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2. Julius Caesar Invades Britain – The First Time

Transcript – Julius Organises and Invades (55 BC) | The One With The British Weather


In our last episode of The History of Britain we had a look at why the Romans would want to add Britain to the ever expanding Roman territory. In this one we will look at how one of the most famous generals in history went about doing that.

Julius and his friends landed in Britain in 55 BC, but he had wanted to visit in 56 BC. What stopping him invading then, was some pesky Gauls. The Gauls in question were the Veneti from the Armorican peninsula, which is Britanny in France. They kicked off and Julius had to head on over and put them in their place. This wasn’t as simple as it might have been, because the Veneti were pretty good sailors, and as we mentioned last week, the Romans really weren’t used to the English Channel and Atlantic. This delayed Julius by a whole year. Not because it took him a year to sort out the rebellious Gauls, but because back in the day there was a campaigning period. You couldn’t do a lot of scrapping over the winter. It’s too cold and food was much harder to come by. It was very much the ancient equivalent of staying at home and eating beans, because it’s too cold to head out to Tescos.

So Julius got over his set back. How exactly does a general go about organising an invasion of an unknown island miles away from nice comfortable Rome?

Before we go over that, it’s worth saying that we are going to stick to boot into old Julius for the rest of this, but we are possibly being a bit unfair. It’s not 100% clear how much of an invasion this was meant to be. It’s entirely possible the aim was to go over there, knock some heads together and soften up the place for later. So bare that in mind, while we spend the next few minutes picking over every mistake he made, and laugh at him.

So anyway, how did Julius go about planning. Well, to be honest, badly – see we told you we would be harsh. He bollocksed up in three whole different ways.

The first way was trusting in the business community. He needed to know as much as possible about the Britons and what was going on in Britain. So he gathered together his merchants, who we know had been trading across the channel. They have it the old ‘Britannia you say’ nope, never heard of it.’

It may be his merchants didn’t know anything useful, or maybe they spotted if Julius spend the summer ripping through Southern England, that would seriously hamper their trade. Them turkeys just didn’t fancy kicking off that particular festive period.

Next up in the bad decisions was to send out a scout ship under a man names Volusenus. He was meant to have a check of the coast and find somewhere for him to land. We will go into how this was a mistake in a bit.

The final of the trio of bad decisions was backing Royalty. In particular a chieftain called Commius. Commius was in charge of the Atrebates tribe in what is now Belgium. He had been put in place by Julius himself following the kicking the Gauls in that region got. The Britains had either guessed or heard than the Romans were planning to nip over the channel. It’s possible that the merchant Julius had been walking to warned them. A few of the Briton tribes decided to send envoys over to meet Julius and promise that they would submit to the Romans. That feels a little cowardly, but considering Julius himself brags about killing a million Gauls and enslaving a million more, you can see why the Britons might be keen on skipping that bit. This is relevant to Commius, because he was sent back to Britain with the envoys. His job was to visit the tribes there, probably including the branch of his Atrebates that were in Britain, and get more of them to just pre-submit. Julius was obviously keen to just turn up and immediately claim a victory without having to murder his way around the countryside. This didn’t work. Puppet kings (or presidents for that matter, to bring it up to 2017) are rarely popular. Especially ones who are suggesting everyone should just give up. So the Britons just locked him up.

So it seems that Julius had failed to gather any useful info and was going to face a resistant population when he landed. You can sort of see why Julius messed it up, he was distracted again. Like with the year before, with the Veneti, it was kicking off in the provinces he was meant to be governing. This time the problem came from the Germanic peoples in the east. This time it looked like the tribes from across the Rhine were going to attack his province. The Rhine was a very useful natural border, with Rome on one side and heathens on the other. Probably sick of getting interrupted, Caesar massively overreacted to this Germanic forray over the border. He marched over and killed everyone he could find on the West side of the Rhine. He then built a bridge to get to the east bank. Although, saying it like that is a bit of an understatement. It was a seriously impressive feat. He built a bridge, crossing the Rhine, with local lumber, in just ten days. He had a mooch around on that side, but left fairly quickly, taking the bridge down behind him. Obviously he had proved his point. So it was back to focusing on Britain, but this delay meant it was getting late in the year. Julius wasn’t going to wait another year, so he went for it, regardless of any pesky seasons.

Given it was getting late and and his intelligence gathering  was a complete wash, how did he go about with the more logistical side of getting an army together?

Well he had himself two whole legions, which is about 10,000 soldiers, ready to go. Now that sounds like a lot to us, especially if we are going to give him the benefit of the doubt over how much of an invasion this was meant to be. For a bit of context 10,000 soldiers is a similar number to the number of soldiers historians reckon William the Conqueror took with him to England in 1066. And nobody is calling him William the Visitor now are they.

While his 10,000 soldiers were all ready and raring Caesar’s cavalry were getting ready in a different port, so Caesar decided to set off without them. They could catch up later. It was already the 24th of August, so it was getting late on in the year and he had one eye on the campaign period we mentioned earlier. The bloke was in a rush, so he set sail with his legions. Now we get to what excellent spot had our man Volusenus found for him?  From Caesar’s description of the point of British coast he first got to, it’s assumed where they had picked to land was the White Cliffs of Dover.

For those of you wondering what’s wrong with that, imagine getting off your ship to land on the beach. It sounds quite nice. I mean, who doesn’t like a trip to the seaside? But now imagine that some merchants and a puppet king had told everyone that you were about to invade. So when you turned up the cliffs above you was lined with angry looking natives. They also like a trip to the seaside, and had decided to bring along their favorite heavy and pointy things along with them.

Storming a beach while having things thrown at him didn’t appeal to Julius, so he decided to head down the coast a bit and find a better spot. (probably giving Volusenus a dry slap on the way) Unfortunately, they were followed by the Britons. So their next issue was landing on a beach full of Britons, who hadn’t conveniently left their pointy things back in Dover. To make it worse the Romans ships couldn’t cope with shallow water, so the soldiers had to jump into deeper water and fight their way from there to shallow water and then onto the beach.  Thinking strategically, we believe this is know as ‘having an absolute mare’. The whole, Romans not being good sailors is really starting to look important.

The story from the Roman sources claims that the legions were reluctant to go in the water at first. That is until a brave standard-bearer leapt into the sea, clutching the Eagle standard. You might have seen these standards in films, they were like the Roman equivalent of medieval banners. They were symbols of each legion and was a sort of representation of the honour and pride of the men. Losing it would be very bad news for everyone involved. The brave standard bearer jumped into the water and shouted:


“Leap, fellow soldiers, unless you wish to betray your eagle to the enemy. I, for my part, will perform my duty to the Republic and to my general.”


Isn’t that a lovely story? Very Hollywood. It’s more likely he screeched something along the lines of:

“I’m getting seasick on that fucking boat. Hurry up and get in the fucking water you pack of cowardly cunts.

Whatever he said, it worked. The Romans got their feet wet, and managed to fight their way to the beach. The Britons ran off in their speedy chariots and since Julius’ cavalry was still sailing over, he had to let them go, because he didn’t have anything fast enough chase them with. The Britons had obviously decided that Julius was too hard core for them and decided to submit to him to avoid taking a kicking. For some of them this was the second time they had submitted. There was obviously some concern about how Julius would react to all this and in a classic attempt to not get shouting at the representatives of the tribes blamed the attack on commoners. The rulers obviously had no intention of resisting Roman rule, but there is no telling these stupid confused poor people. The poor, hey. Am I right? Convincing stuff.

Julius must have been looking forward to consolidating his position and just wait for the tribute to start rolling in. It was all coming up Julius. He had landed, beat the Britons and was looking all set to take charge of a good bit of South East England.  Briton Tribes were coming and submitting to him (again) and his cavalry were on the way over the channel.

Then disaster struck. Like a modern day tourist from Southern Europe, he hadn’t taken into account the British weather. A big storm blew up and it really ruined his day. Firstly, it happened when his cavalry were sailing across the channel, forcing them to turn around and go back to Gaul. Secondly, Julius had set up a camp near where he had landed, but he hadn’t pulled his ships far enough onto the beach. He wasn’t used to our weather and tides and his ships were thrown about and a lot of them got broken. And we bet he didn’t even have his brolly with him.

Now the Romans had gone from a nice victory and a rosy immediate future to being wet, horseless and without enough ships to get home.The Britons spotted this and quickly left to start organising getting their own back.

Julius had himself two fairly big problems now. Firstly he would have to fix his ships if he wanted a route back to Gaul, and secondly, it looked like he would be forced to hang around near the beach for a bit so he would need some food for this 10,000 men. Ever the decisive general, he got one legion to set up to defend and fix his ships while the other was sent out for forage for food (foraging being a military euphemism for nicking some stuff).

Julius was hanging around waiting for his dinner, when someone spotting a massive dust cloud in the direction of his foraging legion. This either meant his soldiers were dancing for joy over how much food they had found, or they were under attack. Assuming the latter he grabbed up men and marched over to help the foraging legion. They had indeed been attacked by a force of opportunistic Britons. It sounded pretty bad for the Romans, who were particularly freaked out by the Britons chariots. Still, Julius and his legions managed to fight their way into a retreat back to the beach.

The Britons and their chariots sounded like a massive problem for the Romans, and Julius certainly seemed pretty impressed with them. We have been reading about all this quite a bit, and it seems unacceptable for anyway to talk about 55 BC without including this quite long quote from his book ‘The Gallic Wars’ So if you will excuse us, here it goes:

“In chariot fighting the Britons begin by driving all over the field hurling javelins, and generally the terror inspired by the horses and the noise of the wheels are sufficient to throw their opponents’ ranks into disorder. Then, after making their way between the squadrons of their own cavalry, they jump down from the chariot and engage on foot. In the meantime their charioteers retire a short distance from the battle and place the chariots in such a position that their masters, if hard pressed by numbers, have an easy means of retreat to their own lines. Thus they combine the mobility of cavalry with the staying power of infantry; and by daily training and practice they attain such proficiency that even on a steep incline they are able to control the horses at full gallop, and to check and turn them in a moment. They can run along the chariot pole, stand on the yoke, and get back into the chariot as quick as lightning”

Once again the Britons decided they were probably not going to come out on top, so went and submitted to the Romans (some of them for the third time)

Julius must have had enough with the whole thing. He accepted their submissions and demanded hostages to make sure they stuck to it this time. He didn’t even hang around to collect the hostages and just headed back to Gaul, leaving instructions that hostages should be sent after him.

This was not a roaring success from Julius. Yes he had technically won, but not many victories end with you racing home to get away from who you have just beaten. Most of the tribes didn’t even bother to send the hostages across.

Its also worth noting that the Romans sailed back over in ten less ships than they sailed across in. Which means it was either a cramped journey, or they had lost more than 10% of their men.

That’s the end of Julius’ first go at Britain. Join us next time when we will have a look at Julius’ second bite at the cherry. Maybe this one won’t end with Julius and his mates running away from the mean Britons. In the meantime there will be a companion episode on the extent of the Roman territories, so we can see where our island fit into it all.

Nice, one. Cheers.


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1.1. Britain Before The Romans – Celtic Britain

The Romans may have turned up in Britain in 55 BC to civilise Briton heathens, who were presumably doing fine without them. But who exactly was knocking about in Britain? Windmill People, Celts and Beaker People, that’s who. Find out about them with this podcast.

Here is the Amesbury Archer,  the remains of a Beaker People person, buried with his nice stuff, including some arrowheads:

Amesbury Archer


And here is one of the Beaker People’s Beakers. It seems sad that a civilisation is known for their fondness for a household object, but to be fair they are pretty nice beakers:


Museo Arqueológico Nacional de España – Photo by Luis García, 3 December 2008.




Transcript – Britain Before The Romans



So we started in our last episode looking at why the Romans would want to invade Britain, but what exactly had been happening in Britain before that? Well since Julius Caesar had a go at Britain in 55 BC and history is loads longer than that, quite a bit.


Humans were knocking about in Africa around 200,000 years ago, but they didn’t make it to what is now Britain until 44,000 years ago, so we were a bit late to the game.

Properly recorded history on our island didn’t really start until the Romans turned up and started writing things down in about 55 BC. That gives us about 42,000 years where we don’t really know what was going on. But here are a few bits to fill in that gap.


Let’s start with some proof that humans have been knocking about in Britain for ages. The oldest evidence of humans in Britain is a 33,000-year-old jaw bone. It even has some teeth still attached  It was found in Kent’s Cavern down in Devon. Given that counties disinterest in change, this period is known by the fine folk down there as the good old days.


Skip forward to 26,000 years ago and we have the best part of a whole skeleton found near Swansea in South Wales.It was found in 1823, by a budding Victorian archaeologist called Rev. William Buckland. Being a Victorian gent, and a Reverend,  he wasn’t a massive fan if the idea of evolution. Which is probably why he identified the skeleton as a Roman-era prostitute who had worked in a nearby Roman settlement.So he was only out by 24,000 years.


As well as being that far off, the skeleton also belonged to a man. A man who became known as The Red Lady. You would think after 26000 years you will be able to avoid social embarrassment. But apparently, it’s not a given. To be fair to the Victorians, we don’t definitely know that the man wasn’t a sex worker.


We don’t want to be accused of being speciesist, so it’s worth pointing out that we are just talking about modern humans here, and there is evidence of humans ancestors living in what is now Britain. For example, a 480,000-year-old shin bone was found in Boxgrove Surrey. This particular bit of shin belonged to a Homo Heidelbergensis, who died out about 200,000 years ago.


For the difficult to impress amongst you how about some 800,000-year-old footprints in Happisburgh, Norfolk. They had been preserved by sediment and sand until they were found in 2013. These footprints are believed to belong to a species called, Homo antecessor, who knocked about from 1.2 million to 800,000 years ago.


Not that there were always people on our little island. in fact, we weren’t even always a little island. Ice ages meant that humans, and animals, came and went with the weather. For much the same reasons that Whitby is busier in July than it is in February. Archeologist reckons that the Modern Britons made their peace with the bad weather around 14,000 years ago, and stayed here permanently. These fair weather Britons were able to come and go as they please due to a lax approach to border control and the fact that our island wasn’t an island. It was attached to the continent by an area between Britain and Denmark, called Doggerland, was above sea level and was lived on. In the original Brexit, around about 8,000 years ago we were cut off from everyone else by rising sea levels.


Since we can’t really cope with the idea of an 8000-year-old English Atlantis, let alone an  800,000-year-old footprint, let’s have a look at a more reasonable timescale.


The Bronze Age in Britain saw a new group of people show up in about 2500 BC. One of the dominant groups in Europe were called the Beaker Bell People (a.k.a the Beaker People). They were named, unsurprisingly after their beakers, which look like an upside down bell. They were big on the continent, around central Europe and the Iberian Peninsula. We don’t really know if they turned up in Britain and kicked out the locals, or if the British Beaker People were the ones already in Britain, who just liked the continental style pots and copied them. Beakers were very much the Bronze Age iPhone. All the cool tribes had them.


As you can tell we have a fondness for the name Beaker People, but they did also bring something useful to the island. Metalworking. More specifically Bronze.This was made from Copper, which had been the big thing before, mixed with tin, which made the Copper into stronger and more durable Bronze. Handily for our little island, there were tin mines up and running in the South West. This is the bit that made us realise that we have completely underestimated the people of the Bronze Age. Devon and Cornwall had mines, in order to extract the minerals to create tin, in order to make Bronze, an alloy. Not only that, but ports were set up to trade these materials with the continent. It’s a sad day when you realise that if you were sent back thousands of years into the past, you still wouldn’t be any use to people. We certainly don’t know how to make metal alloys.


It’s been a couple of minutes since we talked about human remains, so It’s worth mentioning the Amesbury Archer, who was alive around about 2300 years ago when the Beaker People were running the place. He is known as the Archer because he was found with some nice stuff, including some arrowheads.


It’s already quite cool that we have a well-preserved skeleton of a bloke from 2300 years ago but how’s this for a fact: He wasn’t local. Using some sort of science, involving analysing his teeth, we know that when he grew up on the continent, probably near the Alps. So now we would not only be of little use to the Beaker People if we get sent back in time, but we aren’t even as well travelled as some of them.


Britain sacked off using Beakers about 500 years later in around 1700 BC. It’s a shame that we really don’t know much about them because they didn’t write anything down. But saying that, you are familiar with some of their work. They helped to make Stonehenge. Contrary to what people think, it wasn’t built by Celtic Druids. They wouldn’t appear on the island until well after Stonehenge was finished.


It was started before the Bronze Age in around 3000 BC, by people we call The Windmill People. They didn’t have windmills, but they are named after a nearby hill, called Windmill Hill. Archeologists are clearly clever people, but we are starting to doubt their creativity when it comes to the naming of things they find. It seems they tend to go for word association when picking names.  


When the Beaker People moved into the area, possibly kicking out the Windmill People, they decided to re-decorate and made loads of changes to Stonehenge, like adding in the bigger Sarsen stones. It was finished off by a group called the Wessex People in about 1600 BC, meaning it took about 1400 years to build, which puts into perspective how long it took to build Wembley, so leave the FA alone.  


The Wessex People were just one of the groups knocking about on the island. It’s estimated that the population of the island was around a quarter of a million during this period. That would put it at about the size of Preston. And we don’t see the people of Preston building monuments. Pull your finger out Prestonites.


The next big thing in metal work was Iron. This coincided with a new dominant group across Western Europe. The Celts. It was the Celts who were the biggest group in Britain before the Romans turned up. Like with the Beaker People we don’t know if they took control through invasion, cultural appropriation or a mixture.


As with the Wessex, Beaker and Windmill peoples, Celtic Britain wasn’t one country like we would expect to see today. It was made up of bigger groups split into smaller tribes. It’s estimated that the population of Britain at the end of the iron age, when the Romans turned up,  was about one million. Which would make it a bit bigger than Liverpool.


The majority of the island was made up of Brythonic Celts. They spoke Common Brythonic and were everything below the Clyde and Forth Rivers.


If you want to get a bit of a taste of what the language was like go and find someone who can speak Welsh since that’s where the Welsh language came from.  Above the Forth and Clyde, there were two other groups. The West was Gaelic and shared a culture and language with the north of Ireland. The East was Pictish. The Picts language was probably a bit like Brythonic. Everything we could find on the Pics was seriously sketchy. Not even Wikipedia pretends to know much about them.


These bigger cultural groups were split down into smaller tribes. Which isn’t too hard to understand. For example, a Yorkshireman is a Yorkshireman, but the people of Rotherham aren’t the same as them in York.


We actually know the names and rough locations of some of these tribes, because the Romans will spend a few hundred odd years writing about fighting with them. In fact, the first written record of Britain wasn’t the Romans. That prize goes to a Greek man called Pytheas. He visited the island in about 325 BC and travelled around in order to map out the geography of the island as well as meeting some of the people.


We aren’t too sure he got everything properly correct. There is a map, drawn in the 15th century, which is supposed to originally have been drawn by someone using Pytheas’ work. And it looks nowt like Britain. It’s all bent over. Still, it’s probably a decent go considering they were making it more than 2000 years ago.


He is also credited with being the first person to record the name Britain (or at least where we get the modern word Britain from), which he probably picked up chatting to folk around what is now Wales.


A theme of Pytheas’ writing was how connected to the continent we were (sorry Farage), with lots of trade across the channel. He particularly talks about the tin trade between Cornwall and what is now France through the River Rhone. It wasn’t just about trade relationships, it looks like there were very close cross-channel ties. There was a Belgic tribe, the Atrebates, who had a branch in Southern England. Further north in Yorkshire we have the Parisi, who share a name with a group who lived around what is now Paris and there is some evidence that they are linked.  


When the Romans started invading Gaul (in what is now France and the Low Countries) the Britons joined in fighting back against the Mediterranean menace.


So there you go, now we know a bit about what was going on in Britain before the Romans, and where they fit in the grand scheme of things.


Join us next time for a look at exactly what happened and how the Romans got on in 55 BC (spoiler; not as well as you would think)


Nice one, cheers


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1. Why Julius Caesar Invaded Britain

Roman Britain might have kicked off in 55 BC when Julius Caesar planned his invasion. Why exactly did Julius and his Roman friends want to invade Britain? It turns ancient political leaders are just as selfish and twatty as their modern descendants. This episode goes over the reasons that the Romans wanted to launch that important era of British history; Roman Britan.

Transcript – Julius Caesar & Britain

In our first episode of the history of Britain, we look at Rome’s first crack at taking over the British Isles. Rome was founded in 753 BC, but it wasn’t until 55 BC that they found themselves at the English Channel looking over and thinking, ‘fuck it’ we might as well have that bit as well.  


And the bloke doing that high-quality strategic thinking was non-other than Julius Caesar. He wasn’t at the height of his powers in 55 BC, and frankly, he bollocksed the whole thing up. Before we stick the boot into one of the most famous generals in history, let’s look at why Rome fancied attacking Britain.


We covered one reason already. It’s just what they did during that period. They had spread from a town in Italy to having control over a chunk of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. They were bad neighbours to have.


The second reason is incomprehensible to modern ears. We are far too used to our current political systems, but we will do our best to explain. It was a question of personal prestige, power and legacy. Unbelievable isn’t it?


Exactly what power was on offer for Julius? Well, the top job in Rome was called a Consul. They were a republic, so they didn’t have a king or a chief, and a Consul was like a president and in fact, a Consul was like two presidents, as there was always two of them. That was so if one of them went power mad, the other could veto their crazier decisions.


Each pair of Consuls had the job for one year at a time and they couldn’t be reelected straight away. Julius Caesar had already been Consul in 59 BC, and after that, he did what Consuls traditionally did, they went and ruled a province for a bit. A province was a bit of the territory that the Romans ran, so it could be anywhere from Spain to Syria. Usually, they did that for 1 or 2 years then headed back to Rome. That wouldn’t have worked for Julius. He had spent a lot of money to become Consul, and since he spent a lot of other people’s money, he had seriously pissed off a lot of people on his way to the top. Roman politics could be a bit less forgiving than British politics. There are not just sarcastic comments at Prime Minister’s Question Time. As Julius would later find out, spoilers, folk were getting stabbed. He needed cash and a bit of distance between him and his stabbier enemies, so instead of running a province for a year or two, he set himself up to run 3 of them for a decade. He went big and became governor of Cisalpine Gaul (which is Northern Italy) Illyricum (which is a bit of the Balkans, around Albania, Montenegro, Croatia and Bosnia) and Transalpine Gaul (basically, what is now France and bit of the Benelux nations).


What does this have to do with Britain? Well, like we said it was all about personal glory. The way to get elected to Consul was to have loads of money, but more important was to have a massive reputation, which in Rome meant military success. Rome was basically an army with an empire hanging off it. As much as we all like to laugh at British politics, our American friends will be more familiar with how Roman politics worked. Cash was crucial, fetishising the military was essential and backstabbing was all the rage, although Romans were occasionally a bit more literal about that than Americans. Romans also had crazy men occasionally rise to the top, who looked like they were going to bring the whole thing crashing down.  


Anyway, Julius knew the importance of military success and went about conquering Gaul, in his own book he claimed to have killed a million Gauls and enslave a million more. Which, for a Roman general, was a good start, but frankly must have been a bit unexciting back home. Rome had been fighting the Gauls for centuries by this point. In fact, in 390 BC the Gauls had attacked and wrecked up the city of Rome.By 55 BC, beating them wasn’t all that new. Britain, on the other hand, was, believe it or not, a mysterious and scary place. For a start, it was unexplored and on the edge of the known world. Romans wouldn’t be sure it was even an island for another 100 years when one of them would sail around it. Britain also had the added issue of the English Channel. The Romans weren’t big on sailing. Obviously, they could sail, for a start getting to North Africa without a boat would have been a bit of a pain. They didn’t mind the Mediterranean, but a choppier, and colder, bit of water was a bit a worry. For a start, it was the domain of the Roman God, Oceanus, who was their god of the sea. Think an angry Poseidon-like, angry, bearded, damp looking fellow. For Julius to have a crack at Britain or Britannia as the Romans would call it, would make him look proper hard back home.


Our third reason for the Romans fancying a go at our rainy little island will be a huge surprise to everyone. It was for the money. What? A massive empire attacking a much smaller region in order to gain more wealth for itself at the expense of the native population. Well, I never. So what did Britain have? Quite a lot actually. Tin was particularly important in the Roman world, as it was used in the making of bronze and South-West England was one of the only places in Europe where tin could be mined. For fans of more traditional avarice, Britain also had gold. These metals and other handy things had been traded across the channel for ages before the Romans turned up. For example, there is an item called the Nebra Sky Disc, which is a very cool disc-shaped thing showing the sun, moon and stars, which was made in Germany around 1600 BC. We mention it because it was made using gold and tin from Cornwall. So the continent knew all about the good stuff that could come from Britain.  


Something we didn’t mention when we were talking about how hard Julius would look by fighting the Britons was the Britons themselves, who are the fourth reasons for a Roman attack on Britain.


Before we look at why, it’s worth pointing out an obvious, but important fact. The Britons living in Britain weren’t one country that worked together. We aren’t even talking SNP and Plaid Cymru having a go at the English levels of not getting on. The Britons were tribes of Celts, living in their own territories with the fighting between them you would expect. We don’t know a lot about them because they weren’t big on writing stuff down. We do know a fair bit about Southern England, and a bit about the tribes in Wales and further north. By the time you get to Scotland it gets even fuzzier with the Picts. We can’t even figure out if historians count Picts as Celts or not. They seemed to be Celtish, but not really. The Romans mostly took a similar approach to Scotland, as modern-day Englishmen, leave them to it and hope they don’t cause too much damage when they kick off.  Anyway, we will meet tribes later on when Romans meet them.


The Britons are relevant here because they came into contact with Romans before 55 BC. When Julius was killing his way through Gaul, Britons would appear in battles against the Romans. The northern Gauls and the southern Britons appeared to have plenty of contacts, and they looked to even have some related tribes. There was a Briton tribe called the Atrebates who also knocked about around what is now Belgium. It makes sense that the Britons would team up with friendly Gauls to defend them against a very foreign invasion. Also, they were probably getting paid. As a double whammy of annoyance, when the Romans gave a tribe from Gaul a kicking, the leaders of that tribe could go and hide safely in Britain before returning home and kicking up a fuss again.  

All of our four reasons for Julius having a crack at Britain seem reasonable to us. We are sure that some clever sods have written PhDs on all this, but being the misanthropes we are it’s all about Julius looking hard as nails as far as we are concerned. That might say more about us than Julius though. However, we want to give special mention to how annoying the Britons were. Throughout history, the inhabitants of Britain have been a massive pain in the arse. We annoyed the Romans, we permanently warred with the French, we invaded half the globe, spreading genocide whole across continents. And now we get smashed and tear up city centres on city breaks and away games. But for Julius, it was the perfect PR.


The man clearly wanted to do some invading, and the cash that it would generate meant more than a few Romans would be keen on the idea, but it just wasn’t allowed. A Roman governor could give the people in his province a massive beating – a million Gauls killed and a million more enslaved kind of beating – but they couldn’t just go and head out over their borders and start wars with whoever they liked. Bureaucracy, hey? It’s Europeans, they just can’t help themselves. Stopping governors starting wars that could last generations. And we bet they had rules on how bendy their fruit could be.


Julius could justify attacking a region outside of his territory if they were a threat.So we imagine Rome was flooded with stories of Briton weapons of pointy destruction, ready to deploy within 4-5 days. The Britons sticking their beak in meant Julius could legitimately attack Britain.


And that’s why Julius and his Roman friends wanted a piece of Britain.Next up is the 55 BC invasion and how Julius bollocksed it up. Before that, we have a companion episode on what was going on in Britain before the Romans appeared.


Nice one, Cheers