Romans in Britain

Who are the Romans? The Romans were the people who formed an empire two thousand years ago with its base in Rome.

Romans eating dinner.

The Romans lived about 2,000 years ago. The Romans had their base in the city of Rome, in what is modern Italy. From this city they conquered the lands around the Mediterranean Sea and then spread out to Britain.

Britain was a part of the Roman empire for over 400 years.

The British were the people who lived in Britain when the Romans invaded. Some people call them the Celts although the real Celts, who lived in France, never migrated here. Instead, most Britons were descended from ancestors who had been here since the end of the Ice Age and were descendents of the Stone Age British. They were farming people who grew corn and kept animals.

By Iron Age times, the land was divided into tribes (kingdoms) but all the people spoke the same language.

The Romans were a warrior people who got much of their wealth by conquering other lands.

The most famous Roman emperor was Julius Caesar. He was a brilliant army leader and made big additions to the Roman empire.

Julius Caesar knew of Britain as a place rich in minerals, wool and corn because the British had traded with the Roman empire for centuries.

On August 26th 55 BC Julius Caesar decided it was time to add to his empire and he landed in Britain with 10,000 soldiers.

Caesar only stayed in Britain long enough to get the tribes to agree to pay him a yearly tax called a tribute. He then took his army back to Europe.

It was important for an emperor to show that he could add to the empire. When Claudius became emperor a century after Caesar, he chose Britain as his conquest. So he gathered 40,000 soldiers – enough to control the country, for Claudius had decided that this time the Romans would stay.

Romans were very good organisers. They kept a large army of paid soldiers to keep the peace. The commander of the army was the emperor. Because the Roman empire was so large, it was divided up into regions ruled by governors.

Romans lived in towns and their farms were worked by slaves.

After the Romans conquered Britain, they had to rule a country of people with different beliefs and ways of life to their own. For example, no woman had any power in Rome, but in Britain, women could be queens. The British did not have slaves, but the Roman empire was kept going by slaves. The British believed in gods of nature, but the Romans believed in superhuman gods.

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