Following last week’s post on the Celts, I decided that the Celts during the Roman occupation deserved their own Top 10 List. (BTW for those who care about this kind of thing, I referred to the Celts as Roman in the title because that will be the easiest for SEO, but the proper term is Romano-British.)
- Part of the Empire - After the Romans conquered Britain, the native rulers became what we would call “client kings.” This meant they had the same allies and enemies as Rome and couldn’t form new ones without the sanction of Rome. Usually tribal leaders sought this status (rather than being compelled into it) because it meant Roman protection and trading rights. In return, the king/chieftain supplied men, money and supplies for the Roman army, but the people didn’t have to pay taxes until the kingdom was annexed. (Southern)
- Your job is what? - Slaves were a sign of extra wealth that could be wasted on trivial tasks. While they could be used in the home, fields, or mines, slaves could also be things as silly as a lamp bearer, scavenger or even employed to call out the time, point out obstacles in the road or greet their master’s friends for him/her. (Alcock)
- Moving day - After the conquest, some people who lived in hill forts were forced to relocate to a new town so that Roman authorities could keep an eye on them. This also served to help introduce them to Roman ways. (Alcock)
- The mines were no joke - Being a miner was a punishment because it was so dangerous. One in eight miners died each year. (Lawrence)
- Place your bets…or not - Gambling was illegal except on Saturnalia, but many people did it anyway. They placed bets on sporting events big and small, even a coin toss where the sides were called “heads” and “ships.” (Lawrence)
- In the army now - The Romans conscripted conquered people from across the empire to serve in their army as a way of subduing hostile tribes. They were auxiliaries (non-citizen soldiers). They were often sent outside their home country or tribal boundary so they couldn’t raise rebellion in their homeland. (Lawrence)
- Before the Magic 8-ball - Romans practiced a form of divination called haruspicy, which was the reading of animal entrails to foretell the future. (Rupke)
- Crime and punishment – Capital offenses for soldiers included running away from battle, striking or wounding and officer, insubordination and inciting mutiny. The punishment for rape was to cut off the nose of the perpetrator. (Southern)
- Weights and measures - Rome brought an organized system of measure to British trade. The basic unit was the libra (pound) which was equal to 327 grams. One libra equaled 12 unicae or ounces. (Lawrence)
- On the road again – The Romans built 8,000 miles of roads during their first 60 years in Britain. Roman roads were straight unless there was a major obstacle in the way. They even leveled small hills and built causeways over wet land. The military maintained them near the forts, but in other areas it was the responsibility of the town and local leaders. (Lawrence)
Alcock, Joan. Life in Roman Britain.
Lawrence, Richard Russel. Roman Britain.
Rupke, Jorg. A Companion to Roman Religion
Southern, Patricia. Roman Britain: New History 55 BC – 450 AD
What do you know about Britain under Roman rule? What questions do you have?