Chronology of British History

From the Late Iron Age to the End of the Roman Era

c.320BC The Greek navigator/geographer Pytheas conducts a partial exploration of the island of "Albion".
1st C.BCThe Veneti, a Belgic maritime tribe, trade actively with Britain.
56 Julius Caesar campaigns against the Veneti and destroys almost all of their fleet.
55 Julius Caesar's first expedition into Cantium [Kent] with only two legions, ends inconclusively with the surrender of four Kentish kings.
54 Caesar's second British campaign, this time with four legions and a force of cavalry, concludes with the surrender of Cassivellaunus, warlord of the Britons.
52 Commius the Atrebatian, Caesar's Gaulish confidante, attempts to relieve his countryman Vercingatorix during the siege of Alesia. He is repulsed by the besieging Roman legions and flees to southern Britain to escape the retribution of Caesar.
44 Julius Caesar assassinated by Brutus and Cassius [et al] in the theatre of Pompey at Rome. Civil war ensues.
43 Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus [Octavian], great-nephew and adopted heir of Caesar, forms an alliance with Caesar's second in command, Marcus Antonius [Mark Antony], and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus the popular champion of the Roman legions. Together, the second triumvirate pursue and destroy the assassins of Caesar.
36 Lepidus falls from favour and the second triumvirate dissolves; but being Pontifex Maximus and thus head of all Roman religion, his person is sacrosanct and he is allowed simply to retire from public life. Octavian and Mark Antony agree to divide the Roman world between them; Octavian consolidates Caesar's gains in Gaul and the west whilst Antony continues his own campaigns in the East.
34 Disturbances in Britain prompt Octavian to gather forces for a punitive expedition, but his first planned campaign fails to sail, diverted by uprisings in Dalmatia.
31 Mark Anthony is defeated at Actium by the forces of Octavian, who then assumes sole leadership of the Roman state. At around this time at Verulamium [St. Albans] in Britain, Tasciovanus of the Catuvellauni established his capital as a powerful trading center.
c.30 The Catuvellauni became increasingly active in Britain. Octavian again gathered a British expeditionary force but was averted by the threat of an uprising in Gaul coupled with the assurance of the Britons good-intent by diplomacy.
27 Octavian earned the name "Augustus" and the title "Princeps", for his reconstitution of the Roman state.
26BC Augustus prepared another British campaign but is again turned aside, this time by a revolt of the Selassi. After this third failure he resolved never to attempt the island again.
c.5BC Tincommius, successor of Commius the Gaul, became a friend of Rome and received a substantial amount of silver bullion into the bargain. This was re-minted and used to fund a pro-Roman power base in the south of Britain, to counter the growing anti-Roman tendancies of the Catuvellauni in the Thames Valley and Essex.
c.6AD The British king Dubnovellaunus of the the Trinovantes appeared as a suppliant before Augustus in Rome, complaining of the oppression of his tribe by king Cunobelin of the Catuvellauni (Shakespeare's "Cymbeline"), the successor of Tasciovanus.
9AD The Roman governor of Germany, Publius Quinctilius Varus and his three legions [XVII, XVII and XIX] were massacred in the Teutoberger forest by Arminius, warlord of the united Germanic tribes. In Britain, Cunobelinus took advantage of the turmoil this event caused at Rome, and captured the Trinovantian capital of Camulodunum [Colchester]; Augustus was powerless to intervene because at that time no legions stood between the ravaging Germans and Rome itself. The situation in Germany was salvaged by the emperor's step-son Tiberius Claudius Nero, promptly despatched from Rome to the Rhine.
14 Augustus died, handing the running of the empire over to Tiberius, who was induced to adopt his nephew Germanicus [the grandson of Augustus by his daughter Julia] as part of the deal. Tiberius vowed to keep the empire within the limits established by his predecessor, and Britain remained safely outside of political discussion at Rome for the duration of his reign.
19 The popular prince Germanicus dies in Antioch under suspicious circumstances. Tiberius was suspected of having poisoned him through the agent of Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso, governor of Syria, who was later tried for the crime before the senate in Rome and forced to suicide.
21 The Castra Praetoria [Praetorian Camp] built outside Rome by Lucius Aelius Sejanus, commander of the Praetorian Guard.
23 Drusus Caesar, natural son of the emperor Tiberius, poisoned in Rome by his wife Livilla and her lover Sejanus. The crime went undetected at this time, and Sejanus continued in Tiberius' favour.
27 Tiberius retired to Capri, taking with him his astrologer Thrasyllus, and began a life of sordid pleasures. He was never to return to Rome, the running of the state left to the praetorian commander Sejanus.
31 The conspiracy of Sejanus exposed and crushed by Tiberius, who replaced him as praetorian commander with Sertorius Macro. The ageing emperor remained outside the city, soon to return to his island retreat on Capri, where his depraved and licentious behaviour continued.
37 Tiberius smothered in his bed at Micenum by Macro, acting under instructions from Gaius 'Caligula', Tiberius' nephew, now emperor.
40 The prince Adminius, son of Cunobelin of the Catuvellauni expelled from Britain [for his pro-Roman tendancies] and pleads his case before Caligula. The emperor [by this time, barking-mad] conducted a farcical campaign against Britain, never actually leaving the shores of Gaul.
41 Caligula assassinated by Cassius Chaerea during the Palatine Games at Rome. Claudius, the uncle of the mad prince, acclaimed emperor, first by the Praetorians then by the Senate.
42 Following the death of Cunobelin in Britain, and the ascendancy of his anti-Roman sons Togodumnus and Caratacus, Verica, descendant of Commius and king of the Atrebatean kingdom in southern Britain was ousted from Calleva by the Catuvellaunian princes and fled to Rome.
43 Claudius conducted the Roman invasion of Britain with four legions under the generalship of Aulus Plautius; II Augusta, IX Hispana, XIV Gemina and XX Valeria. After an unnoposed landing, running battles were fought in Cantium against British chariot forces under the command first of Togodumnus and then Caratacus. The combined British were defeated at a decisive battle on the River Medway, during which Togodumnus recieved fatal wounds and his younger brother Caratacus forced to flee with the rest of his family through Gloucestershire to Wales. Claudius himself led the victorious Roman army into Camulodunum and spent sixteen days in Britain, holding audience with the leaders of several British tribes, two of them being made clients of Rome; the Iceni [from the fens of Norfolk to the east], and the Brigantes [from the hilly Pennines in the north]. The future emperor, Flavius Vespasianus [Vespasian], was commander of the second legion during the invasion campigns.
43-47 Plautius followed up the capture of Camulodunum with the subjugation of lowland Britain; Vespasian and Legio II Augusta sent south-west to subdue the hostile Belgae and Durotriges, eventually to establish Cogidubnus in his ancestral Atrebatean homelands [with a plush villa on the coast]; Legio IX Hispana were to strike north into the lands of the Corieltauvi between the client kingdoms of the Brigantes to the north and the Iceni to the east; Legio XIV Gemina advanced north-west through Catuvellaunian territory into the Midlands, then to campaign against the Dobunni [of Gloucestershire]; during this time Legio XX Valeria were held in reserve at the former Catuvellaunian capital.
44 Claudius celebrated his triumph over Britain, and took the name "Britannicus", this name was also conferred on his infant son.
47 Aulus Plautius was recalled to Rome to celebrate an ovation. He was replaced as governor of the new Roman province of Britannia by Ostorius Scapula, who imposed the disarmament of all British tribes, quelled their resulting revolt led by the Iceni and sent exploratory forces into North Wales. Most of his governorship was spent fighting against the Silures in South Wales, led in war by the fugitive prince Caratacus.
48 The emperor's wife, the notorious nymphomaniac Messalina, executed for her bigamous marriage to Gaius Silius.
49 Claudius marries his niece, Agrippina, daughter of his brother Germanicus. She has the stoic philosopher Seneca [her ex-lover] recalled from his banishment on Corsica, to act as tutor to her son Lucius Domitius [the future emperor Nero].
49 COLONIA CLAVDIA VICTRICENSIS CAMVLODVNENSIVM: Camulodunum (Colchester, Essex); established under Claudius.
50 Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus adopted by Claudius as his heir and guardian to his son Britannicus, only a few years his junior; he adopted the Claudian family name and the surname Nero [by which name he later becomes infamous]. At about this time, another client kingdom was formed from the pro-Roman Belgae and Atrebates tribes in the south-west of Britain, united under the kingship of Tiberius Claudius Cogidubnus, a young British nobleman educated in Rome.
51 Caratacus defeated by Ostorius Scapula after a heated contest in mid Wales and escaped north-east to the Brigantes. He is put under arrest and turned over to Scapula by their pro-Roman queen Cartimandua. Taken in chains to Rome, he is displayed by Claudius before the people in a triumphal parade and showed such dignity that he was spared the traditional death by strangulation and allowed to live with his family in Rome.
52 Scapula died on campaign against the Silures in South Wales. He was replaced by Didius Gallus, who consolidated the territory already gained, but makes no further conquests. An arch erected in Rome to celebrate Claudius' triumph over 'eleven British kings'.
53 Nero marries his step-sister Octavia.
54 Claudius poisoned by a dish of mushrooms given to him by his wife/niece Agrippina, her son Nero now emperor.
55 Nero poisoned his step-brother Britannicus during dinner and later expelled his mother Agrippina from the imperial palace.
59 Agrippina murdered on Nero's orders. Without her steadying influence, his rule now became more erratic.
60 Prasutagus, king of the Iceni died, dividing his kingdom and fortune between his two daughters and Rome. Seneca and others began calling-in loans to Icenian noblemen. The legionaries sent into the kingdom to keep order actually cause an escalation of the problem. A civil disturbance in the Icenian capital was brutally crushed, the kings daughters raped and his wife Boudicca publicly flogged.
61 The Iceni, the Trinovantes and other British tribes revolted under the leadership of Boudicca; they destroyed the major Romano-British towns of Camulodunum [Colchester], Verulamium [St. Albans] and Londinium [London] before being finally defeated in a pitched battle in the Midlands.
62 Nero first divorced Octavia on the grounds of Barrenness in order to marry his lover, Poppaea Sabina, then has her banished to the island of Pandateria off the Campanian coast. He finally executed Octavia on a trumped-up charge of adultery and had her severed head sent to Rome for Poppaea's pleasure.
64 Fire broke out near the Circus Maximus in Rome and burned for nine days. Nero is reputed to have praised the flames as inspirational and composed a song accompanied by the lyre for the occasion.
65 Seneca and the poet Lucan forced into suicide. Poppaea kicked to death by Nero whilst pregnant with their second child. Nero later appeared in public in Rome, dressed as Niobe.
67 Vespasian sent into Judaea by Nero to quell the recent disturbances.
68 Nero committed suicide near Rome. The senate voted Sulpicius Galba, then procurator of Spain as emperor. Julius Vindex led a revolt in Gaul but was defeated by Verginius Rufus at Vesontio, who refused the emperorship.
69 The Year of the Four Emperors. Following the death of Nero, Rome again entered into a period of civil war during which three men were proclaimed emperor and three emperors were to die. Galba assassinated in the forum in Rome [January 1st] and succeeded by Marcus Salvius Otho, a former favourite of Nero. Lucius Vitellius, governor of lower Germany, proclaimed emperor by his own troops and, backed-up by the legions from upper Germany, marched upon Rome. Otho's army are defeated outside Cremona in the Po valley and Otho commits suicide [April 16th]. Vitellius immediately required to send forces north to quell an uprising in Batavia under Julius Civilis, a batavian nobleman, though a citizen of Rome. Towards the end of the year the eastern legions, unhappy with the choice of their German counterparts, proclaimed as their own emperor Vespasian, then governor of Judaea. The greater part of the eastern army then marched into Italy, and a second battle fought outside Cremona, resulting in defeat for the forces of Vitellius. The defeated emperor was captured by Flavian loyalists and led in chains through the streets of Rome, to be publicly humiliated and then beaten to death [December 20th].
70 Vespasian arrived in Rome from Judaea, leaving his eldest son Titus to continue the campaign against the Jews in Jerusalem. Domitian, the younger son of the new emperor, had been 'living it up' in Rome since the death of Vitellius. The Batavian revolt of Julius Civilis was crushed by the general Petilius Cerialis [later governor of Britain].
78 Gnaeus Julius Agricola appointed governor of Britain by Vespasian. Agricola's first campaign results in the defeat of the Ordovices in North Wales and the conquest of Anglesey.
79 Vespasian died at his summer retreat at Reate, Titus now emperor. Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the Campanian towns of Herculaneum and Pompeii [among others] in a rain of ash. Agricola advances northwards during his second campaign season, advancing by western route from Chester and York. North-west England consolidated by forts and garrisons.
80 Another fire at Rome destroyed the Capitoline temple district. The "Colosseum" or, more properly, the Flavian Amphitheatre, is inaugurated. During his third campaign, Agricola advances north by eastern route as far as the Tay.
81 Titus died, succeeded by his manic brother Domitian. Agricola consolidates the Forth-Clyde line during his fourth campaign season, by establishing forts at Camelon, Croy Hill, Bar Hill and elsewhere.
82 Agricola advanced along west coast from Solway Firth to Galloway peninsula and Ayrshire. The invasion of Hibernia (Ireland) was contemplated but not carried out.
83 Agricola advances through coastal areas around and to the north of the Tay, with the co-operation of the British Fleet. Caledonian tribesmen attack garrison forts and also the fortress of the Ninth Legion. A cohort of auxiliary Usipi mutinies and sails around the north coast of Britain.
84 Agricola advances to the Moray Firth, but, following the resounding victory at Mons Graupius over the Caledonian tribes, is ordered back to Rome by Domitian where he receives triumphal regalia.
86 Legio II Adiutrix withdrawn from Chester in Britain and posted to Dacia.
c.90 The Inchtuthil fortress in Tayside is demolished and abandoned; Legio XX Valeria Victrix return to Chester.
c.95 COLONIA DOMITIANA LINDENSIVM; Lindum (Lincoln, Lincolnshire); established under Domitian.
c.97 COLONIA NERVIA GLEVENSIVM; Glevum (Gloucester, Gloucestershire); established under Nerva.
c.99 Legionary fortress at Isca Silurum (Caerleon, Gwent) rebuilt in stone. Auxiliary forts in Scotland abandoned, and forts throughout Wales rebuilt in stone.
c.103 Legionary fortress at Deva (Chester, Cheshire) rebuilt in stone.
c.107 Legionary fortress at Eburacum (York, North Yorkshire) rebuilt in stone.
c.117 Revolt of the Brigantes tribe in the north of Britain.
122 Emperor Hadrian visits Britain bringing with him Legio VI Victrix, to replace the Ninth legion at York. Aulus Platorius Nepos as governor, begins construction of Hadrian's Wall from the Tyne to the Solway.
138-139 During the reign of Antonine, the governor Quintus Lollius Urbicus crushes a revolt of the Brigantes in North Britain.
139-142 The campaigns of Urbicus proceed into lowland Scotland and are concluded with the building of another barrier, the Antonine Wall, across the Forth - Clyde isthmus.
155 Another rebellion of the Brigantes tribe in the north of Britain is quelled by governor Gaius Julius Verus, who orders the Antonine Wwall be abandoned and Hadrian's Wall reoccupied.
161-165 Unsuccessful campaigns of governor Calpurnius Agricola into Scotland, end with the total abandonment of the Antonine Wall and most of the Scottish Borders region.
180-184 Another revolt in North Britain is suppressed by governor Ulpius Marcellus.
186 Pertinax suppresses mutiny of the armies in Britain.
193 Following the assassination of the emperor Commodus, Pertinax, lately governor of Britain is hailed emperor by the praetorian guard in Rome, but is killed later the same year.
196 British governor Clodius Albinus withdrew vexillations of troops from the British legions in an attempt for the throne, but is defeated in Gaul by Severus, who later becomes emperor. Governor of Britain, Decimus Clodius Albinus, is declared Caesar by Severus. The Maeatae conduct several successful raids into the north of Britain.
197 Governor Virius Lupus restores the situation in Britain, and rebuilds many forts.
197 Britain is divided into two provinces: the peaceful, settled Britannia Prima in the south, and the military Britannia Secunda in the troublesome north.
205-208 Hadrian's Wall is refurbished during the governorship of Aufenus Senecio.
208 Emperor Septimius Severus and his sons Caracalla and Geta arrive in Britain.
209 Severus and Caracalla campaign into central Scotland and recieve the surrender ofthe Caledonian tribes.
210 The Maeatae revolt, which leads to the second Scottish campaign of Severus.
211 Severus dies at York. All Roman troops are withdrawn from Scotland to Hadrian's Wall. Southern Scotland (Borders, Dumfries & Galloway) is organised into a protectorate.
212 Geta is killed by Caracalla at Rome. Caracalla extends Roman citizenship to all free-born provincials.
c.215 COLONIA EBORACENSIVM; Eburacum (York, North Yorkshire); established under Caracalla.
259-274 Britain absorbed into the Gallic Empire of Postumus and his successors.
286/7 Revolt of Carausius the commander of the British fleet, results in his claiming title to the Empire of Britain and North Gaul.
289 Maximian defeated by Carausius in North Gaul.
293 Constantius appointed Caesar in the West, captures Boulogne from Carausius, who is murdered by his minister Allectus, and continues to hold Britain.
296 Constantius crosses the Channel with a substantial force and recovers Britain from Allectus who is killed. The legionary fortresses at Chester and York are rebuilt, along with several forts along the length of Hadrian's Wall.
296 Britain is reorganised into four provinces; ???????
306 Constantius, now emperor, and his son Constantine, campaign in Scotland. Constantius dies at York and Constantine is hailed Caesar in the West by the soldiers of Legio VI Victrix.
314 Three British Bishops attend the 'Council of Arles'.
343 Constans campaigns in Britain and pacifies the Scottish tribes.
360 Emperor Julian sends Lupicinus to Britain as governor to repel raids by the Scots and Picts.
367 Saxons, Attacotti, Picts and Scots attack Britain, the garrison on Hadrian's Wall is betrayed, Nectaridus the Count of the Saxon Shore in Britain is killed, Fullofordes, Duke of Britain is routed and flees to the continent.
369 The situation in Britain is restored by Count Theodosius. The Scots and Picts are repelled, the Wall rebuilt, and signal stations are placed on the north-east coast.
369 A fifth British province, Velantia, is established in the Scottish Borders.
383 Magnus Maximus governor of Britain, revolts and defeats the forces sent by Gratian, taking control of Gaul and Spain.
388 Maximus defeated and killed by Theodosius at Aquileia.
395 Stilicho improves the defences in Britain.
407 The usurper Constantine III, strips Britain of most of it's garrison in order to conquer Gaul.
410 The Visigoths capture Rome (23rd August). Honorius informs Britain to 'look to its own defences'.