Age of Invasion A History of Ancient Britain


Age of Invasion

Continuing his epic story, Neil Oliver reaches a pivotal moment: when Celtic Britain was ripped apart by the world's greatest empire - Rome.


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Transcript


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This is the story of how Britain came to be.

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Of how our land, and its people,

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were forged over thousands of years of ancient history.

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This Britain is a strange and alien world.

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A world that contains the epic story of our distant, prehistoric past.

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Sudden climate change and instability

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had ended the Bronze Age,

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and led to a new era...

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..of iron.

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'This was a time of brochs in the north...'

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Everything about this place says "keep out".

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'..and hillforts in the south,

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'marking territories in which the control of land was everything.

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'What was emerging was the world of Celtic Britain -

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'a society of warriors, druids,

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'and kings of extraordinary wealth.'

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What events did he witness,

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and what power did he wield?

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'Now the journey continues,

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'with the next chapter in our epic story.'

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These beaches were lined with thousands of British warriors -

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and out there, a fleet of 98 ships,

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carrying two legions of Roman infantry.

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A moment in history

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when the Celtic tribes faced up to a power of unimaginable force.

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Their heads were cut off their bodies,

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and their heads were stuck on spikes.

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This is what would happen to you if you got in the way of Rome.

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And Britain fell to the greatest empire

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the world had ever seen.

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Britain, 100 BC.

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A land of Celtic tribes,

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led by powerful warrior kings.

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No more than 100 or so regional leaders

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reigning over one to two million people...

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..all vying to protect their own lands,

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and take that of their neighbours.

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The Iron Age tribes were competitive,

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they were warlike,

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and their leaders could be extremely wealthy.

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They were also internationally connected,

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and there's a remarkable insight

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into how widespread those connections were, here in Edinburgh.

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This is a collection of gold jewellery

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found in Scotland just last year.

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They were actually unearthed near Stirling, close to where I live.

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They are obviously magnificent,

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they're incredibly valuable,

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and, in fact, they're so precious,

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I'm not allowed to lay so much as a finger on them.

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Amongst many other things,

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they show the wealth and the power

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of some Iron Age British tribal leaders.

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These first two

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are typically Scottish.

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They're certainly what you'd expect to find

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a Celtic Scottish warlord owning.

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This one, though, is a bit different.

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This was made in the south of France,

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so it's a luxury import from Gaul.

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But the most intriguing story of all comes from this one.

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The level of craftsmanship here

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is of a different order of magnitude.

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It's been made by twisting together

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eight delicate golden strands.

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Then there's this incredible, detailed finery

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on the terminals.

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This one is the work of hands trained in the classical world.

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In 100 BC,

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that meant connections to one place, and one place only -

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Rome.

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During the course of a century or so,

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Rome's armies had begun to create an empire,

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extending from their Mediterranean heartlands

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along the coasts of Africa and Europe.

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Now, that expansion

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was bringing trade to the northern Celtic tribes of Gaul...

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and to Britain.

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The English Channel was all that separated island Britain

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from Gaul in northern France,

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and the river routes

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leading south to the classical world of the Mediterranean.

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But for the Celtic kings on both sides of the Channel,

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increasing contact with Rome wasn't a military threat,

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but an economic opportunity.

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And here, behind those cliffs, was the heart of Britain's international trade -

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Hengistbury Head,

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near Christchurch on the south coast.

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2,000 years ago,

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this was the busiest port in the whole of Britain.

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Hengistbury forms a narrow peninsula,

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sheltering a perfect natural harbour.

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This was the gateway into Ancient Britain.

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A vibrant hub of everything international and exotic.

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From around 100 BC,

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this vast headland

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was fast becoming the most important settlement

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in the whole of Britain.

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It was a boomtown,

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fuelled by international trade.

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This whole area would have been busy

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with hundreds of merchants' trading posts.

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There would have been people smelting iron, making jewellery, and all sorts.

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There would have been shops and homes.

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It would be a cosmopolitan place,

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like any busy port in the modern day.

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So there'd be people from foreign places, foreign accents,

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exotic foods and smells.

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So much of it would be instantly recognisable to us.

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'Iron Age specialist Sir Barry Cunliffe

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'has studied Hengistbury for decades.'

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So what kind of things were coming through Hengistbury?

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The most obvious was wine,

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which came from North Italy in these great containers,

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called amphorae.

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It would be a tall neck with a big handle.

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-There's the other...

-They're massive, aren't they?

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Huge things.

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It would take a couple of people to carry them.

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They would stand a metre and a half high,

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and contain a great deal of wine.

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The first wine drunk in Britain

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was probably wine drunk out of these amphorae, somewhere down here.

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These are rather smaller items,

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which you see is just a chunk of glass.

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But it's manganese glass,

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and they would be very valuable objects of trade.

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A big block of that glass would be worth a huge amount of money.

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And we've also got a little piece of yellow glass as well.

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Goodness, that's glass! I wouldn't have realised.

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It looks more like a fleck of paint.

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And, again, you see, people wouldn't have seen anything like that.

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The most amazing thing, I think, is...

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..this piece of bracelet.

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Oh, goodness, that's fantastic!

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So that's that raw purple glass and that yellow, brought together.

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The yellow glass would be very, very rare,

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and they've just used it to make the trail.

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If you can give people something they've never had before,

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like wine at a feast,

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then your status will stay pretty high.

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If you can give them one of these glass bracelets in a feast,

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as a gift,

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my word, you had power!

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The future came in through this door, didn't it?

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That's absolutely right.

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'But these boom times

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'were about to come to an abrupt end,

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'all because of war.'

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All the amphorae found here are from the same period.

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After that,

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the import of Roman luxuries stopped.

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What's clear is that by around 50 or 60 BC,

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the good times were over at Hengistbury Head.

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And why?

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The Romans were on the march.

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Just across that narrow channel, in Gaul,

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things had turned ugly.

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Nobody was thinking very much about trade any more.

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Instead, all minds were preoccupied

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by the brutal war that had broken out

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as the Romans sought to take over Celtic Gaul.

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The Roman Army was coming closer,

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and as war raged in mainland Europe,

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island Britain, for all her warrior kings and Celtic glory,

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suddenly looked vulnerable.

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'Britain was about to enter a new chapter,

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'because under the Romans,

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'nothing would be the same again.'

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When the Romans came to Britain, they changed everything -

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modern governance, with laws and taxation.

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The idea of urban life -

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towns and cities connected by roads.

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Written language,

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with names for people and places,

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as well as dates.

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This would be the very end of prehistory.

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But the arrival of Romans in Britain wasn't going to happen overnight...

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..and not without a series a brutal conflicts.

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Early on the morning of the 23rd August, 55 years BC,

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these beaches in Kent

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were lined with thousands of British warriors.

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On horseback, in chariots,

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brandishing long swords -

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they were a fearsome sight.

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Just days earlier,

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their leaders had turned down the invitation to surrender,

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opting instead to rise to the challenge of invasion.

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'Having crushed Gaul,

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'by 55 BC, Rome had set its sights on Britain -

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'one more prize.'

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Out there, a fleet of 98 ships,

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carrying two legions of Roman infantry - 20,000 soldiers.

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And, at their head, Julius Caesar,

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Roman general and budding emperor,

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intent on demonstrating his bravery and strength

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to the citizens of Rome.

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And what better challenge

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than to make the treacherous Channel crossing,

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and add Britain to his list of triumphs?

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As the huge fleet of warships approached these shores,

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the British warriors knew what was at stake.

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The mission was clear -

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to fight to protect their own identity,

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and to defend Britain's independence from Rome.

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As it happened,

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the hostile British welcome,

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and the shallow Kent beaches,

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were more than Caesar had bargained for.

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He was quickly sent off with a bloody nose and some broken boats.

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The hard men of Britain had won,

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at least for a while.

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But Caesar wasn't about to back down.

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He just needed even more force,

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and that's something Rome had in plenty.

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On the 7th of July the following year, Caesar was back.

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This time with 800 ships,

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carrying 50,000 professional soldiers,

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and 2,000 cavalry.

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For a glorious century,

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Britain had enjoyed the finest Roman luxuries.

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Now they were to take a dose

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of Roman brute force.

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If ever there was a time when the warring tribes of Britain

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needed to stand shoulder to shoulder,

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this was it.

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The lands of Celtic Britain

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were divided into fiercely independent tribal territories.

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Those facing Caesar were in the south east.

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The Cantiaci, who gave their name to Kent.

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The Iceni, in Norfolk.

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The Trinovantes, in Essex and Sussex.

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And, most powerful of all,

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the Catuvellauni,

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who controlled extensive lands north of the Thames.

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The trouble was that the Trinovantes hated the Catuvellauni

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even more than they hated the Romans.

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The Trinovantes were an Essex tribe

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locked in a war with their belligerent neighbours, the Catuvellauni,

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a name that meant "expert warriors".

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After their king was murdered,

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the Essex boys reasoned

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that they could get revenge by helping Caesar.

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So they guided him across Kent,

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towards Catuvellauni territory.

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The British tribes, led by the leader of the Catuvellauni,

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had moved inland, hoping to ambush Caesar as he moved north.

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Only one man was trusted to command the force,

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the most fearsome and belligerent leader of the most fearsome and belligerent tribe -

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Cassivellaunus,

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king of the expert warriors,

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sworn enemy of Caesar's new-found friends.

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These were tough warriors,

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fighting for their lives and homes,

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and armed with the very latest

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in Iron Age weapons.

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The British possessed a weapon they had invented,

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one that was desired throughout Europe -

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the long, iron, slashing sword.

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The lesson there is

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don't stand still

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if a man on a horse is coming at you with a sword.

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At least duck!

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Andy Deane is an expert in ancient combat.

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If you're on horseback,

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you're coming down on those vulnerable areas higher up.

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If we were on foot,

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then I'd be looking for vulnerable targets,

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like the tendons at the back of the knee.

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As soon as I've hit that, it's basically an execution after that.

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So, you'd choose your targets.

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So even on the ground, you'd still be chopping down...

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Yeah. I'd try not to chop too much.

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I'd try and keep the sword moving all the time,

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so I retained energy, so that movement would keep it going.

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So if I was coming for your leg, it would be cut, sliced through.

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-and as you went down, I would do the coup de grace.

-Can I...

-Of course you may.

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-I could see your eyes lighting up.

-I want to hack at something.

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We can organise that.

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We can get something big and solid to have a play with.

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I fear I might do an air shot.

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Do NOT let go of the sword.

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I can only... It's this thing about... I want to do that...

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Honestly, if you use...

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Have a couple of sort of swipes over the top.

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-Yeah.

-A bit like a golf swing.

-Yeah.

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And literally, as if you're taking the top of a dandelion off.

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Whoom.

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Right.

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OK.

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-I think I might be a natural backhand, actually.

-Really?

-No. OK.

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Oh!

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-ANDY LAUGHS

-It doesn't even slow down!

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-No. Absolutely stunning!

-Wow!

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Have another go.

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But, for all their swords, chariots, and spears,

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the British were driven back.

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Their last hope was to mount a final defence

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on the north bank of the Thames.

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Over there, where those trees are today,

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the Thames opened out into a wide, marshy ford

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that was just shallow enough to walk across.

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Now only that ford

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stood between Rome and the British heartlands.

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The British chief

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assembled his forces here on the north shore,

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and he lined the bank with sharpened stakes

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in preparation for an ambush.

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Really, though,

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the best hope was that the Romans would never find this place,

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and the river would act as a natural barrier, holding them back.

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But with the help of their new British Allies,

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the invaders were here in no time

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and the end game was in sight.

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It's strange to think that today, you can relax here with a drink,

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surrounded by this very British scene.

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Because it was here, 2,000 years ago,

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that British history hung in the balance.

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The Roman Army just kept on coming,

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wave after wave of soldiers.

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The British ambush was in vain, and once again,

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they were forced to abandon their position and flee.

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With the country laid wide open to the invaders,

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the chiefs in the area knew what was coming

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and one by one, they defected, becoming sworn allies of Rome.

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The British leader, Cassivellaunus, and his closest followers

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put up one last stand...

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..but were massacred.

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This was more than the end of an era,

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it was the end of Britain's ancient prehistory,

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unfolding in the face of an unstoppable force -

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Rome and the modern world.

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After such a decisive victory,

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it's tempting to imagine Britain falling under outright Roman rule.

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But that's not what happened.

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With pledges of allegiance from the tribes of the Southeast,

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it seemed Caesar was satisfied.

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After just three months in the country, he left,

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taking his entire army with him.

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The Britain he left behind was by no means completely Roman.

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But it wasn't completely British any more either,

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and her people would never be the same again.

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Britain was entering a whole new chapter.

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But, so far,

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Roman force had only touched a small part of our land.

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In the North and West,

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Caesar's expedition must have seemed as distant as his war with Gaul.

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But in the South, things were different.

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Some tribes hated the Romans,

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others saw the idea of taking on modern Roman ways

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as a bright new future.

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It was to be the best part of a century

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before any Roman soldier ever set foot on British soil again.

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But in the decades after 55 BC,

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Britain began to change from the inside,

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and remarkable evidence for that is being found here in Hampshire.

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Look at these massive walls

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and this gateway!

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They mark the perimeter

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of one of the most important cities in all of Roman Britain -

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Calleva.

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We know it today as Silchester.

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But the town of Silchester

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began life long before Britain became part of the Roman Empire.

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What archaeologists are finding is evidence of a proper town,

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quite unlike anything ever found before in Britain.

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A town founded by Britons,

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built by Britons

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and run by Britons.

0:21:300:21:32

'Amanda Clarke is in charge of one of the biggest archaeological excavations

0:21:340:21:39

'taking place in Britain today.'

0:21:390:21:42

Where we're walking now is the surface of a street

0:21:420:21:45

that we believe was founded as early as 25 BC.

0:21:450:21:49

So, in the Iron Age.

0:21:490:21:51

This isn't just random territory we're walking across here,

0:21:510:21:54

this is a street.

0:21:540:21:55

This is actually a street surface.

0:21:550:21:57

It runs from the northeast down to the southwest,

0:21:570:22:01

which is the Iron Age alignment.

0:22:010:22:03

Ah, right. So, completely counter

0:22:030:22:05

to the way the Romans subsequently aligned their grid plan?

0:22:050:22:09

We believe it's aligned to the midsummer sunrise

0:22:090:22:12

and the midwinter sunset.

0:22:120:22:13

That's what the Iron Age people

0:22:130:22:16

aligned their buildings and streets on.

0:22:160:22:18

Where does the road go when it hits the corner of the trench? What happens?

0:22:180:22:21

It turns a 90-degrees right angle,

0:22:210:22:24

and joins with a wider street

0:22:240:22:27

which runs from the northwest to the southeast.

0:22:270:22:30

Iron Age towns aren't supposed to do that, are they?

0:22:300:22:33

They're not supposed to be regular like that.

0:22:330:22:36

That's certainly what was believed before we started working here -

0:22:360:22:39

that the Iron Age towns were much more organically developed.

0:22:390:22:43

And it really wasn't until two years ago

0:22:430:22:46

that these streets began to appear in our excavation

0:22:460:22:49

and we realised, "Hang on, this is actually laid out on a grid system."

0:22:490:22:55

It implies so many things,

0:22:550:22:57

not least that somebody had to plan it,

0:22:570:22:59

somebody had to organise it.

0:22:590:23:01

That you had to decide where certain buildings were.

0:23:010:23:04

It's a real difference.

0:23:040:23:06

Iron Age Silchester

0:23:090:23:11

is the earliest known example of urban design

0:23:110:23:14

anywhere in Britain.

0:23:140:23:17

So who was having these ideas,

0:23:170:23:19

if there were no Romans here at the time?

0:23:190:23:22

Well, Caesar had left 30 years before

0:23:220:23:26

and he took hostages with him -

0:23:260:23:28

sons of the elite.

0:23:280:23:30

They weren't exactly captured and taken against their will,

0:23:300:23:34

it was more as gestures of goodwill,

0:23:340:23:38

guarantees of healthy relationships in the future.

0:23:380:23:41

They were schooled in Rome, and then sent home,

0:23:410:23:44

full of Roman habits and ideas, to spread the word.

0:23:440:23:48

They'd be the ones saying, when it came time to build a city,

0:23:480:23:52

"If you're going to do that, the streets and roads have to be laid out in a grid pattern.

0:23:520:23:56

"It's all got to be done right.

0:23:560:23:57

"It's got to be done the way they do it in Rome."

0:23:570:24:00

And in Silchester,

0:24:020:24:03

it wasn't only the streets that were becoming Romanised.

0:24:030:24:06

The Roman influence is tangible in the foods that were being consumed.

0:24:060:24:10

There's evidence of the use of coriander, dill and anchovies.

0:24:100:24:15

There's also evidence of the consumption of oysters -

0:24:150:24:18

these shells here.

0:24:180:24:20

Iron Age Britons, prior to contact with Rome,

0:24:200:24:24

weren't eating oysters.

0:24:240:24:26

So the fact that these had come back into fashion

0:24:260:24:29

is evidence of contact with Rome,

0:24:290:24:31

of people acquiring Roman habits and Roman tastes.

0:24:310:24:35

This tiny coin - excavated here -

0:24:350:24:39

is a very powerful indication

0:24:390:24:41

of just how much the people living here

0:24:410:24:43

modelled themselves on Rome.

0:24:430:24:45

It's a silver minim.

0:24:450:24:48

On this face,

0:24:480:24:50

it has the head of the king,

0:24:500:24:53

looking every inch the Roman Emperor.

0:24:530:24:56

Except, on his head, instead of a crown,

0:24:560:24:58

he has a Celtic torc.

0:24:580:25:01

There's even writing on it.

0:25:010:25:02

On this side, the name of the king, Verica.

0:25:020:25:06

On the other side,

0:25:070:25:09

there's another Celtic torc,

0:25:090:25:11

and it surrounds two letters - CF.

0:25:110:25:15

These stand for Commius Filius,

0:25:150:25:17

son of Commius,

0:25:170:25:19

the first king of the Atrebates tribe.

0:25:190:25:23

This is from very early in the 1st century,

0:25:230:25:27

a time when most British people had no idea about writing.

0:25:270:25:30

So to incorporate writing on this coin is truly radical.

0:25:300:25:34

This was new -

0:25:370:25:38

not entirely Roman,

0:25:380:25:40

but not entirely Celtic either.

0:25:400:25:42

In Silchester, classical and Celtic cultures were colliding,

0:25:440:25:49

touching not just the social elite,

0:25:490:25:52

but the lives of everyone who lived here.

0:25:520:25:55

This is a fascinating, exciting time to imagine -

0:25:560:25:59

the coming of Rome.

0:25:590:26:02

I suppose it's easiest to imagine that the British social elite

0:26:020:26:07

would have been the first and the fastest

0:26:070:26:09

to take on Roman ways.

0:26:090:26:11

But here - in the building of this town, this city -

0:26:110:26:15

for the first time, we see Roman practices, the Roman way,

0:26:150:26:20

being embedded into the very fabric of people's lives.

0:26:200:26:23

To such an extent that it even determined

0:26:230:26:26

the layout of their streets and roads and buildings.

0:26:260:26:29

But imagine, too,

0:26:290:26:31

what all of this was like for ordinary people,

0:26:310:26:33

coming in from the surrounding area,

0:26:330:26:35

encountering a city for the first time.

0:26:350:26:37

Walking along regimented grids of streets,

0:26:370:26:42

smelling foreign foods, seeing the new clothes.

0:26:420:26:45

It must have been, quite literally, like walking into an alien world.

0:26:450:26:50

But Silchester and the Roman-friendly pockets of Southeast England were rare.

0:26:540:26:59

Across most of Britain,

0:27:030:27:05

the tribal traditions of the Celtic Iron Age continued unabated.

0:27:050:27:09

Look at this slope -

0:27:220:27:23

this is a rampart.

0:27:230:27:26

Now, some British tribes may have bought into the Roman dream,

0:27:260:27:30

but almost a century after Caesar,

0:27:300:27:32

this giant fortress was still a proud symbol

0:27:320:27:35

of Iron Age Celtic identity.

0:27:350:27:37

This great hillfort

0:27:400:27:42

was the focal point of tribal life for the Durotriges,

0:27:420:27:46

a powerful Dorset tribe.

0:27:460:27:47

Behind these massive ramparts was an obvious place of defence,

0:27:490:27:54

a safe haven in time of war.

0:27:540:27:56

But for 100 years or more,

0:27:560:27:57

there'd been relative peace in this part of Britain.

0:27:570:28:01

By the middle of the 1st century AD,

0:28:010:28:03

people were living far and wide in scattered settlements.

0:28:030:28:07

This fort, and others like it, had become symbolic focal points,

0:28:070:28:12

places in which to gather for storage, for trade,

0:28:120:28:15

for ceremony and for worship.

0:28:150:28:18

But in AD43,

0:28:200:28:22

almost 200 miles to the east, in Kent,

0:28:220:28:25

Roman troops landed once more.

0:28:250:28:27

This time, to go one better than Caesar

0:28:290:28:32

and take all of Britain,

0:28:320:28:34

to make it part of the Empire under total Roman rule.

0:28:340:28:38

Hod Hill, and other hillforts like it,

0:28:400:28:42

were to see action once more.

0:28:420:28:45

Studies of human remains

0:28:510:28:53

reveal the outcome of the bloody battles

0:28:530:28:56

for Dorset's Iron Age hillforts.

0:28:560:28:58

They appear to have been stabbed, one person has trauma to their hand

0:28:590:29:03

so they may have actually tried to grab the weapon.

0:29:030:29:06

And on this individual, this square aperture here

0:29:060:29:10

was probably caused by a Roman spear.

0:29:100:29:14

There are multiple chop marks,

0:29:140:29:17

so they were disfiguring these people.

0:29:170:29:19

They're more than necessary to kill them

0:29:190:29:21

and they're quite violent and aggressive injuries.

0:29:210:29:25

It wasn't only male warriors who were on the receiving end of the Roman swords.

0:29:260:29:32

We have one woman where she has a chop mark to the back of her leg,

0:29:320:29:37

and she has a further two big chop marks to the back of her head.

0:29:370:29:41

And that's quite commonly seen where people are trying to run away.

0:29:410:29:45

As well as hand-to-hand combat,

0:29:460:29:49

the full might of Rome was being launched in a wave of shock and awe.

0:29:490:29:54

What we've got here is this embedded projectile.

0:29:540:29:56

So you can see that it's come in at a slight angle

0:29:560:30:00

and has removed portions of the bone.

0:30:000:30:03

These projectiles are actually fired, kind of like artillery weapons.

0:30:030:30:07

If the sheer weight of numbers and military organisation weren't enough...

0:30:100:30:15

..the Roman army also brought a new machinery of war.

0:30:160:30:20

-This is your missile...

-This is the weapon?

0:30:210:30:23

You might call it an arrow, we call it a bolt.

0:30:230:30:26

'Just weeks after landing, Rome had taken control of the Southeast -

0:30:260:30:32

'but it wasn't until about a year later that they began their campaign

0:30:320:30:35

'for the Celtic heartlands of the west.'

0:30:350:30:38

Ohhh! Over the top.

0:30:400:30:42

You can imagine these things coming out of the sky -

0:30:420:30:45

if you were the enemy you'd not see them coming - imagine a whole battery of these.

0:30:450:30:49

What range are we talking about, then, with one of these?

0:30:490:30:53

The ancient writers tell us they could go something like 300 metres.

0:30:530:30:56

This could go 300 metres?

0:30:560:30:58

Yeah, which is way, way beyond what a bowman could do.

0:30:580:31:02

From the surrounding area, the tribespeople gathered

0:31:040:31:07

behind the ramparts, lined with sharpened stakes.

0:31:070:31:10

They faced a dreadful choice - should they risk their identity

0:31:100:31:14

and accept the so-called civilisation of the Roman Empire,

0:31:140:31:18

or risk their lives, and fight to retain their independence?

0:31:180:31:22

'But even the defences of the giant hillforts were no match

0:31:240:31:28

'for the Romans, as its armies stormed into the Southwest.'

0:31:280:31:32

Right, same guy, third on the left...

0:31:380:31:41

-Third on the left.

-Head shot.

0:31:410:31:44

-BOLT HITS TARGET

-Yes!

0:31:480:31:50

If that was flesh and bone, that would have gone through and out the other side?

0:31:510:31:55

-It would have been sticking out your backbone, yes.

-Wow...

0:31:550:31:58

'The continuing invasion, though,

0:32:030:32:05

'was much more than a series of battles and route marches.

0:32:050:32:08

'It was a colossal logistical exercise -

0:32:080:32:10

'a master plan the Romans knew would take decades to complete.'

0:32:120:32:15

It's tempting to imagine the Romans

0:32:180:32:20

sweeping across Britain in a great wave,

0:32:200:32:22

but it wasn't like that.

0:32:220:32:24

In fact, it was more of a slow, steady creep, decade by decade,

0:32:240:32:29

fighting all the way - building roads, building forts.

0:32:290:32:33

Everywhere they went, they had to create an entire infrastructure.

0:32:330:32:36

Years of construction created a whole network of roads

0:32:380:32:42

that linked military garrisons,

0:32:420:32:45

strategically spaced to control Southern England.

0:32:450:32:48

This is a Roman military road - part of a network that eventually

0:32:590:33:03

stretched for 2,000 miles throughout the whole country.

0:33:030:33:07

These were the motorways of the Roman occupation -

0:33:100:33:14

express routes to help them keep the locals under control.

0:33:140:33:17

But for the native Britons...

0:33:170:33:20

..the psychological impact of their presence

0:33:210:33:23

was every bit as much as disturbing as their practical function.

0:33:230:33:27

Each road, a monument to the Roman army.

0:33:270:33:31

In places, this bank is as much as six feet high and 50 feet wide.

0:33:310:33:35

That's some statement to make to the locals -

0:33:350:33:39

a constant, impressive reminder of the might of Rome.

0:33:390:33:42

With a military infrastructure in place,

0:33:500:33:53

the Romans then began to build towns -

0:33:530:33:56

Colchester, London and St Albans -

0:33:560:34:00

in the comparatively safe Southeast.

0:34:000:34:03

Exeter, Gloucester, and Lincoln on the frontier.

0:34:030:34:06

But it would take decades to expand this frontier -

0:34:080:34:11

first into Wales...

0:34:110:34:13

..and then to the North.

0:34:140:34:16

York was founded in AD71,

0:34:160:34:19

and the far reaches of Carlisle in AD79.

0:34:200:34:24

After 35 years of Roman campaigns, much of the template of modern Britain

0:34:290:34:33

had been carved from its ancient landscapes.

0:34:330:34:37

One of the very first Roman towns was Colchester, or Camulodunum,

0:34:380:34:44

founded in AD49, just six years after the start of the invasion.

0:34:440:34:49

This gate, known as the Balkerne gate,

0:34:490:34:53

is the oldest surviving, most complete Roman gateway in Britain.

0:34:530:34:58

It was once part of an enormous triumphal arch,

0:34:580:35:01

built to honour the Roman emperor Claudius.

0:35:010:35:04

Now, if you lived in an Iron Age village, in a roundhouse,

0:35:040:35:08

you wouldn't really need to feel the sharp edge of a Roman sword

0:35:080:35:12

to know that the people who were building these

0:35:120:35:15

were the people in control.

0:35:150:35:17

A Roman soldier returning here from the front,

0:35:200:35:23

or a civilian bureaucrat counting taxes,

0:35:230:35:26

would have found a place little different to any other town

0:35:260:35:29

anywhere in the empire.

0:35:290:35:31

These towns were built in the image of Rome, for Romans.

0:35:330:35:37

The most important started out as colonies for retired soldiers -

0:35:370:35:41

so clearly, they were here to stay.

0:35:410:35:44

If the Roman army was the cutting edge,

0:35:440:35:47

then these towns were the beating heart.

0:35:470:35:50

These were the nerve centres of Roman rule and administration,

0:35:500:35:54

and you can imagine the impact on the local population

0:35:540:35:57

as people were press-ganged into actually BUILDING these towns!

0:35:570:36:01

These skulls were found in the 1970s.

0:36:120:36:15

They were excavated from within the fill of a ditch

0:36:150:36:18

that was originally cut soon after the Roman invasion began.

0:36:180:36:23

Apart from one small piece of arm bone,

0:36:230:36:26

there were no other human remains with them.

0:36:260:36:29

So these weren't burials - these were skulls that had been

0:36:290:36:32

thrown away, discarded like rubbish.

0:36:320:36:34

These men - and they are native British men -

0:36:360:36:41

lived around 50AD, soon after the Roman invasion,

0:36:410:36:45

and precisely when the bright, shiny new city

0:36:450:36:49

of Camulodunum was being built.

0:36:490:36:52

But what's more fascinating about them

0:36:520:36:54

is the fact that they didn't die of natural causes.

0:36:540:36:59

This is a depressed fracture.

0:36:590:37:02

It shows no signs of healing, so it probably caused this man's death.

0:37:020:37:06

It's been the result of him having been struck very forcibly

0:37:060:37:11

with something blunt, but heavy -

0:37:110:37:14

he's been bludgeoned to death.

0:37:140:37:17

There's even more graphic violence on this skull, though.

0:37:170:37:21

Towards the base of the back of the skull,

0:37:210:37:23

you can see a notch of bone has been hacked away.

0:37:230:37:29

This man, soon after death,

0:37:320:37:34

was the victim of a fairly crude, brutal decapitation.

0:37:340:37:40

It seems likely that these men were executed by the Romans -

0:37:430:37:46

their heads were cut from their bodies, and then impaled on spikes.

0:37:460:37:51

These were an example - this was to show passers-by

0:37:510:37:54

what happened to transgressors, opponents of Rome.

0:37:540:37:57

Whoever these men were, whatever they were doing,

0:37:570:38:00

they had become victims of an oppressive, often violent regime,

0:38:000:38:06

that was extending its control over the newly-acquired colony of Britannia.

0:38:060:38:13

Rome was transforming Britain,

0:38:200:38:22

and its efforts were all for one purpose -

0:38:220:38:26

to plunder our land of its natural resources.

0:38:260:38:30

Copper and tin had been central to Britain's economy,

0:38:330:38:35

right back into the Bronze Age.

0:38:350:38:38

But Britain also had other minerals that were prized by the Romans.

0:38:380:38:42

These scars are the remains of Roman lead mining.

0:38:510:38:55

In some places, these trenches - or rakes, as they're called -

0:38:550:38:59

are 100m long and 10m wide.

0:38:590:39:02

It took the Roman army just six years to get their fort established,

0:39:020:39:07

and to get the lead mining up and running at full tilt.

0:39:070:39:10

And it must have been some operation,

0:39:120:39:14

because very quickly these hills were established

0:39:140:39:17

as the single biggest lead mine in the whole of the Roman Empire.

0:39:170:39:20

Spanish lead producers felt so threatened by what was going on,

0:39:200:39:23

they tried to demand a cut in production here - some hope!

0:39:230:39:27

The scale of lead mining here in the Mendips

0:39:320:39:34

wouldn't be seen again for a thousand years.

0:39:340:39:37

This is an ingot of Roman lead,

0:39:410:39:43

mined from these hills 2,000 or so years ago.

0:39:430:39:47

Now, lead had long been used by the native Britons

0:39:470:39:51

as a constituent of bronze, as a constituent of pewter -

0:39:510:39:55

but the Romans had found

0:39:550:39:57

more practical applications for the metal.

0:39:570:40:00

They'd used it for plumbing, obviously,

0:40:000:40:02

they'd used it for lead pipes, and as parts of aqueducts...

0:40:020:40:07

They had also - more worryingly, given that lead is toxic -

0:40:080:40:12

used it to line cooking vessels.

0:40:120:40:15

They'd even used lead within some recipes.

0:40:150:40:18

The lead was smelted behind the walls of the Roman fort,

0:40:180:40:23

and the fort was kept heavily guarded.

0:40:230:40:25

This is an incredibly heavy object -

0:40:250:40:28

it weighs about as much as a grown man.

0:40:280:40:30

There'd be around 90kg in this one.

0:40:300:40:32

This ingot is stamped

0:40:320:40:36

"The Property Of The Emperor Vespasian Augustus'"

0:40:360:40:40

Now, the reason this material mattered so much that it could bear

0:40:400:40:45

the name of an emperor, is because of what's contained within it.

0:40:450:40:50

By processing lead, Roman metallurgists could extract

0:40:530:40:57

another metal that lay at the very heart of the Roman economy...

0:40:570:41:02

..silver.

0:41:030:41:05

This is the starting point of all of this.

0:41:050:41:07

This is just a piece of galena - lead sulphide,

0:41:070:41:10

the lead mineral which everyone would mine here in the Mendips.

0:41:100:41:13

So that's naturally occurring?

0:41:130:41:15

Yeah. Exactly. This is galena. It's a mineral, not a metal.

0:41:150:41:18

That's actually too hot to sit in front of.

0:41:200:41:23

Well, that's a very good sign.

0:41:230:41:25

What scale would the Roman smelters have been working on?

0:41:300:41:34

They would normally work at a scale at least ten times larger than this.

0:41:340:41:39

The lead has already melted, and as soon as we're exposing it

0:41:400:41:44

to oxygen, as you can see, it's tarnishing at the surface, it's becoming yellow -

0:41:440:41:48

and all of this yellowness is the lead oxide. That's what we want to happen.

0:41:480:41:52

We want progressively to oxidise all of this lead,

0:41:520:41:55

until eventually, we're left with the silver...

0:41:550:41:59

-There it is!

-Indeed.

-Well, there's SOMETHING shining in the bottom...

0:42:020:42:07

Yes. That's our silver.

0:42:070:42:09

Wow!

0:42:090:42:10

And that, at the end of it,

0:42:120:42:14

is the justification for this scarred landscape.

0:42:140:42:17

It was natural resources that made the conquest of western Britain a priority - and above all, Wales -

0:42:210:42:28

because out here the Romans knew there was the most valuable prize of all.

0:42:280:42:33

They were 30 years into their invasion of Britain before Wales was finally subdued,

0:42:340:42:39

and this was a major prize - because here in these hills, there was gold.

0:42:390:42:45

In typical Roman style, the technology they used was staggering.

0:42:550:42:59

This was gold mining on a truly industrial scale.

0:42:590:43:03

Here, they built aqueducts along that hillside

0:43:050:43:08

to bring water directly into the mine workings

0:43:080:43:11

from seven miles away in that direction, and from five miles away over there.

0:43:110:43:15

The water was channelled into great tanks,

0:43:150:43:19

each the size of a tennis court.

0:43:190:43:20

This is one of them - or the remains of it -

0:43:200:43:23

and if you look, you can see, rising up, the remains of the retaining walls.

0:43:230:43:29

Massively built to contain as much as a million gallons of water.

0:43:290:43:33

You see, the Romans weren't interested in just collecting flecks of gold from the rivers and streams.

0:43:330:43:38

Instead, they would open sluice gates -

0:43:380:43:41

this is the remains of one here -

0:43:410:43:42

and then all those millions of gallons of water

0:43:420:43:45

would flood down the hillside, stripping away trees, plants,

0:43:450:43:49

the very soil,

0:43:490:43:51

to expose the veins of quartzite that contained the gold.

0:43:510:43:54

And that was only the beginning.

0:43:580:44:00

Once they'd found the gold, they needed to dig it out.

0:44:000:44:03

In the past, this would have been a hive of activity for soldiers, miners...

0:44:070:44:13

The movement of material, processing, all sorts of things.

0:44:130:44:18

'Archaeologist Barry Burnham has studied one of the grimmest jobs in the Empire.'

0:44:190:44:25

Where was the gold going?

0:44:260:44:28

What was it used for by the Romans?

0:44:280:44:29

I think that this date it would've been, the bulk of it

0:44:290:44:32

would've gone straight to the Exchequer and been turned into coin.

0:44:320:44:36

And who would they have been, the miners -

0:44:380:44:40

were they locals, were they slaves...?

0:44:400:44:43

Well, my guess would be that some of them would be slaves.

0:44:430:44:47

Some of them, I think would be convicts - people who were condemned to the mines.

0:44:470:44:51

It was quite normal to be sentenced - damnatio ad metalla -

0:44:510:44:54

to be condemned to the mines for the rest of your life.

0:44:540:44:57

-Every one of these scores is the mark of 2,000-year-old hard labour.

-It is indeed.

0:44:570:45:02

How important was the gold to the Romans?

0:45:040:45:07

It's absolutely fundamental to the coinage.

0:45:070:45:10

The coinage system of gold, silver and bronze is such that minerals - mineral gold -

0:45:100:45:15

was one of the big things they sought for.

0:45:150:45:17

Tacitus - the writer in the last first century -

0:45:170:45:19

actually said one reward of victory for Britain was gold.

0:45:190:45:23

British resources - wheat, gold, lead, silver, slaves.

0:45:260:45:32

These helped to feed the Roman Empire.

0:45:320:45:35

Many Britons got into gear with the Roman machine.

0:45:350:45:38

They followed their rules, played the game,

0:45:380:45:41

many of them got rich on the back of it.

0:45:410:45:43

But there was also a quandary.

0:45:430:45:45

Was it possible to acquire this new Roman civilisation

0:45:450:45:50

and remain faithful to your Celtic roots at the same time?

0:45:500:45:54

For some, it was all too much.

0:45:540:45:57

The Romans might have invaded, they might have spread North and West

0:45:570:46:01

but they certainly hadn't won the battle for hearts and minds yet.

0:46:010:46:05

Celtic resistance wreaked havoc in the new Roman towns.

0:46:050:46:10

The Southern Britons quickly learnt not to take on the Roman Army.

0:46:140:46:18

But increasing numbers of civilian Romans

0:46:210:46:23

populating new, undefended towns were a much easier target.

0:46:230:46:27

It all began in 60 AD, just 17 years after the invasion began,

0:46:290:46:34

with the death of an East Anglian King, chief of the Iceni tribe.

0:46:340:46:38

The Romans took advantage of his death,

0:46:380:46:41

by appropriating his wealth and his ancestral lands.

0:46:410:46:45

To make matters worse, they disarmed the tribe.

0:46:450:46:49

For Celtic warriors, this was the ultimate insult.

0:46:490:46:52

They wore their swords as symbols of strength and identity.

0:46:520:46:56

To be stripped of their swords was to be stripped of their honour.

0:46:560:47:01

When the dead chief's incensed widow, Queen Boudica, protested at their treatment

0:47:060:47:10

the Roman soldiers flogged her publicly and raped her daughters.

0:47:100:47:15

It was too much.

0:47:150:47:16

There was no way that Boudica could put up with such disrespect.

0:47:160:47:20

She raised an Army from neighbouring tribes, and went on the rampage.

0:47:200:47:23

She turned her murderous attentions first

0:47:230:47:26

on the greatest symbol of Roman authority she could lay hands on -

0:47:260:47:29

the Roman city, here at Camulodunum.

0:47:290:47:33

Archaeologist Philip Crummy has spent decades piecing together what happened next.

0:47:350:47:42

What do you think would have been the reaction

0:47:420:47:44

of the Romans once they realised that the British were coming?

0:47:440:47:49

They would have been terrified.

0:47:490:47:51

After all, here they were, stuck in an island off mainland Europe,

0:47:510:47:55

in a town which was completely undefended -

0:47:550:47:57

no bank, no ditch round the town, no wall, completely open -

0:47:570:48:02

at the mercy of the British Army on the march.

0:48:020:48:06

With much of the Roman Army fighting in Wales,

0:48:070:48:10

the civilians of Colchester had to take refuge.

0:48:100:48:13

Today, Colchester Castle stands on the site

0:48:130:48:17

of the Roman Temple of Claudius,

0:48:170:48:20

once a vast symbol of colonial power.

0:48:200:48:23

Well, this is a most extraordinary space.

0:48:250:48:28

We're actually underneath the platform that supported the Temple of Claudius.

0:48:280:48:33

Right, so this was a massive foundation?

0:48:330:48:36

This is a foundation, yes. This is all Roman.

0:48:360:48:39

What finally happened to the people who were in the room above us?

0:48:440:48:50

They were standing perhaps 3 or 4 feet above the apex of this vault.

0:48:500:48:57

It would have been absolutely terrifying for those poor people.

0:48:570:49:00

Just imagine, women and children, surrounded by thousands of British,

0:49:000:49:05

all shouting and presumably lobbing missiles and trying to bash the door down.

0:49:050:49:09

It would have been difficult for the British to get in,

0:49:090:49:12

and that would explain why it took two days for the British eventually to get in.

0:49:120:49:16

-And when they get in?

-When they get in, it's curtains for everyone inside.

0:49:160:49:19

So, the British went to all possible lengths

0:49:190:49:22

to wipe this place off the map?

0:49:220:49:24

The archaeological evidence tells us

0:49:240:49:27

that everywhere in Colchester - bar probably this place -

0:49:270:49:31

was burnt to the ground.

0:49:310:49:32

These are just a few of the thousands of artefacts

0:49:410:49:45

that were recovered from the destruction of Roman Colchester.

0:49:450:49:51

These are fragments of Samian ware, beautifully decorated.

0:49:510:49:56

It's a luxury import from Gaul.

0:49:560:49:59

This is the kind of tableware that the best Romans

0:49:590:50:02

would want to have in their homes.

0:50:020:50:04

Now, Samian ware should be a rich, orangey-red colour,

0:50:040:50:08

but these pieces are charred black, because these were in the fire.

0:50:080:50:14

And they were found by the thousands,

0:50:140:50:16

so it looks as though this was a shop somewhere that was

0:50:160:50:19

providing the citizens of Colchester with fine tableware.

0:50:190:50:23

These are the remains of dates, another luxury import.

0:50:250:50:30

Because of the way they've been burned in the fire,

0:50:300:50:33

they've actually turned into something a little like charcoal.

0:50:330:50:37

But most poignant of all are these human remains.

0:50:370:50:41

A few fragments of bone, some jawbone, charred black.

0:50:410:50:45

This person died possibly in the fire, or just before it.

0:50:450:50:52

We don't know if it's a man or a woman,

0:50:520:50:54

but it looks as though it's a young adult.

0:50:540:50:57

So although we have the written records of tens of thousands

0:51:000:51:03

of people dying in the revolt, this is the only actual evidence.

0:51:030:51:09

This person, whoever he or she was, knew the truth of it.

0:51:090:51:14

Boudica wasn't content just to slaughter

0:51:180:51:20

the citizens of Camulodunum.

0:51:200:51:23

Before the Roman army could return from Wales,

0:51:230:51:25

she led her own forces on a campaign of terror

0:51:250:51:28

that destroyed the Roman cities of London and St Albans.

0:51:280:51:31

As many as 70,000 Roman citizens were murdered.

0:51:310:51:35

Noble women were treated especially brutally,

0:51:350:51:38

their breasts cut off and sewn to their mouths,

0:51:380:51:40

their bodies impaled on stakes. But Boudica couldn't go on.

0:51:400:51:45

Eventually, the Roman army would return and when it did,

0:51:450:51:48

her forces would stand little chance.

0:51:480:51:50

And in a small valley, just north of St Albans,

0:51:500:51:54

the last British stand against Roman oppression in the South

0:51:540:51:57

was wiped out in a single, gruesome massacre.

0:51:570:52:01

A new Britain emerged from the bloody clashes of 60 AD.

0:52:040:52:08

For the tribes of the south, there was no longer any choice but to accept Roman authority.

0:52:080:52:13

But the Romans, too, had learned a lesson,

0:52:130:52:15

that they ignored British heritage and pride at their peril.

0:52:150:52:20

By the end of the first century AD, Rome had Southern Britain

0:52:250:52:29

firmly under control.

0:52:290:52:31

But in the north, the country became wilder, and so did the people.

0:52:310:52:35

In particular, the land of Caledonia, and its fiercely Celtic,

0:52:370:52:42

Pictish tribes, stubbornly refused to bow to the will of the empire.

0:52:420:52:46

If much of Southern Britain had eventually got used to the idea

0:52:480:52:51

of Roman rule, the same couldn't be said up here in the north.

0:52:510:52:55

Almost 80 years after the invasion,

0:52:550:52:58

the Picts were still slugging it out with the Roman army.

0:52:580:53:02

They were just as tempted as anyone else by the possibility of Roman wealth,

0:53:020:53:06

they simply weren't prepared to trade their independence for it.

0:53:060:53:10

So in a way, they were responsible for one of the most famous

0:53:100:53:13

constructions in the whole of the ancient world.

0:53:130:53:16

74 miles long, and stretching from coast to coast,

0:53:160:53:22

Hadrian's Wall was built between 122 and 136 AD.

0:53:220:53:26

But having come so far, the Roman army wasn't about to stop here.

0:53:400:53:46

Because Hadrian's Wall wasn't the only great wall

0:53:490:53:52

they built in the far North.

0:53:520:53:54

Just 20 years after Hadrian's Wall was built,

0:53:550:53:58

the Romans actually built another wall.

0:53:580:54:00

About 100 miles to the north,

0:54:000:54:02

through the heart of Pictish territory.

0:54:020:54:04

These banks in Falkirk are the remains of that wall.

0:54:040:54:08

It stretched for 39 miles, from the Firth of Clyde in the West,

0:54:080:54:12

to the Firth of Forth in the east, right across modern Scotland

0:54:120:54:15

So this was as far north as the Empire ever reached.

0:54:150:54:19

This wall, the Antonine Wall, didn't last long, though.

0:54:220:54:26

This far into hostile territory,

0:54:260:54:29

the Romans could not defend the border, despite building 17 forts,

0:54:290:54:34

one every two miles along the entire length of the wall.

0:54:340:54:38

This was a land that simply wouldn't fall to Rome.

0:54:380:54:42

With little to be gained by battling for a wild and mountainous land,

0:54:430:54:47

Rome at last retreated.

0:54:470:54:49

And so it was Hadrian's Wall

0:54:520:54:54

that became the enduring northern boundary of the Roman Empire.

0:54:540:54:59

This was where Caledonian pride forced the Romans to say, "Enough is enough."

0:54:590:55:04

If the northern tribes wouldn't join the Roman party,

0:55:040:55:07

they would be excluded at all costs.

0:55:070:55:10

Here, the Romans drew their line in the sand.

0:55:110:55:15

This was a symbol of Roman power,

0:55:150:55:18

the most northerly frontier of the most powerful empire on the planet.

0:55:180:55:22

This was the most heavily-defended frontier of the entire empire.

0:55:220:55:26

Outside the wall, native tribes so vehemently opposed to the occupation

0:55:280:55:33

that it took 10,000 Roman auxiliaries to keep them at bay.

0:55:330:55:37

Over here, inside the wall, enveloping the fort,

0:55:370:55:41

an entire British town,

0:55:410:55:42

with people taking full advantage of those same Roman soldiers,

0:55:420:55:47

providing all the services and entertainment required by the garrison.

0:55:470:55:53

Over hundreds of years, the Iron Age tribes of Britain

0:55:530:55:56

had established regional territories within a shared Celtic culture.

0:55:560:56:01

But now, all that had changed.

0:56:010:56:03

In less than 100 years, Rome had cleaved Britain in two.

0:56:070:56:12

Britannia and Caledonia.

0:56:120:56:14

By the middle of the second century AD,

0:56:160:56:19

the Romans had been in Britain for almost 200 years.

0:56:190:56:23

Caesar and the invasions were distant memories.

0:56:230:56:27

To be a Roman was to be more than just an invader.

0:56:270:56:31

It was to be part of that cultural exchange,

0:56:310:56:34

Britons adopting Roman ways and vice versa, especially in the North.

0:56:340:56:40

In the South, Britain was emerging from an era of turbulence with a new Romano-British culture.

0:56:400:56:47

Up there in the North, it was clear you were either in or you were out.

0:56:470:56:51

The Roman version of civilisation simply wasn't wanted.

0:56:530:56:57

This wall, this moment that divided the Celtic tribes of Britain,

0:56:570:57:02

would shape our land and our futures.

0:57:020:57:05

It would alter our cultures, our languages and identities, forever.

0:57:050:57:10

'Next time, my journey continues...'

0:57:160:57:19

It shows the way in which the Romans quite literally

0:57:200:57:23

brought the modern world, the future with them.

0:57:230:57:26

'..as I encounter the final chapter in our epic story...'

0:57:260:57:30

Their eyes would have been drawn all the time

0:57:320:57:34

to these topless lady dancers.

0:57:340:57:38

If it was a really special occasion,

0:57:380:57:40

I would have laid on real-life topless dancers.

0:57:400:57:43

'..the time of the Romano-British...'

0:57:440:57:47

She was buried with fantastic wealth.

0:57:470:57:51

Anyone who saw this woman wearing it would have identified her as someone of status.

0:57:510:57:56

'..when socially, technologically, and spiritually...'

0:57:560:58:00

Whoever wore this was obviously a Christian, a believer.

0:58:010:58:06

'..we finally left our distant pre-history behind, for good.'

0:58:060:58:11

If you want to follow in the footsteps of our ancestors,

0:58:110:58:14

then go to the website...

0:58:140:58:16

..to find out how to connect with ancient Britain in your area.

0:58:200:58:23

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:58:440:58:47

E-mail [email protected]

0:58:470:58:50

Continuing his epic story, Neil Oliver explores the remains of brutal Iron Age battles and Celtic rebellion as he reaches the moment when Celtic Britain was ripped apart by the world's great empire - Rome.


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