Following the discovery of military remains at the Fishbourne site in the 1990’s a theory developed that the Roman invasion of Britain happened in Sussex rather than at Richborough in Kent as has always been accepted. From available evidence do you agree with this theory? For this essay we are looking at two interpretations of the Roman Invasion – the traditional and the challenge argument and so throughout this essay I will be putting forward the two different views. The points will be arranged in chronological order, the base document for this essay is the account of Cassius Dio.
I will also be studying the modern hypothesis of John Hind. Cassius Dio’s account is of Aulus Plautius’ invasion of Britain AD 43 may not be completely reliable as the historian wrote the account 150 years after the invasion. John Hinds account was written based around the evidence available. Primarily it was thought that the Romans invaded Britain in 43AD in Kent. Here we must acknowledge that this was not the first endeavour at an invasion. Julius Caesar was emperor at the time of the first invasion, around the time 50BC. He wished to expand his empire and believed that in order to do so he must conquer Britain.
He had already managed to gain Gaul, which in present day is otherwise known as France, and so pressed on in making plans to invade Britain, unknown to him this would result in defeat. His fleets landed on the North of Kent. However two of his fleets were destroyed, and shipwrecked, this reduced his Army considerably. They then marched through Kent. We have evidence of this as Caesar has documented this movement. In this source he specifies obstacles such as woods, steep slopes and hills but fails to mention marshes until he is North of the River Thames.
Caesar met his downfall, as he could not overthrow the Catuvellaunium tribes, he returned to Rome without success. It was almost 100 years later when Claudius decided to attempt an invasion of Britain despite Caesar failing. At the time of the second invasion, Aulus Plautius was commander of the Emperor Claudius’ fleet. Aulus was sent in advance with the main invasion force. The future emperor, Vespian plays an important role in this invasion. Unfortunately it is here that the confusion begins to set in, as there is no written documents as to what occurred before, during or just after the invasion.
Neither are there any historical sources that determine where the invasion took place. It is Cassius Dio’s account and some archaeological evidence that can be of any assistance, to help us form an idea of what happened during that undocumented period of time. This is where the dispute begins, many believe that like Caesar, and the Claudians approached via Kent. However, some people have come to the conclusion that there is a possibility that he invaded through Sussex. The reason for the Romans wanting to invade Britain again is stated in Cassius Dio’s account.
He declares ” for a certain Berikos, who had been expelled from the island during internal disturbances, had persuaded Claudius to send a force there. ” There is a mistake in this account, as it has now been acknowledged that the Berikos that Cassius speaks of, is indeed Vericas a British tribal king. He was forced to leave Britain due to the Catuvellian princes, who owned the land north of the River Thames, attacking his tribes. This could in turn serve as an explanation as to why the invasion might have taken place in Sussex.
The answer being that the South coast would have been owned by the Atrebate tribe, and so would not be hostile towards the Romans, giving them a friendly territory to land on. If they were after a surprise attack they would be more likely to succeed by landing on friendly territory, as this would give them time to prepare. It seems as though Dio’s account is backing this theory ” The Britons, relying on information they had received, did not expect them to arrive and they had not mustered their forces. ”
Cassius Dio’s account reads that the Roman troops were not too keen about the idea of invading Britain again, given the result of the last attack. It is thought that because they feared this invasion, maybe it was Kent that they planned to invade as knowing that a failure had already taken place there. I know I would be a little reluctant if I was just going to follow the footsteps of failure. In John Hind’s extracts it is stated that there is though to be three original landing points at Richborough, Dover and Lympne.
It is also believed that the Roman road system, which branches out to these three coastal points, was in fact a solidified structure marking the primary landing points. This would support the argument. However, as like many times in history, depending on how it is you interpret Dio’s account it could contradict this above statement. A different interpretation of the roads could be that the roads were established after the initial invasion, which would help to support the challenge argument. Cassius also agrees that there were three squadrons in order to ” avoid posed landing which might hold up single force. Nevertheless after this he states that during the crossing, the Romans were driven off course, the Romans taking the harder route from Gaul to Sussex could have caused this. Or the fact that their ships had square sails meaning that they had to sail with the wind behind them to get anywhere, as the wind would have been blowing South West this would have taken them away from Sussex, directly to Richborough. If they had attempted to sail from Gaul to Sussex, into the South West wind then there is a very high possibility that they would have been thrown off course.
However, Gaul to Kent would have been easier as the wind would have taken them there without to much effort. This also suggests Kent as the invasion point. It would have taken about 14 hours to sail to Richborough from Gaul, whereas it would have taken 2 and a half days to travel to Sussex. The immense time difference does give us the impression that they would have preferred to travel to Richborough, as it would have been a lot cheaper. Food supplies would not need to have been so big, plus more ships would have a chance to make it and not become shipwrecked.
But an extract from Cassius Dio’s account conflicts this immediate thought, he states ” that they were driven back from their course” and that ” they took heart from a shooting star which flashed over from East to West, which was the direction they were heading for. ” This could be portrayed that they were travelling towards Sussex. John Hind supports this evidence as well, and ” then when a shooting star had pointed their way westwards, the wind (and perhaps the tide) changed in their favour driving them westwards, where lay their destination.
This was, I suggest, the coast and harbours of the Artrebatic kingdom behind and just east to the Isle of Wight. ” We already know the advantages of landing on Atrebate land such as the friendly atmosphere that would allow the troops to prepare themselves. Now with this evidence about the shooting star we must consider whether we believe that something short of a miracle happened. Imagine that it did, it would make sense, as the tribal land was neighbourly, the fleets would also not be disheartened to try a different approach to the invasion of Britain.
Dio’s account uses geographical description; this description seems to fit the reasoning that the troops sailed to Sussex than it does to Kent. This idea is perceived when Dio says, ” they melted into marshes and forests,” At the time of the second invasion this is what Sussex would have mainly consisted of. We know that in Kent there was no such marshes or forests as it is not included in Caesar’s documents until after he is at the river Thames. This river is an important landmark to help us depict where the second invasion actually took place as it is mentioned in both sources.
The river however, is not titled so could be either the River Maedyway, River Arun or the River Thames. Hind believes that the river is the Arun. He got this idea from ancient name Trisantona (Tarrant). This is the only named river by Ptolemy, a Roman geographer, along the entire Southeast England. Because this is the only river that has had the time to be named it suggests that it must have been of some importance. The name roughly translated means ‘widely flooding one,’ and the only river that fits this description is the river Arun.
In Dio’s account the river is described without a bridge, this leads us to believe that it is either the River Meadway or the River Arun. This also fits as the river had to be large with a swift current and both of these also have these. Although there is geographical evidence that matches that of Sussex there is still significant evidence that the invasion may have taken place at Richborough. This could also answer why so many Roman Poets included Richborough in their work.
For example at Sittingbourne, thirty gold coins were found, these could have possibly been buried on route to battle after leaving Richborough. Although there are no documents that state a reason for why the coins may have been buried. Hind proposes that it could have been because of a “legacy of trip some unrecorded Roman reconnaissance or envoy bearing a bribe. ” Even though this is a good assumption there is no factual proof to support this interpretation. In addition about 700 yards between the Richborough stream and River Stour was a Claudian base including Granary buildings and a double defensive ditch.
It was these ditches where sealed material was found indicating that the invasion did indeed take place in Kent, as no other logical reasons can explain why material was found from the invasion point in a defensive ditch. A victory monument was built at Richborough. There are two possible reasons for this. One could be that as it was the original place of invasion or secondly it could be because this was where Claudius decided to land. The landing of Claudius would have been more important to the Romans than the original invasion point.
This could also answer why so many Roman Poets included Richborough in their work. However, there were certain artefacts found in Sussex, suggesting that the invasion point took place here and not Kent. A legionary’s helmet was discovered near Bosham Harbour. Despite they’re being other reasons that explain the helmet; for instance it could have been lost in a different landing. There is no proof that states it was not from the invasion in 43AD. In addition to this, military bronzes and a horse pendant was found on Lancing Down. Hind believes that this is an indication that “first class legionaries passed by. At Fishbourne there is also evidence of a military style store base similar to that found at Richborough. Hind also puts forward the notion that the Claudiun bases found at Richborough were in fact left as a design of protection for Claudius for when he actually landed at Richborough. Another point that Hind makes is regarding an alliance that the Romans made with the Bodunni tribe. Let me just make clear that due to translation difficulties there has been some conflict as to whether the tribe was called the Bodunni or the Dubonni tribe, but just to clarify they are in fact the same clan.
The alliance was made with the Romans and formed before the Romans reached the Bodunni territory. Though, it is stated that Plautius left a garrison there for protection. The tribe before referred to was based nearer Chichester than Kent. It was in fact the Catevaullian tribe that was situated nearer to Kent. Two roman forts were found in the Bodunni terriotory and so it can be reasoned with that the tribe had some undertaking in the invasion. From this we can assume that it would have been easier for Plautius to offer the Bodunni tribe protection if he had landed in Sussex.
From John Hind we get the impression that Platius could have sent a “flying column up to do this while the main army remained in the area around Chichester. ” After the first invasion, the Britons had to withdraw and it is likely that they travelled to Kent. This idea was given from Cassius Dio’s account where he says, “the Britons retreated to the area where the River Thames empties into the ocean and at flood-tide forms a lake. ” It is this that really leads me to believe that the invasion took place at Sussex as why would the Britons retreat to land that the Romans had previously landed on?
Unless the Romans didn’t land there, this is supported again by Cassius Dio’s account where he states “crossed it without great difficulty. ” In conclusion, I have reason to believe that the Romans first invaded Sussex and not Kent. One of the contributing factors that allowed me to form this opinion was from Dio’s description saying that they were making for the direction of East West, leading them directly to Sussex. Another reason was because of the friendly response they would receive if they did land in Sussex.
They would be safe and the harbours were of a good size to ship their fleets. It also makes sense how the leader may have been slightly put off from landing at Richborough due to the previous failure and with knowledge that the Vikings landed successfully at Sussex. A large factor to where the invasion took place also depends on the tribe and their alliance with the Romans. They had been requested by the Atrebate tribe and so would follow suit if they landed near them. Strengthening this case is their ever-growing relationship with the Bodunni tribe, which is just above the Atrebate region.
It says in both Dio’s and Hind’s accounts that the Britons were unaware of any attacks by landing in Sussex they would have been able to complete the element of surprise As to any argument there will always be flaws. However the one present in this particular discussion can be counter-argued. The point being that in Cassius Dio’s account it was documented that the fleets were not happy. This could have been due to many reasons. One being that the feeling was caused because of the weather. The second that they were not pleased with the plans as they would be following in the footsteps of failure.
However, it is very doubtful that they were disheartened because of the plans, as it is not in a soldier’s way to be discouraged because of past defeat. If anything this would act as stimulant to prove that they can do it, to their leader and to themselves. Therefore the reason for the dampened spirits is the weather which does not weaken my argument in the slightest. However, I do still believe that Richborough was connected slightly but only due to the landing of Claudius which would have been a justifiable reason as to why poets mention Richborough and why a monument was built.
John Hind appears to have the idea that most of the fleets landed in Sussex. However, some were sent to Richborough in order to fool the Britons and to make them become confused. Even though this summary is a very good one, and would account for the conflicting evidence it is only based on an assumption and there is very little evidence to prove this. There fore, I’m afraid to say that I must dismiss this idea and keep with my own opinion that the Roman invasion point was at Sussex.