Richborough Fort, Ruins Of The Gateway To Roman Britain

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Roman legionaries building a defense wall (Travel Drawn/ Abode Stock)

Richborough Fort, Ruins Of The Gateway To Roman Britain

Two thousand years ago the Richborough Roman Fort stood on the Isle of Thanet, off the coast of Kent, separated from the mainland by the strategically important Wantsum Channel. This area of land, rich in natural resources, had long been inhabited. During the Bronze Age people had buried a hoard there and during the Iron Age a number of settlements had sprung up in the area. Iron Age Britain was ruled by a network of Iron Age tribes, each with their own distinct lands and culture and in Kent the ruling tribe was the Cantiaci. As these tribes traded and expanded, knowledge of them grew amongst the peoples of mainland Europe, and Britannia stirred the interest of one group of people in particular: the Romans.

Landing of Julius Caesar, by John Cassell (Public Domain)

Landing of Julius Caesar, by John Cassell (Public Domain)

Roman intelligence on the people of Britannia, and the natural resources that the island possessed, piqued the interest of Julius Caesar while he was waging wars in Gaul, between 58 and 50 BC, to bring what today is France, Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg under Rome's dominion. So, in 55 and 54 BC, he ventured two expeditions into enigmatic Britannia. Neither of these were real invasions, they were more excursions, but they led to increased contact between the Empire and the tribes of Iron Age Britain. Some tribes such as the Atrebates in the south welcomed the Romans and set up a trading relationship with Rome and began to adopt Roman culture, but others like the Catuvellauni in the north-east remained hostile to their overtures. For a hundred years the Romans were content to largely let Britainnia be, but by the reign of Emperor Claudius (41-51 AD) events in Rome had dramatically increased Britainnia's political significance.


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