How the Romans conquered Britain

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Why did the Romans invade Britain?

The Roman invasion of Britain could be the most significant event ever to happen to the British Isles. The Romans affected our language, our culture, our geography, our architecture and even the way we think.

  • Around 2,000 years ago, Britain was ruled by tribes of people called the Celts. But this was about to change.
  • For around 100 years (a century), the Roman army had been building an empire across Europe.

  • The Romans wanted Britain's precious metals gold, tin and iron – and its cattle.

  • A number of Roman emperors wanted the glory of conquering Britain and adding it to the empire.
The Roman invasion began in southern Britain.

Watch: What do we know about the Roman invasion?

Who attempted to invade Britain?

  • In 54-55BC Julius Caesar tried to invade but failed.
  • In AD43, ordered by Emperor Claudius, a big Roman army landed on the beaches in Kent.
  • Over the next year it battled inland, storming through hillforts and conquering anyone who stood in their way.

Did the Romans and Celts live in peace?

  • If the Celts made peace with the Romans, they agreed to obey Roman laws and pay taxes. In return, they could keep their kingdoms.
  • However, some Celtic leaders chose to fight.
  • After years of heavy taxes and the Romans taking their land, some Celtic tribes were desperate for revenge.

  • In AD60, one leader who chose to fight was Queen Boudicca of the Iceni tribe.

Watch: Who was Queen Boudicca?

Find out why Queen Boudicca led a rebellion against the Romans.

What did Boudicca do?

  • She raised a huge army and burned the Roman towns of Colchester and London, before heading north to St Albans.

  • When the Roman army heard about this, they turned back from Wales to face her.

  • Even though the Romans were outnumbered by Boudica's 200,000 warriors, they were better trained and had better armour. Both sides clashed in a fierce battle, but the Romans won.

Watch: What happened to Boudicca?

What happened when Boudicca faced the Roman army?

What happened next?

  • Over the next 300 years, Britain remained a peaceful and successful province of the Roman Empire.
  • New cities, roads, villas and baths were built.
  • Many Celts became Roman citizens and spoke Latin.

Roman invasion timeline

Activities

Activity 1: Roman emperors

Click on each image to discover which Roman emperors invaded Britain.

Activity 2: Quiz – Roman invasion of Britain