BRITANNIA: 43 AD

 

Claudius' Invasion of 43 AD

After more than a century of trade with Britannia, Rome had become dependent on this source of metals and Roman farmers had also become used to the increased demand for their pottery and wine. However such reasons for an invasion paled beside Claudius' political troubles in the senate. Claudius had enjoyed little status until then and Roman senators were on the verge of seizing more power to his disadvantage.

What Claudius decided was that a nice small war and a new wealthy province would be a good thing. This would be no summertime visit, but a permanent occupation. In 40 AD peace had descended - thanks to Octavian Augustus, and the army was available. Claudius began to plan his invasion with considerable care and one of his first decisions was that he would lead it and gain the glory. Because the sea had caused Julius such problems, Claudius built a light-house at Boulonge. In fact, the Roman writer Suetonius described that Plautius, the military commander, still had considerable difficulty in persuading the legionaries to board the ships.

The British king, Cunobelinus, had died and left Britain divided between his sons, of whom Caratacus emerged as leader. Plautius led the 40,000 men of the auxiliaries and Legions II Augusta, IX Hispana, XIV Gemina and XX Valeria Victrix, who landed in three divisions in separate areas, perhaps focused on Richborough. A major two-day battle took place in which Caratacus was forced back to the Thames and his brother Togodumnus was killed. Plautius had won no major advantage at this point and he ordered his troops to hold and defend while he sent to Rome for Claudius and help.

Claudius finally arrived with 38 elephants, some ballista (missile artillery), and a cohort of the Legio VIII Augusta. With this extra strength, Caratacus was pushed into Wales, Camulodunum was captured, and 11 tribes surrendered. Camulodunum became the first Roman capital of Britannium, the generals were left to get on with it, and Claudius went back to Rome and glory. Final pacification took in Queen Boudicca's revolt and another 40 years, but Rome had conquered Britain.

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