Roman Britain Thesis

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Roman Britain

THE ROMAN EMPIRE and BRITAIN

According to Peter Arnott, writing in the Romans and Their World, the island of Britain, often referred to as Britannia by the Romans, was a "black, legendary place" with an "evil reputation born of unfamiliarity." Arnott also points out that early descriptions of Britannia were similar to "H.G. Wells' vision of the end of the world, where the sun never rises... where the winds howl like banshees" and the blackness of the forests conceal evil beings and creatures that drink human blood (271). This last piece of description is rather accurate, for the ancient Celts were greatly feared by Roman soldiers who at times refused to enter into battle with them, due to tales of fighting naked on the battlefield with their bodies covered in blood and their mandate to never take prisoners.

However, ancient Britannia was a land of immense natural resources, such as iron, copper, timber and stone, resources which the Romans highly treasured and would go to great lengths to collect and transport back to the city of Rome and to their numerous Roman provinces. But beginning with the invasions into Britannia with Julius Caesar in 55 B.C.E., it soon became apparent that gathering these resources (and also slaves) was not going to be a simple task, nor was it going to be economically viable for the empire which at the time was experiencing a collapse of the old Republican order.

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As Steven S. Frere maintains, there is currently an unresolved dispute between Roman scholars and historians as to whether Julius Caesar, the first emperor of the Roman Empire, was a power-hungry despot or merely an opportunist, waiting patiently for the chance to spring upon his enemies and for the opportunity to advance his own personal agenda (145). In August of 55

B.C.E., Caesar made the decision to use his military strength and influence to invade Britannia which laid outside of the command of all Roman military leaders and was rich with natural resources and men and women who could be taken hostage and brought back to Rome to serve as slaves for the wealthy patrician nobles.

Thesis on Roman Britain Assignment

However, exactly why Caesar made this momentous decision to invade Britannia is not known, yet it is possible that he was highly concerned over the lucrative sea trade between the Celts and their neighbors which placed economic strain upon the empire's trading actions in the region, especially related to the English Channel and Rome's ability to install trading posts within conquered Gaul.

Caesar's first excursion into Britannia yielded little economic and financial gain, due to discovering that the Celts were far more powerful and organized than he had at first realized. Nonetheless, in July of 54 B.C.E., Caesar returned to Britannia with six hundred new ships, five Roman legions and two thousand armed cavalrymen. During this second excursion and with the assistance of a tribal chieftain called Cassivellaunus, Caesar "easily captured the Celtic leader's primitive stronghold and removed from it a large herd of cattle." Two months later, Caesar and his armies and navies once again left Britannia but "little had been achieved, except for Cassivellaunus agreeing to a treaty and an annual tribute which likely was never paid" ("History of Roman Britain," Internet).

Unfortunately for Caesar, after departing Britannia in September of 54 B.C.E., he learned from outside sources that the Celtic chieftains and their people were profiting from the results of his two economically failed excursions. Part of the reason for this is due to the fact that the Celts and their kinsmen had formed trade agreements with conquered Roman Gaul directly across the Yet despite these conditions, the Roman Empire and its leaders following the death of Julius Caesar continued their attempts to invade and conquer Britannia. Exactly why this was so cannot be completely explained; however, Peter Arnott offers a rather tangible explanation as to why the Roman Empire did not simply wash their hands of the whole affair and allow the Celts and their people to live in peace and without Roman interference. As Arnott puts it, Roman conquest and the occupation of foreign lands "was heavily expected by the Roman public and the senate" (231) and when a… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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Roman Britain.  (2008, October 19).  Retrieved April 12, 2021, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/roman-britain/4818

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"Roman Britain."  Essaytown.com.  October 19, 2008.  Accessed April 12, 2021.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/roman-britain/4818.