Only a few months ago I heard that many British people were actually Romans or of mixed Roman/British blood (very likely on the History Channel). Now, researching Scotland’s history, I find that the whole island of Britain except the Scottish Highlands was once under Roman rule. I had come upon information that the only written records we have of early Scotland, in particular, the Picts, were from Tacitus, the son-in-law of Gnaeus Julius Agricola, a commander who eventually drove the Picts back beyond the wall. This was not the first time Britain had been invaded by the Romans. Julius Caesar had been there before and made two attempts before he succeeded.
One of the things that struck me was the fact that the Romans considered the various people in Britain to be “barbarians”, a novel idea for modern times, considering our view of the ancient Romans as being the executioners of Christ. I realized I would have to go back and see what made the Romans think this way. We are already familiar with the reputation of the Picts as being wild men. They were known as the Caledoni by the Romans, but what of the south? I began to read about Julius Ceasar’s first attempt at landing at Dover in Britain. It seemed almost comical.
The British were eventually driven back with catapultae and slings fired from the warships into the exposed flank of their formation and the Romans managed to land and drive them off. The cavalry, delayed by adverse winds, still had not arrived, so the Britons could not be pursued and finished off, and Caesar could not enjoy what he calls, in his usual self-promoting style, his “accustomed success”. Winter was creeping in and Caesar decided to leave after routing the Britons one more time. He returned a second time with an extra 15,000 troops, this time securing a surrender from the Britons with a “scorched earth” policy. Nothing was left that could be of any use to the enemy, in short everything was burned. An agreement would be made for the Britons to pay tribute (which could be a portion of their land), give hostages and sometimes become a client state which was comprised of Britons who sided with the Romans. One of the client states was in south-east Scotland and north-east England (Northumberland) between the two walls. These were the Votadini people and they created a buffer zone between the Caledoni and Roman Britain between 138AD and 162 AD. Britain was left in the hands of those who had an interest in keeping the peace. After all, Rome was a wealthy nation.
Sources for this post:
BBC History of Ancient Romans
BBC The Romans in Scotland
The History files
Caesars Invasion of Britain Wikipedia
Client State Wikipedia
BBC Scotlands History The Kingdom of the Gaels
Yolande of Dreux Queen of Scotland- Wikipedia
Chronicles of the Picts, Chronicles of the Scots
Boudica The Warrior Queen Wikipedia
© 2014 Yolanda Presant