Who were the Romans?
The Romans were the people from a city called Rome in what is now Italy. Rome was the greatest city of its time. At one time it had nearly one million people living there.
Rome vs Wales
What was Wales like before the Romans invaded?
- The Welsh lived as tribes each with their own leader or chieftain, the tribe that lived in the South of Wales was called the Silures
Welsh tribes during the Iron Age and Roman Period
- They lived in round houses made of wattle and daub (also known as mud and straw)
- some built defences and wooden walls called hillforts (like at Caerau in Ely)
- There were no roads, only trackways made of mud
- There are over 1000 Iron Age hillforts in Wales. They have steep slopes, a high wall and deep ditch which all helped keep tribes such as the the Silures safe in their homes.
- Farmers lived on the land they farmed. Sometimes farms would be built in spots with a good source of water, or fertile ground of good pasture for the animals. The Celts grew corn and kept cows, pigs, horses, goats and sheep.
- The hillforts didn’t keep the Romans out though and the tribes were conquered when the Romans invaded in AD43.
Iron Age Round house at St Fagan's National Museum of Wales
How to build an Iron Age house: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/interactive/animations/ironage_roundhouse/index.shtml
Why did the Romans come to Wales?
In 55 B.C. the Roman General Julius Caesar led his army across the sea from Gaul (France) to Britain. He wanted to make Britain part of Rome’s empire. The British fought bravely, and after a heavy storm where many of his ships were destroyed, Caesar soon went back to Gaul (France).
Nearly a hundred years later, in A.D. 43, the Romans returned after being asked by the Chieftain of the Atrebates (the area now Sussex, Hampshire and Berkshire) called Verica who was fighting against two other Chieftains called Togadamus and Caratacus (from Essex). Emperor Claudius sent an army to invade Britain. The army had four legions. This time the Romans conquered the southern half of Britain, and made it part of the Roman Empire. It took about four years for the invaders to finally gain control over southern England, and another 30 years for them to conquer all of the West Country and the mountains and valleys of Wales. The battle for Yorkshire and the remainder of northern England was still underway in AD 70.
Perhaps the Romans only used Chieftain Verica’s quarrel as an excuse and the real reasons for coming to Wales were:
- Land (expansion of empire)
- Honour of military conquest (Claudius had just recently been made emperor and wanted to impress everyone)
- Food such as corn and cattle (everyone likes bread, milk and meat supplies!)
- Slaves (very useful if you don’t want to clean your own house, The Romans thought that Celtic people made the best slaves)
Iron Gang Chain, Llyn Cerrig Bach
5. Metals : iron, lead, zinc, copper, silver and especially gold mines in Wales! (because everyone likes jewellery)
Welsh Gold Brooch
What did the Romans say about the Welsh tribe the Silures:
Roman Historian Tacitus said
What did the Roman Soldiers look like?
- Armour, plated (like an armadillo) or scale
- Short Sword, Shield, Helmet
- Wore a tunic and had leather sandals
- Only men fought
What did Welsh Soldiers look like?
- No clothes, apart from spikey hair and painted their bodies blue from the dye of a plant called woad
- Carried a long sword, shield and spear
- Only the wealthy had helmets
- Men and Women fought
Caractacus and the Silures South Welsh Rebellion
After the invasion in AD 43 the Emperor Claudius killed Chieftain Togadumnus in battle, but Caracatus managed to flee to South Wales and set himself up as a resistance leader of the Silures.
In the winter of AD47-8, Caractacus and the Silures began to attack other tribes loyal to the Romans in the Severn Valley known as the Dobunni. However he was beaten back to a well fortified hilltop, possibly Dunraven near Ogmore beach and later fled to Cartimandua Queen of the Brigantes (now Midlands and Yorkshire), who betrayed him and handed him over to the Romans in AD51.
The South Welsh tribe the Silures continued the defence of their land and managed to defeat a whole Roman army. However, eventually in AD 52 they too were defeated.
The Romans always suspected the Silures of trying to start new rebellions and so built lots of forts and fortlets to ensure that the Roman army always had a presence there. The biggest was Caerleon.
Info on Boudicca and Iceni Rebellion against the Romans: http://www.bgfl.org/bgfl/custom/resources_ftp/client_ftp/ks2/history/boudicca/context.htm
Romans TV, or how to become a Roman: http://www.newportsouthwales.net/romanstv/
Facts about Romans: http://www.chiddingstone.kent.sch.uk/homework/Romans.html#2
A bit about Iron Age Religion…
The Romans wrote a bit about Iron Age Religion as the British did not know how to write at that time:
They wrote about the power of the Celts’ priests, who were called druids.
Bronze Plaque, sacrificed to gods by Iron Age Welsh in Anglesey
The druids knew how to keep their gods happy – they sacrificed food, precious objects, and even people to their gods and goddesses.
Iron Age bronze Plaque, Llyn Cerrig Bach, Anglesey
Archaeologists found evidence of a ritual sacrifice in a peat bog.
A digger moving earth in a peat bog in Cheshire found a human body buried deep in a bog. The shocked workmen called the police – they thought the man had been murdered.
The man had been knocked on the head, strangled and his neck had been cut. Imagine their surprise when archaeologists worked out that he was an Briton who had been killed 2000 years ago!
Iron Age "Bog Body," of a sacrificed man found in Cheshire
Only the upper half of the man’s body remained. Archaeologists found food still in his stomach after 2,000 years! His last meal was bread.
National Geographic Article on Bog bodies: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2007/09/bog-bodies/bog-bodies-text
The Romans came to Britain nearly 2000 years ago and changed our country. Even today, evidence of the Romans being here, can be seen in the ruins of Roman buildings, forts, roads, and baths can be found all over Britain.
The Romans invaded other countries too. The Roman Empire covered much of Europe, north Africa, and the Middle East.
The Romans lived in Rome, a city in the centre of the country of Italy .
One day, some years before Jesus Christ was born, the Romans came to Britain.
Britain before the Romans (The Celts)
Who founded Rome?
When did the Romans invade Britain?
In which year did the Romans invade Britain?
Why did the Romans invade Britain?
How many times did Julius Caesar try to invade Britain?
How long did the Romans stay in Britain?
What lanuage did the Romans speak?
Why did the Romans leave Britain?
What did the Romans call London?
Why was the Roman Empire important?
What did the Romans give us?
Video on the Roman Empire
According to the Roman legend, Romulus was the founder of Rome. Romulus and his twin brother Remus were the sons of the God Mars. When they were very young they were abandoned by the banks of the River Tiber and left to fend for themselves. Luckily for them they were found by a she-wolf who took pity on them fed them with her milk. The boys were later found by a shepherd who raised them. The boys grew up to be very strong and clever and they decided to build a town on the spot where the Shepherd had found them. They named their town Rome.
First invasion - Caesar's first raid
In August 55 B.C. (55 years before Jesus was born) the Roman general, EmperorJulius Caesar invaded Britain. He took with him two Roman legions. After winning several battles against the Celtic tribes (Britons) in south-east England he returned to France.
Second invasion - Caesar's second raid
The following summer (in 54 B.C.) Caesar came to Britain again landing at Walmer near Deal in Kent. This time he brought with him no fewer than five legions (30,000 foot soldiers) and 2,000 cavalrymen (horse riders). This time the Romans crossed the River Thames. After more fighting, the British tribes promised to pay tribute to Rome and were then left in peace for nearly a century.
Third and final invasion
Nearly one hundred years later, in 43 A.D. (43 years after Jesus was born), Emperor Claudius organised the final and successful Roman invasion of Britain. General Aulus Plautius led four legions with 25,000 men, plus an equal number of auxiliary soldiers. They crossed the Channel in three divisions, landing at Richborough, Dover, and Lympne.
(Click here for more information on the map of Kent in Roman times)
The biggest battle was fought on the banks of the River Medway, close to Rochester. It went on for two days before the Celtic tribes retreated.
Many tribes tried to resist the Romans. It took about four years for the invaders to finally gain control over southern England, and another 30 years for them to conquer all of the West Country and the mountains and valleys of Wales. The battle for Yorkshire and the remainder of northern England was still underway in AD 70.
The first Roman city was Camulodunum also called Colonia Vitricencis. (We know it by the name of Colchester.) It was the seat of Roman power and governance of Brittania until sacked during the Boudiccan revolt. London was then established as a seat of governance, and only became important after the Camulodunum event.
Why the Romans came to Britain is not quite certain. Two reasons have been suggested:
- The Romans were cross with Britain for helping the Gauls (now called the French) fight against the Roman general Julius Caesar.
- They came to Britain looking for riches - land, slaves, and most of all, iron, lead, zinc, copper, silver and gold.
The Romans remained in Britain from 43 AD to 410 AD. That is almost four hundred years (four centuries).
The Romans spoke a form of Latin known as vulgar Latin. It was quite different from the Classical Latin that we learn today.
Their homes in Italy were being attacked by fierce tribes and every soldier was needed.
The Romans called London 'Londinium'.
The River Thames was quick way to transport goods between Britain and the Continent. The Romans saw this and built the town of Londinium around the river's main crossing point.
Find out more about Roman London
The Romans, even today, play an important part in our lives. Many of the things we do or have originated from the Romans.
The language we used today was developed from the Romans. The Romans spoke and wrote in Latin and many of our words are based on Latin words.
- The Calendar
Did you know that the calendar we use today is more than 2,000 years old? It was started by Julius Caesar, a Roman ruler. It is based on the movement of the earth around the sun, and so is called the 'solar calendar.' The solar calendar has 365 days a year, and 366 days every leap year, or every fourth year. The names of our months are taken from the names of Roman gods and rulers. The month 'July,' in fact, is named after Julius Caesar himself!
- Laws and a legal system
The laws and ways we determine what to do with someone who is accused of breaking a law came originally from the Roman Empire.
- The Census
The Roman Empire was huge and included millions of people living over a large area. How did they keep track of all these people? Easy! They counted them! The Roman Empire began the practice of taking a census, or a 'count,' of all the people within its boundaries every so often. Today, many countries like ours take a census every 10 years.
- straight roads
- central heating
- aqueducts (bridges for water)
Use the links, top left, for more information about the Romans.
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