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Roman Britain

Who were the Romans?

The Romans were the military and cultural superpower of the Ancient World. They originated in Rome, Italy, around 350 BC. After conquering their latin neighbours the Romans went on to conquer Spain and other powers in the Mediterranean. Eventually their empire extended from Scotland in the Northwest to Egypt in the Southeast. The Roman Empire eventually fell around 410 AD when the barbarian hordes invaded and destroyed the Classical World. After this the Dark Ages began.

When did the Romans invade Britain and why?

The Romans first invaded Britain under Julius Caesar in 55 BC. Julius Caesar had trouble landing his troops because the English Channel had stronger tides and currents than the Mediterranean. Caesar fought with the Celtic tribes in Southeast Britain and then returned to Gaul (modern France) because he didn't have the supplies for a long term invasion. Caesar claimed his landing as a victory and then returned to Rome a hero. He was later killed by Roman senators for becoming too powerful.

The second Roman invasion happened in 43 AD, almost a hundred years after Julius Caesar. This time the Romans invaded under the orders of Emperor Cladius. Claudius invaded Britain because he wanted to appear as a successful general like Caesar, Cladius suffered from a lisp and wasn't an impressive person so the invasion was designed to bring glory to his reign and make him appear more popular to the Roman people.

Who lived in Britain when the Romans invaded?

An invader is different from a visitor because it's someone who takes over your country by force. The people who lived in Britain when the Romans invaded were known as the Celts. They were divided into a series of tribes such as the Iceni, Artrebates and Catuvellauni. These ancient people used to dye their clothes with blue wode dye and spike up their hair to look fearsome. When attacking the Romans they used to ride in on fast chariots, then jump off and fight the Romans. If they needed to retreat the chariots would ride in close and they would jump back on to escape. These hit and run tactics were an early form of guerilla warfare. However, the Romans finally won a pitched battle against the British Celts at Mons Graupius. The British Celts also lived in fortified villages called oppidum but many of these were destroyed during the Roman occupation.

What did the Romans ever do for us?

The Romans brought underfloor heating, plumbing, baths, olive oil, theatre and Roman laws to Britain. They also built lots of straight roads so that they could march around the country quickly, some of these routes are still in use today such as Watling Street.

Why did the Romans leave Britain?

The Romans left Britain around 410 AD because the barbarians invaded the Roman Empire. The Roman Emperor called the Roman legions back and Britain was left undefended. The Anglo Saxons and other barbarian tribes soon took advantage of this weakness and started to arrive in large numbers. This period was called the Dark Ages because there isn't much in the way of written evidence compared to the literature of the Classical World and the Roman Empire.

Teaching Ideas
Diary Entry
Imagine you were living in Britain and the Romans invaded. Write down how you would feel, would you be scared? Would you try to fight the Romans or be friends with them?
Roman Art
The Romans used to make wonderful artwork using mosaics, can you find any pictures of mosaics? Maybe you can try making your own mosaic using lots of little paper squares?
Roman Religion
What did the Romans believe in? Did they have Gods? Were their Gods similar to other Gods? What were their names?
Roman Food
The Romans loved to eat but some of their food was quite strange. See if you can find out what food they ate. Would you have liked to go to a Roman dinner party? Maybe you can make your own Roman menu?
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