Ruled Britannia: 8 Events That Defined Roman Britain
Ruled Britannia: 8 Events That Defined Roman Britain

Ruled Britannia: 8 Events That Defined Roman Britain

Patrick Lynch - September 11, 2017

Ruled Britannia: 8 Events That Defined Roman Britain
Constantius Chlorus. Wikipedia

7 – Battle of Silchester (296)

During the Crisis of the Third Century, Britain became part of the Gallic Empire with Gaul and Spain. It was a short lived exercise as the Romans recovered the territory in 274. However, trouble wasn’t far away, and another important piece of Roman British history began in 286. In that year, a Roman naval commander named Carausius declared himself Emperor of Britain and Northern Gaul. He had been accused of collaborating with pirates for personal gain and was sentenced to death by Maximian, the Roman Emperor in the West.

In 293, the Western ‘caesar’, Constantius Chlorus, regained the Gallic territory but was unable to retake Britain until he strengthened the navy. Meanwhile, Carausius was murdered by his subordinate Allectus who assumed control of Britain. In 296, Chlorus finally had a strong enough navy to attack Britain.

Chlorus sent two naval forces; he led the first while the second was under the command of Julius Asclepiodotus. The latter group reached the British mainland undetected due to fog and burned their ships once they reached the shore before heading to London. This action forced Allectus to engage the enemy. Chlorus arrived soon afterward.

Allectus met Asclepiodotus at Silchester, known as Calleva Atrebatum. In what was apparently a fairly short battle, the invading Romans defeated the rebels and Allectus was killed in action. The fleeing rebels went to London with the intent of looting it but ran into a contingent of Chlorus’ soldiers en-route and were massacred. With the death of Allectus, Britain was once again part of the Roman Empire, and Chlorus was hailed as a liberator by the natives. The Roman Empire was showing major cracks, and the rest of Rome’s occupation of Britain was beset by problems.

Ruled Britannia: 8 Events That Defined Roman Britain
John William Waterhouse ‘The Favourites of the Emperor Honorius’ (1883). Wikimedia Commons

8 – Emperor Honorius Abandons Britain (410)

After the Battle of Silchester, Roman was split into four provinces. The level of barbarian raids on Roman Britain intensified in the 4th century when it became clear that the Empire was crumbling. By 367, Scottish, Irish and German barbarians were coordinating attacks and routinely plundered towns throughout the province. As a result, Britain descended into anarchy.

Although future Emperor Theodosius managed to drive back the enemy in 369, the status quo didn’t last long. The barbarians renewed their massive attacks on Britain in 396 and in desperation; the Romans sent reinforcements from other parts of the Empire to quell the unrest. After three years of fighting, peace was restored in Britannia, but it only lasted a few years.

In 401, a large amount of troops were withdrawn from the province in order to help defend Rome against the attack by Alaric. Britannia came under siege once again as barbarians continually breached its borders. The near collapse of the Roman Empire meant that no further reinforcements came to Britain after 406. The following year, a Roman general in Britain was declared Constantine III of the Roman Empire. He decided to assemble an army and invade Gaul.

With only a small Roman force remaining, the natives decided to throw off their allegiance to Rome and remove the last vestiges of imperial authority in 409. In 410, Britain was under attack from the Picts, Saxons, Angles, and Scots, so the population appealed to Emperor Honorius for aid. He famously sent them a letter which said they should “look after the defenses.” His refusal to help effectively marked the end of Roman Britain. In the same year, Rome was sacked by Alaric in what was the beginning of the end of the Western Empire.


Sources For Further Reading:

History Collection – The Rise and Fall of Roman Britain

Historic UK – Timeline of Roman Britain

History Extra – What If Boudica Had Defeated the Romans?

UK Essays – Why Did Boudicca’s Revolt Fail?

War History Online – Boudicca: The Warrior Queen Who Defeated the Mighty Romans

BBC Bitesite – Did the Romans Conquer Scotland?

History Collection – What Battle Was Like for a Roman Soldier in the Imperial Army Will Amaze You