Hearts and Minds in Roman Britain

The establishment of Roman power in Britain was a demonstration of the limitations of military power (even if it kept Rome in the land) and a new approach was required to develop the prosperity that attracted Claudius to Britain in the first place.
Yet the Romans who first fought were the tough soldiers who pushed out the Empire's boundary and were hardly going to civilise those who had fought against them. They did give allied status to Queen Cartimandua of the Brigantes (despite her husband Venutius being anti-Roman), Cogidubnus of the Regnenses and Prasutagus or Subidasto of the Iceni. As for the rest, there was strong opposition when they reached Wales, where Caratacus was able to fight again (after losing at Medway) between 49 and 51 CE, leading, this time, the Silures and Ordovices tribes. He was beaten again, by Ostorius Scapula, and fled to the area of the Brigantes tribe where the Queen handed him to the Romans. Claudius protected him and used him for intelligence on the British from Rome.
The rough end of Roman rule led Camulodunum (Colchester) to become a notorious military settlement where Scapula and his troops annoyed the local population of Trinovantes.
At the time of Roman invasion there was a druidic priesthood of some power. Many sons of aristocratic families became druids, and it was a unifying structure where the druids had authority over chieftains. Perhaps many druids had fled Gaul (on the continent) earlier. Threatened by Rome, the druids and the Welsh tribes fought the occupier.
Emperor Nero decided that border difficulties were too great and the whole of Wales should be occupied. Quintus Veranius started to fight for Nero, but he died suddenly and Suetonius Paullinus took over. The fighting of the Silures tribe was not strong enough and thus the Romans defeated the borders area. Paullinus used Chester and took a year to develop a fleet and launch it to sort out the Druids in Eryri/ Snowdonia and Ynys Mon/ Anglesey. However, the opportunity to completely defeat Wales was lost when the Roman client King of the Iceni in East Anglia died and events took a nasty turn.
Prasutagus left half his wealth to the Emperor Nero (to ensure his family were looked after). Nero will have asked Catus Decianus, the chief financial officer, to carry out a full inventory of the deceased estate so that he could receive the half. As a result of making a mess of procedure and subsequent lack of respect, one of the Queen Boudica's bodyguards became involved in an altercation with officials and this incident was treated as an act of war. The Queen lost her rights. She was flogged, her daughters raped and all her wealth siezed. As a result the Iceni and the long annoyed Trinovantes rose up, and they had support of the Druids. The revolt of 60 CE began.
They attacked the hated Camulodunum (Colchester) and massacred veterans and families seeking refuge in the temple of the deified Claudius (who had conquered Britain). Legion IX, fighting under Cerialis, rushed to their aid but was ambushed and destroyed. Then the British rebels turned for Londinium (London) while Governor Paullinus with a small force rushed there if only to tell residents to go to the area of the Regni under the client king Cogidubnus. He then went back to the bigger army still marching south east.
Boudica was left to destroy Londinium, with the people remaining there offered to the gods. Then she turned towards to coming Romans and destroyed Verulamium (St Albans), the city of the Catuvallauni, which had probably received its charter from the Emperor and were seen at this point as on the wrong side.
Paullinus was waiting in the Midlands, and had not received II Legion Augusta for reinforcements. This was because they were dealing with the Durotriges. Paullinus had XIV and some of XX. King Cogidubnus of the Regni was not going to help Queen Boudica, nor would have the northern part of the Dobunni being pro-Rome, but neither did Queen Cartimandua of the Brigantes to the north. The Coritani and Cornovii were not involved given the military presence in their areas. So it was Boudiuca with the Iceni, Trinovantes and probably the Durotriges with their allies the southern Duobunni, who took on the Romans. The Welsh were out of it, having been hit by the Romans already. So Paullinus had some confidence that he could meet the opposition, on his terms at least in the Midlands, which meant first taking the attack from the Britons (watched by their families and followers) and then in disciplined formation hacking at the Britons towards the spectators and their wagons. They were pretty much all killed.

Revolt of Boudica

Then came Roman revenge, which was stopped after a time by the new Procurator Julius Classicanus on the basis of avoiding lasting damage to the economy (the whole point of the Romans' occupation). Boudica and her family probably took poison as others suffered; the lands were confiscated and either given to Rome's loyalists or sold. This would allow economic recovery, but outside of the old tribe.
Then Cartimandua and Venutius finally fell out. The Romans rescued the Queen but found the limits of their power in that they could not restore her to the throne. Therefore the Brigantes became hostile. Petillius Cerialis, who had fought against Boudica, moved IX Legion Hispana to York and a new II Legion Adiutrix to Lincoln and he took almost all of the Brigantes area. The Welsh were suppressed by Sextus Julius, Cerialis' successor, with forts linked by new roads along the border, and the Silures became peaceful. The Ordovices were overcome by Frontinus and his successor Agricola, the latter using a single campaign and their area surrounded by forts and roads, finishing the job in Ynys Mon/ Anglesey that Paullinus had been unable to do. Agricola, leaving some forces to go to the continent, then went north to face the Scots. Despite a huge victory and plans for forts, Scotland was abandoned because of demands on the continent (subsequently in two stages, back to the Stanegate, one of Agricola's roads, a little north of which was built Hadrian's Wall).
Excepting the Scottish problem, the Boudica and Welsh revolts led to replacing the original military approach of Scapula and Paullinus with a hearts and mind approach. Cities were developed and most military activity was limited to the north.


Casey, J. (1983), Conquest of the West and North, in Merrifield, R., Baker, R. (1983), 23-28.

Merrifield, R., Baker, R. (1983), Roman Britain 55 B. C. - A. D. 409, London: Robert H. Fowler.

Webster, G. (1983), 'Queen Boudica's Revolt', in Merrifield, R., Baker, R. (1983), 17-22.