Early Britain—Roman Britain eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 242 pages of information about Early Britain—Roman Britain.
supplied the needs of the rural districts.  No one, except actual soldiers, dreamt of bearing arms, or indeed was allowed to do so,[253] and the general aspect of the land was as wholly peaceful as now.  But every one had to pay a substantial proportion of his income in taxes, in the collection of which there was not seldom a notable amount of corruption, as amongst the publicans of Judaea.  In the bad days of the decadence this became almost intolerable;[254] but so long as the central administration retained its integrity the amount exacted was no more than left to every class a fair margin for the needs, and even the enjoyments, of life.


The unconquered North—­Hadrian’s Wall—­Upper and Lower Britain—­Romano-British coinage—­Wall of Antoninus—­Britain Pro-consular.

D. 1.—­The weak point of all this peaceful development was that the northern regions of the island remained unsubdued.  It was all very well for the Roman Treasury, with true departmental shortsightedness, to declare (as Appian[255] reports) that North Britain was a worthless district, which could never be profitable [Greek:  [euphoron]] to hold.  The cost would have been cheap in the end.  All through the Roman occupation it was from the north that trouble was liable to arise, and ultimately it was the ferocious independence of the Highland clans that brought Roman Britain to its doom.  The Saxons, as tradition tells us, would never have been invited into the land but for the ravages of these Picts; and, in sober history, it may well be doubted whether they could ever have effected a permanent settlement here had not the Britons, in defending our shores, been constantly exposed to Pictish attacks from the rear.

D. 2.—­Thus our earliest notice of Britain in this period tells us that Hadrian (A.D. 120), our first Imperial visitor since Claudius (A.D. 44), found it needful (after a revolt which cost many lives, and involved, as it seems, the final destruction of the unlucky Ninth Legion, which had already fared so badly in Boadicea’s rebellion[256]) to supplement Agricola’s rampart, between Forth and Clyde, with another from sea to sea, between Tynemouth and Solway, “dividing the Romans from the barbarians."[257] This does not mean that the district thus isolated was definitely abandoned,[258] but that its inhabitants were so imperfectly Romanized that the temptation to raid the more civilized lands to the south had better be obviated.  The Wall of Hadrian marked the real limit of Roman Britain:  beyond it was a “march,” sometimes strongly, more often feebly, garrisoned, but never effectually occupied, much less civilized.  The inhabitants, indeed, seem to have rapidly lost what civilization they had.  Dion Cassius describes them, in the next generation, as far below the Caledonians who opposed Agricola, a mere horde of squalid and ferocious cannibals,[259] going into battle stark-naked (like their descendants the Galwegians a thousand years later),[260] having neither chief nor law, fields nor houses.  The name Attacotti, by which they came finally to be known, probably means Tributary, and describes their nominal status towards Rome.

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