Early Britain—Roman Britain eBook

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

E. 12.—­Where the armies met is quite uncertain, though tradition fixes on a not unlikely spot near London, whose name of “Battle Bridge” has but lately been overlaid by the modern designation of “King’s Cross."[179] We only know that Suetonius drew up his line across a glade in the forest, which thus protected his flanks, and awaited the foe as they came pouring back from Verulam.  In front of the British line Boadicea, arrayed in the Icenian tartan, her plaid fastened by a golden brooch, and a spear in her hand, was seen passing along “loftily-charioted” from clan to clan, as she exhorted each in turn to conquer or die.  Suetonius is said to have given the like exhortation to the Romans; but every man in their ranks must already have been well aware that defeat would spell death for him.  The one chance was in steadiness and disciplined valour; and the legionaries stood firm under a storm of missiles, withholding their own fire till the foe came within close range.  Then, and not till then, they delivered a simultaneous discharge of their terrible pila[180] on the British centre.  The front gave with the volley, and the Romans, at once wheeling into wedge-shape formation, charged sword in hand into the gap, and cut the British line clean in two.  Behind it was a laager of wagons, containing their families and spoil, and there the Britons made a last attempt to rally.  But the furious Romans entered the enclosure with them, and the fight became a simple massacre.  No fewer than eighty thousand fell, and the very horses and oxen were slaughtered by the maddened soldiery to swell the heaps of slain.  Boadicea, broken-hearted, died by poison; and (being reinforced by troops from Germany) Suetonius proceeded “to make a desert and call it Peace."[181]

E. 13.—­The punishment he dealt out to the revolted districts was so remorseless that the new Procurator, Julius Classicianus, sent a formal complaint to Rome on the suicidal impolicy of his superior’s measures.  Nero, however, did not mend matters by sending (like Claudius) a freed-man favourite as Royal Commissioner to supersede Suetonius.  Polycletus was received with derision both by Roman and Briton, and Suetonius remained acting Governor till the wreck of some warships afforded an excuse for a peremptory order to “hand over the command” to Petronius Turpilianus.  Fighting now ceased by mutual consent; and this disgraceful slackness was called by the new Governor “Peace with Honour” [honestum pacis nomen segni otio imposuit].


Civil war—­Otho and Vitellius—­Army of Britain—­Priscus—­Agricola—­Vespasian Emperor—­Cerealis—­Brigantes put down—­Frontinus—­Silurians put down—­Agricola Pro-praetor—­Ordovices put down—­Pacification of South Britain—­Roman civilization introduced—­Caledonian campaign—­Galgacus—­Agricola’s rampart—­Domitian—­Resignation and death of Agricola.

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