Early Britain—Roman Britain eBook

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

F. 4.—­But Agricola was not, like Suetonius, a mere military conqueror.  He saw that Britons would never unfeignedly submit so long as they were treated as slaves; and he set himself to remedy the grievances under which the provincials so long had suffered.  Military licence, therefore, and civil corruption alike, he put down with a resolute hand, never acting through intermediaries, but himself investigating every complaint, rewarding merit, and punishing offences.  The vexatious monopolies which previous governors had granted, he did away with; and, while he firmly dealt with every symptom of disloyalty, his aim was “not penalty but penitence” [nom paena sed saepius paenitentia]—­penitence shown in a frank acceptance of Roman civilization.  Under his influence Roman temples, Roman forums, Roman dwelling-houses, Roman baths and porticoes, rose all over the land, and, above all, Roman schools, where the youth of the upper classes learnt with pride to adopt the tongue[183] and dress of their conquerors.  It is appropriate that the only inscription relating to him as yet found in Britain should be on two of the lead water-pipes (discovered in 1899 and 1902) which supplied his new Roman city (Deva) at Chester.[184]

F. 5.—­This proved a far more effectual method of conquest than any yet adopted, and Southern Britain became so quiet and contented that Agricola could meditate an extension of the Roman sway over the wilder regions to the north, and even over Ireland.[185] He did not, indeed, actually accomplish either design, but he extended the Roman frontier to the Forth, and carried the Roman arms beyond the Tay.  The game, however, proved not worth the candle.  The regions penetrated were wild and barren, the inhabitants ferocious savages, who defended themselves with such fury that it was not worth while to subdue them.

F. 6.—­The final battle [A.D. 84], somewhere near Inverness, is described in minute and picturesque detail by Tacitus, who was present.  He shows us the slopes of the Grampians alive with the Highland host, some on foot, some in chariots, armed with claymore, dirk, and targe as in later ages.  He puts into the mouth of the leader, Galgacus, an eloquent summary of the motives which did really actuate them, and he reports the exhortation to close the fifty years of British warfare with a glorious victory which Agricola, no doubt, actually addressed to his soldiers.  He paints for us the wild charge of the clans, the varying fortunes of the conflict (which at one point was so doubtful that Agricola dismounted to fight on foot with his men), and the final hopeless rout of the Caledonian army, with the slaughter of ten thousand men; the Roman loss being under four hundred—­including one unlucky colonel [praefectus cohortis] whose horse ran away with him into the enemy’s ranks.

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