Following his initial swift campaigns through the lands of the Cantiaci, the Atrebates, the Catuvellauni and the Trinovantes, Aulus Plautius, the first governor of Britannia, reorganised the four legions at his disposal;
* Legio XX Valeria were based at Camulodunum on the east coast to act primarily as a reserve force but also to maintain the infrastructure of the newly-established province, building roads, forts, ports, etc.;
* Legio IX Hispana pushed northwards into the Coritani homelands of Lincolnshire, leaving large forces along the Catuvellaunian and Icenian borders, in forts at Great Chesterford and Godmanchester;
* Legio XIV Gemina operated throughout the Midlands, first against the Dobunni in the south then the Cornovii in the north, in this campaign marching along the route which would later become Watling Street;
* Legio II Augusta under the personal command of the future emperor Vespasian campaigned in the south-west, crushing first the Belgae in Hampshire and Wiltshire then the Durotriges in Dorset and Somerset.
The newly-formed province was surrounded on three sides by 'client kingdoms'; the Iceni in Norfolk, the Regni in Sussex, and the Brigantes in the North of England. This was a popular method used by Rome to control a region by placing a pro-Roman king on the throne, and granting him (or her) complete autonomy over the area so long as tribute was paid.
When the second British governor Ostorius Scapula entered his new province, he marched directly into North Wales against the Deceangi tribe. This premature campaign was aborted after diplomatic pressure from the Brigantes client-state, and was followed by minor dynastic troubles among the Iceni. Once the client kingdoms had been pacified, Ostorius doffed his diplomatic toga and took up his military cloak, this time mobilising against the Welsh tribes who had united under the warlord Caratacus. Fighting first in Silures territory then in the lands of the Ordovices, Caratacus' combined British army was finally defeated somewhere in mid-Wales, but the warlord himself escaped northwards to the court of the Brigantian queen Cartimandua, who promptly had him arrested and handed over to Rome. The capture of Caratacus was closely followed by the death of Ostorius, and the next three governors were to spend the rest of the decade campaigning in Wales, mainly against the Silures.
The Welsh campaigns required a substantial legionary back-up; The Fourteenth were re-united in a new fortress at Wroxeter in the Welsh Marches after having been split into vexillations stationed throughout the Midlands, at Wall and Penkridge, and perhaps Leicester and Metchley. Meanwhile, the Twentieth was moved to Gloucester and a new colony of veteran soldiers established in their old fortress at Colchester. The Second were now operating in the south-west from a new fortress at Exeter, while the Ninth were kept in the east, possibly divided between vexillation fortresses at Longthorpe and Newton-on-Trent.
Following the death of king Prasutagus of the Iceni, the provincial procurator Decianus Catus, aided and abetted by the veteran soldiers from the Colonia, ravaged the old client-king's lands throughout Norfolk and Suffolk. The governor Suetonius Paulinus did not check the corruption of his inferior as he was too busy seeking his own military glory in north-west Wales at the time. This self-seeking attitude prevalent amongst the ruling class was almost to lose the province to Rome, for the outraged Iceni under the leadership of the recently-widowed queen Boudica rose in revolt, and were soon joined by their southern neighbours the Trinovantes of Essex. The rebel hoard sacked the colony at Colchester, erased a detachment of the Ninth perhaps near Cambridge, then fell upon the thriving administrative centre of London and the new municipium at St. Alban's. Paulinus had to cut-short his planned campaign on Anglesey and rushed back with the Fourteenth and a detachment of the Twentieth to the Midlands, where he finally defeated the British army outside Mancetter.
Following the Boudiccan revolt Paulinus was recalled from Britain, and Nero ensured that for the remainder of his reign the British governors spent less effort waging war and paid more attention to the administration of the province. It was during this period that many Romano-British towns were first established, particularly in the south and east, where auxiliary units were withdrawn and relocated to Wales, abandoning many of their forts among the predominantly pro-Roman south-eastern tribes.
The withdrawal of the Fourteenth required that Britain's garrison be reorganised; the Twentieth were moved from their new fortress at Usk into the one recently-vacated at Wroxeter, the Ninth were re-united at Lincoln and the Second Augusta were moved from Exeter to Gloucester.
The suicide of Nero initiated a series of civil wars in Italy followed by an uprising in Germany, and many front-line auxiliary forces were withdrawn from Britain to fuel the chaos on the continent. This visible reduction of the British garrison prompted the disaffected Venutius of the Brigantes to break out in open rebellion, forcing his consort, the aged pro-Roman queen Cartimandua to flee to the protection of governor Vettius Bolanus. The revolt of Civilis had been quickly smashed by the Flavian general Petillius Cerialis, who was immediately shipped out to Britain to replace Bolanus and suppress the revolt, aided by a huge contingent of auxiliaries and a new legion, the Second Adiutrix which he stationed at Lincoln. The veteran Ninth were marched to a new base at Malton, then, by using these two legions in a classic 'pincer' movement, Cerialis crushed the revolt.
Cerialis spent the first half of the decade pacifying and occupying the Brigantian lands in the north of England, and the second half was to see the final defeat of the Silures in South Wales under governor Sextus Julius Frontinus; almost the entirety of England and Wales now belonged to Rome, but the most glorious campaigns were yet to come...
The conquests of this general were to see the Roman province of Britannia at its greatest extent; his seven campaigns can be summarized as follows:
Prompted by jealousy, the emperor Domitian recalled Agricola in 84AD and granted him triumphal regalia, after which he was quietly retired. Before long, perhaps as early as 87, the Second Adiutrix was withdrawn from Britain and the new fortress of the Twentieth at Inchtuthil had to be abandoned before its completion, the legion being withdrawn from the Scottish Highlands to reoccupy the recently vacated fortress at Chester. Much of Scotland was gradually abandoned and many auxiliary units were withdrawn to the Stanegate in northern England.
The last decade of the first century saw rapid development of the civil structure in Britain; many towns were established, London was granted a municipal charter during the Flavian period, and the addition of two more Roman colonies in the province was to create a reserve pool of veteran soldiers at strategic locations; Lincoln was granted colonial status and renamed Colonia Domitiana Lindensium c.93AD, and Gloucester became Colonia Nervia Glevensium sometime around 97AD.
The new century was to see a strengthening of the Roman military in the south of Britain; the fortress at Caerleon in south Wales was rebuilt in stone around 99AD along with many of the Welsh garrison forts, and shortly thereafter, the Agricolan forts in Scotland were abandoned. The legionary fortress at Chester on the northern Welsh border was rebuilt in stone c.103AD followed by the fortress at York in the north-east c.107/8AD.
The administrative restructuring around the turn of the second century was followed by a decade of relative calm, then, during the governorship of Marcus Appius Bradua (c.115AD to 118AD), the Brigantes tribe once again turned the north of Britain into a hotbed of revolution.
The most lasting of all Rome's accomplishments in Britain is undoubtedly Hadrian's Wall, which stretches across the north of England from the east to the west coasts for some eighty miles, between Wallsend near the mouth of the Tyne to Bowness-on-Solway near the Scottish border in Cumbria.
The emperor Hadrian's 122AD visit to Britain required considerable pre-planning, and it would seem that the actual line of the Wall was scouted-out in the year prior to Hadrian arriving at the northern frontier, where his large residential building has been identified at Chesterholm/Vindolanda on the Stanegate. The initial surveying of the Wall's route was supervised, then, by governor Quintus Pompeius Falco (c.118AD to 122AD) who had been sent to crush the recent Brigantian revolt and returned to Rome in the emperor Hadrian's train, leaving his successor Aulus Platorius Nepos (122AD to c.125AD) to implement the actual building of the monumental frontier.
Some modern estimates of labour expended on the Wall include: 30 million facing stones quarried, shaped, transported and laid; 10 million gallons of water used to make mortar for the rubble core; 1 million cubic yards of earth removed from the ditch fronting the Wall.
The emperor Antoninus Pius, motivated primarily so as to belittle the achievements of his predecessor Hadrian, extended the British frontier northwards once more and built another wall, this time of turf and timber, the forty-two-odd miles across the isthmus between the Forth and the Clyde; this frontier work has since become known as the Antonine Wall, and was built during the governorship of Quintus Lollius Urbicus (Gubernator 138/9AD to c.144).
By this action, several lowland tribes were brought under the dominion of Rome; the Votadini of northern Northumberland and east Borders region, and the Selgovae of west Borders and eastern Dumfries & Galloway were separated by the complex of forts and camps at Newstead on the main Roman road north by the east-coast route, the Novantae of Dumfries and the Galloway Pennisula were separated from the Selgovae by the western Roman road through the Scottish lowlands via Birrens and Castledykes, and finally the Damnonii of Strathclyde and Lothian, who inhabited the lowlands between the Forth and Clyde, and through whose lands the Antonine Wall was naturally built.
It has been mooted that the string of Agricolan forts and stations along the Gask Ridge may have been re-commissioned, the rich lands of the southern Venicones tribe annexed once more, and tribute therefrom levied in the form of foodstuffs, used to supplement the diet of the Wall's garrison.
The province of Britannia was split into two broad administrative areas which mirrored the physical geography of the island; the lowland zone in the south-east was peopled by fully-Romanised tribes who had (apart from the Iceni) quite readily taken on the trappings of Roman civilization and were allowed to govern themselves; in the upland regions of North Britain and Wales, however, the truculent tribes required constant supervision, and this was where most of the Roman military were concentrated.
The Brigantes in north Britain had been a former client-state, who, despite constant upheaval were recognised as a civitas and largely allowed to govern themselves from their capital at Aldborough. The Welsh tribes fared very badly under Rome, however, and aside from the Silures, who had their civitas capital at Caerwent, joined perhaps by the Demetae who were possibly represented by the vicus at Carmarthen, the majority of Wales seems to have been under military rule.
Caracalla reviewed the administration of Britannia and split the province into two: Britannia Superior in the south had a consular governor based at London with two legions, the Twentieth at Chester and the Second at Caerleon; Britannia Inferior in the north had a praetorian governor with only one legion, the Sixth at York, where the governor also resided.
Around 296AD the British provinces were once-more restructured, this time during the reforms of emperor Diocletian, whereby the existing provinces were each split into two; Britannia Superior in southern Britain became Britannia Prima in the west governed from Cirencester, and Maxima Caesariensis in the east which was governed from London; while Britannia Inferior in the north became Britannia Secunda governed from York, and Flavia Caesariensis governed from the colonia at Lincoln.
The military provinces were governed by young(ish), martially-minded men with praetorian status; Britannia Prima had two legions, the Second Augusta at Caerleon and the Twentieth at Chester, and Britannia Secunda one legion, the Sixth housed at York. The productive, more-civilized Caesariensis provinces had no legionary forces, very few auxiliary troops, and were governed by ex-consulars possessing great legislative and judicial authority.
This whole exercise followed close on the heels of Carausius' revolution in Britain, and was undertaken primarily in order to separate the military and civil administrative posts, which ensured that a) the praetorian governors commanding the troops would not have the money to fund a rebellion, and b) the consular governors in charge of the purse-strings, would not have the troops to foment revolt.
Another province was added to Britain in 369AD by the emperor Valentinian, essentially an area in the north of Britain beyond Hadrian's Wall - Dumfries & Galloway and the Scottish Borders - which was reestablished under tentative military rule and named Velantia. This act was to bring the tribes of the Southern Uplands - the Votadini, Selgovae and Novantae - under the aegis of Rome once more, though the Damnonii of the Forth-Clyde isthmus this time lay outside the boundaries of the empire.
The Notitia Dignitatum or 'Register of Dignitaries' is a document of great historical importance produced in the late-empire which lists the complete Roman administrative hierarchy, giving us the names of the various posts and the departments to which they belonged. This document also gives the disposition of the armed forces throughout the entire Roman world, giving the names of each unit, the rank of their individual commanders and also the name of their garrison fort. It remains the sole classical source for the names of the nine forts under the command of the "Count of the Saxon shore in Britain", from Brancaster in Norfolk to Portchester in Hampshire; it is also justly famous for the section entitled Item per lineam Valli or "The route along the line of the Wall", which enumerates most (but not all) of the forts on Hadrian's Wall, and also includes many others forts throughout the north of Britain such as Lancaster and Ribchester.
The Roman habit of forming administrative regions based on existing native territories had the effect of preserving the pre-Roman iron-age tribal boundaries in Britain. The civitas was essentially a self-governing political entity, administered by a pair of magistrates called duumviri who were elected each year from among the local inhabitants, usually the tribal nobility. These men were held responsible for the smooth-running of the Civitas. The tribal council comprised of around one-hundred men, many of which either had already held the position of duovir or aspired to do so, and was invariably based in the tribe's largest town, which became known as the civitas capital. Several such towns are known, distinguished in the ancient sources by their double-barreled names, the second part identifying the name of the tribe; for example: Calleva Atrebatum or 'Calleva (the town) of the Atrebates (tribe)', and Corinium Dobunnorum or 'Corinium of the Dobunni'. A sub-division of the civitas was known as a pagus. These extensive rural districts were administrated from the largest town within their borders, and elected their own magistrates each year. It is thought that the pagus may have been treated as a separate political entity, having representatives on the provincial council, but evidence suggests that they were also answerable to their native civitas. Good examples of pagi would be Ilchester and Brough-on-Humber. On top of this administrative system was the concilium provincae or provincial council, to which every civitas sent representatives. The council was at first located in Colchester but later moved to the large port of London, which had become the major trade centre in the province. For more info. see the RBO Settlement Intro..