Early Britain—Roman Britain eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 242 pages of information about Early Britain—Roman Britain.

C. 1.—­The success thus achieved was evidently felt to be something quite exceptionally brilliant and important.  Not once, as was usual, but four several times was Claudius acclaimed “Imperator"[140] even before he left our shores; and in after years these acclamations were renewed at Rome as often as good news of the British war arrived there, till, ere Claudius died, he had received no fewer than twenty-one such distinctions, each signalized by an issue of commemorative coinage.  His “Britannic triumph” was celebrated on a scale of exceptional magnificence.  In addition to the usual display, he gave his people the unique spectacle of their Emperor climbing the ascent to the Capitol not in his triumphal car, nor even on foot, but on his knees (as pilgrims yet mount the steps of the Ara Coeli), in token of special gratitude to the gods for so signal an extension of the glory and the Empire of Rome.  In the gladiatorial shows which followed, he presided in full uniform [paludatus],[141] with his son (whose name, like his own, a Senatus consultum had declared to be Britannicus)[142] on his knee.[143] One of the spectacles represented the storm of a British oppidum and the surrender of British kings.  The kings were probably real British chieftains, and the storm was certainly real, with real Britons, real blood, real slaughter, for Claudius went to every length in this direction.

C. 2.—­The narrative of Suetonius[144] connects these shows with the well-known tale of the unhappy gladiators who fondly hoped that a kind word from the Emperor meant a reprieve of their doom.  He had determined to surpass all his predecessors in his exhibition of a sea-fight, and had provided a sheet of water large enough for the manoeuvres of real war-galleys, carrying some five hundred men apiece.[145] The crews, eleven thousand in all, made their usual preliminary march past his throne, with the usual mournful acclaim, “Ave Caesar!  Salutant te morituri!” Claudius responded, “Aut non:”  and these two words were enough to inspire the doomed ranks with hopes of mercy.  With one accord they refused to play their part, and he had to come down in person and solemnly assure them that if his show was spoilt he would exterminate every man of them “with fire and sword,” before they would embark.  Once entered upon the combat, however, they fought desperately; so well, indeed, that at its close the survivors were declared exempt from any further performance.  Such was the fate which awaited those who dared to defend their freedom against the Fortune of Rome, and such the death died by many a brave Briton for the glory of his subjugators.  Dion Cassius[146] tells us that Aulus Plautius made a special boast of the numbers so butchered in connection with his own “Ovation.”

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Early Britain—Roman Britain from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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