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The Romans in Britain

The Romans interest in Britain was mainly due to its productive lands that allowed the Celts to export corn and animals to the rest of Europe. Moreover, the Celts were helping the Celts of Gaul in the battle against the Romans and that is why Julius Caesar decided to invade Britain in 55 B.C. He didn’t succeed in conquering the country at first and even if the resistance was crushed the following year, the Roman troops went back to their capital leaving Britain on its own for almost a century. It was under Emperor Claudius, in the years 43-47 A.D., that the Romans conquered Britain and introduced their culture and language (Latin then disappeared when the Anglo-Saxon arrived in the 5th century).
In Roman Britain there were three types of towns: the “coloniae”, the “municipia” and the “civitates”. They were connected by roads that are in great part still existing and they were mainly army camps or “castra”. Their Latin name, and origin, is still present in the name of many modern cities with end in “caster” or “chester” (for example Winchester, Lancaster, etc.). The “civitates” corresponded to the old Celtic capitals and through them the Romans were able to administer the former Celtic population. In the “municipia” the inhabitants where given Roman citizenship, while the “coloniae” were inhabited by Roman settlers. The Romans tried to conquer Scotland for over a century and when they failed Emperor Hadrian decided to build a wall on the border separating England from Scotland. The Hadrian’s Wall, that in large parts is still standing, was built in the years 122-126 A.D. and its function was to keep the northern folks at bay.

The Roman Empire in Britain began to collapse in 409 A.D. when Emperor Honorius had to withdraw his soldiers back to Rome to defend the capital against the Barbarians. The Romanised Celts were left to fight against the Scots (the wall had been abandoned since about 383 A.D.) and the Saxons arriving from Germany. The following year Rome was captured by the Visigoths and the whole Roman Western Empire started to collapse.

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