What was Britain like before the Romans?
Before the Romans invaded, Celts lived in Britain. There were lots of different tribes ruled by kings or chiefs. Chiefs often fought one another. A chief would lead his warriors into battle in chariots pulled by horses. For defence against enemies, they built forts on hilltops. These hill-forts had earth banks and wooden walls.
In Celtic Britain there were no towns. Most people were farmers living in villages. They made round houses from wood and mud, with Thatched roofs. There were no roads. People travelled by boats on rivers, or along muddy paths. Some British Celts crossed the sea to trade with other Celts in the Roman Empire.
Why did the Romans invade?
The Romans ruled Gaul (Gallia they called it). Today it's France. In 55 B.C. the Roman General Julius Caesar led his army across the sea from Gaul to Britain. He wanted to make Britain part of Rome's empire. The British Celts fought bravely, and Caesar soon went back to Gaul.
Next year, in 54 B.C. the Romans came back. This time Caesar had 30,000 soldiers. They were surprised to see chariots. The Romans had stopped using chariots in battles. Caesar captured a Celtic hill-fort. Then, again, he went away. He did not think Britain was worth a long war, and he wanted to get back to Rome.
Nearly a hundred years later, in A.D. 43, the Romans returned. Emperor Claudius sent an army to invade Britain. The army had four legions . This time the Romans conquered the southern half of Britain, and made it part of the Roman Empire.
How did the British fight back?
Some Celts made friends with the Romans, in return for keeping their kingdoms. Their leaders were called 'client kings'. They agreed to obey Roman laws, and pay Roman taxes. One client king was Cogidumnus, the ruler of the Atrebates of southern Britain. The Roman palace at Fishbourne (West Sussex) was probably built for him. He was a 'Roman Briton'.
Other British leaders fought the Romans. At Maiden Castle (a hill-fort near Dorchester in Dorset) archaeologists found evidence of a battle which the Romans had won. Buried on the site were the skeletons of young men, some of which had cut marks of Roman swords on the bones.
The best British leader was Caratacus, but he was beaten in A.D. 51. The Romans took him as a prisoner to Rome, but treated him well.