Roman Britain: Rise of the Picts


Celtic Picts of Scotland

4th century Roman Britain, saw the rise of the Picts, a band of savage warriors, created from the tribes of Caledonia.  These picts tattooed their bodies and embellished themselves with war paint.

To the Picts, the Romans were their enemy, and any chance they had, they stormed Hadrian’s Wall, creating a serious threat from the north.

Constantius Chlorus campaigned through the land designated as Pictland in 305.  His sons Constantine marched north in 312 and Constans in 342, and still the Picts kept coming.

In 360 the Picts and Scottish forces breached Hadrian’s Wall, over-run Roman Britain and reached Londinium in the south.

The year 367 proved to be a disastrous year for Romans in Britain: Picts and Scottish forces headed south, crossing over Hadrian’s Wall and into Britain, whilst Scotii from Ireland, crossed the Irish Sea attacking western Britain.  The south and eastern coasts came under attack by Saxons and franks.

Roman forces were unable to withstand attacks from all sides at the same time.

Social order in Roman Britain collapsed, as Roman slaves took their revenge; plundering Roman buildings, and setting them alight.  Many inhabitants lost their lives to attacking warriors.

In 369, General Theodosius was commissioned to regain Roman presence, and carry out repairs to Hadrian’s Wall.

By the end of 370, order had been restored to Roman Britain.  Coastal forts, towers and beacons were installed along coastal areas.

In 382, Emperor Maximus believed he had routed out the Picts and destroyed them all… how wrong he was!

In 383 Hadrian’s Wall was breached again by the Picts.

In 407 the Western Empire of Rome suffered onslaughts of their own by the Goths and Huns.  As the Roman’s left, the Picts openly crossed Hadrian’s Wall in their hundreds into Britain.

celtic-pict-drawing(Image) Celtic Picts of Scotland: HubPages
(Images) Pict Woman Drawing + Tattoos

Roman Britain: Hadrian’s Wall


Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar’s invasion force landed on Britain’s south-coast in 55 BC, and found it inhabited by Celtic tribes.  In 56 BC Caesar returned to Britain, and came face to face with the Catevellauni, whom he defeated in battle.  Caesar set up treaties and alliances before withdrawing his forces, and so the Roman occupation of Britain had begun.

In AD43, Emperor Claudius sent Aulus Plautius with a force of some 24,000 Roman soldiers to Britain, with orders to establish a military presence.  By AD79 England and Wales were under Roman control.

Emperor Vespasian believed Scotland should also become part of the Roman Empire, but they resisted the Romans.

Julius Agricola, Governor of Britain was faced with a formidable task.  By AD81 he had subdued southern Scottish tribal clans of Selgovae, Novantae and Votadini.  Roman forces headed northwards, intent on provoking the Caledonians into battle against hardened Roman warriors.  They met at Mons Graupius, where Romans were victorious, as 10,000 Caledonians were slain in battle, at the cost of only 360 Romans.  The following day, surviving clansmen fled into the hills, remaining resistant to Roman rule.


Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian became Emperor of the Roman Empire in AD117, and under his orders, the Roman Empire no longer expanded.  In AD122 upon his visit to Britain in, ordered the construction of a wall from the North Sea to the Irish Sea; Solway Firth in the West to the River Tyne in the East.  If he couldn’t rule or control these Scottish barbarians, he built a wall; “Hadrian’s Wall” some 73 miles in length, 10 feet in width, and 15 feet in height, across open country, keeping them out of Britain.


Hadrian’s Wall – Mile Castle Remains

The Roman’s built mile castles (small forts) which housed garrisons of some sixty men, every mile with towers every third of a mile.  Sixteen larger forts, holding 500-1,000 soldiers were built along the length of the wall, with large gates on the walls north face, and a wide ditch, with six foot high earth banks on the south side of the wall…


Hadrian’s Wall – Roman Fort Remains

This massive structure, stretching across northern Britain was constructed by legionaries, taking six years to complete.

Much of the wall remains to this day, despite parts being used for road building and houses over the centuries.  This wall is nearly 1900 years old, a testament of Roman construction.

Hadrian’s Wall: English Heritage
Hadrian’s Wall Mile Castle: English Heritage
Hadrian’s Wall Roman Fort: English Heritage
Julius Caesar: Wikipedia

Saint Catherine of Alexandria


Apparition to Saint Catherine

St.Catherine of Alexandria, daughter of King Costus and Queen Sabinella rulers of Alexandria.  She was well versed in the arts, sciences and of philosophy.  She was raised a pagan, and in her teenage years turned to Christianity, receiving a vision in which the Blessed Virgin Mary gave her to Christ in a mystical marriage.

Catherine attempted to convince the Roman Emperor; Maxentius, the error of his ways, by persecuting Christians who refused to worship idols.  He called upon his philosopher’s to show her his beliefs, as Catherine won debate after debate, she won through.  A number of her adversaries, declared themselves Christians, and were put to death.

Catherine was imprisoned, hundreds visited her including the wife of Maxentius; the Empress.  All who converted to Christianity were martyred.

Maxentius, had Catherine tortured, but she would not yield, he proposed marriage, she refused; Jesus Christ be my spouse.

An outraged Maxentius condemned her to death on the spiked breaking wheel, but this instrument of torture was destroyed by her touch.  Maxentius ordered that she be beheaded.

The corpse of Saint Catherine, a 4th century Christian martyr was carried to Mount Sinai, by angels.

In the 6th century, Emperor Justinian created Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt.  The church was built between 548-565, as the site attracted thousands of pilgrims.

In the 15th century France, the young “Joan of Arc” only thirteen years of age at the time, believed she had heard the words of God, speak to her.  She had been chosen by God, to lead France to victory, in its war with France.


Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc repeatedly said, Saint Catherine had come to her, in her time of need, offering her words of encouragement.

Joan had been chosen by God, aged just thirteen, burned at the stake, aged nineteen.  She became one of history’s great saints… a French martyr and patriot.

A Scottish legend tells of a pilgrim who dropped a single drop of oil, which had come from Mount Sinai.  The oil used to embalm St. Catherine of Alexandria, was on route to Queen Margaret.  From a single drop of oil, grew a healing spring.

An ointment from this well was an effective treatment in skin complaints and burns.  The well was visited by many Scottish monarchs.  In 1504, James IV visited, in 1617 James VI ordered a well-house complete with steps for easy access be constructed, following his visit.

In 1650, destruction came to the well at the hands of Cromwell’s troops.  In 1889, a new well-house was built.

(Image) Apparition to Saint Catherine: Roman Catholic Saints
(Image) Joan of Arc: Wikipedia

Queen Boudicca


Queen Boudicca

Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni
had her lands by marriage
taken from her, by the Romans.

She watched on, helplessly
as her daughter’s virginity
were taken from them.

Anger seeped through her body
her daughter’s had been defiled
she wanted justice…

She rose up out of revenge
demanding justice and payment
in Roman blood…

Wikipedia Image

Building Blocks of Londinium


Roman City Wall & Gateway of Londinium (London)

Londinium or London as we know it now, sits upon sand, gravel and clay.  As far back as Roman’s times, man has built upon this land.

Londinium; a Roman settlement established around 50AD, following the invasion of Britain in 43AD, led by the Roman Emperor Claudius and Roman troop commander; Plautius.

This Roman settlement was established upon marshy lands at a point where the existing river was narrow enough for the construction of a bridge, yet deep enough to handle sea-going marine vessels.

The first bridge built to straddle across the river, was constructed by Plautius, and archaeological excavations in 1981, discovered a Roman pier base, as used in bridge construction very close to the current London Bridge.  From there, a network of Roman roads were created, for easy movement of Roman soldiers.

Londinium, the new trading centre for goods being brought up river, was located on the north side.


Queen Boudicca

Boudicca Queen of the Iceni; had not accepted the rule of these Roman invaders of her homeland, and so it was in 60AD, she and her army levelled and burned this settlement, killing thousands… no one was left alive.

The former settlement was rebuilt, becoming a city in its own right, consisting of timber framed buildings around Roman civic buildings.  As the city grew; Palaces, Basilica, Temple’s and Bathhouses rose from the ashes, so its importance did also, reflecting itself as a major trading centre, by the mid second century.



Fragment of Roman Wall

They enhanced their city, their capital by constructing a defensive wall built from Kentish Ragstone around part of the city, located on the landward side.  It was a little less than two miles in length, some twenty feet high and eight feet thick, designed to ward off potential attacks.  This wall survived some 1600 years.  Along with six gates; Newgate, Aldersgate, Bishopsgate, Aldgate, Cripplegate and Ludgate.

Saxon pirates attacked Londinium on a number of occasions, which led to an additional wall being constructed along the river side of the city in 255AD.

Second century Londinium possessed a Basilica, Temple, Bathhouses, Governor’s Palace and Garrison.  This city grew, this Roman city under rule from the Roman Empire, reached some 45,000 inhabitants.


Mithras Slaying a Bull

The Temple of Mithras, to the Persian God of light and the sun can be found at Walbrook.  Built in the mid second century.  Mithraism rose to prominence during the third century, emphasizing courage, integrity and moral behaviour, with a focus on saviour, sacrifice and rebirth.  Mithraism was highly popular with Roman soldiers, and threatened early forms of Christianity.

Other remanants of Roman buildings still remain in the city; the crypt at St.Brides Church, reveals a Roman decorated floor.


Roman Amphitheatre

Beneath the Guildhall, remains of a Amphitheatre, where gladiators would fight, with animals or each other, often to the death.

With the invasion of Roman’s upon the lands of Britain, their architecture was not changed to match the styles of Britain, but they introduced their own styles of builds, creating a home from home feel.

They would build Roman Villa’s (the latin translation of Villa means farm).  Most were built close to major centres like Londinium.

Interestingly, early buildings were built of wood, upon wood or stone foundations and in the second century they were built of stone.  Many of the early structures were rebuilt in stone during the second century.

A single story in height upon a stone foundation, and capped with slate or clay roof tiles.  With mosaic or marbled floors, under floor central heating, piped through stone channels and painted walls.

Wikipedia Images

Iron Age Britain


Iron Age Settlement

At the beginning of what had been referred to as the “British Iron Age” around 800 – 750BC iron reached Britain from Europe.  It was harder and stronger than bronze, and it revolutionised much of agricultural working practices.

Iron tipped ploughs, could dig up the land more efficiently and quicker.  Iron axes, would de-forest wooded areas quicker.

By 500 BC, the common language spoken by the inhabitants was “Brythonic” and by the Roman era, their language was similar to that of the Gauls.

Skilled craftsmen showed their wares, producing patterned gold jewellery, weapons made of bronze and iron.

Pytheas of Massilia, believed the inhabitants were speaking in a Celtic dialogue, believed to come from Western Europe or that of the Welsh.

Iron Age Britons lived in groups ruled by a chieftain.  As the population grew, wars broke out between different tribal groups, which led to the construction of “Hill Forts.”  By 350 BC these forts had fallen out of favour.

Prior to the Roman invasion, many Germanic-Celtic speaking refugees from the lands of Gaul, who had been displaced by the expansion of the Roman Empire around 50 BC settled in Britain.  They settled on the lands of Southern Britain.

In the year 175 BC highly developed pottery making skills appeared in Kent, Hertfordshire and Essex.

The tribes of the South East became romanised, and were attributed with the creation of early settlements.

The Roman Empire expanded into parts of Northern-Britain, as Rose took interest in Britain.  Was it the large number of refugees from Europe or the large mineral reserves held by Britain?

Maiden Castle located in Dorset, is a fine example of an Iron Age Hill Fort, measuring 1800 feet in length, and dates back to (900-600 BC).

Archaeological evidence indicates the site was used by gatherers, traders and for storage.

Danebury Hill Fort in Hampshire, showed it to been used as a settlement, including religious out buildings.

By 100 BC, hill forts in southern parts of Britain were abandoned, whilst those in the western and northern parts of the country along with Ireland continued to be used until the Roman conquest in AD 43.

Most Iron Age settlements were small, the main family and descendants, often enclosed by banks and ditches, but large enough to create a defensive position.

Their buildings were built of a roundhouse design, built out of timber and stone, covered in thatch or turf.

Another type of dwelling, often found on marsh edges and lakes, involved the creation of a man-made island, built of stone and timber, thought to be a form of defence.

Another type of settlement found at that time consisted of a tall tower like structure, surrounded by smaller round houses, more commonly found in the eastern parts of the country.

The Iron Age gave us some of the finest pre-historic metalwork of Britain.  Bronze and goldsmiths produced high quality items, richly decorated with fancy designs and enamelled inlays.  Anything from delicate works of rings, brooches to shields, helmets and swords.

Coinage first appeared in Britain during 20 BC in south-eastern parts of the country.

Around 150-200 BC Roman influence extended to the western parts of the Mediterranean and southern France.  Trading started between the British and Romans, across the English Channel.

Trade with the Romans intensified after 50 BC, following Julius Ceasar and the Roman conquest of Gaul (France).

Wikipedia Image

Britain and the Celts


Celt Farm

Iron Age, saw much warfare among the Celtic tribes, in this land of ours, requiring the construction of many hill forts.  These Celts were true warriors in every sense of the word, for they fought from horses or wooden chariots, and threw spears and fought with swords, and carried wooden shields.  Some even wore chain mail for added protection.

The Celts were an accomplished race of people, they were much more than farmers, for they could pick up a weapon and fight for their people.  Many of their number were blacksmiths, bronze smiths, carpenters, whilst others worked with leather and made pottery.  They also created elaborate jewellery from gold and precious stones.

They took their art further, by adding artistic designs made from metal, leather and precious stones to their swords, daggers and shields.

Celtic society was organised, based on the part you played within your designated tribe.  At the head would be the King or Chieftain, and next in line, the nobles, followed by the craftsmen, then the farmers and warriors, last in line would be the Celtic slaves.

Trade with European countries, was an important part of everyday life to them.  Copper, tin and iron, along with skins, grain and wool were exported.  In turn they imported fine pottery and quality metal goods.  Celtic currency started out as iron bars, and by 50 BC they had switched to gold coins.

Celtic houses were round in design, with a central pole, with horizontal poles radiating outwards.  Walls made of wattle and daub, with a thatched roof.  They made dyes from plants; weld for yellow, woad for blue and madder for red.

The Druids were the priests of the Celtic people, and played an important part in their lives.  These druids were scholars and advisors to the Celtic Kings, who worshipped more than one God.

During Celtic times, the old tradition of building barrows for the dead was phased out, and replaced with individual graves.  Yet, some parts of tradition still carried on; the practice of burying grave goods with the dead, what was required by him to gain access to the afterlife. (A similar practice to that carried out by the Pharaoh’s in Ancient Egypt).

The main Celtic festivals were:

Imbolc in early February, start of lambing season.

Beltane in early May, cattle let out, after being under cover all  winter.

Lughasad in August, crops right for harvesting.

Samhain in November, animals moved undercover for winter.

The Celts were no match for the warriors of Rome, and were defeated by the might of Julius Caesar in 55 BC and again in 54 BC.  The Roman’s withdrew from Britain, as the Celts agreed to pay Rome an annual payment.

In 43 AD the Romans invaded Britain under Empereor Claudius with Aulus Plautius their supreme leader.  The Romans and Celts faced each other in battle, but resistance to these Roman invaders proved futile.  By 47 AD the Romans had control of Britain from the River Humber to the River Severn.

The Celtic Iceni tribe in East Anglia rebelled against these Roman warriors.  A deal was struck and their King’s retained their position at head of their tribes, and accepted Roman Rule.

Only one leader refused to accept Roman Rule: Queen Boudicca.  For it was upon the death of the Iceni King, the Kingdom was left to his wife Boudicca and Emperor Nero, but Nero wanted it all.  Boudicca was appointed leader by the Celts and led an army of 100,000 warriors, and burned Colchester, St.Albans and London to the ground with no survivors.  Her army met the Romans in battle, and the Celts were defeated… with their leader dead, the Celts were forced into accepting Roman Rule.

(Image) Celt Farm: Wikipedia