Notes from First Contact: Rome and Northern Britain

p. 9 “It is suggested that the Brigantines were recognised as Roman allies not long after the invasion of southern England in 43, and certainly by 47 when the Roman province appears to have extended to the southern border of Brigantia. The strength of the alliance appears to have been such that the governor, Osrorius Scapula, felt his northern flank secure enough to commit to campaigning in North Wales … the Brigantian ruler Queen Cartimandua certainly proved to be a loyal ally in 51 when she handed over Caratacus, the leader of anti-Roman resistance initially in southern England and later in Wales. Not that Brigantia was entirely quiescent – Tacitus records a revolt in Brigantia in 47 and eventually Cartimandua and her consort Venutius, who had ‘long been loyal’ to Rome fell out … became the leader of an anti-Roman faction…. requiring Roman intervention to rescue the queen. [probably] 69, with Ventius taking advantage of the chaos of the year of the Four Emperors.”

P 15 “the incumbent governor of the province was Bolanus, an appointee of the Emperor Vitellius. Tacitus shows little enthusiasm for Bolanus… yet not only did Bolanus survive Vitellius, but he was retained in post by the victorious Verspasian until 71, when he was succeeded by the new emperor’s relative, Quintus Petillius Cerialus. On his return to Rome, Bolanus was rewarded with elecation to the inner core of the aristocracy, the patriciate, and evidently continued to enjoy the favour of the Flavian regime. .. The Flavian poet, Papinius Statius … credits Bolanus with some apparently striking achievemnts in Caledonia … constructed forts and watch towers, and stripped a British king of his armour.”

p. 17 “.. lacked the long aristocratic lineage that had been shared by all of his predecessors. To the Roman way of thinking – no matter how unrealistic this hope may have been – such lineage was regarded as carrying with it the accumulated wisdom and experience of past generations. The son of a tax-collector and a first generation senator, a provincial governor appointed in Nero’s last years, when the Emperor appeared to be deliberately bypassing those candidates who were ‘best qualified in terms of their birth for such posts, Vespasian was not, for some in the Senate, the stuff of which emperors were made; he lacked prestige (auctoritas) and needed to devise a means of acquiring it… the uncertain military situation in Britain … surely provided a field in which military glory, and, with it, auctoritas, could be sought and won…. The circumstances were now right, therefore, for the unveiling of a ‘British Project’ – nothing less than the completion of the conquest of mainland Britain, and probably, Ireland too.”

p 18 but “even by the close of Vespasian’s own reign, the ambitious project was being scaled down: the ‘Elliptical Building’ in the fortress at Chester did not, at this stage at least, progress beyond the laying of its foundations… the two campaigns which took place in Titus’s reign appear to have been more consolidatory in character… Titus’ reign saw the withdrawal of detachments from the British legions – presumably in response to growing uncertainties elsewhere. .. Tacitus’ reference to the invasion of Ireland in the context of Agricola’s fifth campaign in southwest Scotland has the tone of a piece of wistful nostalgia – for an exciting and achievable project the opportunity for which, however, had passed.”

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