their warrior instincts; on the other a physical or a social penetration by a people softened by contact with more civilised influences who were used to trade and the benefits it brought to living. Their infiltration of Britain may not have been by conquest but by the more insidious means of commerce developed over a hundred years or so and their acceptance, or non–repulsion, by the indigenous Britons, was for the benefits they brought and is not without parallel in world history. The invasion of Julius Caesar, by his own account, coalesced these differing people into one opposing force under the leadership of the Catuvellauni and thereby must have precipitated a change in the tribal balance of power that had long reaching effects once he had departed.
The Initial Impact of Rome on Britain.
Julius Caesar's contact with Britain was brief, the latter ends of two consecutive campaign seasons in 55 and 54 BC., but the question arises, how significant was his impact on a society that was already in the throes of change itself. Probably eight or so months in all, nine tenths of it in conflict, demonstrating a superiority in land warfare but a vulnerability in maritime expertise, in the midst of a slower but more deeply rooted Belgic intrusion that had already lasted at least a hundred years. It could have had as little effect as the seasonal campaigns that were endemic in the tribal society of the time, it could by the very nature of its sudden surge of military power and ferocity have permanently altered the social structure, changing its nature forever. Cicero5 wrote at the time, ' The campaign in Britain is over, hostages have been taken and although there's no booty a tribute has been levied'. [Cicero Letters to Atticus 4.18.5] Caesar6 comments, '..., so I accepted their surrender, ordering hostages to be given and fixing the tribute to be paid annually by Britain to Rome'. [Caesar Gallic War 5.20–3]. To Cicero it seems to have been no great matter, to Caesar it was obviously the culmination of achievement.
Neither the nature of the tribute or the names of the hostages are given. When the Trinovantes surrendered to him Caesar had demanded 40 hostages and grain for his army before releasing Mandubracius, the son of the tribal ruler killed by the Catuvellaunians. Given the nature of the country, the Romans may well have initially taken their annual tribute in such commodities as grain and cattle for Britain was not then a society that was by any means on a wholesale gold or silver standard. However, given the nature of Caesar it is hardly likely that the hostages taken were at all insignificant and, from his record elsewhere, Caesar would almost certainly have required sons of the tribal chieftains that had contested him to be included. When Caesar comments, 'I gave strict instructions to Cassivellaunus not to molest Mandubracius or the Trinovantes', [Caesar Gallic War 5. 20–3], that threat would have undoubtedly been underlined by his son's safety. So that the annual tribute, being enforced by hostages, might well assume that British hostages were a continual presence in Rome during the period between Julius and Claudius Caesar; always providing the Romans with the opportunity to mould 'kings in waiting' before they took over their father's throne and, in turn, provided their own sons as hostages. While such colonial imperialistic behaviour was a common feature of the Empire yet to come, it is by no means unrealistic to assume that Julius Caesar, the great innovator, did not realise its potential in keeping a province attached and in order by such methods. Certainly, from what we know of Augustus, he would have been quick to realise its potential.
Given a succession of tribal rulers having spent their formative years in Rome and, as princes in their own country, being accorded a similar status that exposed them to the full culture and education of the Mediterranean world, it could be assumed that the indirect impact of Rome on Britain during those years was enormous. So probably Julius Caesar's impact on Britain was not immediate, not a surge or acceleration but as insidious in its way as the Belgic incursions had been. What it meant though was a gradual Romanisation of outlook that kept pace, to some extent, with Rome itself. It would go some way to explain the material record that has been unearthed from that period as seen in coinage, pottery, jewellery and wine amphorae. The emergence of inscribed coinage and its change in style, the refinement of pottery tastes, the change from the severity of Celtic design to Mediterranean opulence, the change in eating and drinking habits and the overall feeling that we are witnessing a society that is changing its lifestyle in graduated phases. It might well explain the 'Zulu' phenomenon (the sudden rise of a tribe under an innovative leader, Chaka, and his devastatingly domino effect on tribes over a large area of South Africa, which is thought to have been generated by contact with, and observation of, the British military presence in Natal) of the Catuvellauni on the surrounding tribes, as being inspired by observation of the Romans at first hand in their military exploits. When Geoffrey of Monmouth7 comments that Cymbellinus was 'brought up by Augustus,' [Geoffrey of Monmouth Historiae Brittanorum], he may have for once uttered a fact rather than a fiction. Such a direct influence, giving this young man of undoubted talent an insight into the working of power politics, would surely have had an effect when he became a ruler in his turn. When, if he had sought to put such new ideas into practice, they would have changed the balance of power, as well as the material social structure, in a significant manner.
The development of the 'Oppida'.
In the latter half of the second century BC., the material record shows a distinct change in lifestyle as regards settlement patterns, coinage, pottery and burial customs. Yet there is no evidence of armed struggle, no destruction levels; the changeover seems to have been peaceful and to have taken its time. Cunliffe [Ibid.] and Rodwell [Ibid] both detail such changes; how settlement change involves the descent from hilltop locations to flat terrain and a change in the structure of the defences; how coinage is introduced where only ring money or iron bars had existed before; how a type of pottery was introduced, a very early form, if not precursor, of the La Teine III type found at Aylesford/Swarling, but to be found in settlements as well as burial locations and of how inhumations change to cremations at the same time. By the time of Julius Caesar in the mid first century, these changes were well advanced but it is in their indication of the beginning of the 'ubanisation' of communities, that he may have unwittingly witnessed, that strikes a chord.
Julius Caesar commented of Cassivellaunus's oppidum; "It was protected by forests and marshes, and a great number of men and cattle had been collected in it. I should mention that the Britons give the name 'oppidum' to any densely wooded place they have fortified with a rampart and a trench and use as a refuge from the attacks of invaders." [Ibid 5. 20–3] Despite the mention of forests, the key word is that of marshes, meaning low lying land near water, and leads us directly to assume that it was of the 'Fecamp' variety of settlement that has been associated with the influence from the Belgic incursions. Before their arrival the material evidence would seem to show that the hillfort, built on high, easily defended territory was the settlement norm but subsequent to it the descent to the plains is evident where water, pasture and good soils were available. Around such a settlement type were 'dykes', earthworks that enclosed large areas in which scattered 'farmsteads' or hut groups might be found with the accoutrements or agriculture and existence. The division was not rigid however, and Rodwell, [Ibid], defines seven settlement types that Caesar might have come across – (i) Farmstead, (ii) Minor Settlement, undefended, mostly unenclosed, (iii) Religious Centre/Settlement, (iv) Minor Oppidum, defended and enclosed of five hectares or less, (v) Major Oppidum important site of urban size with dyke defences outside enclosed sites, (vi) Major Settlement of urban status, large in size and lacking known defences, (vii) Dyke System, a large tract of land with either no known settlement or a definable oppidum. Using coins as dating evidence, Rodwell has shown by means of a bar chart, (figure 2) the chronological emergence of such major and minor settlements. It is interesting to note that the undefended minor settlements all occur at similar times within the latter half of the first century BC., while the major settlements show a marked progression that ends very late indeed for Verulamium, known to be within Catuvellaunian territory and possibly more resistance to change.
Click here for Fig. 2 in detail
However, what is important is that by AD. 43 such key settlements had existed with a virtually undefended status for almost two generations and this must surely argue for increasing urbanisation in that time. It would therefore be difficult to argue that any settlements that Aulus Plautius encountered would be at all recognisable as the 'oppida' that Julius Caesar described. The evidence of coinage and trade can only support a theory of increasing commercialism, more comfortable lifestyle and a money-orientated society, however simplified, that would demand increasing urbanisation. It would be impossible to see such an environment existing in the framework of the social structure that existed in 54/55 BC.
Trade and Trading Ports.
How significant a part had trading played in the development of the Britain that existed in 54 BC. and how did its patterns change in the years to AD 43? Van Arsdell8 in his recent book on Celtic Coinage in Britain, quotes Barry Cunliffe as saying, "The Roman invasion of Britain was not the conquest of a primitive society by a more advanced one, it was the blending of two advanced civilizations." [Celtic Coinage in Britain xi] Van Arsdell demonstrates the high metallurgical technology that went into Celtic coin production and design and imputes from this technical skill an underlying social structure of equal sophistication, which was nurtured and maintained by trade. He comments that such high technology that could maintain the balance of metal mix to preserve colour and texture and could introduce mint markings that provided secret identification to the moneyers and which would allow sequential dating must be evidence of a high social infrastructure. He feels that such trade had been in existence since the late Bronze Age, circa 1000 BC. and had allowed Britain to remain in step with the continent. Indeed he sees the incursions of the Gallo–Belgic coinages as much in evidence of trade, if nor more, than of immigration. [Ibid p. 4.] With trade presumably, as always, came new ideas and such ideas were themselves more responsible for the changes in the material record from around 150 BC and the people of Caesar's 'maritime pars' were a polyglot population resulting from intensive trading over many generations. Van Arsdell suggests that at first the Romans traded with Gaulish 'middlemen' for the exports of Britain. The origin of the goods was kept a jealously guarded secret but he quotes Strabo as reporting "of a Roman war galley sent to follow Phoenician trading ships to discover the British trade route." Thereafter Roman interest in Britain was always commercial. On that basis, Julius Caesar's campaign would have created a Roman sphere of commercial interest underlined by treaty/hostage guarantees; Claudius Caesar's incursion was to make de jure what had always been de facto.
Van Arsdell suggests that early trading ports were at Hengistbury and Mount Batten for the Armorican trade and from Belgic Gaul to Kent and the mouth of the Thames for a later trade route to Rome. He comments "The situation existing about 100 BC. ....... is one in which the tribes of the Armorican peninsula were trading with the British southern coast and the Belgic tribes were trading with Kent and the tribes around the mouth of the Thames. A lively cross–trade along the British coast from the Southwest to the Thames area is a probability." [Ibid. 4] 100 BC. would have been within the time of Diviciacus, who was tribal ruler of the Suessiones who Caesar said ruled on both sides of the Channel. In another context Diviciacus is credited with the production of 'small change', the potin coins described by Rodwell [Ibid] but which Van Arsdell attributes to the Cantiaci as producing "cast coins in a high–tin bronze alloy" because "a market economy had developed in Kent and it required large quantities of low value coins." [Ibid p.7] Commenting on the situation of ports much later, Strabo9 writes, 'There are four crossings in common use from the mainland to the island, those which start from the mouths of rivers – the Rhine, the Seine, the Loire and the Garonne. Those who cross from the Rhineland do not start from the river estuary, but from the territory of the Morini (who border on the Menapii) where Iction lies, which the deified Caesar used as a naval base when he crossed to the island.' [Strabo 4.5. 2]. Although Strabo does not mention the British terminals it is tempting to equate them with the Colchester area, the Richborough or Dover area, the Southampton or Hengistbury area and the Exmouth area respectively as being the logical crossing points as they in fact exist today, no doubt for good tidal reasons. Strabo also gives a list of British exports, "corn, cattle, gold, silver and iron ....... along with hides, slaves and dogs suitable for hunting" and further comments 'at present more seems to accrue from the customs duty on their commerce than direct taxation could supply, if we deduct the cost of maintaining an army to garrison the island and collect the tribute." [Ibid. 2.5.8] Such an order of magnitude given to the commerce existing with Britain, when the customs duty alone is related to the costs of garrisoning Britain, leaves us in no doubt of the crucial nature of trade and, by inference, the ports through which it passed.
Coinage: Gallo–Belgic and British.
"For money they use bronze or gold coins, or iron ingots of fixed standard weights." [Caesar Gallic War 5.12–14]. However, Van Arsdell indicates that a form of 'ring money', made from twisted gold, existed in Britain from 1200 BC. but where its function changed from a form of jewellery to a form of currency is not certain. However it would be fair to claim that a form of coinage as such existed in Britain, if not before it existed in Rome, then at least no later and certainly in the use of bullion for such a purpose, it must have existed before the Romans even used Silver. Van Arsdell dates iron currency bars in Britain from about 200 BC. and they were still in use in some parts when Julius Caesar landed and recorded the fact. Van Arsdell places a date of about 125 BC. for the arrival of imported gold coinage into Britain when, "The cross–Channel trade eventually expanded until coinage was needed to facilitate negotiations. At this point, coins already in use on the Continent, begin to flow from Gaul to British tribes." [Ibid. p.3] Subsequently he notes that new series of imported gold coins arrived in Britain in 100 BC., 80 BC., 60 BC., 55 BC. and 50 BC., corresponding with the classification, by Allen10, of Gallo–Belgic A/B, C, E, D and X series respectively.
The earliest British coinage dates from 100 BC., according to Van Arsdell and these were introduced because, "By 100 BC. however, a market economy had developed in Kent and it required large quantities of low value coins. This need for small change was to foster the first British made coins." [Ibid. p.7] The first of these 'small change' coins were produced in Kent, being cast in linked moulds and made from a high Tin Bronze alloy. These were the 'potin' coins discussed by Rodwell. [Ibid]. and in different forms existed down to about 35 BC. However, from about 75 BC. struck coinage in gold was introduced as the gold stater with a weight standardised on the Gallic stater. The first of this type seems to have been in the general area of the Atrebates but within ten years, the tribes in the general areas of the Durotriges, Cantiaci, Trinovantes, Iceni and Corieltaunvi had also struck gold staters. So that well before the Gallic War had any impact, the use of coinage in Britain is evidence of a society very much involved in trade, importing luxury items and exporting raw material to balance the books. Caesar, far from stimulating that trade, is shown by the evidence of the Durotrigian coinage to have had a devastating effect on their specific trade. Caesar's annihilation of the fleet of the Venitii all but severed the trading links that the Durotriges had built up over the previous century, virtually rendered the port of Hengistbury Head defunct and caused severe debasement of the Durotrigian gold coinage. [Van Arsdaell Ibid.]
Subsequently, when he landed in Britain, Julius Caesar had in similar effect on inter–tribal trading by changing the balance of power and after he left, with Rome now controlling the cross–Channel links, Rome was able to manipulate trade in the direction of the tribes that had helped Caesar and away from those who had displayed anti–Roman sentiments. Thereafter the balance of power and trade lay with the Trinovantes and the Atrebates; the Cantiaci had suffered indirectly by losing the edge of control over the cross–Channel trade links. By about 40 BC. Commius of the Atrebates and Addedomaros of the Trinovantes had produced the first British coins to be inscribed with the name of a tribal ruler and by 30 BC. the Dobunni had followed suit. Shortly afterwards all the seven lowland tribes, those living south and east of the Jurassic Ridgeway, had mints and all but two were producing inscribed coins. Towards the end of the century the free–flowing, abstract Celtic designs had been replaced by rigid, Romanized motifs. Within the time frame of 30 – 10 BC. dynastic coinages had fully emerged and without a doubt indicate that Britain was well on the way to becoming Romanized. The Romanized inscription 'RIGON' on Trinovantian coinage and 'REX' on Atrebatic coinage at around 10 BC. must surely give a clear indication of their status in Roman eyes and, conversely, Rome's status in their eyes. From then on the coinage becomes dynastic with the names of tribal rulers appearing regularly on coinage.
Cunobelin and the enigma of the Catuvellauni.
'By general agreement the supreme command and direction of the campaign had been given to Cassivellaunus (of the Catuvellauni) ...... Previously Cassivellaunus had been in continual war with the other tribes, but our arrival had frightened the Britons into appointing him commander–in–chief for the campaign.' [Caesar Gallic War 5. 11]
'After him Kymbelinus his son was advanced to the throne, being a great soldier and brought up by Augustus Caesar. He had contracted so great a friendship with the Romans that he freely paid them tribute when he might very well have refused it." [Geoffrey of Monmouth Historia Britonum XI 7,11.]
Whatever doubts may be put upon Geoffrey of Monmouth's history, the fact that he was translating a British manuscript, with a fierce pro–British and anti–Roman stance, might well lend veracity to this particular passage because of the pro–Roman attitude it prescribes to one of its heroes. If so, Kymbelinus, Shakespeare's Cymbeline and the Roman Cunobelin can be seen as a Catuvellaunian ruler who had Rome's blessing in what he was and what he did. So, from being the villains in Julius Caesar's narrative, by Claudius Caesar's time the Catuvellauni had become very close to Rome and, by implication, their inter–tribal expansion that was so much a feature of Cunobelin's reign must also have had Rome's blessing. If what Geoffrey also say's about the freely paid tribute is true, the reason for the blessing is not hard to seek.
The Catuvellauni also present problems in the material record. As mentioned already, Rodwell's map, figure 1, showing the find spots of all the Gallo–Belgic coinage, shows a blank area with no coins found covering from what we know, by Caesar's narrative, to be the Catuvellaumian territory. From that Rodwell deduces that the Catuvellauni were not of Belgic origin but were indigenous to Britain. Van Arsdell, who tends to dismiss the Belgic incursion theory and maintains that the Gallo–Belgic coin distribution, the Fecamp construction and other Belgic pointers of change, were most likely all attributes of intense trade activity and dissemination of ideas, dismisses also that the Catuvellauni were an identifiable tribe at all. He regards them collectively as being part of the Trinovantes; what goes for one, goes for the other. Rodwell, as an unconscious corollary to this, comments on the massive size of the Trinovantiam territory as revealed by the coinage finds. He suggests that Julius Caesar got it wrong; that 'Trinovantes' was not a tribal name but a tribal federation and the name might well be a made–up one – from 'tri' and 'nova' – that Caesar had used to describe three new tribes, that he had been made aware of in the area.
It is from the coinage record that we know the names of rulers of this large Trinovantian/Catuvellaunian territory but until Van Arsdell no one has been prepared to be specific in their relationship or attribute firm dates. Van Arsdell sees them as existing in three streams – immediately post Julius Caesar, an interregnum showing a contention for the throne and finally a reassertion of single kingship under Cunobelin and his heirs. Thus after Caesar's departure came Addedomaros who reigned until 30 BC., followed by Dubnovellaunus of Essex (to distinguish him from Dubnovellaunus of Kent who is thought, albeit numismatically, to be quite distinct) who reigned until 25 BC., then Tasciovanus who reigned until 10 BC.. There followed a confused period when no clear ruler emerges and the coinage suffers in quality and value. Coinage inscribed with 'SEGO' and 'ANDOCO' both appear from 10 BC. to AD. 10 struck from both Gold and Silver and more or less simultaneously coinage inscribed 'DIAS' and 'RUES' struck mainly from Bronze with an occasional striking from Silver. Van Arsdell labels this the Interregnum, a period of twenty years when there is no evidence of the sequence of rulers except by the quality of coinage they produce which would give the sequence as shown. If Van Arsdell is right and that the Trinovantes and the Catuvellauni were combined (by Caesars command?), the Interregum might suggest the moment when the Catuvellauni reasserted themselves. For without a doubt Cunobelin, who followed the interregnum, was always described, in Roman sources e.g. Cassius Dio, as a Catuvellaunian and his reign from AD. 10 to 40 would seem to have brought Britain to a peak of Romanization and to have heralded the demise of Celtic Stylization. That he also existed with Rome's approval cannot really be doubted and the long period of his reign must have established, in the eyes of Rome, Britain's status as part of the Empire. A ruler inscribed, on gold quarter staters, as ‘AGE’ and thought to be his son followed him, on coinage evidence.
The Death of Cunobelin.
Click here for Fig. 3 in detail
Cunobelin, on the numismatic evidence, is thought to have died shortly before the arrival of the Roman army under Aulus Plautius and Cassius Dio speaks his of recent death in his narrative of the landing. However the wide distribution area of his coins shown on the map, figure 3 [ B. Cunliffe Ibid ], showing the territory over which he must have reigned, gives a clear indication of the gap his death must have left in the political situation in Britain. During his reign the numismatic evidence from the other tribal areas, showing the rise and fall of other tribal rulers, gives some indication of the situation as it developed. The Cantiaci, from about 35 BC. show a dynastic coinage beginning with an uncertain ruler whose inscription can only be deciphered as ' –IVII' followed by Dubnovellaunus in Kent from 30 – 10 BC. who in turn was succeeded by Vosenos with a short-lived reign from 10 – 5 BC. Then during the interregnum of the Trinovantes/Catuvellauni, as mentioned above, Eppilus of the Atrebates, in what appears to be a clear expansion of Atrebatic rule, takes over the Cantiaci territory and continues to rule there until AD. 10. Then Cunobelin, by the evidence of his coins, takes over and rules until his death in AD. 40. After his death there is brief evidence of a ruler called 'AMMINIUS' ruling until the Romans arrive.
For about ten years after Julius Caesar departed the coinage of the Atrebates remained uninscribed but from 45 – 30 BC. Commius, the British aide mentioned by Julius Caesar, appears and is thought to have ruled over a combined tribal area that Van Arsdell nominates as Atrebates/Regni and which Rodwell would identify as the Gaulish Atrebates and the more recently arrived Belgae of the coastal strip of Sussex and East Hampshire. Commius was followed by Tincommius who ruled until 10 BC. then Eppilus ruled until AD 10 when he is succeeded by Verica who ruled until he is expelled in AD 43 and appears in Rome. However from about AD 35 the coins of another ruler appear in the northern part of the Atrebatic/Regni kingdom bearing the name of EPATICCUS and his rule is concurrent with Verica until AD. 43 when coinage of Caractacus appears briefly until the Romans depose him.
The coinage of the Iceni remained uninscribed until the period of the interegnum, which might point to domination by the powerful Trinovantes/Catuvellauni coalition. Thereafter, from about AD 1 – 25, the tribe is ruled by ANTED, then the inscription changes to ECEN, thought to be a tribal name rather than a specific ruler and this period lasts until AD 50. Subsequently coinage was in use, up until AD 60, which carries the name of Pratsutagus and after his death uninscribed coins that have been attributed to Boudicca in the final year of AD 61. The coinage of the Coritani, or Corieltauvi in the revised spelling from graffiti found in 1965, remains uninscribed until about 10 BC. but even then it is difficult to detect the ruler's name. Instead there appears to be a combination of names on one coin type and this has been taken to mean that the leadership was a shared one. VEP, AVN AST, ESUP ASV, VEL CORF and DVMNOC TIGIR SENO all appear up until AD 20., then a clearer definition 'VOLISIOS DVMNOCOVEROS'is seen until AD 35 when the inscription changes to 'VOLISIOS DVMNOVELLAUNOS' for the period up until AD. 43 and the coming of the Romans. The coins of the Dobunni remain uninscribed until about 30 BC. when the rulers name is CORIO who reigns until 15 BC. when he is succeeded briefly by 'BODVOC' until 10 BC.. 'ANTED' or 'ANTEDRIG' (Anted Rigon or Rex?) then rules until about AD 10 when 'COMMUX' takes over until AD 15 followed by 'EISV' until AD 30 then 'CATTI' until AD 43 and the Romans. The coinage of the Durotriges remained uninscribed throughout the period and reveals nothing of dynastic changes. As a result of the Gallic War, presumably the demise of the Armorican trade via the Venetii, their coinage suffered debasement and is not comparable with other British tribes.
Click here for Fig. 4
Figure 4 is a tabulated form, by tribe, of the rulers shown by the evidence of coinage that Van Arsdell produces. The dates attributed to them are those of Van Arsdell, using the metallurgical characteristics and mint markings of the various coin styles to determine sequences and attribute dates. Overlaid in separate colours on the Table are apparent periods of expansion throughout the period 55 BC. to 43 AD. Firstly, immediately after Julius Caesar, the Trinovantes seem to expand, then, during the early years of Augustus, the Catuvellauni take over. During the next fifteen years, after Tincommius and Dubnovellaunus have appealed to Augustus, the Atrebates are in control. Finally, with the coming of Cunobelin, presumably with Augustus's blessing, the Catuvellauni regain control and keep it until Claudius arrives on the scene. In those last thirty years, the seven lowland tribes, living south and east of the 'Jurassic Ridgeway', the ancient trackway between the territories of the Dobunni and the Corieltauvi, were all in one way or another affected by the reign of Cunobelin. Perhaps only the Durotriges remained in isolation but all the others seem to exhibit changes during his reign, some major and dynastic, others indirectly. It appears that the Trinovantes, the Cantiaci and the Atrebates were major sufferers while the Dobunni suffered some intrusion and the Iceni and the Corieltauvi are inferred to have come under the domination of Cunobelin. So that when Suetonius11 , [Gaius 44, 2] described Cunobelin as 'Rex Britannorum' he was not only indicating a Roman perception but stating what would seem, on numismatic evidence alone, to be an undeniable fact.
After his death, the situation must have been very confused. Three sons are attested by literary sources; Adminius by Suetonius, Caratacus and Togodumnus by Cassius Dio and a fourth, the unknown 'AGE' who appears on post–Cunobelin coinage from the Trinovantes/Catuvellauni area. Of the three attested names only that of Caratacus appears on coinage and that in the territory of the Atrebates. Adminius fled to Rome; Caratacus appears in the territory of the Atrebates; there is no record of Togodumnus save a brief mention in Cassius Dio and of 'AGE' there is no other record at all. In other tribal territories only 'AMMINIUS' of the Cantiaci appears after the death of Cunobelin, the other tribes preserve their existing momentum until the Romans interrupt them. It would seem very significant that it was at this very point in time that the Romans should have literally stepped in and taken over control of what had been a remarkably large and cohesive kingdom. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that it was not a political whim of Claudius but a deliberate act to save a Roman investment in a valuable asset.
The Diplomatic Considerations.
"The following kings fled to me as suppliants: ...... Dubnobellaunus and Tincommius of of the Britons; ..... numerous other peoples, with whom hitherto there had been no exchange of embassies or friendship with the Roman people, also enjoyed the good faith of the Roman people during my Principe." [Augustus12 Res Gestae 32]. The Britons then, by implication, did exchange embassies or friendship with Rome and Dubnobellaunus and Tincommius, in fleeing to Augustus, were drawing upon diplomatic ties that were already in existence.
"At present some of the kings have gained the friendship of Caesar Augustus by sending him embassies and paying him deference. They have not only dedicated offerings in the Capitol, they have more or less brought the whole island under Roman control." [Strabo 4. 5,3] These dynasts cannot be the suppliants already mentioned for as C.E. Stevens13 comments, "they are reigning kings, not fugitives; setting up offerings in the Capitol is a ceremony of Public International Law, an act of friendship by the party to a treaty correlative to the granting of a regal title on the side of Rome." [Britain between the Invasions p.341]
"He did nothing more than to receive the surrender of Adminius, son of Cunobelinus king of the Britons, who had been exiled by his father and fled to the Romans with a small force. But, as if the whole island had surrendered to him, ..." [SuetoniusGaius While there may be a possible play on words here between the usage of the verb dedo for Adminius and the use of the verb trado for the island, as between 'surrender' and 'given itself', even so the passage reveals that diplomatic ties still existed in Caligua's reign, just as the following passage does for the reign of Claudius. "for a certain Berikos, who had been driven out of the island as a result of civil war, persuaded Claudius to send a force there." [Cassius Dio Roman History 60 19,1].
Stevens also comments that "in regard to Britain, the island beyond Oceanus, there were clearly two doctrines, the Caesarian, that Britain could and should be conquered; the Augustan, ..... , that, granted a balance of power inside Britain, more might be gained by trading and tariffs." [Ibid. p.343] Further, he writes, "Caesar's invasions had left his successors a problem. Were his victories to be implemented and his conquests annexed?" [Ibid. p.344] Augustus's solution, like his solution to the return of the 'Parthian Eagles', was a diplomatic one. In an island with seven tribes competing for power, his answer was to use their own strength against themselves, maintaining a balance of power by support and counter–support of various kings. The fact that he died before Cunobelin and that Tiberius did not pursue the same policy and allowed Cunobelin to attain more power, where Augustus would have clipped his wings, may well have led to that balance of power becoming top heavy. However nothing in this mitigates against the fact that Britain would seem to have operated under a client kingship role and that Rome was the overlord. When matters became out of hand it was not a question of an invasion against a foreign land but the repossession of an existing part of the Roman Empire.
But the island that Claudius reclaimed, that the Legions "put into ... and found none to oppose them." [Dio Ibid.], was in no way the same island that Julius Caesar had invaded. It was not fringed by a wild and hostile shore but was a country that had enjoyed the benefits of Mediterranean culture and commerce for at least seventy years. It was not inhabited by warlike people who would contest any landing but by a society that was used to the civilization the Romans knew and used to the visits of travellers, traders and even Roman officials, through ports that had long been established. To assume that the Romans expected to have to fight for their very existence the moment they landed, is to presume facts that are contrary to the evidence of all that had happened in the intervening years. However it was an island in a politically unstable condition, with the sons of Cunobelin creating disturbances in their struggle for power. There was obviously no clear successor to the old king and no one with the political acumen of Augustus available to create one. From what we know of Tiberius, Gaius and even Claudius, such actions would be low amongst their priorities. The existing hostage/successor formula had presumably not continued after the death of Augustus and the sons of Cunobelin had most likely not been pre–conditioned to Rome. The personal motives of Claudius remain unclear; the commercial and political reasons for the arrival of the Legions, to reinstate order and re–establish control, are obvious.
1. Cassius Dio Roman History 1924 Tr. E. Cary
2. Harding D.W. The Iron Age in Lowland Britain 1974
3. Rodwell W. Coinage, Oppida and the rise of Belgic power in Britain 1976
(B.A.R. Supplementary Series II ed. B. Cunliffe & T. Rowley)
4. B. Cunliffe Iron Age Communities in Britain 1974
5. Cicero Letters to Atticus tr. LACT literary sources
6. Caesar Gallic War tr. A. & P. Wiseman
7. Geoffrey of
Monmouth Historia Britonorum
8. Van Arsdell R.D. Celtic Coinage of Britain 1989
9. Strabo Geography tr. LACT Literary Sources
10. Allen D.F. The Origin of Coinage in Britain – a Reappraisal 1961
(Problems of the Iron Age in Southern Britain. Frere S.S.)
11. Suetonius Gaius (Twelve Caesars) tr. LACT Literary Sources
12. Augustus Res Gestae (Ancyraen, Turkey) tr. A. Lentin.
13. Stevens C.E. Britain between the Invasions (BC. 54 – AD. 43) 1951
(Aspects of Archaeology ed. W.F. Grimes)
THE CLAUDIAN INVASION TEXT OF CASSIUS DIO
Cassius Dio's description of the Claudian invasion of Britain in AD 43 occurs between LX, 19. 1 to LX, 22. 1, from the first idea of the invasion to the successful entry of Claudius into Colchester. There are two main manuscripts extant of Dio's Roman History, The Laurentianus and the Marcianus and these between them contain the greater part of Books XXXVI to LX, but finishing at LX, 28. 3. There are also three subsidiary manuscripts, The Vaticanus Graecus, The Parisinus and The Mediceus and this last takes in the whole of LX. as well as being one of the original manuscripts from which the Parisinus was copied. So that the specific text of the Claudian invasion, taken for translation and historical commentary here, is jointly from either the Marcianus or The Mediceus manuscripts, the selection of these is generally taken from the edition of Boissevain in 1895–1901. In the main, as regards this particular section, the emendments do not conflict and except in one instance, where proscein has been taken instead of prosscein, the text for consideration is taken from the Loeb edition.
Cassius Dio wrote Roman history in the Greek language and although he his commonly thought to have emulated Thucydides in his historical approach and Tacitus in his laconic style, he undoubtedly falls between two classical stools; to classicists he is neither a Tacitus nor a Thucydides, his Greek is not in the classical mould and his historical text cannot be judged against that of his Latin rivals, word for word and nuance by nuance. For that reason, perhaps, his Roman Histories have not received the detailed attention they might have done, which is a pity because the flexibility and fluidity of Greek allows a full play on nuance and his use of this has perhaps not been allotted the due credit it should have received. The nuance in Latin, other than in poetical texts, is far more visible; in Greek it is very much in the eye and mind of the beholder. With Tacitus it is, as it were, served up on a plate for instant scrutiny but being none the less effective for that. With Dio it has to be searched for and probed at until the full intention is made clear. What seems to have happened in the extant translations of the Claudian invasion text is that pre–conceived ideas have been allowed to influence the way the text speaks to us. It has always been assumed that there was an invasion, ergo, there will be an invasion. There were four legions detected in Britain, by the evidence of the historical and archaeological record, shortly after AD. 43, therefore, four legions came over initially with Aulus Plautius. Claudius celebrated a triumph for the conquest of Britain and monuments were erected stating this fact, so of course, it was his idea all along, he planned it that way, his military staff carried out that plan and all went according to what the eventual propaganda said had been meant all along. However, if we choose to ignore these pre–conceived notions of what we have been led to believe happened and read exactly what Cassius Dio wrote, not interpolating extra meanings nor trying to amplify the text in any way, then it is possible to come up with a quite different picture of events.
There are certain specific areas to which we might give attention. These are:–
· How did the idea of the expedition to Britain arise
and who was really behind it?
· Having arrived at the decision is there any evidence
of planning or preparation implicit in the narration?
· What does the affair of Narcissus tell us about the whole
attitude of the army and the authorities to this 'invasion.'
· The journey across to Britain; how do we reconcile the
bizarre events described?
· The arrival in Britain and the strange behaviour of
Aulus Plautius in his dealings with the Sons of Cunobelin.
· The first recorded encounter and the pre–eminence of the
KeluouV, their apparent ill treatment of the horses and the mention
of Vespasian. The implicit difference between Breττawoi and
Barßaroi; Dio uses both descriptions but in different contexts.
· The second recorded encounter, the death of Togodumnus, the
rallying of the Britons and the decision of Aulus Plautius
to refer matters to Claudius.
· The reference to 'having raised an army in advance', the intended
participation of Claudius, his journey from Rome and the
inexplicable reference to Elephants.'
· Claudius with the army, advancing 'at their side' rather than
leading them; his victory over the Britons and their submission to
him, hailing him as Auτokraτwn. His return to Rome and final
injunction to Plautius.
The individual passages of text that describe these events do contain scope for a re–evaluation and re–examination of what is exactly said and how they all, individually and collectively, impinge on the conventional invasion theory. A large grey area begins to emerge where there appears to be a question mark as to whether an invasion was intended or whether it always intended to be a minor peace keeping venture. However, only an examination of the text itself will decide one way or the other. Appendix I contains the Greek text divided into events and ignoring the paragraph breaks in Loeb. Appendix II contains a re–translation into English with annotations where these are felt necessary to illuminate the meaning.
The Initial Impetus
The paragraph of text immediately preceding this particular passage describes how Messalina, in her attempts to prevent Claudius being informed of her outrageous behaviour, took care to silence anybody who might tell him by 'bestowing favours or inflicting punishment.' In this way she caused the deaths of members of the royal family, the commander of the Praetorian Guard and one of the Knights. From this description Dio immediately launches into details of the invasion without any passage of words to set the scene or in any way to prepare the reader for a change of subject. Without any undue stretch of the imagination it could be assumed that there is a connection to be drawn between the two passages, for the first thing that strikes one about this passage is that it seems to indicate opportunism on the part of Aulus Plautius in seizing on an excuse to get out of Rome before he was put to the test by Messalina. Otherwise there would seem no valid reason why Dio would construct the narrative with an obvious connective device; the two events have nothing in common, Messalina's activities and Berikos's problem could not be seen in the same light. Secondly there is the low profile of Claudius, being persuaded to put down what would seem to have been a minor insurrection, since Berikos, (Verica) on numismatic evidence would have been, at that time, the ruler of the Belgic Regnae having already been forced out of the control of the Atrebates by Epatticus and Caratacus. It would surely be reasonable to suppose that Aulus Plautius, the most respected counsellor, had added his persuasion to that of Berikos for his own good reasons.
Planning and Preparation
There is no mention of any preparation phase, Aulus Plautius is now in Gaul, presumably already at Gesoriacum. At Gesoriacum there may still have been the harbour works constructed by Gaius some three years earlier and the remnants of the fleet of Triremes that he had had constructed. There is neither mention of assembling Legions nor any of the attendant logistical planning. The time scale does not seem to allow for any great construction activity so it may be assumed that there was little carried out. Dio does not say specifically that Claudius sent Narcissus, merely that Plautius sent for him. In view of the almost casual manner in which Plautius seems to have assumed command it is quite within the bounds of possibility that he and Narcissus had set the matter up between them and Narcissus had acted as intermediary with the Emperor and used his influence in the matter. In view of the power that Narcissus is thought to have held at court with a complaisant Emperor, this is not beyond credibility. It would certainly explain the presence of Narcissus in near mutiny conditions rather than the Emperor himself.
The Presence of Narcissus
The narrative that relates the reception of Narcissus by the Army is a strange interlude, apparently contributing nothing to the invasion narrative unless to belittle. The presence of Narcissus and his presumption in taking over from Plautius was deeply offensive to the Roman soldiers. Not because of what he had to say but because he was an ex–slave who had become the favourite of the Emperor. That the soldiers in his audience were Roman citizens is obvious by their reception of him and the contempt they held for him. That being so, why was he there? Surely Claudius, complaisant as he may have been would not entrust such a mission to an ex–slave, certainly not if a major invasion was planned. Narcissus performed the function of de facto Chamberlain to the Court and that the position held enormous power and influence, is without question. Outside the court and certainly within military circles an important mission of this sort would be beyond his brief and credibility. That he achieved his aim at all, as it were by default, only seems to emphasise the fragile basis of the whole venture. What would seem more credible is that Narcissus, seeing the matter in jeopardy, was protecting his own interests and that Claudius was not involved in the decision at all.
The Journey across the Channel
Much has been written about this passage in an attempt to show that the invasion voyage was a multi–pronged affair with different landing points, that it suffered the vicissitudes of Channel weather and tides, very much as had Julius Caesar, that the soldiers were fear–ridden and full of evil tidings, that a seemingly auspicious astronomical happening rallied their spirits and that their destination was a wild and remote shoreline beyond which a wild, savage people lived. This is the pre–conception of an invasion scenario intruding on to a textual passage that says something entirely different. The truth that emerges from the text is rather more prosaic. The first thing of note is that the whole of this textual passage is of a µen .... de construction so that all that happens between 'On the one hand their foolishness ......' and 'on the other they put into the island .... ' is of consequence only to the voyage across. There can be no introduction of additional information about destination(s) or strategy, implied or otherwise. So that τριχη must have something to do with the voyage itself not with the issues of the invasion. This, taken into consideration with the literal meaning of epalindroµhsan meaning 'running or travelling backwards' not 'being driven backwards', makes it highly likely that it all refers to them being shipped over in Triremes, or converted Triremes, and of the critical manner in which the trim of these vessels had to be maintained in the placement of crew and, in this case, passengers. If the craft were moved by oarsmen then the soldiers would have been divided between the three decks, occupying space between the banks of oarsmen; if the craft had been converted to sail power, the troops would occupy the rowing benches as well. Naturally, like the oarsmen, they would be made to face the stern and would in effect be going backwards throughout the whole voyage. To the sailors this was the natural order of things, to the soldiers it was an unnatural imposition and emphasises the uneasiness of the military mind when not on its natural environment, the land. The relief carving of a Trireme on Trajan's Column, shows exactly what was meant; soldiers and oarsmen, although grossly out of proportion, are shown at three levels, all facing in the same direction. As regards the hindrance on disembarkation, the recent trials of a Trireme off Piraeus demonstrate that access and egress were very critical to the trim of the vessel, even when at anchor, and that terrible confusion could occur if the individual decks were not loaded in a very methodical manner. When filled with apprehensive soldiers before and after a sea crossing, it would have been a major undertaking. Given this explanation then the mysterious 'light' can have an alternative meaning also. For the worrying thing about the conventional theory of a meteor has always been that it implies a night crossing and this would seem quite a suicidal act and it is very doubtful if it would have been attempted. With two tides a day in the Channel it would not have been necessary and neither are the Channel distances so great that an extended voyage would be required, even to the mid–point of the south coast of Britain. An alternative explanation to the meaning of the laµpaV episode is either that it could mean the lanterns that were fixed to the stern post arms of a Trireme when berthing in bad light or, alternatively, that some form of signal or beacon fire was raised to guide them in. At either event it would indicate the end of the voyage was near and explain the soldiers regaining their composure. There are possible implications in this regarding the destination of the Triremes; both to it being sufficiently distant to require a day–long voyage and also requiring careful navigation and shore guidance in coastal inlets, estuaries or extended harbours on arrival.
The Arrival in Britain
The arrival of Aulus Plautius and his army does not read like the scenario for an invasion, indeed there are elements of farce in the situation. Far from the hostile reception that greeted Julius Caesar, there is absolute silence. No one was there and the conventional explanation has always been that the Britons, hearing about the near mutiny, had not expected the Romans to come. This would mean that the British intelligence system did not move as fast as the Roman invasion fleet, a quite unacceptable theory for reason of simple logistics, let alone common sense. Even when they finally arrived, the Britons displayed no warlike intentions but ignored the Romans, a really ludicrous situation if they had taken the trouble to set up an intelligence system in the first place. There is a general feeling of a 'non event' in their lives; as though they were used to the comings and goings of Romans and this was no special occasion. It would seem to be very much the case that the Britons, far from having an intelligence system, were completely surprised by the Roman military presence and were not prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt. This does not accord with the conventional view at all. Furthermore Dio uses the phrase 'come to hand', as though talking of frightened birds. Admittedly, he uses a similar phrase later on, at the battle before Colchester, but there he qualifies it as ceiraV .... µach, 'come to hand in battle.' In this first use of the phrase he almost certainly means to come together and talk, for if his mission is to put down and armed insurrection, presumably he is in the place where this happened and the people who are gathered so timidly are not the rebels but the peaceful inhabitants who suffered in the insurrection. Their timid behaviour would seem to confirm this. As for their wish that the Romans would go away again, this would be an entirely normal reaction at the sight of any military presence, friendly or not. It would seem almost certain that Aulus Plautius had landed in the territory that Berikos had once ruled and had been forced to leave. His next task would be to find the rebels.
The Sons of Cunobelin
This passage is vague on detail and although enikhsen usually means 'conquered' it seems quite inappropiate here, being almost a throwaway item at the end. There is an obvious interlude implied after the landing, while Plautius pursues his enquiries, presumably into the cause of the armed insurrection and those responsible. Also implied is the fact that he had travelled from the landing point and had great difficulty, having learned that the sons of the late Cunobelin were responsible, in locating them. When he does so, first Caratacus then Togodumnus, there is no mention of an armed conflict with them, only that he got the better of them in some way. However the verb that he uses has many shades of meaning in Greek, from the battlefield to the law courts and the fact that, unlike other incidents to be mentioned, there are no details of any fighting, we are justifiably left with the possibility of an alternative meaning. If the mission of Plautius were that of peacekeeping, then talking would surely have preceded fighting. Given that the insurrection was of small dimensions with only one native state involved, then its protagonists would probably have been small in number, sufficient only to overpower the peaceful inhabitants of a tribal capital. Faced with the type of forces that Plautius commanded, whatever their strength, then discretion would surely taken the place of valour. Given this, then the reading of a riot act, or its Roman equivalent, and banishment back to their own territory would have been sufficient. When they had departed and the people they had terrorised had been liberated, first, presumably Berikos's people who, on numismatic evidence had been briefly under Caratacus and then, secondly, part of the Bodunni, who as stated in the text, had been under the Catuvellauni and could have, presumably, been under Togodumnus. The territorial implications of Plautius's search are intriguing. The tribal capital of the Berikos is thought to have been Chichester by later coins, showing a change from his earlier coins minted in Silchester, whereas the other tribe in the area, the Belgae have always been associated with Winchester. How far the territory of the Dobunni intruded into Hampshire is not known and coin finds do not make it clear but there is thought to have been a common boundary. Certainly, it would seem that Plautius covered this sort of territory in his search for the sons of Cunobelin. Once they had been despatched, he obviously made terms with the tribes concerned, garrisoned their particular tribal capitals and left them back in charge of their own affairs again following after the rebels to ensure they kept moving. Whether he recruited from their people or took hostages is nor mentioned but it would have been common practice. He would need both guides and security for his lines of communication.
The First Skirmish – Day 1.
Quite suddenly the Breττanoi change into Barßaroi without Dio explaining why. It cannot be a slip of the pen because it happens again. The inhabitants are always Britons while the insurrectionists, presumably they, are always Barbarians. Is the distinction made, not because there is any suggestion these are external invaders but because they have been acting like Barbarians? If so it presents us with an interesting contemporary perception of Britain and the Britons by the Romans; they are regarded as civilized, to live in a civilized country and that any attack on them is to be regarded as a Barbarian outrage. If this is so it clearly lifts the status of the island and its inhabitants into a social environment that Romans were prepared to accept and must cause us to revise our own image of Britain in AD. 43. The location of the river remains a puzzle and its situation, bearing in mind what has so far been deduced, must have been between the Chichester/Winchester area and the Thames mouth. The KeltouV must be translated as Celts, whether from Gaul or Britain; the convention of calling them Germans or Batavians is based upon the assumption of a full scale invasion and the pre–conceived military associations that belong to it. Their ability to swim rivers, clad in armour, or what passed for armour, tells us little about them; whether auxiliaries or local recruits. Their treatment of the chariot horses is, however, significant. Conventionally, they have always been thought to have wounded or even hamstrung the chariot horses. But the same verb that means 'to wound' also means 'to scatter'. Faced with this choice, their natural empathy with horses and with horses being such an important asset on a campaign, it would seem much more logistical sense to unhitch the horses from the chariots and stampede them into the enemy. The confusion that this would have caused would have been far more effective. Also, from a common sense practical point of view, hamstringing one horse is not a simple matter, hamstringing subsequent horses, made hysterical by the first hamstringing defies imagination. Any confusion resulting would be amongst the KeltouV, not the Barßaroi. The introduction of Vespasian's name by Dio may be because subsequently he became Emperor but certainly his subsequent known association with the II Legion Augusta might be of some relevance in identifying forces that might have been with Plautius. However the real significance might be merely that Plautius had to commit Roman troops to save a situation that might otherwise have been lost by the Celts alone.
The Second Day
That the battle extended into a second day is probably indicative of the balance of the forces involved on both sides. Nothing that Dio has said already gives the impression that the Barbarians were in great numbers and, even allowing that the forces under Caratacus and Togodumnus had now joined together, certainly not sufficient to fight a legionary force to a standstill. For that it what Dio says, that it was only the action of Gnaeus Hosidius Geta that turned the battle in the Roman's favour. This could either imply a deficiency in the numbers of Roman troops present or the over dependence on auxiliaries, and one can only remember that Plautius did leave a garrison behind at the place where the Bodunni made peace. These two events must surely be related and if taken into consideration with the Barbarians being described as 'carelessly encamped,' cannot really be made into a major conflict with large Roman forces involved. What it could imply is that Plautius, in trying to harry the insurrectionists onwards with scare tactics, using native troops, might inadvertently have stirred up a hornet's nest, and had had to bring in Vespasian and his legionnaires. Only to find that they were insufficient and that the outcome rested on the action of a further detachment under Geta. If Plautius had considered that a depleted legionary force would be sufficient to shepherd the rebels back to their home territory he may well have underestimated the situation that arose when he fielded Celts against Celts, thereby, fostering inter–tribal tensions. It certainly does not seem to fit in easily with the set piece 'Battle of Rochester' that convention would allow. Rather it would seem to be a situation that arose out of practically nothing at all; the indolence of the retreating rebels and the zealous prodding of the following Roman force.
The Battle of the Thames
Once again the Celts are used, swimming across and crossing by a bridge; there is no mention by Dio of Roman troops in any of the stages of the actual battle at all, only that initially they were following on so closely that they were caught up in the swampy ground on the river approaches. Why this insistence on the use of Celts for the actual fighting and was it deliberate on the part of Plautius? As though he were using local forces against the rebels rather than commit Roman troops. In the previous encounter it seemed as though Roman troops were brought in only when the Celts looked like being overwhelmed; in this encounter they do not seem to be used at all, presumably because the Celts managed to gain the advantage by themselves. The identity of these Celts becomes very important, were they from Gaul or were they British Celts, recruited by Plautius? That they became entangled in the swamps and that many were lost argues that they were not local to that particular area but their all pervasive presence in a history text by a Roman historian writing about Roman military deeds is very puzzling.
The conventional translation gives that the death of Togodumnus occurred later but the text seems to state quite plainly that it was because of the death of Togodumnus and its effect on the rest of the Britons that Plautius became alarmed. Also the use of jqapenτoV the Aorist Passive Participle of the verb jqeirw, to describe the death itself is a strange choice because the strict translation of this verb in the Passive is not so much 'to kill' as 'to destroy.' Something is done to the individual that causes his death, unlike the usual apokueinw which means 'to kill', pure and simple, in the Active as well as the Passive. Togodumnus was a prince of Britain whose father, Cunobelin had reigned for forty years and whose patron had been Augustus himself. If Togodumnus had died normally in a normal battle then it cannot surely have caused anything other that the normal reaction to a warrior's death, however noble. There seems from the text something abnormal about his death that roused normally placid Britons to fight in his name. Could he have been executed? Could the Celts on the Roman side have taken revenge for things that Togodumnus had done during the insurrection? Had he been captured first then formally been put to death instead of being given the usual courtesy afforded to noble prisoners that had been captured in battle. It would seem that Plautius had nothing to do with it because of its effect on Plautius and on the Britons. Note that it was the effect not only on the ßarßaroi but the Breττanoi as well. The occasion and the manner of his death had united the 'Barbarians' and the 'Britons' and this was the fact that alarmed Plautius and caused him to alert Claudius. This would seem to indicate that up until then the whole venture could not have been thought to be on the scale of an invasion. If four legions and their auxiliaries had been present, the reaction of Plautius would not have been that of alarm. It would have been the culmination of what he had come for and it is nonsensical to suggest that he would have sent for Claudius for moral and physical support. What it does suggest is that the venture had plainly escalated out of control and that he had to send to Claudius for reinforcements.
The Arrival of Claudius and the Elephants
The beginning of this passage of text is quite specific, the third person singular tense abruptly changes to second person singular to put into Claudius's (or Narcissus's) own words the exact instruction 'if any violent reaction is encountered you are to do this, ......'. What is to be done is to inform Claudius so that he can prepare for a great campaign and either put in an appearance himself or send elephants. If the latter meaning is assumed then there is no mention of Claudius proposing to come over in person, which is very strange. Yet the actions of Claudius on receiving the information would seem to indicate that his coming to Britain was pre–arranged. We are told later that he spent six months on the journey, of which only about three weeks were spent in Britain. We are therefore left with the knowledge that Aulius Plautius remained on guard on the banks of the Thames for at least two and a half months until Claudius reached the encampment. Ample time for him to have received reinforcements of equipment and soldiers but possibly not elephants, unless they were close at hand in Gaul or Germany. Their introduction into the narrative is strange and the logistics of their intended use quite beyond the requirements of a campaign in Britain. To assume that they were to be used solely to frighten chariot horses strains the credulity; their use by the Roman army on similar campaigns in the West is not well documented and nothing that had happened to this point to the force that accompanied Plautius could justify their use. Yet the text is quite clear. Unless a scribal error in the original manuscript has introduced the word elejanτwn when the true meaning might have been a combination of words, ele and janτwn, where ελε, the Epic form of ελει, has been used. From which it is possible to construct the phrase 'he (Claudius) would make for himself an appearance'. This suggestion is put forward with diffidence, it being possibly as improbable as the elephants, but it might well have been a familiar quotation of the time. One is struck by the passage in the Iliad where Achilles ‘makes an appearance in his full armour’, not to fight, but to impress the Trojans In the time of Cassius Dio , Homer’s texts, unlike those of later scholarship, would still have been in the original epic style. It would certainly supply the motive for Claudius's journey, especially if we put it into the mouth of Narcissus, allowing a comparison with the great Achilles!. Especially when we consider the speed with which Claudius moved when he received the message, the text states quite clearly his actions. 'Leaving his affairs in the hands of Lucius Vitellus .... he took into his own hands the troop transports (making himself at the same time the commander–in–chief) and took to the field'. So we may assume that Claudius did bring reinforcements, that they travelled with him as far as Massilia, where he travelled overland and they, presumably, carrying on by sea, met him again in Britain.
Claudius with the Army
Dio's text is careful in not saying that Claudius displayed military qualities or that he actually led the army into battle. He crossed over the Thames 'beside' them, 'made a way' to the Barbarians, 'caused' them to come to battle and 'took possession' of Camulodunum. The text is so precise that it could give the impression that we are witnessing a set piece. That in the three months that it took Claudius to reach Britain, Plautius had been arranging matters so that Claudius would be able to be seen as a conqueror. There is little here to indicate a real conflict, such as the previous two encounters had done. Perhaps the real meaning of the instruction to Plautius was, 'do not steal any glory but send for Claudius.' Claudius, on his triumphal arch, stipulates that he received the surrender of eleven tribal rulers; if so there can have been very little left for Plautius to subjugate. Undoubtedly these tribal rulers would be those living in lowland Britain but only if we include the Brigantes and the Parisii, is it possible to reach that number. If so, practically the whole of Romanized Britain would have been represented in Camulodunum and it is hard to see, considering that he only stayed sixteen days, that Claudius was responsible for this mass surrender. Almost certainly it was due to excellent staff work on the part of Plautius in gathering them together in so short a time and, by implication, must surely mean that these tribal rulers were not in opposition to the Romans but were there to re–affirm treaties already in being. If so, why the invasion? There was never any need. A small force to put down an insurrection and return a tribal chief to his throne, certainly. A sudden realisation that it could become a massive and a magnificent piece of propaganda to prop up an insecure Emperor, without a doubt. A decision, as much to support the original deception as to add to the Empire, to conquer those parts of Britain beyond the lowland perimeter of the Jurassic Ridge, well the Legions were not occupied elsewhere and were a perpetual source of anxiety.
When we re–examine his work, what Dio's text could be construed to tell us, by nuance rather than by factual statements, is that the Roman occupation of Britain was not planned but just happened. That there was no formal invasion but that events overtook a minor policing and peace keeping role, which for all we know might well have happened many times before in the ninety–seven years since Julius Caesar, and escalated it into a situation where it gathered momentum of its own accord. That this is possible, where large nations intrude on smaller ones for quite laudable purposes and events turn this into a major occasion, is one with which the twentieth century is only too familiar. That it also happened in the first century also, is quite within the bounds of reason. Certainly the actual events of AD. 43 may not be quite as they have always been assumed; the arrival of the four Legions not quite so spectacular, the battles of 'Rochester', the Thames and Colchester not have happened as they are supposed nor for the same reasons and the whole 'invasion' scenario have been induced into history by pre–supposition.
Aulus Plautius, not Claudius, was the moving force behind the incursion into Britain in AD. 43 and he did so for reasons of his own that were connected with his own personal security and not because he sought military glory or that he thought that the small insurrection in a small tribal state in the south of Britain warranted Roman interference. In this endeavour he undoubtedly had the support of Narcissus who seems to have played a Macchiavellian role in the matter. There was no preparation and no real need; the excuse being more important that the actual venture and it was, to all intents and purpose, the Roman equivalent of 'sending a gunboat' of the British Empire in its day. So that the incursion forces were small, certainly not legionary strength and their purpose was to help the people of Berikos regain control of their own affairs and to force the rebels back to their own territory. After finding out that two of the sons of Cunobelin were responsible Plautius sought them out and, without the use of force, banished the rebels back to the Catuvellaunian territory, reinstated matters in the South and followed the rebels to ensure that his orders were carried out. By common practice he took hostages from the rebels and guides or recruits from the people he had liberated. However the rebels behaved stupidly, not thinking the Romans were capable of crossing rivers or negotiating swamps and they caused two unnecessary skirmishes to be fought on the way back to their territory. After the second skirmish, someone on the Roman side ordered the execution of some of the hostages by way of showing they meant business.
Unfortunately, Togodumnus was amongst them. When this became known this had the opposite effect intended, since he was a Prince of Britain, and caused all of the British tribes to come together in opposition. Plautius had been told before he left Rome that if, by any chance, the incursion escalated into a major conflict then he was to let Narcissus know since Claudius would then have to be told. Claudius was known to wish for an easily won victory to bolster up his image and add security to his tenure as Emperor; Britain was an ideal place and Claudius would be able to take the field himself without any danger. Claudius was told, reacted as predicted and ordered four legions to be shipped across with all the equipment necessary for a major campaign. In the time it took him to arrive with all his friends and witnesses, Plautius had arranged matters, placated the Britons and set the scene for a triumphal march on Camulodunum with the Britons making a token resistance and then surrendering to Claudius personally. Claudius handed the matter back to Plautius, told him to subjugate the remainder of Britain outside the lowland area and returned to Rome in triumph. Plautius moved his legions through friendly territory towards the line of the Jurassic Ridgeway, only Vespasian and the II Augusta having to fight their way through the territory of the Durotriges who were not Romanized, the time being taken in the logistics of establishing the defence line of the Fosseway, from Exeter to Lincoln, rather than in campaigning. The rest is how we would wish it to be.
Yet what Cassius Dio has really given us is an elegant 'Thucydidean' example on the causes of war; how intrigues at Court, the opportunism of individuals and the exercise of vanity and unlimited power turned a small event into the acquisition and occupation of country that was not wanted, had not strategic value and was a drain on the resources of Rome for four hundred years..
The Initial Impetus
1. En µen dh th polei taut ´egiuneuo, kata de ton auton touton cporon AuloV PlauτioV ßoulethV logiµwtatoV eV thn Brettanian esurateuse, BerikoV gar tiV ekpeswn ek thV nhsou kata strasin epeise ton Klaudion dunaµin eV authn peµyai.
Planning and Preparation
2. kai outwV o PlautioV strathghsaV to µen strateuµa calepwV ek thV GalatiaV exhgagen. wV gar exw thV oikouµenhV strauetsonteV hganaktoun, kai ou proteron ge autw epeisqhsan prin ton Narkisson upo tou Klaudiou peµjqenta anaßhnai te epi to tou Plautiou Bhµa kai dhµhgorhsai ti eqelhsai.
The Presence of Narcissus
3. τoue gar pollw pou µallon ep ´ autw acqesqenteV oute ui ekeinw eipein epetreyan, suµßohsanteV exaijhnV touto dh to qrulouµenon "io satournalia", epeidhper en toiV KronioiV oi douloi to twn despotwn schµa µetalaµBanonteς eoruazousi, kai τwn Plauτiw euqoV ekousioi sunesponτo
The Journey across the Channel
4.τhn µen oun orµhn cronian dia τauτ ´epoihsanτo, τrich de dh neµhqewτes opwV µh kaq ´en peraiouµenoi kwluqwsi poi proscein, kan τw diaplw τo µen τi dusjorhsanτeV epeidh epalindroµhsan, τo de anaqarshsanτeV oτi laµpaV apo τwn anaτolwn arqeisa proV τaV dusµaV hper epleon diedraµe, kaτhran es τhn nhson µhdenoV sjisin enanτiwqenτoV.
The Arrival in Britain
5.oi gar Breττanoi µh prosdokhsanτeV auτouV di ´aper epunqanonτo hxein, ou prosuneleghsan. ou µhn oude τoτe eV ceiraV auτoiV hlqon all ´eV τe τa elh kai eV uaV ulaV kaτejugon, elpisawτeV sjaV allwV kaτauriyein, wsq ´, oper epi τou KaisaroV τou Iouliou egegonei, dia kenhV auτouV anapleusai.
The Sons of Cunobelin
6. O oun PlauτioV polla µen pragµaτa anazhτwn sjaV escen, epei de eure poτe (hsan de ouk auτonoµoi all ´ alloi alloiV Basileusi prosτeagµenoi), prwτon µen Karaτakon epeiτa Togodouµnon, Kunoßellinou paidaV, enikhsen. auτoV gar eτeqnhkei. jugonτwn de ekeinwn prosepoihsauo oµologia µeroV τi τwn Bodounnwn, wn ephrcon Kaτouellanoi onτeV, kanτauqa jrouran kaτalipwn prosw hei
The First Skirmish – Day 1.
7.wV d ´ epi potaµw tini egeonto dn ouk wonuo oi Barßaroi dunhsesqai touV PoµaiouV aneu geyuraV diaßhnai, kai dia tout ´ aµelesteron pwV epi thV ocqhV autou thV kat ´antiperan hulizonto diapeµpei KeltouV oiV eqoV hn kai dia twn rowdestatwn padiwV autoiV oploiV dianhcesqai. kai epeidh ekeinoi para doxan toiV enantioiV prospesonteV twn µen andrwn oudena eßallon, touV d ´ ippouV touV ta arµata autwn agontaV etitrwskon, kak toutou tarattoµenwn sjwn oud ´ oi epißatai asjaleiV einai edunanto, epidiepeµye ton te Ouespasianon ton Flaouion ton kai thn autokratora µeua tauta archn laßonta, kai ton adeljon autou Saßinou upostrathgounta oi kai outw dielqonteV ph kai ekeinoi ton potaµon sucnouVtwn Barßarwn µh prosdecoµewouV apekueinan.
The Second Day
8.ou µenτoi oi loipoi ejugon, alla uhV usτeraiaV auqiV suµßalonτeV sjisin agcwµala hgwnisanτo, prin dh GnaioV OsidioV GeτaV kinduneusaV alwnai, epeiq ´ ouτwV auτwn ekraτhsen wsτe kai τiµaV epinikiouV, kaiper ouc upατεukwV, laßein.
The Battle of the Thames
9.anacwrhsanuwn de enτeuqen τwn Breττanwn epi τon Taµesan poτaµon, kaq ´ d es τe τon wkeanon ekßallei plhµµuronτoV τe auτou liµnazei, kai padiwV auτon diaßanτwn aue kai τa sτerija τa τe eupora τou cwriou akrißwV eidoτwn, oi Pwµaioi epakolouqhsanτeV sjisi τauτh µen esjalhsan dianhxaµenwn d ´ auqiV τwn Kelτwn, kai τinwn eτerwn dia gejuraV oligon anw dielqonτwn, polacoqen τe aµa auτoiV proseµixan kai polloqV auτwn kaτekoyan, τouV τe loipouV aperiskepτwV epidiwkonτeV eV τe elh dusdiexoda esepeson kai sucnouV apeßalon. dia τe oun τouτo, kai oτi kai τou Togodouµnou jqarenτoV oi Breττanoi ouc oson enedosan alla kai µallon proV τhn τiµwrian auτou episunesτhsan, joßhqeiV o PlauuioV oukeτi peraiuerw prosecwrhsen, all ´ auτoV τe τa paronτa dia julakhV epoihsaτo kai τon Klaudion µeuepeµyaτo.
The Arrival of Claudius and the ‘Elephants’
10.eirhτo gar auτw, ei τi ßiaioτeron gignoiτo, τouτo poihsai, kai paraskeuh ge epi τh sτraueia pollh τwn ue allwn kai elejanτwn prosuneilekτo. ElqoushV de τhV aggeliaV o KlaudioV τa µen oikoi τw ´Ouiτelliw τw Loukiw τw sunarconτi τa τe alla kai τouV sτraτiwτaV eneceirise (kai gar ex isou auτon eauτw exaµhnon olon upaτeusai epoihsen), auτoV de exesτraτeusaτo, kai kauapleusaV eV τa Wsτia ekeiqen eV Massalian parekoµisqh, kanτeuqen τa µen pezh τa de kai dia τwn poτaµwn poreuoµenoV proV τe τon wkeanon ajikeτo, kai peraiwqeiV eV τhn Breττanian suneµixe τoiV sτraτopedoiV proV τw Taµesa anaµenousin auτon.
Claudius with the Army
11.kai paralaßwn ajaV ekeinon τe epidießh, kai τoiV BarßaroiVproV τhn ejodon auτou sunesτraµµenoiV eV ceiraV elqwn µach τe enikhse kai τo Kaµoulodounon τo τou Kunoßellinou ßasileion eilke. kak τouτou sucnouV τouV µen oµologia τouV de kai ßia prosagagoµenoV auτokraτwr pollakiV epwnoµasqh para τa paτria (ou gar esin eni oudeni pleon h apax ek τou auτou poleµou τhn epiklhsin τauτhn laßein), kai τa opla auτwn ajeloµenoV ekeinouV µen τw Plauτiw proseτaxen enτeilaµenoV oi kai τa loipa proskaτasτreyasqai, auτoV de eV τhn Pwµhn hpeicqh,
1. While these things were happening in the city, at around the same time, [and possibly not unconnected with them] Aulus Plautius, a most respected counsellor, led an expedition to Britain, [where he felt safer than in Rome] for a certain Berikos, having been driven out of the the island by an armed uprising, had persuaded Claudius to send out a punitive force.
2. In this manner [and with the help of Narcissus] Plautius commanded the army but it was difficult to lead it out of Gaul. For according to them they would be campaigning outside the known world, and not even when Narcissus, from the household of Claudius, was sent for and mounting the rostrum of Plautius, haranguing and willing them would they listen to reason.
3. For they were all exceedingly disgusted at his manner and they did not allow him to do so, until suddenly, shouting together in his direction what was in everyone's mind, "Io Saturnalia", since in the festival of Saturn slaves take in exchange the fashions of masters and celebrate a festival, and straight away, of their own free will, followed Plautius.
4. So, while their foolishness had made them late in departing, they were carried across to the other side, having been divided into three sections [one to each deck of converted Triremes] in order not to hinder one another and to disembark section by section. On the voyage across they were uneasy seeing that they were sailing backwards [because they had to occupy the oarsmen's accomodation] but regained their composure at a light being signalled to the East followed by another one becoming visible to the West. [That showed the voyage was nearing its end] They put into the island, no one opposing them.
5. For the Britains, not learning of their arrival, had not assembled beforehand. Not even then did they come to hand [to speak of their troubles] but, seeking refuge, fled to the swamps and woods, expecting without reason to be rid of them, even as once before, the very same thing had happened with Julius Caesar, since it would be fruitless of them to repeat this.
6. However Plautius had many problems in searching out the sons of Cunobelin, who was dead, (for the Britons were not free people but served under different rulers that they themselves had appointed), but when he did find them he first prevailed over Caratacus then Togodumnus. Having banished these [back to their own country], he accepted terms of surrender from that part of the Bodunni having been ruled by these Catuvellauni and, leaving behind a garrison, he followed on [to make sure that the rebels did return to their own country.]
7. Thus they happened to come upon the Barbarians at a certain river, encamped in a vary careless manner over on the opposite bank but the Romans were unable to cross without a bridge. He sent over a detachment of Celts who were accustomed to swim easily through rough water in armour and these, approaching from the flank, had the alternative idea of not falling on the men but they unhitched the chariot horses and then stampeded them and in all the confusion that followed the charioteers, being insecure out of their chariots, could not be brought into the fight. [Seeing that the Celts needed help] He then sent across Flavius Vespasian, our owm Emperor to be, and his brother Sabinus who served under him as lieutenant and they, getting across the river somehow, together put to death many of the Barbarians not surrendering.
8. All the rest did not flee, but the following day coming back together again they fought a nearly equal battle before Gnaeus Hosidius Geta [seeing that again the Celts needed help] managed to gain a mastery, for which later he was deemed worthy of a victory.
9. Afterwards the Britons retreated towards the river Thames, where it discharges into the Ocean and, overflowing, forms a lake, stepping across easily and knowing precisely the firm and easy space to pass over but the Romans, following on closely, were foiled. However the Celts straight away swam across while others got across by a bridge a little way upstream, engaged with them from many sides and cut many of them down. But in the headlong pursuit of the remainder, chased them into swamps with no way out and many of themselves perished. However, because of this action and also, at the same time, the destruction [execution] of Togodumnus, those Britons not greatly involved, but of a gentle and mild disposition, deemed it worthy to stand together at his side [in his memory], against them. Plautius, becoming alarmed, advanced no further. Standing by and keeping guard he informed Claudius.
10. For it had been said to him, [by Narcissus] 'if you encounter any violent reaction, you are to do [precisely] this' [inform Claudius immediately that there is an opportunity for glory], for indeed he [Claudius] had raised an army and much equipment in advance for the purpose of an expedition –
With the use of elephants or so that he [Claudius] can make himself seen. When the news of this came before Claudius, he put his own affairs into the hands of Lucius Vitellus, a joint colleague in office, and taking in his own hands, the assembly of troops and transports (and at the same time making himself commander–in–chief) he took the field. He sailed downstream to Ostia and from that place to Massilia along the coast and being carried both by land and river, travelling he made direct passage until he reached the Ocean. Then passing across to Britain, he joined the encamped army awaiting him before the Thames.
11. Taking command of these he crossed over at their side, and having, together with them, made a way to the Barbarians and caused them to come to hand in battle, both gained a victory and took possession of Camulodunum, the capital of Cunobelin. As a result of this action, he deprived them of their arms, being many times acclaimed absolute ruler by treaty or by force of arms, (even though it is not possible, not ever, to be extolled thus for one war, nor yet to accept it.), he assigned these to Plautius, and commanding the remainder to be likewise subjugated, since he himself was returning to Rome.
Ó 1991- Lou. Francis