Rob asks: "What evidence is there to suggest one legion of the Roman
invasion force had ben in Britain for any period prior to the invasion?
Where do you contend they resided during that time? Surely also if this had
been the case Tacitus or Dio would have made some mention of it?"
The idea that there was a Roman military presence in Britain prior to 43 AD
was summarised in an article in the Independent on 26th June 2005:
Revealed: our friends the Romans did not invade Britain after all
Astonishing new archaeological finds reveal they were already our countrymen
50 years before Claudius spun his way into the history books. Steve
26 June 2005
The history of Britain will have to be rewritten. The AD43 Roman invasion
never happened - and was simply a piece of sophisticated political spin by a
weak Emperor Claudius.
A series of astonishing archaeological findings of Roman military equipment,
to be revealed this week, will prove that the Romans had already arrived
decades earlier - and that they had been welcomed with open arms by ancient
The discovery of swords, helmets and armour in Chichester, Sussex, dates
back to a period between the late first century BC and the early first
century AD- almost 50 years before the supposed invasion. Archaeologists who
have studied the finds believe it will turn conventional Roman history
taught in schools on its head. "It is like discovering that the Second World
War started in 1938," said Dr David Rudkin, a Roman expert leading the work.
The discoveries in Sussex will be revealed on Saturday during a Time Team
special on Channel 4 analysing the Roman invasion. Tony Robinson, presenter
of Time Team, said: "One of the frustrating things with history is that
things become set in stone. We all believe it to be true. It is great to
challenge some of the most commonly accepted pieces of our history."
Dr Francis Pryor, president of the Council for British Archaeology, said it
would prove controversial. "It turns the conventional view taught in all the
textbooks on its head," he said. "It is going to cause lively debate among
The AD43 Roman invasion is one of the best-known events in British history.
More than 40,000 Roman soldiers are believed to have landed in Richborough,
Kent, before carving their way through the English countryside.
The evidence unearthed in Sussex overturns this theory. Archaeologists now
believe that the Romans arrived up to 50 years earlier in Chichester. They
were welcomed as liberators, overthrowing a series of tyrannical tribal
kings who had been terrorising clans across southern England.
Sussex and Hampshire became part of the Roman Empire 50 years before the
invasion that historians have always believed was the birth of Roman
The findings and their implications will be published by Dr Rudkin later
this year. The discoveries have centred on Fishbourne Roman Palace in
Sussex. Artefacts found there in a V-shaped ditch include part of a copper
alloy sword scabbard fitting that archaeologists have dated to the period
between the late first century BC and early first century AD.
Dr Miles Russell, a senior archaeologist at Bournemouth University who has
studied the evidence, said: "All this talk of the Romans arriving in AD43 is
just wrong. We get so fixated on the idea of a single invasion. It is far
more piecemeal. In Sussex and Hampshire they were in togas and speaking
Latin five decades before everyone else."
According to Dr Russell, it was in Emperor Claudius's interest to "spin" the
invasion of AD43 as a great triumph against strong opposition. Claudius had
become emperor two years earlier but his position following the death of
Caligula was tenuous. A bold military adventure to expand the empire would
tighten Claudius's grip in Rome and prove his credentials as a strong
"Every period of history has its own spin doctors, and Claudius spun the
invasion to look strong," Dr Russell said. "But Britain was Roman before
Claudius got here."
Julius Caesar first tried to conquer Britain during the Iron Age in 55BC,
but storms on the journey from Boulogne, in France, to Dover caused Caesar's
two legions to turn back. A force of five legions tried again in May 54BC
and landed in Dover before marching towards London, defeating Cassivellaunus
the King of Catuvellauni in Hertfordshire. News of an impending rebellion in
Gaul caused Caesar to retreat, but not before he had made his mark.
Britain at this stage in history was not one unified country, rather some 25
tribes often at war with each other. Not all tribes joined the coalition to
fight Caesar. For example, the Trinovantes appealed to Caesar to protect
them from Cassivellaunus who had run a series of raids into their territory.
Dr Francis Pryor said that the findings in Sussex prove that relationships
between tribes in southern England and the Romans continued after Caesar's
attempted invasion. "The suggestion that they arrived in Chichester makes
plenty of sense. We were a pretty fierce force but the Romans had a
relatively easy run. This would have been a liberation of a friendly tribe -
not an invasion."
Oxford historian Dr Martin Henig, a Roman art specialist, said that the
whole of southern England could have been a Roman protectorate for nearly 50
years prior to the AD43 invasion. "There is a possibility that there were
actually Roman soldiers based in Britain during the whole period from the
end of the first century BC," he said.
Time Team will unveil their findings in a live two-hour special on Saturday
evening on Channel 4. It will form part of the biggest ever archaeological
examination of Roman Britain running over eight days and involving hundreds
of archaeologists at sites across Britain. The series will investigate every
aspect of the Romans' rule of Britain, from the supposed invasion to their
departure 400 years later.
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