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BRITAIN AS PART OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE

ROMAN ADMINISTRATION AND CONTROL

When the Romans invaded Britain they found that Britain was basically an island of tribes. Each region had its prominent tribal groups and leaders. Celtic tribal society was dominated by chieftains who acted as political leaders. Where possible, Roman administration made use of the different tribal groupings.

The Romans incorporated Britain as a Province, but fierce resistance from some of the native tribes meant that any intention by the Romans of conquering the whole of Britain had to be abandoned. Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine Wall formed the northern frontiers of the Roman Empire and kept the wild Pictish tribes at bay. Rebellions such as that led by Queen Boudicca in A.D. 60-1 caused the Romans problems. It is estimated that the population of Roman Britain was approximately three million. Initially over 50,000 soldiers were based in Britain, but as time progressed this number was reduced to about 20,000.

The Romans exploited Britain for gold, silver and other metals, but Britain benefited from trade with other parts of the Empire, new products and new commercial expertise. The Romans also made a great contribution to imposing an organised and relatively efficient form of government in Britain. Local government was seen by the Romans as a hallmark of civilisation. Local government was more a feature of life in the new Roman towns than in the countryside, so it is not clear what impact Roman government had on those living in more rural areas such as Dartford. By A.D. 212, full Roman citizenship was granted to all residents of the Roman Empire.

 

  

Roman sestertius coin

Click to enlarge

The Roman legal system and administrative system linked the province of Britain with Rome. Britain was administered by a legate with full military authority. The decision-making process was assisted by a provincial council composed of delegates representing the main tribal groupings. Latin was the official language of the Roman Empire, used for trade and communications. Native British (Celtic) dialects probably existed alongside the new language. In religious matters, apart from their dislike of the Druids, Roman tolerance allowed pagan, oriental and mystical worship and belief to co-exist. Just how Romanised the ordinary native population in rural areas became is a matter for debate.

 

Next topic: The impact of the Saxons

 

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