Chapter XXXVIII - Conclusion of the Britannic conquest (146 - 49 BC)
A. Conquest of England (146 - 81 BC)
After the end of the Silurian Campaign in the year 146 BC, Rome controlled southeast and central England as well as Wales. During the next three decades, the Republic maintained the status quo, since it was occupied with the events in Gaul and Iberia. Nevertheless we may assume, that the local Governor established stable relations with the neighboring tribes via a more or less substantial trade.(192)
In the late 2nd Century BC, Rome finally began its further expansion and the establishment of Colonies. The Dumnonii, a tribe in the southwest of England around their capital Isca Dumnoniorum(193), let themselves incorporate in to the Republic without opposition around the year 102 BC.
But the Republic experienced more resistance to the east and north. The Iceni, who populated today`s Norfolk with their capital Venta Icenorum(194), tried to stop the roman expansion by force. In a long and exhausting campaign, Rome finally succeeded and seized the territory of the Iceni in 107 BC. The Iceni were supported by the Corieltauvi, who settled around today`s Leicester and posed a constant threat for the young roman colonies. It took more than twenty years, before Rome could break the last resistance in the year 81 BC.
B. Expansion to the north (81 - 49 BC)
For the next fifteen years, Rome seemed to have consolidated its power in southern Britannia and maybe thought about the future strategy of its colonization. Reasons for a further expansion were probably the restless tribes in Hibernia (Ireland) and Caledonia (Scotland). While the Irish tribes crossed the North Channel to raid southern Britannia, the tribe of the Pictii(195) had established a stable realm in the Highlands. Both were reasonable threats to the newly established roman colonies.
In the mid 60s BC, Rome advanced north into the territory of the Brigantes, who were subdued without nameable resistance. Simultaneously with the founding of the new regional capital of Eboracum(196), Rome began to secure the northern border of this province with a limes, known today as "Tuditan`s wall"(197), of about 80 miles length from today`s Newcastle to Solway Firth.
Although the building of this wall indicated the end of its expansion, Rome crossed this border shortly after its completion and established a new province in the territory of the Damnonii, probably to control the Damnonii themselves and the other tribes of the Lowlands. Shortly after their arrival they began to build another limes, the "Valerian Wall"(198), of about 40 miles length between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde, thus establishing a border toward the territory of the Pictii.
With the building of the "Valerian Wall", the expansion of the Roman Republic in Britannia finally came to an end.
Fig. 42: Britannia during the Roman conquest 146 - 49 BC
(Dark Red: Rome`s holdings in 146 BC)
Whatever the reasons may have been to give up the "Tuditan Wall" and march north, they caused more problems than they solved. During the next 200 years, the Province had no long period of peace and the Republic had to maintain a considerable large Garrison to secure the area.
Around 180 AD, Rome finally gave up the Lowlands and retreated to the repaired "Tuditan Wall" that marked the northern border of the Roman Empire for another 200 years, before Rome`s forces completely retreated from Britannia during the usurpations in the late imperial era around 400 AD.
It is an often discussed topic, why Rome stopped and didn`t completely conquer the British Isles, or at least Britannia itself. The most common theories state, that Britannia and Hibernia, similar to Germania, were too remote and poor to justify any further conquests. Others, like Hawthorne, point out, that already in the late Republican era first symptoms of overexpansion developed(199).
From the end of the roman expansion in 49 BC to the beginning of the Usurpations by roman Commanders in Britannia in the 3rd Century AD, the country remained remarkably stable and peaceful. Although there are no vast roman remains, the "Tuditan Wall" is still an impressive remnant of roman presence and source of academic insight(200).
(192) Findings of coins and amphorae especially in Norfolk and Devon indicate trade routes at least to the Celtic capitals.
(193) Today Exeter
(194) Today Caistor St. Edward near Norwich
(195) The word Pictii is of Latin origin and derives from "to paint", so the Pictii were "the painted", maybe a reference, that tattoos were common. The Picts self-designation is unknown.
(196) Today York. The origin of this name is not certain, but maybe a native language. Although there are findings of Mesolithic settlements, it is unknown, if these were permanent or not.
(197) Named after Marcus Sempronius Tuditanus, Consul 65 - 63 BC
(198) Named after Titus Valerius Falto, Consul 49 - 47 BC
(199) But Hawthorne admits, that the political unrest during the transition from the Republican to the Imperial era contributed to the fact, that Rome`s focus shifted to the Roman heartland for decades and thus prevented the pursuit of a consistent Britannic strategy.
(200) Special attention should be paid to the Vindolanda Tablets, found in the year 1973 in a former fort along the Tuditan Wall, that provide insight into military as well as personal correspondence of the 1st and 2nd Century AD.