The Geography of Roman Britain
Geographia Britanniarum Romanorum
To the Romans, Britannia was a mysterious island lying beyond
Oceanus, the great river described by Homer as encircling the entire
inhabited world. Britain was therefore seen as a land beyond the limits
of civilisation. Britannia was first brought to the attention of
the Roman people by the campaigns of Julius Caesar in 55 and 54 BC, but
was not proven to be an island until the early eighties A.D., when the
governor Gnaeus Julius Agricola sent an exploratory naval expedition
around the north coast of Scotland. This section describes Britannia as the Romans knew it, utilizing the British sections from the main classical geographies.
- Classical Geographia
- (c.1st century AD) Classical references to the Insulae Britanniarum, including the works of Caesar, Livy, Pliny, and many more of the most learned geographers of the Roman era.
- Ptolemy's Geography
- (c.AD140) The first two chapters of Book II deal with the British Isles; Hibernia (Ireland) in chapter 1, and Albion (Mainland Britain) in chapter 2.
- Antonine Itinerary
- (c.AD220) A list of fifteen routes throughout the Roman province of Britannia, with several repetitions and several notable omissions.
- Notitia Dignitatum
A late Imperial administrative document is the unique historical
source for the Saxon Shore Forts, a network of coastal defenses built
around southeast Britain in the 3rd and 4th centuries AD.
- Ravenna Cosmography
- (c.7th century AD)
A list of Roman posting-stations, forts and towns, compiled by
an unknown monk from Ravenna on the Adriatic coast of Italy.
- Peutinger Table
- (c.11th century AD)
This Roman map was cut into several pieces sometime during the
Middle-Ages, a surviving portion of which shows a few towns in
- Nennius' Cities
- (9th century?) Nennius was a monk and contemporary of Bede? who wrote his Historia Brittonum in the 9th century, wherein is contained a list of 33 'British Towns'.