He came, he saw, he conquered -how far did Julius Caesar really get

We have had kings and queens in England (Britain, UK or whatever you want to call it) for almost 2,000 years and during that time they have been raised up from nothing; brought down even lower; died peacefully in their beds; died less peacefully on battlefields or in castle dungeons; and even had their heads chopped off.

Strangely many people in this country still believe Britain (which some believe is the same as England, or the United Kingdom) was discovered by the Romans, invaded, colonised and then disappeared from human ken for a few hundred years when the Romans went off to try and save the rest of their empire.

From the time we (reluctantly some say) said goodbye to the Romans Britain fell into the Dark Ages to appear a few hundred years later as an Anglo Saxon kingdom before it was invaded again, this time by Normans.

This confused bit of history came about because there were periods which, until more modern times, appeared to have left very little mark on anywhere outside this island nation (or group of nations).

Strangely, although England (and then later with the addition of Wales, Ireland and Scotland) was really forged by Norman monarchs, after William (affectionately known as the Conqueror) barged in, many English consider themselves Anglo Saxons rather than Normans (or, heaven preserve us, French) and believe those hardy Saxon serfs proved to be a thorn in the side of their conquerors for the next couple of centuries.

In fact the thorn in the side of King William and his royal descendants was not Saxon peasants but those who fell in between peasants and the royal family – the barons and other noble knights who today would equate to our middle class.

Over the centuries this has remained the same as even that middle class split into further groups.

The peasants did not revolt, it was their bosses, the landowners, the minor aristocracy and their ilk, who turned on their royal masters as they wanted more power for themselves.

A POTTED HISTORY OF BRITAIN (55 BC to 1066 AD)

Julius Caesar is met by the loc7als when he popped over to Britain.+

There is a story that Britain was “discovered” by the Romans in the time of Julius Caesar, who first invaded in 55BC. In fact he came ashore, fought a couple of battles against the indigenous people, called it a victory and then popped back to the “real world”.

He did have a second trip to Britain but didn’t get far inland before he felt the need to head back to Rome where he had plans for the Ides of March.

Over the next 100 years a couple more cursory invasions of Britain followed before in 43 AD Emperor Claudius (think of Derek Jacobi as the stuttering and reluctant Caesar of that name) sent four legions to conquer Britain.

They did get further than JC and over the next couple of decades seemed to be getting on well with the locals, tribes of Celts who had settled there a few hundred years beforehand.

They did make one big mistake in that when one local king died, instead of making his wife a client ruler the governor seized his land and property on behalf of Rome. As if that wasn’t bad enough they flogged his wife and raped her daughters.

This got Boudicca somewhat annoyed and in 60 AD she started a revolt.

Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni (modern-day Norfolk, was really the first of the native Britons to revolt.

Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni , who lived in what is now East Anglia, took advantage of the fact that Rome’s top military man in Britain had headed up to North Wales with most of the troops to sort out the Druids in Anglesey.

She drew tens of thousands of Britons to her banner and rampaged through the South East killing Roman settlers and pro-Roman Britons alike.

Unfortunately for her the general and his troops hotfooted it back South and, although outnumbered, drew her forces into a trap and slaughtered them. Boudicca fled and was never seen again.

Thus ended the first rebellion in Britain. A rebellion led by a member of a royal family and not by the workers.

For the next 400 years there was an uneasy truce between the Britons and the Romans and many Britons became Romanised. Also many soldiers who had completed their service time and been paid off decided to stay.

By the 5th century the Roman Empire was falling apart. Eventually the troops were pulled back and Britain was left to fend for itself.

The next 500 years or so were cloaked in darkness and it is only from the late 19th century and into the 20th century that historians uncovered the archaeological clues, and written ones as well, which shows there was far more going on during those centuries than anyone had realised.

NEXT TIME: drawing back the veil to throw some light on the Dark Ages.

Published by Robin

I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.

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