Roman occupation of Britain
Social Studies II
Delfina Schoo Lastra
1- HOW FAR AND IN WHAT WAYS DID THE ROMAN OCCUPATION OF BRITAIN AFFECT THE NATIVES AT THE TIME? After Julius Caesar’s easy conquest of Britain in AD 43, Latin began to be used in speech and writing as a way of assuring Roman rule; but it completely disappeared when the Anglo Saxons invaded Britain in the fifth century AD. During Agricola’s government many changes took place in Roman Britain: he completed the conquest of Wales and extended Roman rule into Scotland, the use of Courts of Justice was encouraged as well as trading and the development of better methods in agriculture, the toga came into fashion and the taxes were made less oppressive. Many towns grew out of Celtic settlements, military camps and market centres. They were built with stone and wood and had streets, markets and shops, forums, public baths, law courts, temples, indoor plumbing and amphitheatres. They were connected by amusingly well-built roads. Three different types of town could be distinguished: Coloniae (peopled by Roman settlers), Municipia (they were large towns whose inhabitants were given Roman citizenship) and Civitas, which included the old Celtic tribal capitals through which the Romans administered the Celtic population in the countryside. This was known as “indirect rule”: loyal Celtic chiefs were permitted to continue exercising authority over their tribesman. As a consequence, tension was minimized between the conquerors and the inhabitants; moreover, payment to Roman officials was avoided. Villas, large farms which belonged to the richer Britons, grew on large scale. Roman conquerors imposed on the Britons their imperial administrative structure which included racial and religious toleration and respect for local chiefs and customs as long as no political oppositions was involved. It is undeniable that Roman occupation of Britain changed the inhabitant’s lives: the conquerors believed that civilization was based on urban life so the Britons now lived comfortably in well-equipped cities and even some of them became Roman citizens. Commerce with other parts of the Empire was developed, they adopted Latin and adapted to Roman laws and ideas. Although the usual peace belonging to a well-ordered Roman province was brought to the island, the Romans didn’t succeed in Latinizing Britain: almost none of the mentioned changes was maintained after the Anglo-Saxon’s invasion.
2- HOW FAR AND IN WHAT WAYS DID THE ROMAN OCCUPATION OF BRITAIN AFFECT THE SUBSEQUENT HISTORY OF THE ISLAND? To begin with, it is crucial to mention that the name “Britain” comes from the word “Pretani”, the Greco-Roman word for the inhabitants of Britain. The Romans mispronounced the word and called the island “Britannia”. This shows the importance of the Roman conquest. The long-term results of the Roman occupation were the adoption of Christianity as the official religion by Emperor Constantine “The Great” for political reasons (as Christianity focuses only in one God it meant that he would achieve some solid structure to keep the Empire into existence) and the roads, which were first built for rapid military movement and commerce. Six of them met in London which was the most important trading centre of northern Europe.