The Roman Period. Four hundred years of rule but what was the legacy left by the Roman invaders?

The Roman Period 43 -410

Find out more about the Roman Period in Britain by using a combination of the timeline and synopsis below as well as our posts. Find new intriguing connections using our themed history pages. Explore the world of science, the arts, church, government or law. Discover what happened in the four hundred years of Roman occupation.

55BCJulius Caesar's first invasion of Britain is a non military affair, more of an exploratory mission but designed to unsettle the native Celt tribes. Trade goes on and there is a general period of interaction.
5 ADRome acknowledges Cymbeline, King of the Catuvellauni, as king of Britain and trade continues the Romans all the while learning more about Britain and all it has to offer1st century
43 - 46Roman governor Aulus Plautius1st century
43In the preceding period something changes in the relationship between Romans and Celts and the Romans, under Aulus Plautius, invade. Brothers Togodumnus and Caratacus king of the Catuvellauni have been spreading an anti Roman message and tribute payments to Rome have been cut off. Romans and Celts fight many battles1st century
44Among the best known ancient baths in the world, the Romans Baths were initially built as part of the town of Aqua Sulis, which was founded in 44 AD. Vast and lavish, the baths were able to accommodate far more people than just the residents of this town and were intended as a place for people to visit from across the Empire. As with other bath complexes of the time, the Roman Baths at Bath were a focal point for the town, a place to socialise and even a religious site.1st century
47Roman power extended to line of the FOSSE way and the defeat of the British Chieftain CARATACUS1st century
47 - 52Roman governor Publius Ostorius Scapula1st century
51Caratacus is handed over to the Romans by Cartimandua, the Queen of the Brigantes,captured and taken to Rome1st century
52 - 57Roman governor Aulus Didius Gallus1st century
57 - 58Roman governor Quintus Veranius1st century
58 - 62Roman governor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus1st century
61Queen Boudica of the Iceni tribe, took the battle to the Romans but she is defeated and killed by the Roman governor, Suetonius Paulinus1st century
62 - 63Roman governor Publius Petronius Turpilianus1st century
63 - 69Roman govenor Marcus Trebellius Maximus1st century
69 - 71Roman govenor Marcus Vettius Bolanus1st century
71 - 74Roman govenor Quintus Petillius Cerialis1st century
74 - 77Roman govenor Sextus Julius Frontinus1st century
75Caerleon Roman Fortress is home to the impressive remains of a first century Roman legionary barracks, fortifications, amphitheatre and baths. In fact, they are said to be Europe’s only such barracks on display. Built in approximately 75AD, the Caerleon Roman Fortress was known as Isca and would have been home to the Second Augustan Legion. Spread over 50-acres, it would have housed approximately 5,000 people and was in use for some 200 years.1st century
77 - 84Roman govenor Gnaeus Julius Agricola1st century
77Emperor Agricola begins his series of campaigns conquering the Celts in the west and the north before turning his attention to the Caldonians1st century
79Chester Roman Amphitheatre is Britain’s largest known Roman amphitheatre. Originally part of the Roman settlement of ‘Deva’ which was founded in around 79AD and is now modern day Chester, Chester Roman Amphitheatre would have been able to seat between 8,000 and 12,000 spectators.1st century
84The Battle of Mons Graupius took place somewhere in the Highlands of the north. The Roman army under Agricola defeated the northern Celts those who survived fled to the hills1st century
84 - 89Roman governor Sallustius Lucullus1st century
93Roman govenor Aulus Vicirius Proculus1st century
96 - 97Roman govenor Publius Metilius Nepos1st century
97 - 101Roman govenor Tiberius Avidius Quietus1st century
122The construction of Hadrian's Wall begins under the instruction of Emperor Hadrian. This secures the boundaries of the Roman Empire.2nd century
133Julius Severus is governor of Britain2nd century
142Construction of the Antonine Wall takes place2nd century
160Arbeia Roman Fort Newcastle Upon Tyne. The fort played an important role in patrolling the northern frontier of the ancient Roman province of Britannia. It became the main supplier for the 17 forts along the wall. Built about 160 AD2nd century
167The Pope sends missionaries Phagan and Deruvian,to convert the 'heathen' Britons to Christianity2nd century
200Franks and Saxons start their earliest raids on eastern Britain and the Romans expand their complex series of sea defences, an example of which can be seen at PORTCHESTER CASTLE.3rd century
208Romans invade Scotland under EMPEROR SEPTIMIUS SEVERUS3rd century
200 - 299Bignor Roman Villa contains some of the best preserved Roman mosaics in Britain, as well as the remains of the villa complex which include several living rooms, a bathhouse and even the underfloor heating systems employed by Roman engineers. Built 200 AD - 299 AD.3rd century
210At some point in this century first British martyr St Albans, was killed for his faith in one of the few persecutions of Christians ever to take place on the island, during the governorship of Gaius Junius Faustinus Postumianus3rd century
240Temple of Mithras, Walbrook London built3rd century
260 - 273The rise of the GALLIC EMPIRE when GAUL, Germany, Spain and Britain temporarily secede from the Roman Empire.3rd century
286 - 293Roman govenor Carausius3rd century
287 - 296Revolt by Carausius, commander of the Roman British fleet, who rules Britain as emperor. Second period of temporary secession from the Roman Empire under the rule of CARAUSIUS and ALLECTUS3rd century
293Carausius is murdered by Allectus, a fellow rebel, in 2933rd century
293 - 296Roman governor Allectus3rd century
300Around this time construction of the Saxon shore forts takes place such as Portchester Castle in Hampshire4th century
303There is a general persecution of Christians throughout the Roman Empire4th century
306Constantine (the Great) is proclaimed Emperor at York4th century
311Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire ends.4th century
312Constantine defeats and kills Maxentius at battle of Milvian Bridge; Constantine realizes Christian God may be a powerful ally and decides to attempt to co-opt him for his own purposes.4th century
313Edict of Toleration proclaimed at Milan, in which Christianity is made legal throughout the empire.4th century
314Three British bishops, for the first time, attend a continental church gathering, the Council of Arles.4th century
324Constantine makes the Christian church the official religion in Britain but does nothing to stop the use of Pagan churches4th century
337Constantine is baptised on his deathbed4th century
350 - 353Roman governor Magnentius4th century
360Series of attacks on Britain from the north by the Picts, the Attacotti and the Irish (Scots), requiring the intervention of Roman generals leading special legions.4th century
361 - 363Roman governor Alypius of Antioch4th century
369Roman general Theodosius drives the Picts and Scots out of Roman Britain4th century
383Magnus Maximus a Spaniard, was proclaimed Emperor in Britain by the island's Roman garrison. With an army of British volunteers, he quickly conquered Gaul, Spain and Italy. 4th century
388 Maximus occupied Rome itself. Theodosius, the eastern Emperor, defeated him in battle and beheaded him in July, 388, with many of the remnant of Maximus' troops settling in Armorica. The net result to Britain was the loss of many valuable troops needed for the island's defense4th century
394 - 406Roman governor Chrysanthus4th century
395At this point the office of Roman Emperor changed from a position of absolute power to one of being merely a head of state.4th century
396The Roman general, Stilicho, acting as regent in the western empire during Honorius' minority, reorganized British defenses decimated by the Magnus Maximus debacle. Began transfer of military authority from Roman commanders to local British chieftains.4th century
397The Roman commander, Stilicho, comes to Britain and repels an attack by Picts, Irish and Saxons.4th century
402Events on the continent force Stilicho to recall one of the two British legions to assist with the defense of Italy against Alaric and the Visigoths.5th century
403Victricius, Bishop of Rouen, visited Britain for the purpose of bringing peace to the island's clergy, who were in the midst of a dispute, possibly over the Pelagian heresy.5th century
406A combined barbarian force (Suevi, Alans, Vandals & Burgundians) swept into central Gaul, severing contact between Rome and Britain. In autumn 406, the remaining Roman army in Britain decided to mutiny. One Marcus was proclaimed emperor in Britain, but was immediately assassinated.5th century
406Roman governor Marcus5th century
407Constantine III is the new emperor by Roman garrison in Britian. He proceeded to follow the example of Magnus Maximus by withdrawing the remaining Roman legion, the Second Augusta, and crossing over into Gaul to rally support for his cause. Constantine's departure could be what Nennius called "the end of the Roman Empire in Britain. . ."5th century
408With both Roman legions withdrawn, Britain endures devastating attacks by the Picts, Scots and Saxons.5th century
409Britons take matters into their own hands, expelling weak Roman officials and fighting for themselves.5th century
410Britain gains independence from Rome5th century
429Whilst effective Roman rule was over by 410 there was a visit by GERMANUS (Bishop of Auxerre) as late as 429. He visited twice after Roman rule and it is his accounts that tell us of conditions post Roman occupation. Germanus was here to combat the heresy of PELAGIUS and it is reasonable to assume hat Britain at this point was largely Christian. During his visits he participated in military victories over invasions by PICTS and SAXONS, the 'British' community perhaps already quite a mixture was sill holding-up and defending itself at this time.5th century

Dip in and out of the latest articles and images and draw your own conclusions about the Roman invasion of Britain.

Roman Period in Britain

The Roman occupation of Britain changed the entire character of the land. What made the Romans invade in the first place? Verica, the exiled king of the Attrebates, was much put out by his situation and he called on the Emperor Claudius to help restore him. The effect of that was an invasion force of more than 20,000 men, dis-embarking on the shores of eastern England, sometime in April 43AD. The occupation lasted a period of about four hundred years and in that time the Britons and Romans settled down to a fairly peaceful existence. Nothing so peaceful happened straight away. In the first fifty years the Romans faced a serious revolt. The threat came from Boudica, who feared her territory being incorporated by the Romans. This was no mere scuffle, 80,000 Romans died and nearly the same number of Britons.

Roman infrastructure grew

In the following two hundred years things settled down, towns grew, a road network was developed and trade routes were established to service the Roman troops. The Roman presence went some way to preventing Britain from being attacked by northern tribes. When the Romans left, Britain was laid bare to raids from Germanic tribes and maybe that is why there is such a dark void of information in the period when the Romans retreated.

The Romans built an infrastructure in the country. They linked important settlements and fortifications with well built roads which can still be seen radiating out from major Roman settlements like spokes on a wheel. Winchester maps illustrate this perfectly, with Roman roads radiating out in all directions.

winchester map

There are many Roman remains in Britain, from the mighty Hadrians Wall, the Roman northern frontier, to the great Roman cities such as Bath and Chichester, small villas and grand villas such as Fishbourne in West Sussex. The archaeological finds of coins, glass and pottery show just how much development took place in Britain at that time.

It appears however that when the Roman occupation ended, the Britons reasserted their own culture. Many of the Roman buildings appear to have been demolished and re-used to create new dwellings. City walls such as those at Winchester gradually fell away until very little was left. Other useful structures continued to be used. The shore fort of Portchester maintains it's magnificent Roman walls.

Roman period

Roman walls Portchester Castle Hampshire