The Romans came to Britain nearly 2000 years ago and changed our country. Even today, evidence of the Romans being here, can be seen in the ruins of Roman buildings, forts, roads, and baths can be found all over Britain.
The Romans invaded other countries too. The Roman Empire covered much of Europe, north Africa, and the Middle East.
The Romans lived in Rome, a city in the centre of the country of Italy .
One day, some years before Jesus Christ was born, the Romans came to Britain.
Britain before the Romans (The Celts)
Who founded Rome?
When did the Romans invade Britain?
In which year did the Romans invade Britain?
Why did the Romans invade Britain?
How many times did Julius Caesar try to invade Britain?
How long did the Romans stay in Britain?
What lanuage did the Romans speak?
Why did the Romans leave Britain?
What did the Romans call London?
Why was the Roman Empire important?
What did the Romans give us?
Video on the Roman Empire
According to the Roman legend, Romulus was the founder of Rome. Romulus and his twin brother Remus were the sons of the God Mars. When they were very young they were abandoned by the banks of the River Tiber and left to fend for themselves. Luckily for them they were found by a she-wolf who took pity on them fed them with her milk. The boys were later found by a shepherd who raised them. The boys grew up to be very strong and clever and they decided to build a town on the spot where the Shepherd had found them. They named their town Rome.
First invasion - Caesar's first raid
In August 55 B.C. (55 years before Jesus was born) the Roman general, EmperorJulius Caesar invaded Britain. He took with him two Roman legions. After winning several battles against the Celtic tribes (Britons) in south-east England he returned to France.
Second invasion - Caesar's second raid
The following summer (in 54 B.C.) Caesar came to Britain again landing at Walmer near Deal in Kent. This time he brought with him no fewer than five legions (30,000 foot soldiers) and 2,000 cavalrymen (horse riders). This time the Romans crossed the River Thames. After more fighting, the British tribes promised to pay tribute to Rome and were then left in peace for nearly a century.
Third and final invasion
Nearly one hundred years later, in 43 A.D. (43 years after Jesus was born), Emperor Claudius organised the final and successful Roman invasion of Britain. General Aulus Plautius led four legions with 25,000 men, plus an equal number of auxiliary soldiers. They crossed the Channel in three divisions, landing at Richborough, Dover, and Lympne.
(Click here for more information on the map of Kent in Roman times)
The biggest battle was fought on the banks of the River Medway, close to Rochester. It went on for two days before the Celtic tribes retreated.
Many tribes tried to resist the Romans. It took about four years for the invaders to finally gain control over southern England, and another 30 years for them to conquer all of the West Country and the mountains and valleys of Wales. The battle for Yorkshire and the remainder of northern England was still underway in AD 70.
The first Roman city was Camulodunum also called Colonia Vitricencis. (We know it by the name of Colchester.) It was the seat of Roman power and governance of Brittania until sacked during the Boudiccan revolt. London was then established as a seat of governance, and only became important after the Camulodunum event.
Why the Romans came to Britain is not quite certain. Two reasons have been suggested:
- The Romans were cross with Britain for helping the Gauls (now called the French) fight against the Roman general Julius Caesar.
- They came to Britain looking for riches - land, slaves, and most of all, iron, lead, zinc, copper, silver and gold.
The Romans remained in Britain from 43 AD to 410 AD. That is almost four hundred years (four centuries).
The Romans spoke a form of Latin known as vulgar Latin. It was quite different from the Classical Latin that we learn today.
Their homes in Italy were being attacked by fierce tribes and every soldier was needed.
The Romans called London 'Londinium'.
The River Thames was quick way to transport goods between Britain and the Continent. The Romans saw this and built the town of Londinium around the river's main crossing point.
Find out more about Roman London
The Romans, even today, play an important part in our lives. Many of the things we do or have originated from the Romans.
The language we used today was developed from the Romans. The Romans spoke and wrote in Latin and many of our words are based on Latin words.
- The Calendar
Did you know that the calendar we use today is more than 2,000 years old? It was started by Julius Caesar, a Roman ruler. It is based on the movement of the earth around the sun, and so is called the 'solar calendar.' The solar calendar has 365 days a year, and 366 days every leap year, or every fourth year. The names of our months are taken from the names of Roman gods and rulers. The month 'July,' in fact, is named after Julius Caesar himself!
- Laws and a legal system
The laws and ways we determine what to do with someone who is accused of breaking a law came originally from the Roman Empire.
- The Census
The Roman Empire was huge and included millions of people living over a large area. How did they keep track of all these people? Easy! They counted them! The Roman Empire began the practice of taking a census, or a 'count,' of all the people within its boundaries every so often. Today, many countries like ours take a census every 10 years.
- straight roads
- central heating
- aqueducts (bridges for water)
Use the links, top left, for more information about the Romans.
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Here are some facts about Roman mosaics.
- Roman mosaics were popular in public buildings and homes, and many examples can still be seen today. Mosaics were made from hundreds of small pieces (or tesserae) of coloured stones and gems put together to make a picture.
- Mosaics were used for different reasons. As well as being used for decoration, they provided a strong surface for walking on, and were also sometimes used as advertisements or signs.
- Mosaics were also waterproof and easy to clean, making them popular in public buildings. They also reflected the light, making rooms seem bright. Mosaics were very popular in Roman bathhouses.
- People who designed and created Roman mosaics were thought of as craftsmen, rather than artists. They did not usually sign their work or take any credit for it.
- Mosaics featured geometric designs, as well as other images. Common themes were animals, fighting gladiators, romantic images and scenes from mythology and astronomy.
- Roman mosaics can be seen in many places in the UK. The British Museum in London has some of the best mosaics. The Roman Museum in Cirencester – which was once an important Roman town – also has an excellent collection of mosaics.
- The Roman Empire covered a huge area at its height. Well preserved Roman mosaics can still be seen today in many parts of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
- One of the best places to see Roman mosaics is in the city of Pompeii, which was buried under lava in 79 AD. The mosaics are well preserved because the layers of volcanic ash protected them.
- Romans liked to keep dogs as companions and for protection. Many mosaics in the Roman city of Pompeii had the Latin words for ‘Beware of the Dog’ written into the design.
- Mosaics were also used on walls and ceilings, although they were not as common as floor mosaics. Wall mosaics were commonly used behind fountains and often had a maritime theme.
What next? Find out more about the Romans by visiting our Romans resources page.