F. 7.—Agricola had now the prudence to draw his stakes while the game was still in his favour. He sent his fleet north-about (thus, for the first time, proving Britain to be an island), and marched his army across to meet it on the Clyde, whence he had already drawn his famous rampart to the Forth, henceforward to be the extreme limit of Roman Britain. His work was now done, and well done. He resigned his Province, and returned to Rome, in time to avoid dismissal by Domitian, to whom preeminent merit in any subject was matter for jealous hatred, and who now made Agricola report himself by night, and received him without one word of commendation. Had his life been prolonged he would undoubtedly have perished, like so many of the best of the Roman aristocracy, by the despot’s hands; but just before the unrestrained outbreak of tyranny, he suddenly died—“felix opportunitate mortis”—to be immortalized by the love and genius of his daughter’s husband. And he left Britain, as it had never been before, truly within the comity of the Roman Empire.
THE ROMAN OCCUPATION, A.D. 85-211
Pacification of Britain—Roman roads—London their centre—Authority for names—Watling Street—Ermine Street—Icknield Way.
A. 1.—The work of Agricola inaugurated in Britain that wonderful Pax Romana which is so unique a phenomenon in the history of the world. That Peace was not indeed in our island so long continued or so unbroken as in the Mediterranean lands, where, for centuries on end, no weapon was used in anger. But even here swords were beaten into ploughshares and spears into pruning-hooks to an extent never known before or since in our annals. So profound was the quiet that for a whole generation Britain vanishes from history altogether. All through the Golden Age of Rome, the reigns of Nerva and Trajan, no writer even names her; and not till A.D. 120 do we find so much as a passing mention of our country. But we may be sure that under such rulers the good work of Agricola was developing itself upon the lines he had laid down, and that Roman civilization was getting an ever firmer hold. The population was recovering from the frightful drain of the Conquest, the waste cities were rebuilt, and new towns sprang up all over the land, for the most part probably on old British sites, connected by a network of roads, no longer the mere trackways of the Britons, but “streets” elaborately constructed and metalled.