HAHG Talk: The Roman Invasions of Britain

Members of the Henley Archaeological & Historical Group were treated on 1 November to a talk by the military historian Bill King on ‘The Great Invasion: The Roman Invasions, Occupation and Colonisation of Britain’.

There were actually three Roman invasions of Britain. Julius Caesar, tempted by Britain’s resources, made a reconnaissance accompanied by a couple of legions in 55BC. In the following year, 54BC, accompanied by five legions, he made a more determined attempt on the island. He reached present-day St Albans where he defeated Caractacus, demanded tribute and returned to Rome victorious.

In 43AD, the emperor Augustus again invaded with a well-trained and -equipped force intending to colonise the territory. Within 3 years he succeeded in occupying Britain south of a line between roughly Exeter and York; by 60AD, members of the original invasion force settled on land they were given in this territory. Resentment built up among the native British, leading to rebellions, notably that of Boudicca who sacked Colchester and London before her eventual defeat.

In coming centuries, the Romans consolidated and extended their occupation as far as central Scotland. Some 60 years later, the Roman withdrawal began, to Hadrian’s Wall. Problems in Rome led to transfer of legions away from the area and encouraged the governor to declare independence. The Romans finally abandoned Britain completely in 410AD. And the rest is history.

The next talk will be given at the Kings Arms Barn, on 6 December at 7.45, by Dr Gabor Thomas of Reading University on the excavation of the Anglo-Saxon monastery at Cookham.