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Apollo Antiquities Gallery UK
In 55 BC, and again in 54 BC, Julius Caesar made two brief expeditions to Britain with a small force of men. There is evidence to suggest that he may have brought gifts of gold to the Celtic Kings as peace offerings. On the second occasion it is believed he arrived with a larger force, most likely to have been some 800 ships with five legions and 2,000 horsemen. On both occasions he arrived in Kent, and it is believed by historians that he was unopposed.
Britain was a fertile land and for some while the Celts had been trading wheat with the Roman armies in Europe. Perhaps Caesar decided to come and take a look for himself at this fertile land, which was also rich in minerals, with tin from Cornwall and copper from Ireland. No rice or potatoes at this time in Britain, so bread was the staple diet of the Roman Army, hence the importance of wheat and fertile farming land.
Caesar was supported by the Celtic Trinovantes tribe who helped him battle against their enemies the Catuvellauni tribe led by Cassivelaunus. The British king was defeated in battle by Caesar at Verulan, and Cassivelaunus thereafter made peace with Caesar. An agreement was also made that an annual tax should be paid to Rome.
Almost one hundred years were to pass before the return of the Roman Army led by the emperor Claudius in 43 AD. He arrived at Richborough in Kent with four legions which consisted of 40,000 men. The second legion was commanded by Vespasian who would eventually go on to become Caesar after the rule of Nero, and to occupy Wales.
Within four years Britain was turned into a Roman province. Under Claudius the senior army general was Aulus Plautius who would become first governor in first century Roman Britain. He made agreements with the Iceni tribe in Norfolk, and the Atrebates tribe in Hampshire, and added the Roman name Calleva to their city Atrebatum in a symbol of unity. This created the Romano-Celtic city of Calleva Atrebatum, near modern day Silchester in Hampshire. By the end of the forth century Calleva would have been a very large city, making many items for use throughout Roman Britain, and also had its own Amphitheatre, Forum, Basilica, and was surrounded by high stone walls.
Early in the 4th century the Emperor Diocletian divided the province into four regions called the "Diocese of Britain". Also during the 4th century prosperity grew under the reign of the by now Christian Holy Roman Emperor Constantine. Impressive villas with under floor heating and fantastic mosaics were constructed, as well as bathhouses. At the end of the 4th century the Romans were defeated in battle by an alliance between invaders from Ireland, and the Picts and Saxons. This period coincided with the beginning of the fall of the Roman Empire.
Finally, at the start of the 5th century, Britain was asked by the Emperor Constantine the 3ed to defend itself. The call was answered by Honorius resulting in the withdrawal for good of the Roman Army from Britain in the year 411 AD. This brought to an end 400 years of Roman rule, artistic, cultural, and religious influence in Britain. From the occupation in 43 AD to the departure in 411 AD saw the stylistic change from Romano-Celtic to Romano-British, a legacy that can still be seen today in artefacts from this period of our cultural development and history. 5th century Britain was to see the start of the "Dark Ages" and Anglo Saxon rule.
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