1996-04-10: Oxford Illustrated History of Roman Britain

Oxford Illustrated History of Roman Britain (1993)

by Peter Salway (1932-)

The pictures were interesting, but I feel like there is a lot that might have been written, but wasn’t. Perhaps the period is just too difficult.

I read the book primarily hoping to learn something about two aspects of Roman Britain: the nature of the interaction between the Romans and the Celtic culture of Britain before the Romans came, saw and conquered; and the nature of Romano-Britain culture and relations with the rest of the empire in Arthurian times. Neither is covered in this book.

There are some interesting points made. The final chapter, Religion and Society, points out the similarity between the attitudes of the early Christians to the troubles of their time and the attitudes of the pagan tradition.

… there is the paradoxical fact that the two main strains in Christian approaches to the barbarian threat and to public duty closely mirrored traditional Roman attitudes, in practice if not in theory. One party in the Christian church regarded contemporary life as a lost cause – even illusory and unimportant – and advocated retreat from the world. The other, typified by the energetic St Ambrose, urged on all Romans a duty to defend the empire and the faith from the heathen or heretical barbarians. Thus we have the two contradictory tendencies oin pagan tradition – the Epicurean retreat from the stresses of the world, and the Stoic persistence in public duty – being reproduced in Christian attitudes.

Like most history books, a great deal of this one is taken up with a catalog of military activity, particularly the various risings and civil wars that changed the imperial dynasties. Nonetheless, these show the importance of Britain through the history of the Empire, for the prestige of a Brittanic victory, and as a source of support for imperial ambitions.

One particulary irritating aspect of the book (common to other Oxford series) is anachronistic reference to locations by their current names, but with too few maps; the editors clearly expect their readers to know their British geography.

One interesting aspect of the story of the Roman Empire is the changes that take place in the names that are known. Those from the earliest years are firmly Roman, later names show Greek and Celtic origins, even in emperors. This book is not the place to study the names, but it might be an interesting study.

The main text is followed by a chronology and a list of emperors.

Chronology

Entries in italics give the names and dates of Roman governors of the British provinces, where they are known or can be reasonably conjectured.

125-123 BC

Permanent Roman presence established in southern Gaul, increased penetration of Roman culture northwards, changes appearing in Britain

c.100

Development of Portland and Hengistbury Head as trading ports

58-51

Caesar’s conquest of Gaul

56

Defeat of Veneti, Gallic domination of communication with Britain broken

55

First expedition of Caesar to Britain

54

Second expedition of Caesar

54-51

Gallic revolts (52 Vertingetorix)

52

Commius flees to Britain

49-44

Caesar as dictator (49-45 Civil War, 48 death of Pompey)

44-30

Further civil wars across Roman world

31

Battle of Actium, victory of Octavian over Antony and Cleopatra

30

Suicides of Antony and Cleopatra, Octavian (augustus) sole ruler, effective end of Roman Republic

34, 27, 26

Projected expeditions of Augustus to Britain?

16

Roman diplomatic activity towards Britain?

c.16

Romaizing coinage of Tincommius begins

c.15

Coinage of Tasciovanus appears, Catuvellaunian expansion begins?

by 12

Permanent Roman bases on the Rhine

AD 9

Destruction of three legions in Germany (Clades Variana), imperial expansion under Augustus ends

before 14

Tincommius and Dubnovellaunus suppliants at court of Augustus; coins of Cunobelinus, issued first at Colchester, then Verulamium; British rulers dedicate offerings on Capitol in Rome

39/40

Adminius exiled from Britain by Cunobelinus

40

British expedition of Gaius (Caligula) aborted

40/43

Death of Cunobelinus

41/42

Verica flees from Britain to court of Claudius

43

Claudian invasian, Claudius accepts British surrender in person; invasion force includes legions II Augusta and XIV, almost certainly IX and XX (recorded in Britain soon after)

43-47

Aulus Plautius

c.43-46

Vespasian campaigns westward

by 47

Conquest of south and east of England completed

47

Aulus Plautius becomes last Roman outside imperial family to receive a formal ‘ovation’ in Rome

47-52

Publius Ostorius Scapula

47

First Icenian revolt suppressed

47-52

Campaigns of Ostorius Scapula on Welsh border

48

First Roman intervention in Brigantia

49

Foundation of Colchester as colonia

c.50

Foundation of London

51

Caratacus finally defeated in battle, surrendered by Cartimandua, ceremonially displayed at Rome, and pardoned by Claudius

52-58

Conquest of Wales continued; second Roman intervention in Brigantia, supporting Cartimandua against Venutius

52-57

Aulus Didius Gallus

57/58

Quintus Veranius

?58-61

Gaius Suetonius Paullinus

60

Paullinus attacks Anglesey

60/61

Revolt of Boudicca, destruction of Colchester, London, and Verulamium

61/62-63

Publius Petronius Turpilianus

63-69

Marcus Vettius Bolanus

c.66/67

Leg. XIV withdrawn by Nero for Caucusu campaign

68-69

‘Year of the Four Emperors’

69/70

Leg. XIV back in Britain after first battel of Bedriacum

69

Venutius makes war on Cartimandua

70

Leg. XIV transferred to Germany

71-73/74

Quintus Petillius Cerialis

71

Leg. II Adiutrix posted to Britain

71

Final defeat of Venutius by Cerialis

71-84

Conquest of northern Britain and Wales completed

73/74-77/78

Sextus Julius Frontinus, Silures defeated in Wales, major public works begun in Romano-British cities

77/78-83/84

Gnaeus Julius Agricola

83/84

Battle of Mons Graupius

83/96

Sallustius Lucullus

85/92

Leg. II Adiutrix transferred to Danube

?87

Inchtuthil evacuated

90/100

Foundation of Lincoln and Gloucester coloniae; at London stone fort constructed, second basilica started; Richborough victory monument built

by 98

Publius Metilius Nepo?

?97/98-?100/101

Titus Avidius Quietus

c.100

Frontier on Tyne-Solway line, Scotland largely abandoned

?100/101-103 (or later)

Lucius Neratius Marcellus

108/130s

Final withdrawal of Leg. XIV from Britain

c.115/118?

Marcus Appius (or Atilius) Bradua

117/138

Hadrianic Fire of London

118/122

Quintus Pompeius Falco

122

Hadrian visits Britain, the Wall begun, revival of public building in cities; Leg. VI posted to Britain

122-124 (or later)

Aulus Platorius Nepos

130/131-132/133

Sextus Julius Severus

132/133-135 (or later)

Publius Mummius Sisenna

138/139-?142/143

Quintus Lollius Urbicus

140-142/143

Antonine conquests in Scotland, by 143 Antonine Wall begun

?142/143-?145

Cornelius Prisicanus?

by 146

Gnaeus Papirius Aelianus

150s

Serious trouble in the north, Antonine Wall evacuated, Hadrian’s Wall recommissioned

c.155

Verulamium extensively damaged by fire

by 158

Gnaeus Julius Verus

158/159-161

…anus

c.160/163

Second occupation and evacuation of Antonine Wall

161/162

Marcus Statius Priscus

161-180

Reign of Marcus Aurelius, major wars on Danube and in east, serious pressure on empire from outside begins

162/163-?166

Sextus Calpurnius Agricola

c.163

Hadrian’s Wall restored

169/180

Quintus Antistius Adventus; Caerellius Priscus?

175

Surrendered Sarmatian cavalry sent to Britain

180/250

Land walls of London built

c.182/183

Major warfare breaks out on northern frontier of Britain

c.182/184

Marcus Antius Crescens Calpurnianus (acting governor)

184/185

Ulpius Marcellus, victories in Britain

mid-180s

Earthwork defenses begin to be provided for previously unwalled British towns

185

Army in Britain sends delegation to demand dismissal of Perennis, praetorian prefect

185/?187

Publius Helvius Pertinax

191/192-?193

Decimus Clodius Albinus (193 proclaimed in Britain as emperor)

193-197

Britain under rule of Clodius Albinus as emperor

197

Victory of Septimus Severus at Lyons, Britain falls to Severans

197

Restoration of forts in northern frontier region begins

197-?200/202

Virius Lupus

?202/203-205

Gaius Valerius Pudens

205/207

Lucius Alfenus Senecio

205

Restoration of Hadrian’s Wall begun

?208/213

Gaius Junius Faustinus Postumianus

?211/212

Ulpius Marcellus

by 213

Gaius Julius Marcus

197/213

Britain divided into two provinces

197/c.250

Pollienus Auspex (Brittania Superior); Rufinus (Brit. Sup.); Marcus Martiannius Pulcher (Brit. Sup. acting)

208-211

Campaigns of Septimus Severus and Caracalla in Scotland, imperial court in Britain, Geta effectively regent

?208/211 (or later)

Martyrdom of St Alban

211

Death of Septimus Severus at York

211-213

Caracalla makes frontier dispositions in Britain, possibly finalizes division into two provinces

212

Murder of Geta by Caracalla in Rome

212

Constitutio Antoniniana (Roman citizenship extended to almost all free citizens of empire)

by 216

Marcus Antonius Gordianus (Brittannia Inferior)

by 219

Modius Julius (brit. Inf.)

220

Tibreius Claudius Paulinus (Brit. Inf.)

221-222

Marius Valerianus (Brit. Inf.)

222/235

Calvisius Rufus (Brit. inf.); Valerius Crescens Fulvianus (Brit. Inf.)

223

Claudius Xenophon (Brit. Inf.)

by 225

Maximus (Brit. Inf.)

c.235

Claudius Apellinus (Brit. Inf.)

235-270s

Civil wars and invasions in east and west of empire

by 237

(T)uccianus (Brit. Inf.)

by 237

York receives title of colonia

238/244

Maecilius Fuscus (Brit. Inf.); Egnatius Lucilianus (Brit. Inf.)

by 242

Nonius Philippus (Brit. Inf.)

?after 244

Aemilianus (Brit. Inf.)

253/255

Titus Desticius Juba (Brit. Sup.)

255/270

Riverside wall of London built

259/260

Revolt of Postumus in Gaul; Gallic Empire (Imperium Galliarum) formed

259/260-274

Britain under rule of Gallic emperors

263/268

Octavius Sabinus (Brit. Inf.)

270s

Renewed growth in Britain; Saxon Shore system first formed?

274

Surrender of Tetricus I, end of Gallic Empire

after 274

Lucius Septimius? (Brit. Sup.)

275-276

Germanic invasions of Gaul

c.277

Probus repeals restrictions on viticulture in Gaul and Britain

277/279

Burgundian and Vandal troops settled in Britain used in suppression of a governor’s revolt

282-285

Britain under control of Carinus

284

Accession of Diocletian

286

Maximian’s campaign in Gaul

287

Carausius seizes Britain

287-289

Britain under rule of Carausius; last certain record of leg. XX (coinage of Carausius)

293

Tetrarchy formed; Carausius’ forces expelled from Boulogne, Carausinius assassinated by Allectus

293-296

Britain under rule of Allectus

294

Palatial building work in London

296

Britain retaken by Constantius I as Caesar

after 296

Britain becomes a civil diocese of four provinces

296/305

Aurelius Arpagius (Brit. Inf. or Brit. Secunda)

late 3rd/ early 4th c.

Hierocles Perpetuus (province unknown)

297/298

Constantius I sends skilled tradesmen from Britain to restore Autun

before 305

Reconstruction work begins on the northern frontier

306

Campaign of Constantius I in Scotland, Constantine the Great proclaimed at York

311

Persecutions of Christians end

312

Battle of Milvian Bridge (defeat of Maxentius by Constantine)

313

Edict of Milan, Peace of the Church confirmed

314

British bishops at Council of Arles

by 319

Lucius Papius Pacatianus (vicarius)

324

Constantine sole emperor, foundation of Constantinople

340

Defeat of north-western Roman armies at Aquileia by Constans

340-369

Period of severe stress in Britain, internal troubles, harassment by barbarians

343

Visit of Constans to Britain in winter

?c.350

Flavius Sanctus (prov. unk.)

350

Proclamation of Magnentius in Gaul

350-353

Britain under rule of Magnentius

353

Suicide of Magnentius

353/354

Martinus (vicarius), purge by Paul the Chain, suicide of Martinus

355

Julian appointed Caesar, in charge of Britain and Gaul

356-359

Victories of Julian on German frontier

357/358-360

Alypius (vicarius)

358/359

Julian ships grain from Britain

359

British bishops at Council of Rimini

360

Picts and Scots attack frontier region of Britain, expedition of Lupicinus

360-363

Julian sole emperor, official revival of paganism in empire

367-369

Barbarica Conspiratio, Picts, Attacotti, and Scotti attack Britain, Franks and Saxons raid Gaul; recovery and restoration of Britain by the elder Theodosius, revolt by exiles suppressed

367

Civilus (vicarius)

378

Battle of Adrianople, amssive defeat of eastern section of Roman army by Visigoths

382

Theodosius the Great settles Visigoths in Thrace

383

Proclamation of Magnus Maximus in Britain; victory over Picts

383-388

Britain under rule of Magnus Maximus

388

Defeat and execution of Magnus Maximus

391

Theodosius bans all pagan worship

392-394

Western half of empire under control of Arbogast and Eugenius, paganism again tolerated in west

394

Battle of the Frigidus, Theodosius the Great regains control of whole empire with forces that include high proportion of barbarian allies

394-408

Stilicho comander-in-chief of western armies (magister utriusque militiae praesentalis)

395

Death of Theodosius the Great, effective division of empire between east and west

?395/406

Chrysanthus (vicarius), Victorinus (vicarius)

?395/425

Last record (Not. Dign.) of leg. VI (at York) and leg. II Aug. (Richborough, also in field army in Gaul)

c.396

Visit to Britain of Victricius, bishop of Rouen

398/400

Victories over Picts, Scots, and Saxons

400/402

Possible troop withdrawals from Britain by Stilicho

402

Official import of new bronze coinage to Britain ceases

404

Western imperial court withdrawn from Milan to Ravenna

406

Proclamation of usurper Marcus in Britain, Germans cross Rhine

407

Gratian and Constantine III successively proclaimed in Britain

407-411

Constantine III rules from Arles

409

Britain revolts from Constantine III, end of Roman rule in Britain

410

Sack of Rome by Alaric; ‘Rescript of Honorius’

411

Fall of Constantine III

416

Palagianism officially condemned as heresy

417

First recorded exercise of Roman authority in northern Gaul since end of Constantine III’s rule

418

Visigothic kingdom of Toulouse established

by 420/430

Regular use of coinage ceases in Britain, factory-made pottery no longer available

425-429

Aetius in Gaul as magister militum per Gallias

429

Visit of St Germanus to Britain

431

Episcopate of Palladius in Ireland

432

Episcopate of St Patrick in Ireland begins (traditional date)

440s/450s

Traditional dates for Saxon take-over in Britain, probable final end of recognizable Romano-British society

446/454

Appeal of Britons to Aetius (Gildas)

451

Balle of Catalaunian Plains, advance of Attila halted by Aetius

454

Murder of Aetius, regular Roman army in west subsequently run down

460s

Britons recorded in Brittany

476

Romulus ‘Augustulus’ deposed by Odoacer at Ravenna

480

Julius Nepo, last western emperor, murdered in Dalmatia

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