Picture tomb showing Romans Fighting

By the time Plautius returned to Rome in 47 AD the conquest of the South and East of England was complete. The new governor Publius Ostorius Scapula initially tried to consolidate his gains. But this was disturbed by the first Icenii revolt. Having crushed the Icenii, Ostorius advanced into North East Wales. However this had to be broken off to deal with disturbances among the Brigantes.


Ostorius also had to face new risings against the Romans from the Britons under the leadership of Caratacus.
Caratacus was the leader first of the Silures of South Wales and latter of all the opposition to the Romans. The fighting against the Silures was especially fierce, made worst by Ostorius declaring that the Silures had to be annihilated. Caratacus was finally defeated and fled to the Brigantes. But Queen Cartimandua mindful of her alliance promptly handed him over to the Romans. Caratacus was taken to Rome and led in triumph through the city, after which Caratacus and his family were pardoned by the Emperor Claudius.

This was not the end of the war with the Silures. Shortly afterwards the Silures launched attacks on the Roman positions that had been established. Ostorius died (worn out by the burden of his anxieties according to Tacitus). When his successor Aulus Didius Gallus arrived he found that the Silures had defeated a Roman legion (probably the XIV Gemina) commanded by Gaius Manlius Valens, however Didius managed to restore order.

No sooner had Didius dealt with the Silures than he faced new problems in the north with the Brigantes. Queen Cartimandua had divorced her husband Venutius, and taking some of his brothers and relatives hostage. Venutus had retaliated by attacking her kingdom. Didius initially sent several auxiliary cohorts and finally the IX Hispana legion to support Queen Cartimandua. Venutus managed to evade capture and would cause the Romans further trouble in the future.


In 54 AD Claudius died and Nero became emperor. It is said that Nero thought of abandoning Britain, but decided not to out of respect for Claudius. This was probably at the start of his reign rather than during the Boudiccan revolt.

Didius was succeeded as governor by Quintus Varinus. The next governor was C.Suetonius Paulus, a man with a great military reputation, especially of mountain warfare. In 60 AD, at the climax of his campaign in Wales, he attacked Anglesey, the first Roman to do so. However while he was engaged in this the Boudiccan revolt started in the south east of Britain.

The Boudiccan revolt

The revolt started with an attack on the colony of Colchester, which was overrun and destroyed almost immediately. Part of the IXth legion had been dispatched to deal with the rebels, but this was cut to pieces with only the cavalry escaping. After this the rebels turned their attention to London and Verulamium, destroying the cities and butchering their inhabitants; the Britons were said to take no prisoners. Despite these setbacks Suetonius was eventually able to defeat the rebels at a battle somewhere in the midlands using the XX and part of the XIV legion. The XX legion was awarded the title 'Valeria Victrix' for their part in the victory.

Suetonius followed up his victory by carrying out a vicious campaign of retribution against the tribes that had supported the revolt. However a new provincial procurator, Julius Classicianus, was sent to Britain and seemed to take a much more concilitory approach. His adverse report on the actions of Suetonius led to a commision of inquiry. Suetonius was not immediately replaced and his victory was celebrated, but was soon eased out of his position. His successor Turpilianus working with Classicianus achieved such success that the south of Britain never again suffered a serious tribal revolt and led to the two faces of Roman Britain; a Romanized south and a military occupied far north.

Revolt in the North

In 69 AD the situation in the north of Britain was transformed. Queen Cartimandua the pro Roman queen of the Brigantes was over thrown by her ex-husband. Instead of the Roman province being protected by a powerful and friendly kingdom, it now found itself threatened by an old and determined foe. The Romans replied with a powerful advance up both the western and eastern sides of the country. The final phase would have been a probe at least as far as Carlisle. With these advances the Romans were finally in occupation of the territory through which they would one day build Hadrian's Wall.

The advance into Scotland

The next phase of the Roman advance saw Agricola campaigning in to Scotland. It seems that he advanced in two columns, one through Carlisle and the other through Corbridge eventually defeating the enemy at a place called Mons Grapius. After this Agricola sent his fleet in cicumnavigation of Britain.

These gains were however to be short lived. One of the legions in Britain was withdrawn and this and a shortage of auxiliaries led to the forts in the Scottish highlands being demolished. Some time around 105 AD the forts in southern Scotland were abandoned and several (including Corbridge) were burnt. It is still a matter of debate whether this was due to a strategic withdraw with the troops needed for Trajans Dacian wars or due to enemy action.

After this the frontier of Britain lay along the Tyne Solway gap. This was based on the Stanegate road which was a defended link between the two main roads into Scotland (at Carlisle and Corbridge). The link had forts along the road at Carlisle, Brampton, Nether Denton, Throp, Carvoran, Haltwhistle burn, Vindolanda, Newbrough and Corbridge. The Stangegate road thus lay a couple of miles South of where Hadrians wall was to be built.

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