Relationship between the romans and celts history

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relationship between the romans and celts history

HISTORY OF THE CELTS including Spread of the Celts, Caesar's years in Gaul, The rest of Gaul escapes the grasp of Rome until the arrival of Caesar. south of the Alps. But the great general's arrival does not make quite the difference to. Calling the British Iron Age 'Celtic' is so Certainly, there is no reason to link the coming of 'Celtic'. Jan 25, For five centuries the Roman and Celtic armies and cultures clashed, pitting the most highly organized state of the ancient world against fierce.

Standing on the city walls, you can still look down upon the remains of the amphitheatre that stood outside the military camp. In this way, the army acted as the natural force of assimilation. The evidence for what life was like in these places has largely been eradicated by the cities' urban sprawl, but in more remote areas, like at Vindolanda up on Hadrian's Wall, you can still see just what the original Roman settlement looked like. Vindolanda housed several units in its history, among them the Ninth Batavians - from whom a large pile of correspondence was found written on thin wooden writing tablets, deposited in one of their rubbish tips.

There were over of these writing tablets dating to AD Mainly official documents and letters written in ink, they are the oldest historical documents known from Britain. Among them is a set of letters between Sulpicia Lepidina, wife of the camp commander, and her friend Claudia Severa, wife of the commander at Housesteads, around ten miles up the road.

They paint a picture of life on the frontier very much like that of a British officer's wife on the north-west frontier: Life for the ordinary people of the vicus or village seemed a little more interesting than that of the upper classes, but it remained harsh and unforgiving.

One soldier complains of being beaten with rods; another refers disparagingly to the local British population as 'Brittunculi' little Britons. In the third century AD, marriage for soldiers was permitted, and the vicus, where their concubines had always lived, was rebuilt in stone.

They constructed a beautiful little bath-house where the soldiers could relax, and a guest-house called a mansio, with six guest-rooms and its own private bath suite - for travellers on official business - along the wall. The vicus at Housesteads was rebuilt at the same time incidentally, an excavation of one of its houses uncovered a murdered couple hidden under the floorboards. By this time, all adults in the empire had been granted blanket citizenship and the 'Romans' in Britain had become fully assimilated with their British neighbours.

An Overview of Roman Britain

The Boudiccan revolt was caused not because the Iceni were opposed to Roman rule, but because they had embraced it too whole-heartedly. Rome controlled its provinces by bribing the local elite.

They were given power, wealth, office and status on condition that they kept the peace and adopted Roman ways. If you took a Roman name, spoke Latin and lived in a villa, you were assured of receiving priesthoods and positions of local power.

The quid pro quo was that you were expected to spend your money and influence in providing Roman amenities for your people, newly civilised in the literal sense that Roman towns and cities were founded for them to live in.

In Britain, physical evidence of this process can be seen in inscriptions at the colonia of Colchester and in the palace of the client king Cogidubnus at Fishbourne, with its spectacular mosaics. However, new provinces brought with them new markets and unscrupulous speculators eager to fleece the unwary. It was like the introduction of the free market to the post-communist world, and the worst sharks were in the Imperial Household itself.

Vast loans were granted at ruinous rates of interest to the British aristocracy, by the likes of Seneca, the emperor Nero's tutor and adviser. At the same time, those who had been made priests of the Imperial Cult at Colchester found it an expensive task.

Boudicca was flogged and her daughters were raped.

relationship between the romans and celts history

It was at this point that Prasutagus, king of the Iceni, died. In his will, he left half of his kingdom to the emperor Nero, hoping in this way to secure the other half for his wife, Boudicca. However, the imperial procurator, Decianus Catus, was aware that Nero viewed a half-share of an estate as a personal snub, and moved to sequester the lot. At the same time, he sent in the bailiffs to act on the loans outstanding and allowed the local centurions to requisition provisions for the army.

When the royal family resisted these moves, Boudicca was flogged and her daughters were raped. There could be only one consequence. The humiliated Iceni rose up in revolt, joined by other East Anglian tribes who had similar grievances. They could not have picked a better time.

The governor, Suetonius Paullinus, was in Anglesey, subduing the druids, with most of the army of the province. What remained of the Ninth Legion was massacred when it tried to stop the rebels, and Colchester, London and Verulamium were razed to the ground. The black earth of the destruction layer and mutilated tombstones attest to the ferocity of the British assault. With just men to defend him, Decianus Catus fled to Gaul at their approach. Paullinus rushed back from Anglesey to deal with the revolt.

The site of the final battle is still disputed, but the form it took is well described Tacitus provides a graphic depiction of the whole revolt.


Boudicca was defeated and committed suicide shortly afterwards. The punitive expedition into Iceni territory was halted when it was feared that further reprisals would harm future imperial revenues. Meanwhile Catus was replaced by Classicianus, a Romanised Gaul from Trier, who took a softer approach. His tombstone can be found in London, which became the new provincial capital at this time. Top Religion of the Romano-Britons Both Rome and Britain had polytheistic religions, in which a multiplicity of gods could be propitiated at many levels.

At one end of the spectrum were the official cults of the emperor and the Capitoline Triad: Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, linked to other Olympian gods like Mars.

relationship between the romans and celts history

At the other end, every spring, every river, every cross-roads, lake or wood had its own local spirit with its own local shrine. The Romans had no problem in combining these with their own gods, simply associating them with the god s or goddess es who most resembled them. She was linked to Minerva, for her healing qualities, but images of other gods and goddesses were also set up in the temple, most especially Diana the Huntress, to whom an altar was dedicated.

Over 6, coins were cast as offerings into the waters of Bath, along with vast quantities of lead or bronze curse tablets, asking Sulis-Minerva to intercede on behalf of the worshipper. These were also nailed up on poles within the temple precinct and provide an interesting glimpse into the everyday and not so everyday lives of the people who visited the shrine. This did not just happen in Bath: He is not to buy back this gift unless with his own blood. Whosoever has perjured himself there you are to make him to pay for it to the goddess Sulis in his own blood' Bath 'I curse him who has stolen, who has robbed Deomiorix from his house.

Whoever stole his property, the god is to find him. Let him buy it back with his blood or his own life. To the god Nodens: Silvianus has lost his ring and promises half its value to Nodens.

Among those named Senecianus, let none enjoy health until he brings it back to the temple of Nodens. It seems likely that both Silvianus and Senecianus had gone to Lydney for its healing properties. Both no doubt stayed in the adjacent mansio much like the well-preserved guesthouse at Vindolandafrom which no doubt the latter walked off with Silvianus's ring.

A further wrinkle is added by the find of a beautiful hexagonal ring bearing an image of Venus in the nearby Christian church at Silchester, on which was inscribed: Since the curse was renewed, the ring obviously stayed lost. Yet throughout its history, Roman Britain acted as a proving ground for aspiring politicians and a powerbase for usurping emperors.

Set aside arguments over whether Britain was 'profitable' or not it certainly was when Julian used it to supply Germany in the s! Britain was a frontier province, which contained three legions for most of its chequered history. As such, it was important. Britain was invaded because it could further a Roman's career.

It was conquered for similar reasons. The Boudiccan Revolt was only possible because the governor, Paullinus, was pursuing military glory against the druids. Thousands of slaves served Roman needs; yet Roman women lived more housebound and constricted lives than their Celtic counterparts.

The Romans were proud of their achievements and gazed outward, seeking riches and glory beyond their borders. Thus the Celtic sack of Rome deeply shocked the young republic, leaving a lasting scar on the national psyche.

Forever after July 18 was a day of ill omen. The Romans had a professional army, manned by citizens who served up to 16 years and were rewarded with land and honors upon retirement. It was highly structured, with an officer corps, engineers, medics, auxiliaries, artillery and other specialized troops. Additionally, the Romans had an estimated pool of 6 to 7 million men from which to fill their ranks.

The army was among the most powerful and influential sectors of the Roman state. Ambitious men seeking political office and wealth were eager to serve in order to conquer foreign lands and capture booty—which they shared among their men to ensure loyalty—and to amass their own fortunes and prestige. But while generals held tactical command, the politicians in the capital kept them in check. The Roman army was well trained and in a constant state of reform. This provided the units both protection and greater freedom of movement.

relationship between the romans and celts history

The Romans marched into battle in disciplined ranks and files. Backing and flanking the centuries were archers and artillery, while slingers and skirmishers sallied forward to harass the enemy. A commander could observe and control troop movements from behind the lines, dispatching orders to his officers. This was not an army of individual heroes hungry for glory but one of cohesion, precision and massive striking power. It was an offensive army taught to fight with great brutality, to destroy enemy forces and remove them as a threat, and to subjugate and ultimately assimilate their foes to expand the frontiers of Rome.

It was the motive force behind the establishment of colonies from Britain to North Africa to Turkey. Shield and helmet shape varied, as did body armor, but the two key weapons remained essentially the same. The other was the pilum, a javelin with a needle-sharp point and thin iron shaft for maximum penetration.

On his back the legionary carried a rucksack full of provisions, personal items and entrenching tools.

Empire Vs. Tribe: The Roman Empire and the Celts | HistoryNet

The legions embarked on long campaigns of conquest not just raids for honor and vengeance. When confronting the Celts, the Roman army approached in three ranks. Archers and artillery, slingers and skirmishers would strike the foe with a variety of projectiles, then the first ranks would throw their pila, aiming to kill, or at least to impale Celtic shields, making them unwieldy.

With their swords drawn and shields locked in a solid wall, the Romans advanced or met the Celtic charge. If a Celt went down, the Romans ruthlessly and quickly dispatched him. Roman and Celtic businessmen engaged in a lively exchange of goods that included wine, tin, lead, silver, gold, salt and fine Mediterranean pottery.

Peoples of Britain

Other tribes became enamored of the Roman way of life—the prosperous cities and farms, the well-developed infrastructure and stable government—and became Romanized. Both cultures worshiped a pantheon of essentially similar gods, although Romans abhorred the Celtic practice of human sacrifice. And thus the wars continued, especially those conceived by Caesar.

relationship between the romans and celts history

Caesar opened his conquest with an attack on the dominant Helvetii tribal confederation. In a series of brilliant campaigns he soon subdued the Gallic Celts and even briefly invaded Britain in 55 and 54 BC. Caesar came away boasting spectacular military successes to the people of Rome and portraying himself as their protector, even as most Celts simply wanted to be left alone, likely fearing the Germans more than the Romans.

Ultimately, a charismatic Celtic warlord named Vercingetorix, of the Arverni, united the Gallic tribes in resistance to the Romans. Undaunted, Caesar constructed two fortified walls— an inner one encircling Alesia, and an outer wall protecting his army from the Celtic relief force. This circumvallation enabled Caesar to seal off the hill camp and subdue the arriving Celts in detail.

Witnessing the defeat of his relief force, Vercingetorix surrendered his forces to Caesar and was carted off to Rome for later ritual execution. Caesar had won his war, but at a terrible price.

Among the remainder hardly a family would have been left unscarred. The resentment must have been deep and bitter. But in AD 43 Emperor Claudius, for a variety of economic, political and self-aggrandizing reasons, invaded Britain.

relationship between the romans and celts history

He faced bitter resistance from the Celtic tribes. In 60 Celtic Queen Boudicca, of the Iceni, led a revolt against Roman rule, in part spurred by a Roman attack on an important Druid sanctuary on Anglesey. Ultimately, however, it was the Germanic tribes and a mystery religion from the east —Christianity—that transformed the Roman and Celtic ways forever. The Celts had made valuable contributions to Roman culture in warfare, technology and language, while the Romans had shared their material gifts, operational talents and political-urban lifestyle with the Celts.

Both civilizations form the core of modern Europe. Yet the grandeur that was Rome survives only in crumbling marble ruins and a few magnificent texts. In the end it seems tribe has triumphed over empire. Originally published in the January issue of Military History.