The Roman invasion force of legionaries waded onto British soil in AD43, and found themselves in a land carved into a series of independent tribal territories. The largest of these lay in the North, where a tribal federation known as the Brigantes ruled a swath of land stretching from the Trent up to where Hadrian’s Wall now stands. Tucked into their eastern flank were the Parisi, a smaller tribe whose sway extended roughly from the Humber Estuary to the North Yorkshire Moors.
First century Britons in Yorkshire lived as elsewhere, in circular dwellings made of stone or timber, and rising to conical roofs of thatch or turf. These round houses stood either in enclosed oval farmsteads or in grander hill-forts, whose lofty positions, defensive earthworks and ditches provided security in times of conflict. Granaries and animal bone discoveries suggest that Brigantine life revolved around arable agriculture.
The Romans found the Southern tribes relatively easy to subjugate, but opted for a treaty with Cartimandua, Queen of the Brigantia, which left her at the helm of a semiautonomous client state. The treaty provided Cartimandua with a strong ally during the internal struggles that punctuated her rule, and gave Rome a friendly buffer state on its northern frontier.
In AD69, Ventius, Cartimandua’s ex-husband rebelled, and legionaires marched north to quell the tribal unrest. Ventius offensive was successful, and Rome retaliated in force. In AD71 Governor Petillius Cerialis led the ninth legion northwards, leading to a battle where Ventius and his forces were defeated at Stanwick hill-fort.
With the region conquered, the Romans consolidated their rule over the following years by laying out a network of roads, and stippling the terrain with forts.
For many Romano-Britons, life would have altered little by the conquest. Yet tendrils of Roman influence spread throughout the country. Villas appeared on the landscapes, and communities grew up beside forts to service their occupants. In Yorkshire one such village evolved into ‘Isurium Brigantum’ Brigantia’s tribal capital.