Examine the impact the Romans made on the British Isles
Although there had been increasing contact between the British Isles and the classical world during the Late Iron Age, the first real Roman presence here was that of Julius Caesar. In 55BC a Roman army of around ten thousand men crossed the channel and invaded Britain, yet were defeated and had to return to Gaul. Then in the following year; 54BC, Caesar came to Britain again. This time with a much larger army, although on this occasion he won the majority of battles and was victorious, he still returned to Gaul. It wasn’t until 43AD that the real invasion took place and the real ‘Romanisation’ of the British Isles began.
Romanisation is commonly seen as the coming of civilisation to the British Isles, but was this really the case? Or was it just a military imposition of a new culture, which changed Britain? Not Necessarily for the better. My aim is to examine the impact the Romans made on the British Isles. In order to do this I am going to evaluate the different contributions they made, to decide whether their presence really had a significant impact. Would our world be different if it wasn’t for the Roman invasion? Would advances such as architecture and agriculture have been made so quickly? These are some examples of the questions I will be answering within this essay.
The British Isles consists of; England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Although by 78AD all of England and Wales was under roman control, they never fully conquered the highland areas of Scotland. Although they did try, the terrain made it far more difficult for an invading power. The Romans never even attempted to invade Ireland, the only real impact they made in Ireland was the increase of wealth due to trade. They didn’t make a significant impact on Scotland either, they only really inherited two main features from the Roman period; the use of the Latin script for its languages, and the emergence of Christianity as the predominant religion. In my opinion, William Hanson concludes the roman impact of Scotland perfectly, ‘The Roman presence in Scotland was little more than a series of brief interludes within a longer continuum of indigenous development’.  Therefore when discussing the impact the Romans made on the British Isles we can automatically rule out Ireland and the majority of Scotland, as the Romans didn’t have any control of these countries, thus had no real impact. Other than Scotland and Ireland, the other areas of the British Isles, referred to by the Romans as ‘Britannia’ were affected immensely by the Romans arrival. Firstly and arguably one of the most significant, was the economic changes the Romans made.
The civilised Romans were city-dwellers and as soon as they got the chance they began urbanising Britain by creating towns and building villas just like those in Rome. Some Roman towns are still towns today, such as the city of York. They choose their spots wisely, to allow good communications, as well as plenty of farmland and water supply. Although it is believed the Romans were to first to create towns, there is new archaeological evidence to argue otherwise. The remains of a pre Roman town were discovered unearthed beneath the Roman town of Silchester, near modern Reading. The people of Iron Age Silchester appear to have adopted an urbanised ‘Roman’ way of life, long before the Romans arrived. This archaeological find makes people now question whether the Romans really did make such a significant impact on the British Isles in terms of urbanisation, or were pre-Romans already beginning to urbanise Britain before the invasion? The Romans may have possibly just sped up the processes. It certainly shows that the Britons were actually more sophisticated and not as barbaric as originally thought. Meanwhile the upper class Celts adopted the roman way of life, and were significantly affected by their arrival. The Roman rule made little impact on the lives of...
Bibliography: Martin Millett, The Romanization of Britain, Cambridge University Press, 1990
[ 1 ]. . Hanson, William S. "The Roman Presence: Brief Interludes", in Edwards, Kevin J. & Ralston, Ian B.M. (Eds) (2003) Scotland After the Ice Age: Environment, Archaeology and History, 8000 BC - AD 1000. Edinburgh. Edinburgh University Press.
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