02:04. A Pot Kicked Over.

What follows is very much a ‘work in progress’. I began writing what I thought might become a narrative history of Roman Britain in the late 1980s, and quickly realised that such a thing is not possible. The very best that could be done would be to build up a speculative history; which is to say a narrative that, to the best of my knowledge, could be the way things did actually occur. This, then, is neither fiction nor non-fiction, but intermediate between the two, in the same way that the sources are neither history nor prehistory but what can be termed proto-history. I left things to gather dust from about 2000 to 2011, but I have since taken matters up again and I have been pottering on. I have made additions and alterations, and I have straightened out the footnotes and bibliographies. If you are really interested, leave a message in the comment box below and I will email you an updated version of the text that you require.


Stephen Symons.

Britannia Capta Part 2.


Chapter 02:04.

The Settling Dust



02:04:01. A Pot Kicked Over.

The eagle had descended, ravaged and flown again, leaving a changed political geography of south east Britain.  In 56 BCE Cassivellaunos had been the paramount of much of that area, either directly or indirectly, and his authority had been spreading rapidly. A burgeoning Verulamian empire had covered Middlesex, Essex, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, and possibly parts of Cambridgeshire and Suffolk. He seems to have held some form of power south of the Thames, but again the actuality of Cassivellaunos’ authority must be examined. Caesar’s observations cover an atypical period, a period of extreme stress under which tribes were able to put aside their differences in the face of a common threat.  No such situation had ever happened before.  It was a unique set of circumstances which required, perhaps, a unique response and any comments by Caesar on this matter should not be taken to reflect normal conditions.  Indeed, there is no evidence now for what were “normal” conditions.


Clearly, the warlord had created a substantial powerbase north of the Thames, but while it may be that Cassivellaunos sought to capitalise on the Roman threat to impose a wider hegemony than he had previously commanded, with the withdrawal of that threat the constituent parts of his subject base began to disintegrate back into their more “normal” pattern of petty clans [Millet 1990: p20]. Caesar had, in effect, kicked over a steadily boiling political melting pot. The Verulami had been forced out of Trinovantia, and such authority that Cassivellaunos might have commanded south of the Thames had been broken. The Cantii may have subsequently entered into an alliance with the Trinovantes under the restored dynasty of Mandubracios. Agreements had been reached between Caesar and Cassivellaunos, between Caesar and Mandubracios, and between Caesar and other unidentified chieftains. If, as has been suggested [Frere 1967: p48], the otherwise unattested Cenimagni [Caesar DBG: 5:2] are to be identified with the Iceni or part thereof, then the ancestors of Prasutagos also submitted to Caesar and offered tribute, a situation that would explain much that was occur some generations later. There is no record of any such agreements being honoured by the British after the Roman departure, and it is often assumed that tribute to the Continent ceased almost as soon as the sails of the invaders disappeared over the horizon. There is no record of any such tribute being paid, but on the other hand there is no particular reason to suppose that it was not, and there is circumstantial evidence to suggest that substantial sums flowed across to Rome for many years to come, with far-reaching social and economic effects on the British peoples.


Meanwhile, a completely new political landscape had been created. The imperial ambitions of Cassivellaunos had been dashed, but now Caesar had departed, leaving the dynasts alone again. Not only had he departed from Britain, but the subsequent civil wars of Rome and the struggles of its own warlords would ensure that not only Britain but the whole of northern Gaul would remain effectively free of Roman intervention for another thirty years. Notwithstanding, a new set of rules had been imposed on the British power game. In effect, our metaphorical cooking pot had been re-righted and new and different ingredients had to be sought. It would have to be the work of a new generation to rekindle the fire, and the recipe of Verulamian nationalism would have to alter substantially.


Gaul was subdued as far as the Rhine, and garrisoned by a powerful army group. Britain, on a clear day, was actually in sight of Rome. Given a following wind, an imperial expeditionary force could be in Kent or Sussex within hours. Caesar had shown that it could be done, and what could be done once could be done again and better as the legions now had experience of Britain and British conditions. Both Cassivellaunos and Mandubracios would have been aware of a more or less permanent sword of Damocles hanging over their heads. For the latter, obedience to Caesar’s terms would have been critical, for not only had Rome been instrumental in returning him to his heritage, she was possibly the only safeguard against him being disinherited again. Cassivellaunos was unlikely to rebel with the threat of Rome hanging over his head. While these two, at least, endured, the status quo would be maintained. Despite that internal strife would soon draw Roman gaze inwards, despite that the northern garrisons would be reduced through the troop movements of the civil wars, Rome was now a permanent and direct influence on British internal affairs.


The Gallic Wars and the imposition of Roman rule up the Atlantic coast from Gibralter to the Rhine had far-reaching effects on Britain besides their impact on internal power struggles. With the destruction of the naval power of the Veniti in 56 BCE, traditional trade patterns across the Channel were severely disrupted. Those once rich would have become impoverished, and some poor individuals would have been considerably advantaged with all the political upheaval that follows such a shifting of the balance of power. The lucrative tin trade of the Dumnonii was brought to its knees, and there is no evidence for cross channel trade between Armorica and south west Britain for a generation or more after about 50 BCE.


The destruction of the Venetic fleet left a vacuum in cross-channel trade, a gap that was filled by the Coriosolites of northern Armorica. Alet, at the heart of their territory and hard by modern St. Malo, had been a thriving port-of-trade since about 80 BCE [Langouet 1984: p72] and the Coriosolites obviously managed to maintain an effective merchant marine even after the debâcle at Morbihan Bay. Perhaps they had refused to take the side of commercial rivals who had dominated the maritime trade, seeing in their probable defeat a chance to exploit the trade for themselves. A thriving two-way trade on the Alet – Channel Islands – Hengistbury head axis is clearly attested [Langouet 1984: p73. Sellwood 1987: p138] on the basis of the large numbers of Coriosolitan coins found at Hengistbury Head and the substantial quantities of Durotrigan coins at Alet and at Le Catillon in Jersey. Items from further regions channelled through the port, such as the exotic Aquitanian wares which often accompanied the trade in Italian wines [Rigby 1987: p280]. Despite the defeat of Armorican forces under Viridorix by a Roman army under Sabinus at Le Petit Clelland [Langouet 1987: p71] in 56 BCE, the social integrity of the Coriosolites seems to have been retained and the Alet – Hengistbury Head trade throve until about 50 BCE [Ibid: p76].


The reason for this apparently abrupt cessation  is conjectural, but it is possible that Alet, relatively isolated from the rest of Gaul compensated for this with an augmented relationship with Britain. With the increasing Romanization of Gaul, south west Britain would have increasingly been seen as enemy territory, and it is possible that the authorities, when they were able to get around to it, put a stop to a trade with a people who were in fact harbouring fugitives from Roman justice. Rome wanted to ensure that the benefits of Roman trade were directed to demonstrated friends of Rome. Despite the severing of this link, Alet continued to trade, although later commerce was directed more towards the south east and to central Gaul. Occupation at Alet continued for a further sixty years or so, during which period the people lived peacefully in their traditional tribal manner. The main settlement, however, came to an abrupt halt in about 15 – 20 CE as a result, perhaps, of the Gaulish uprisings of that time. The port area, known as Reginca, continued as a small harbour for many centuries [Langouet 1987: p72 – 73].


The Durotriges of Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire suffered as a result of what amounted to an attempt at a trade embargo. Prior to the invasion, Armorican influence had been encroaching on the latter area between 100 – 70 BCE [Frere 1967: p21]. This most probably came from the Suessiones, people subject to the Gallic High King Diviciacus or his predecessors, whom Caesar reports as having authority on both sides of the Channel [Caesar: DBG: 3:4]. The nature of this authority is moot, but it was not necessarily direct rule. The Armorican peoples were culturally quite different from their Belgic neighbours to the north, and their society was essentially orientated towards an agrarian economy. Armorican and south west Britain had strong ties, but they were essentially those of a core and periphery with Armorica the more advanced and hence the more senior area [Nash 1984: p93]. Armorica, closer to the direct trade routes to the Mediterranean, drew its trading goods in the form of dependent labour and raw materials from a south western British periphery, which in turn received a range of luxury goods from the core area. The result of this situation had a profound influence over the south west of Britain as it provided the luxury and prestige goods that supported and entrenched the local social elites [Nash 1984: p93].


Some political cohesion began to evolve, facilitated by a thriving cross channel trade with Armorica via such ports as Alet, and the Durotriges prospered as they, in their turn became a core area for even more remote peripheries in Gloucestershire and Cornwall. There was relative peace in the area as their economic commitments made heavy demands on agricultural labour and craftsmen, since the producing population had not only to support the society at it accustomed level of affluence, but to produce the materials necessary to sustain profitable foreign relationships as well [Nash 1984: p97]. Such a society does not indulge in warfare if possible as the large mobilisation of forces for such a purpose interferes with production. Fighting forces are limited, in general, to the household warriors of the great nobles for whom limited warfare was a sport rather than an economic necessity. But this prosperity was shattered with the destruction of the trade links.


A substantial influx of refugees from the Continent at the time of Caesar’s Gallic Wars, largely members of the Armorican tribes who would have expected to find friends if not relatives, may have been politically destabilising. With Augustus’ German campaigns in the last decades of the century, troops began to concentrate on the Rhine with the result that trade began to move more and more in that direction. Since ancient days, one of the major trade arteries to the west had been from Massilia through Toulouse and the Carcasonne Gap, then down the Garonne to the Atlantic. Goods were then shipped to Alet and thence across the Channel to Hengistbury Head and Mount Batten, and later to Poole. The sharp reduction of this trade in favour of the Rhône-Saone-Moselle route caused the gradual extinguishing of the old trade connection, and although it never died out completely [Wait 1985: p259], the result was an increasing emphasis on a Rhine-Thames-Colne axis.


Trade dropped away and the Durotriges were thrown more upon their own resources and those of their hinterland. Increasingly impoverished, they were forced to abandon their gold standard and change over to a silver coinage [Frere 1967: p23]. This would indicate a decline in the wealth of chieftains, who were the only users of gold coinage, and an increasing use of small change as the economy shrank and minor transactions became relatively more commonplace. The coins degenerated in both standard of execution and in metal quality [Ibid: p51]. On the other hand, the hillforts of the Durotriges continued to be strengthened and enlarged, indicating increasing social stress and political fragmentation. Ominously, the territory of the Durotriges contains one of the largest concentrations of hillforts in Britain.


Trade did not disappear entirely. There is evidence [Webster 1978: p38] that commerce continued to arrive from the south via Poole  and Mt. Batten and perhaps around the Dumnonian peninsula to the Severn Estuary. But the political picture is one of rapidly disintegrating cohesion. With the decline of Durotrigan prosperity consequent to the Gallic Wars, the normal process of political unification under the rule of Divitiacos and his successors ground to a halt. The tribe continued to fragment politically under a large number of rival chiefs, each of whom held sway over a tiny territory with his stronghold in the centre. This reversion to earlier, traditional patterns of petty independence can best be described as an herocracy, a system under which many heroic chieftains maintain their petty fiefs by force of arms, and brigandage and feuding replaced trade. A warrior tradition of defiance to Rome, borne maybe of anger at the loss of their wealth and power, and nourished by a continual stream of refugees, continued until Titus Flavius Vespasianus crossed the River Frome at the head of XX Legio in 44 CE [Frere 1967: p51].


Not all fared badly. The Verulami and Cantii, the peoples who had resisted Caesar most strenuously, were forced to pay tribute and the imposition was most likely a heavy one. The lack of wine amphorae in their territories in an age of on rapidly increasing wine consumption may indicate a lack of funds to purchase the coveted consumer goods that flowed across the Channel. Wine amphorae, significantly, are abundant in Trinovantia. The Trinovantes under Mandubracios enjoyed considerable prosperity and were able to afford these consumer goods due to imperial favour and their command of the sea access to the Continent. This in turn suggests a monopoly over the distribution of prestige trade goods, and a tight control over that distribution. The Verulami, in fact, were starved of such desirable things, which would have increased tension between the two groups considerably. The sudden increase in both the numbers and quality of Trinovantian coinage would indicate a new-found wealth, deriving both from increased trade and from refugees from Gaul who brought their wealth with them. Trinovantian territory expanded at the expense of the Verulami. Given the respite provided by Caesar, the former tribe began to reclaim territory previously lost to Cassivellaunos, presumably because the new wealth allowed Trinovantian chieftains to bestow greater largesse on their retainers, increasing their loyalty, numbers and effectiveness. Mandubracios eventually commanded the Thames littoral from the Isle of Dogs and the northern estuary as far as the Alde, with all the riverine routes such as the Colne, Deben, Blackwater, Stour and Crouch giving ready access to a rich hinterland. It is also probable that northern Kent, both east and west of the Medway, was under his political control at least in some measure.


Trade continued and with it the formation of both political and kindred alliances, giving the restored and now client realms of the Trinovantes, Iceni and the peoples of eastern Hertfordshire increased prestige and hence a much expanded client base upon which their security and legitimacy depended. Much territory formerly dominated by the Verulami returned to Trinovantian sway, and the other tribes of the central area reclaimed former lands or reasserted their independence.


But if trade fell away on the south coast in favour of the eastern seaboard, the refugees continued to flow into the south with far reaching effects. The most noteworthy of these newcomers, of course, was Commios the Atrebate. Reaching Sussex in about 50 BCE, he established himself on the south coast, probably basing himself first at Trundle near Chichester. Using his knowledge of the more sophisticated Romano-Gaulish societies of the Continent, and drawing many of the scattered, disorganised and disparate refugees under his sway, he established a polity that was the nearest that Britain had yet seen to a true kingdom, the founding of which had two effects. Firstly it provided a unifying focus for the Belgae of the south who may not have been particularly numerous in terms of the general population. Secondly, it quickly formed a barrier to any expansionist ambitions as may have been harboured by resurgent dynasts to the north and east.


And Commios was not the only refugee, albeit he was arguably the most significant individual for the development of later society. Others followed him, many preceded him. From coin finds in Kent and north of the Thames [Morris 1982: p34], it is clear that substantial numbers of Nervii also made their homes in Britain in these two areas. They settled in a narrow band extending from Luton through Bedfordshire and Essex to Colchester and Clacton, the territory of the Verulami and Trinovantes, and in Kent from Oldbury west of Maidstone and along the Downs as far as the Thames Reaches at Long Ditton [Ibid: p34]. In these areas they dwelt and built their characteristic tombs for their aristocratic dead: elaborate mounds modelled on Roman prototypes and only found elsewhere on the borders of the homeland of the Nervii west of the River Scheldt, but not within that homeland. With them also came numbers of the Eburones from their old home on the east bank of the Meuse [Ibid: p35], next door to the Nervii. Caesar himself had presided over their destruction, as their chieftain, Ambiorix, could not be forced into submission and preferred to flee [Caesar: DBG: 8:2]. The Eburones were massacred and the survivors took ship for Britain, probably under Ambiorix. Their lands were taken over by the Tongri, and those who remained behind took to building the peculiar tombs mentioned above, a custom that seems to have been imitated by their British relatives, indicating continued communication and community of religious thought.


These folk did not long retain their individual identities, however, and soon merged with the more powerful Belgic-influenced peoples already established in southern Britain [Morris 1982: p35]. And other forces were at work. Social, cultural and economic imperatives were bringing the political cooking pot slowly to the boil once more.




02:04:02. Then Fall Cassivellaunos.


In the weeks and months that followed the departure of Caesar, Cassivellaunos was a frustrated man, his ambitions curbed on both approaches. He was contractually prevented from expanding eastwards against the Trinovantes, who now enjoyed the favour of Rome by virtue of their submission to Caesar, and he could not move against the Atrebates to the south and west. His losses had been heavy. The resistance had cost him dearly in men and goods, and continuing tribute was making inroads into what little of the latter he may have had left. The arrival of Commios and his allies would soon put to rest such ambitions upon Atrebatean territory that may yet have lingered in Cassivellaunos’ heart, and indeed he may have been put upon the defensive. The old hillfort at Wheathampstead was abandoned, never to be occupied again, and a new settlement built at Prae Wood to overlook the crossing of the Ver. Clearly an eventual showdown with the Atrebates was anticipated, as the new settlement was far better sited strategically to control movements to and from the west.


It is impossible to know what held Cassivellaunos in check. Fear of Caesar and fear of Rome would have played a part, but the sense of obligation due to words given under oath cannot be too strongly emphasised, and the effects of war losses compounded with the demands of tribute would have been crippling. Probably all these factors played a part in his quiescence and the possibility of retaliation from Rome should he fail to observe his sworn undertakings was a real fear: contact with the Continent was now regular and news could travel quickly. When Caesar died in 44 BCE, one of Cassivellaunos’ constraints may have vanished, and there can be no doubt that the focus of Roman attention was shifted far from some remote and misty island on the edge of the world. The assassination, and the ensuing turmoil as Octavius, Antonius and Lepidus, forming the second triumvirate, strove to bring order to the Empire and then strove amongst themselves for pre-eminence, diverted attention from territories that had been technically conquered but were otherwise unavailable as yet to imperial exploitation. It would have been a good opportunity for a little judicious revenge-taking on the part of Cassivellaunos. Rome was busy with her own woes and inter-tribal affairs on a some distant island were of small account.


Fear of Rome, fear of Caesar, shortages of men and money, the demands of tribute, all played their part in the eclipse of the Verulami. But the most savage blow had been to Cassivellaunos’ authority. He had been beaten, and his people were in retreat. His legitimacy as paramount had been irreparably undermined. Caesar had been the bane of Cassivellaunos and of the Verulami.


Whatever his position amongst a possible pan-tribal confederation created to confront the menace of Caesar and his legions, Cassivellaunos was no doubt a king in the Celtic sense amongst his own people north of the Thames. As such he had certain religious and mystical responsibilities. As king he was, in a sense, transitional between this world and the next, a liminal being with a foot in both worlds, natural and supernatural. Although he himself was a man, and would not have been regarded as divine in himself, his position nevertheless was sacred and would have been of supreme importance to his people. As king he had at some stage undergone a ritual of union with a tutelary deity, making himself responsible for and ineluctably linked with the productivity of his land and the prosperity of his people. Such tutelary deities were usually but not exclusively goddesses [Wait 1985: p266], and Cassivellaunos may have been mystically linked with a god as his name would appear to mean “lover of (or beloved of) Belinos”. His defeat at the hands of Caesar may have been seen as producing a reduction in his powers and may even have toppled him from authority. His fate is unrecorded, but surely his fir flaithemhan, his Truth of the Ruler, as the ancient Irish would put it, his continuing right to rule and the rightness of his rule, [Wait 1985: p228] would have been thrown into question if not actually abrogated.


Cassivellaunos may have continued to rule over a diminished people for some time, perhaps some years, but his ascendancy was over. He may have survived to die of natural causes, or he may have suffered another fate, for the rules governing Celtic kingship were stern. The evidence would suggest [Wait 1985: p228] that kings who were overtaken by their ritual constraints, their gessa [pronounced “gay-sha”], suffered death at the hands of a successor, often by burning in a house at samhain [pronounced “so-wain”]. This was the great Celtic feast of summer’s end, when the power of the sun and, by attribution, that of the King, was waning and the strength of the gods of darkness, winter and the underworld grew great (Squire 1905: p40). The King is dead, long live the King. His death would only have increased the turmoil amongst the Verulami. Without doubt his own people would have supplied many of the warriors for the war against Caesar, and they would have been in the forefront of the fray with their Lord which would in turn have lead to disproportionately heavy losses. There was a severe shortage of young noble warriors eligible for the succession to the kingship, which would mean bitter squabbles between rival factions, which in turn would lead to further fragmentation of the tribe [Partridge 1981: p354], leaving it vulnerable to domination by external rivals.


There is mounting evidence that a new grouping of peoples was emerging around the Hertfordshire-Essex border, centred along the populous and prosperous Lea Valley. Judging from burials of this period, the peoples of the Lea Valley – the Bibroci, perhaps, and/or the Cassi, and/or the Ancalites – and its environs began to prosper, perhaps coalescing into a new super-grouping [Partridge 1981: p354]. These burials, typified by those at Welwyn and Welwyn Garden City, were of unprecedented lavishness and an approximate area of domination by this new coalition can perhaps be reconstructed [Dunnett 1975: p11].


The Lea valley seems to have become a heartland. To the west was Verulamian territory, to the east Trinovantian. The territory straddled the river, curving west to include the Welwyn area then north east along the Icknield Way to Baldock, across the Way to Wandlebury and on to Elvedon and the tip of Cambridgeshire. The line then turned east to Haskedon and the river Alde, where it merged with the Trinovantian sphere of influence. Mandubracios may have established his seat at Braughing, but he or his successor, Addedomaros, the first British potentate to stamp his name on his coinage, shifted the centre of power to Camulodunon shortly after the death of Caesar. Whether this shift was brought about by pressure from an emergent local militarism or was simply in line with a need to be nearer the link with the Continent is impossible to say but it is possible that the new grouping overran the oppidum, annexing it and driving the Trinovantes back towards the east. Lesser tribes may also have been driven back or absorbed in the process, as the oppidum at Welwyn, an important centre only sixteen kilometres from Verulamion, was also taken. Much of the old Verulamian territory was brought under the new aegis.


This new grouping was the historically attested Cattuvellauni. In origin they may have had some association with Cassivellaunos, as the two names are the same, one singular the other plural, and may have coalesced around that chieftain’s clan irrespective of whether he headed it or not. Indeed, his name “Cassivellaunos” sounds suspiciously like a title rather than an actual personal name and may have been used much as, in later years, leaders of Scottish clans would be known as, for instance, “The MacKenzie” or “The MacDonald”. Taking advantage of the new social order, they began to expand. The primary mechanism for this expansion was warfare.


But while warfare was the most convenient and accessible means of gaining wealth and prestige, the pattern was changing as the pressures of Continental and Roman concepts gathered momentum. Increasingly, trade would become more important than warfare, for only through the wealth that overseas trade with a burgeoning economy such as Rome’s brought in the form of prestige goods, could dominance be maintained. Without doubt warfare was the primary means of establishing dominance, but by the latter half of the last century BCE the emerging stability of the tribal groups would suggest that that dominance was maintained as much by martial display as by actual military activity [Millet 1990: p35]. The military symbolism in much of the recovered high-quality metalwork and the fact that much of the weaponry and armour was more for display than for functional use reinforces this notion. Further, much of the equipment is equestrian in nature, indicating a preserve of the elite, and its obviously very high value together with its disposal in tombs and waterways indicates a need for conspicuous consumption by a ruling group anxious to advertise and reinforce its pre-eminence. The ritual and spectacular character of the material supports the idea that display rather than active warfare was the underlying principle of social dominance [Ibid: p36]


Military power was, and would remain, crucial to the developing ascendancy of particular groups. But trade and commerce, with the increasingly sophisticated diplomatic relationships that these demanded, were the key to development in the long term. Power, in other words, could be achieved by military means, but it could only be held by the maintenance of a monopoly over trade in prestige goods [Millet 1990: p38], a system supporting the hypothesis of dominance requiring continual and conspicuous consumption. Trade, then, was not fundamentally economic: it had much more to do with social control.


Cassivellaunos died at last, perhaps in the third decade BCE, and the identity of his successor is a matter of pure speculation. Tradition [Monmouth: HRB: 4:11] would have it that one Tenventios, the nephew of Cassivellaunos and brother of Androgeos/Mandubracios, succeeded his uncle to the “throne” of the Cattuvellauni. The coin record reveals that the next identifiable potentate in what is presumed to have been the territory of Cassivellaunos is Tasciovanos. Who Tasciovanos was, and what his relationship with Cassivellaunos, if any, is, once again, a matter of pure speculation. He may have been a member of Cassivellaunos’ clan, in which case he would have been a relative, for, although Celtic society did not practice primogeniture, succession was usually the preserve of one powerful family. Again, the name of Cassivellaunos may have held more mana than might be expected and despite his defeat at the hands of Caesar he may have managed to reimpose some measure of authority, expiating his earlier shame. If that was the case, the next paramount may well have wanted to align himself with the mana of the former chief by using his name or the name of his clan.


Tenventios, who is attested only upon the dubious of authority of Geoffrey of Monmouth, may have been interregnal between Cassivellaunos and Tasciovanos, or he may have been a garbled memory of Tasciovanos himself. Surely his reign would have been relatively brief as the earliest coins of Tasciovanos, the first such to bear the name of a Cattuvellaunian potentate, indicate his accession at about 20 BCE. If Tenventios was indeed a brother of Mandubracios, this would accord with the probability of an on-going and vicious internecine struggle for control of the Cattuvellauni, the Trinovantes, and the residue of the Verulami, by members of the same dynasty. A distinct lack of filial devotion is a hallmark of such struggles and it is quite possible that Tenventios fell to his own cousin or brother, Tasciovanos.




4:03. Emergent States: Tasciovanos and Addedomaros.


            Tasciovanos, however, is no figure of tradition or legend: he existed in recorded fact. He was only the second British potentate to have his name inscribed on his coinage, and that he ruled, at least in part, from Verulamion is attested by the mint mark VER on many of his coins [Morris 1982: p35].


            The date of his accession to power, if indeed it can be called that, is unknown, but coin [Goodburn 1981: p127] analysis would indicate that by circa 17 BCE he was sufficiently entrenched to be able to start issuing his own currency. The date of the death of Cassivellaunos is likewise speculative, but it is known that negotiations between Augustus and the British peoples were taking place in 26 BCE [Dio liv:25:2], possibly over the matter of the vectigalia imposed by Caesar [Caesar: DBG: 5:22] and presumably paid regularly by those upon whom it had been imposed. This accord had been struck between Caesar and Cassivellaunos and was an understanding between two individuals, an obligation under the client-patron relationship common to both societies, and there is no reason to assume that it necessarily survived them. Some twenty years before, Caesar’s riddled body had fallen at the feet of Pompey’s statue, but Cassivellaunos may well have continued to abide by his agreement, honouring to the end an oath taken with perhaps a little flexibility to allow for some revenge. The ancient client-patron relationship was, after all an integral part of both social systems, and a mainstay of social cohesion.


            The refusal of the British to negotiate with Augustus in 26 BCE may well have been linked to Roman demands for continuance of tributary payments that had been interrupted by the death of one of the principals and the argument may have been over the differing perceptions of tributary obligations. Celtic paramountcy was personal, a result of the energy and enterprise of one individual, and duties and obligations between subordinate and superordinate may have been deemed to have ceased with the death of the individuals concerned. The Roman view of the matter was different, as Roman political power was institutional and vectigal was seen to be quite specifically a tax paid to the State [Lewis & Short 1989], under the terms of which the tribute would be expected to continue until such time as it was rescinded. A marked characteristic of Rome’s expansion was a habit of claiming permanent influence over the affairs of those who had opposed her unsuccessfully, whether great or small. To each of her opponents in succession she adopted a tone of superiority based on her knowledge of her own force, and once her right to dictate had been acknowledged by the victim that right was never withdrawn [Sands 1908: p151]. The British were finding that things were not quite as simple as might have once been the case and they were in something of a bind. This could well explain the nature of the disagreement, and may suggest a terminus ante quem for the death of Cassivellaunos.


            The demise of the old warrior was more than the death of a leader: it may well have signalled the final disintegration of the Verulami, the hypothetical pan-tribal grouping that he had welded together by force of personality and arms. Yet, if he died in 26 BCE, and Tasciovanos was not fully entrenched until 17 BCE, there must have been an interregnal period of a decade during which factionalism was rife and various leading nobles vied for paramountcy. The older tradition of a fragmented society composed of small-scale units each under its own petty chief and ruling elite [Millet 1990: p20] was yielding to Continental political innovations under which rule was to become increasingly centralised. Tribal groupings began to coalesce in greater size and fewer numbers as Tasciovanos and his contemporaries jockeyed for supremacy.


            The process may not necessarily have been entirely violent, and there is evidence that rivals could accommodate to each other, perhaps in acceptance of political realities beyond their control. Rivals became associates as the tribal grouping later known as the Cattuvellauni began to coalesce west of the River Lea. The chieftain Andoco, whose coinage tends to be distributed to the west of the Cattuvellaunian area [Goodburn 1986: p97], is later found to have become a partner with Tasciovanos and the fact recognised in jointly inscribed coinage. The tribes who had hived off from the old Verulami grouping and who surrendered to Caesar would have had to pay tribute, but this traffic was a two way stream and the coveted manufactures and trade goods of the Empire began to make their way along the Rivers Ver and Lea to such centres as Braughing, Welwyn and Puckeridge. Rich burials around the former two sites would indicate major settlements of these tribes [Partridge 1981: p354], and it would be reasonable to assume that both Tasciovanos and Andoco were members of the nobility of these groups [Ibid: p354].


            While trade and diplomacy were becoming increasingly important tools of internal political consolidation and external territorial expansion, warfare was still the ultimate weapon. As noted above, the oppidum at Welwyn may have been overrun fairly soon after the departure of Caesar, and this would have smarted with the ousted Trinovantes. On the other hand, the newly-formed coalition of Cattuvellaunia had expansionist ideas: the wealth of Trinovantia and its access to Continental trade was most enticing.


            The youth and war-like fervour of Tasciovanos had a rival to the east in the person of Addedomaros, possibly the son of Mandubracios or at least a member of his family. The old king had died and power had devolved upon his successor, the first of the princes of Britain to have his name inscribed on his coinage and the fact is significant. The coinage of earlier regimes had been uninscribed, indicating an identification with the group rather than with an individual. That Addedomaros, and soon after him, Tasciovanos, could have struck personalised coinage, suggests that a fundamental change was taking place in society. The status of the potentate was increasing and he, rather than the tribe, was the focus of power. Authority was shifting from its earlier collegiate base to that of an autocrat. The concept of political kingship, with its attendant centralisation of power, was evolving rapidly in Britain thanks to increasing contact with the Continent after a long period of relative isolation. Legitimation of authority was a primary concern for any autocrat, and coinage was in ideal vehicle for propaganda. Addedomaros took up a career of imperialism.


            His earliest territorial base was that area inherited from Mandubracios, a sweep of territory from the Essex and Suffolk coast that flowed up into north east Hertfordshire and perhaps parts of Cambridgeshire. His expansionist ambitions extended his influence south into Kent and west up the Thames [Cunliffe 1978: p78]. He clashed with the Iceni, or at least threatened them, and it may be that Wandlebury and Clare Castle were strong points built up by the Iceni to check Trinovantian forward policies [Dunnet 1975: p29]. A clash between Tasciovanos and Addedomaros was inevitable, and probably Addedomaros started hostilities. He may have felt secure in that he had Roman backing inherited from Mandubracios, and which he would have renewed without question as insurance against western expansion, while Tasciovanos and the Cattuvellauni were still arguing the toss with Rome over the matter of the vectigalia. He certainly would have been troubled by the increasing political cohesion beyond the Lea, and covetous of the wealth of Braughing, Verulamion and Welwyn. He certainly would have begun his moves before Tasciovanos had fully consolidated his authority.


            Roman power was now a real factor in British politics, and Tasciovanos would have had to consider this in his policies. No doubt there was trouble on the borders, a bickering at the fords, and skirmishes along the boundaries at first but before too long an incursion in strength would have been imminent. Tasciovanos would have had to have considered Roman thought on warfare as well as Celtic ideas. When Addedomaros finally assailed him, he had a casus belli to present to Rome to justify his own invasion of Trinovantia and to preclude any Roman intervention on the part of Addedomaros. The nature and course of this war is now lost, but it would seem that Tasciovanos prevailed, and it may be that from this time we may date his establishment as paramount. Success in war was the sine qua non of the ambitious Celtic potentate.


            He may have had his pretext, but as relationships with Rome were still in something of a state flux, it was prudent to wait until Rome was distracted elsewhere. His opportunity arrived in due time, and it has been suggested [Frere 1987: p29] that Tasciovanos began his counter-attack on the east in 17 BCE, a year that would neatly dovetail with the interpretation of the coin record. Emboldened by the heavy defeat suffered by the Romans on the Rhine in that year [Suetonius: 12 Caesars: Augustus:23], he calculated that they would have been too busy to worry about a petty intertribal squabbles beyond the edge of the world. Perhaps he had other motives besides an invasion of Trinovantia. Maybe his move was also a deliberate and calculated trial of nerves with Rome, an attempt to see just how far he could push his luck.


His target was the Camulodunon area between the Colne and the Roman River. The Sheepen area which was later to become the heart of the great oppidum of Cunobelinos, was then only lightly settled, but the ancient religious site at Gosbeck’s made the place of enormous significance spiritually and politically, and the proximity to the coast made it commercially desirable as well. His attack succeeded and the Trinovantes were overwhelmed. A rare sequence of Tasciovanos’ coins bears the mint mark CAMVL in testimony to his achievement.


But Tasciovanos had overreached himself. Such coins are very few and no more appear, a fact that would indicate that the occupation of Camulodunon was short-lived and would argue that the Trinovantes appealed to Rome, and Augustus responded [Frere 1967: p42]. Augustus himself was in Gaul in 16 BCE to oversee the aftermath of the defeat of his legate Marcus Lollius at the hands of an alliance of Usipetes and Tencteri. The defeat had been a very serious matter [Suetonius: 12 Caesars: Augustus:23], but Augustus was able to bring the rebels to heel quickly. He had no cause to welcome and expanding and potentially anti-Roman group on his opposite shore and wanted the status quo maintained, and he had the forces at hand to do something about it if need be. Moreover, he had an obligation to a treaty associate. No doubt there was tension in the imperial court, as this was seen as a test case of Roman authority over the turbulent British. He sent word to Tasciovanos warning of his displeasure and threatening to back up his treaty obligations with Trinovantia, and then, no doubt, sat back to await the reply with some misgivings. Although he had the forces to make good his word, he would not have wanted to actually carry out his threat as considerable time had passed since Caesar’s expeditions. To actually impose his will by force would have meant virtually an entirely new invasion of Britain rather than the despatch of a simple punitive force, a horrendously complex and expensive operation that he could do without. But he would if he had to: it was a matter imperial dignitas and auctoritas. Acquiescence by the Cattuvellauni would prove that Rome had power and authority even beyond Ocean, and defiance would have to be met with the sternest measures, even if that involved a bloody and hideously costly invasion.


It was a game of bluff and counter-bluff, and Augustus upped the ante too far for Tasciovanos to match him. The bluff worked and Tasciovanos withdrew from Camulodunon after less than a year in occupation. Augustus, no doubt breathing a sigh of relief, was able to get back about his business of reorganising the finances of Gaul. It may be in recognition of this moral and diplomatic victory that the poet Horace wrote these words in about 15 BCE:


“To you monster-filled Ocean that roars around Britain pays heed.” [Horace: Odes 1v:14:47-8].


Tasciovanos was not entirely beaten however, and he seems to have held onto some, at least, of Trinovantia, and to have extended his rule across into northern Kent at least as far as the Medway [Morris 1982: p35], thus regaining control of the important Thames crossing at Gravesend lost to Addedomaros in the early stages of the war, and perhaps even gaining control of the strategically vital Richborough Harbour. Braughing, if not taken before, was now certainly held, suggesting a new frontier extending due south from Great Chesterford to the Thames. Unable, for the moment, to expand eastwards, he may have pushed northwards against the Iceni and perhaps Coritani, and possibly west and south against the Atrebates and the Commii. Care would have had to have been taken in his dealings with the latter, however, as these also were recently friends of Rome and would have to be treated accordingly. Tasciovanos himself seems now to have made peace with Rome and reached some sort of accord as is suggested by his currency. Increasingly the motifs on his coins take on distinctly Roman connotations: a figure seated in a chair with standards before and behind [Goodburn 1986: p92, Cat/No 12], a laureate head of the king himself [Ibid: p92, Cat/No11], a spread eagle [Ibid: p124, Cat/No 23], a centaur playing a double pipe [Ibid: p124. Cat/No 35]. Much independence of thought continued, however, as the silver coin adorned with what appears to be a representation of the winged horse Pegasus wearing a typically Celtic horned pony-cap indicates an ability to adapt classical models to more “user-friendly” local styles [Henig 1974: p374]. The forces that would one day generate the synthesis of both native and foreign traditions into a new tradition – Romano-British – were already at work.


The true nature of the relationship between Tasciovanos, Addedomaros, the Commii and Rome is unclear, but the emergent pro-Roman status of the south east, while perhaps not true client states, were certainly allied to Rome in a looser, more informal manner [Millet 1990: p20].


Meanwhile, Addedomaros continued to rule his somewhat smaller realm. The problem of the rivalry between the Trinovantes and Cattuvellauni did not go away, and a small-scale see-saw war continued for control of the rich farmlands of Essex and the strategically and economically vital coasts of the Thames Estuary. It was now a minor matter, however, and the was no longer any threat of mutual invasion on any serious scale. He established his seat once more at Camulodunon, at the old settlement at Gosbecks. The oppidum grew in size and importance in line with a trend across the south east as the increased permanence and importance of tribal organisation defined an increased role for the leaders and an enhanced need for a tribal focus [Millet 1990: p25].


Addedomaros continued to prosper. Peace – more or less – was restored within the realm, and he seems to have endured for ten or more years after the restoration of Camulodunon and the stand-off engineered by Augustus. Ultimately he died in the final decade of the century and was buried with due pomp.


Where was he buried? At Lexden, near Sheepen Hill, there is a cemetery which contains a large earthern tumulus, indicating the last resting place of a very important personage. The deceased was cremated after the rite common to many Belgic noblemen and the ashes placed within the tomb along with numerous and rich grave goods. The fragmentary mortal remains of at least one individual were interred there, a fairly strongly built man of at least forty [Foster 1986: p133ff].


It is possible, in fact probable, that the tomb was despoiled within a few years of its construction [Foster 1986: p163ff] but there can be no doubt that its furnishings and goods were opulent. Besides a collection of wine amphorae and luxury items of expensive manufacture, there was a large chest bound with iron, a hauberk of chainmail, and what might have been a cloak or tunic of cloth-of-gold. All had been smashed or hacked apart, ritually “killed” to enable them to accompany their owner [Dunnet 1975: p17] on his journey to the otherworld. Of considerable significance, however, was a silver medallion of Augustus set in bronze and datable to 17 BCE [Foster 1986: p90ff], clearly a prized personal possession. A diplomatic gift from Roman friends, a token of high honour? Perhaps this Romanised British nobleman had travelled to the Continent on commercial or diplomatic business, maybe even to Rome itself, where he may have won friends in the highest places and the medallion was some token of official recognition. It may not be too romantic to suggest that perhaps this man had travelled to Gaul at the head of a delegation to Augustus in 17 BCE, seeking the Emperor’s help in the repulsion of the invaders who had occupied his homeland and subjugated his people. Upon his departure, the Emperor may have, with his own hand, bestowed this effigy of himself upon the nobleman as a token of friendship.


Of particular significance are two pieces found within the tomb: a bronze lamp standard or candelabrum [Foster 1986: p67], a piece of grave furniture that would be most unusual for a Celt but entirely commonplace for a Roman, and a sella curulis. This item [Ibid: p188], the curule chair, was the token of the highest Roman public office. Caesar owned one and used it when sitting in his position as magistrate. Far more than a piece of furniture, its very deposition symbolised the consulship and it was a symbol of power and authority as unequivocable as a crown today. The full client king – rex socius atque amicus – received the insignia of triumphant Roman magistrates: the embroidered toga and tunic, the toga picta, the sella curulis and ivory staff, a gold crown, a gold dish, and sometimes military gifts such as horses in trappings, arms and a military cloak [Sands 1908: p75]. It was an old custom and had been long in disuse, but Caesar revived it for Ariovistus and Augustus may have continued it. That the incumbent of the grave owned such a thing of obviously Roman manufacture may mean that not only was he thoroughly imbued with Roman culture but that he may well have been recognised as a king by Rome in the Roman sense of the word.


            This was no ordinary tomb, nor even the grave of a leading aristocrat. It was the last resting place of a man of the highest rank, a king. Who at that time and in that place would have held such rank, would have been so Romanised as to mingle Roman funerary rites with his native usages, would have taken with him to his tomb the trappings of Roman magistracy and a token of Augustus? It can be assumed that this is the tomb of Addedomaros [Dunnet 1975: p18], whose death may be placed at circa 5 BCE [Goodburn 1986: p96]. He was succeeded by Dubnovellaunos Trinovantios [1], a kinsman no doubt, who was destined to rule the Trinovantes for a little while longer until circa 5 CE [Goodburn 1986: p96].


            The reign of Tasciovanos continued beyond the death of his old rival Addedomaros by as much as a decade, and there are signs that the initial expansion of his youth and the first flush of kingship were followed by further moves. Military and diplomatic constraints prevented further moves against the east, south and south west, but he pushed westwards and northwards beyond the Chilterns to the mid-Thames and the valley of the Ouse [Cunliffe 1978: p78]. The advances may not have been wholly military, and coin finds supporting this movement may equally be seen as gifts to consolidate alliances, but there is no doubt that Cattuvellaunian influence expanded in these directions and became entrenched. As time went on and direct, personal rule became more difficult, others shared his power as names on coins attest: Dias, Rues and Sego appear on later issues, sons, perhaps, or nephews, or trusted allies ruling parts of the realm under his High Kingship.


            The Trinovantes continued to prosper under the aegis of Rome and the rule of Dubnovellaunos Trinovantios. But time was on the side of the Cattuvellauni, and the designs of the House of Tasciovanos on Trinovantia did not abate.




02:04:04. The Commii.


            Meanwhile, south of the Thames, the Commii had been far from idle.


            Landing on the Hampshire-Sussex coast, the newcomers quickly spread inland and Commios, ensconcing himself in the Selsey Bill – Chichester area, would have found many of his kindred. Probably also he met up with numbers of his old allies and comrades-in-arms the Bellovaci, many of whom had fled Gaul some time before. A community had grown up, based on the Atrebates of Wiltshire but containing many immigrant groups. This composite people became known, at least to the Romans, as the Belgae, clearly identifying them with the earlier confederation of tribes of northern Gaul who had been noted for their independence and fierce resistance to Rome. By force or by diplomacy or by the exercise of inherited and kindred rights, or by a combination of all three, Commios established himself as paramount over a large proportion of this disparate people. They grew in numbers and power, spreading Belgic civilisation across the south and west into lands hitherto little touched by it. They constructed some of the most complex and sophisticated fortifications yet seen in Britain, strongholds with vast systems of dykes and ramparts and great gates guarded by barbicans which showed a fine understanding of the principles of defence in depth. From his base on the Sussex shores, Commios extended his sway north and west towards Hampshire and Wiltshire, and east towards the territory of the Cantii. This could have been achieved by military conquest or alliances or a combination of both. Fear of a re-emergent Verulami and the memory of recent domination by the northerners could well have driven the Cantii into a league with Commios.


            Rome viewed this growing power with considerable concern, and public sentiment was clearly in favour of the addition of Britain to the Empire. Poetry of the period seems to indicate a perception that the conquest of Britain was a matter of when, no if. Thus Propertius, writing in about 27 BCE:


“Whether we pursue the Parthian on foot or the Briton with our fleet, blind are the perils of sea and land [Propertius: ii:27].”


And, even more specifically, from the pen of Horace:


“Augustus shall be held a God on Earth when once the Britons and the grievous Parthians are added to our Empire [Odes iii:5].”


            The development of a powerful kingdom on the further shore of the Channel was something of which notice had to be taken, especially when that kingdom was being carved out by an avowed and implacable foe of the Empire. The Verulami as such may have waned into insignificance, but their successors in the power vacuum thus created, the Cattuvellauni, had healed and were growing strong. By 34 BCE, two decades after Caesar’s expeditions, a whole new generation of fighting men had grown up. By that year, the grip of the wily, charismatic and utterly ruthless Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, formerly Gaius Octavius Thurinus and shortly to be known universally as Augustus, was rapidly tightening on a senate and people of Rome by now prepared to accept almost anything if it would give a respite to weary years of savage internecine warfare. Augustus was young, his Empire was under increasingly firm control and the disruptions and distractions of the Civil Wars were over. The matter of the subjugation of Britain to Roman control was a piece of unfinished business that his great-uncle and adoptive father Gaius Julius had begun and left for his successor to complete. It was not a particularly important matter, but the new Caesar probably saw a need to finish off this loose end, or at the least to enforce a renewal of the oaths of Cassivellaunos and Mandubracios or their successors, and exacting new ones from the Commii. Gallia Belgica had been almost totally neglected during the Civil Wars, and Augustus understandably entertained a desire to reaffirm and consolidate Roman rule both there and in what was seem as the de facto province across the Channel.


In 34 BCE, therefore, he prepared an expeditionary force [Dio: xlix:38] and set force, but he had not proceeded very far into Gaul when he received news of a revolt in Dalmatia and he was forced to turn aside to avert the more immediate danger. It was to be seven years before he was able to seriously consider a second attempt, and in 27 BCE [Ibid: liv:22], the year in which he was first hailed as Augustus, he once more advanced into Gaul but again got no further. Not only was there continuing unrest in that province that required his attention, but also diplomatic representation seems to have arrived in Britain offering terms of some sort. The nature of the business under discussion could only have been the question of the relationship of the British to Augustus and the associated matter of tribute. By this time both Cassivellaunos and Mandubracios may well have been dead, and successors would have sought clarification of treaty obligations if any. Perhaps this meeting marked the death of Mandubracios and the head of the delegation was Addedomaros, seeking transference of his father’s status to himself and perhaps receiving from Augustus, amongst other items, the silver medallion that would later lie under the tumulus of Lexden. Or perhaps the sons of Commios travelled to woo the Emperor with news of their father’s death and their desire to open a new and cordial chapter in their relationships with the new Caesar. Whatever really happened, the initial results seem to have been mutually satisfactory with the result that Augustus  was mollified and any plans for an expedition against Britain once more cancelled.


This was not the end of the matter, however, as whatever negotiations were under way seem to have broken down and Augustus was again anxious for war the following year. The British would not come to terms with him and again he prepared for an expedition [Dio: liv:25] in 26 BCE. At least one influential sector of public opinion was in favour of invasion, if Horace’s expression of goodwill is anything to go by. In that year, addressing the goddess Fortuna, he wrote:


“May you preserve our Caesar soon to go against the Britons, furthest of Earth’s peoples [Horace: Odes i:35].”


Despite this prayer, Augustus was again compelled by other matters to turn aside: the turbulent Alpine tribe of the Salassi revolted which required the attention of Terentius Varro Murena and a large proportion of the available troops. To make things worse, trouble was brewing amongst the Cantabrians and Asturians of mineral-rich Hispania Citerior. Once again more immediate perils demanded Rome’s attention and armed strength. This turn of events was clearly disappointing, and it may be that Augustus had expressed some concern about the fates intervening to thwart him three times in a row as Horace articulated the wish, some time after the event, that the god Apollo would


“take from our people and their leader Caesar tear-inspiring war and plague and wretched famine and inflict them on the Persians and the British [Horace: Odes 1:21].”


There is more than a hint of sour grapes here.


By this time the old guard of Cassivellaunos, Mandubracios and Commios had vanished into history and with the hands of a new generation on the tillers of power, the politics of Britain entered new waters. Commios’ successor, Tincommios, was quite prepared to treat with Rome, and Tasciovanos of the Cattuvellauni was not, at that stage, prepared to rock any diplomatic boats. Whatever the earlier problems at the negotiating table, they were clearly resolved to everyone’s satisfaction and a new relationship began with Rome. Detente followed rapidly.



02:04:05. Tincomaros.


Tincomaros pushed his boundaries northwards, making his seat at the oppidum known as Kaleoua [2] near the headwaters of the little River Kennet. The origins of this settlement are unknown, but it may be that it was built at about this time. Stray finds of Neolithic and Bronze Age provenance would indicate that groups of people had come and gone in this area for a very long time, but no lasting settlement of any size was ever established in what was then a very remote spot. Small settlements, no more than farms perhaps, existed at Pond Farm and on Mortimer Common, where dykes are still evident today [Boon 1974: p37], and at what would become the salient of the oppidum earthworks at Rampier Copse, but these were very minor. Its very remoteness and relatively low fertility, the reasons why it had never attracted much attention in the past, under new conditions suddenly made it attractive. Its very name – Kaleoua, – the Place in the Woods – indicates the reason for the selection of the site, and the probability is high that it was a self-imposed settlement, established for reasons of defence at a particular moment in time [Collis 1984b: p69] to meet a particular threat.


It was remote, hidden in the forests, and in remoteness lay security. It southerly position on Silchester spur relative to the earlier settlements ensured security from hostile forces advancing from the north [Boon 1974: p37]. Neighbouring sites such as Reading, more favourable to trade along the Thames, were too far forward, too exposed to hostile action from an enemy who was becoming increasingly entrenched north of the river. The Thames was by this time emerging as a border area between the emergent north eastern and southern power blocs, and Kaleoua was very much a frontier settlement established to form a bastion against Cattuvellaunian inroads. In common with other such foundations, it is likely that a substantial part of the previously scattered community now moved inside the defences [Collis 1984a: p69].


Who gave the order to proceed with the construction of the oppidum can only be surmised. It may or may not have been Tincomaros, but whoever it was, built it was, and it flourished to become a royal seat containing the mint. With the other oppida beginning to flourish in southern Britain, it is a sign of rapid social and political development, of the change from tribal to state levels of organisation [Collis 1984a: p74].


Military advances were made to the west against the Dobunni. The hillfort of Cadbury Castle seems to have become vacant at about this time [Alcock 1972: p161 – 2], whether or not as a result of Atrebatean action is impossible to tell. How much of this action was due to expansionist policies and how much due to a result of a natural settling-in period, a time of establishing an area of domination, cannot be known, but without doubt the Commii were asserting their authority as far and as firmly as possible. That authority and the security of Atrebatean rule were threatened by two major players in the political game: Rome and Cattuvellaunia. Relations with the northern tribe seemed to be a choice between supremacy or submission, a question that could only be resolved upon the field of honour. Rome, on the other hand, was open to accommodation.


Seeing the economic and political benefits inherent in cordial relation with Rome, Tincomaros began to court the Romans and before long trade was increasing to their mutual benefit. The Atrebates were a coastal people and Tincomaros was nothing if not pragmatic, and to maintain old hatreds and xenophobia would  have been contrary to good sense. Rome too wanted a rex socius atque amicus in Britain if for no other reason than to counterbalance the increasing stridency of Cattuvellaunia. Rome was just across the water and Roman trade, albeit at this point conducted almost entirely through Gaulish middlemen, was desirable in both the goods it could provide and the money it paid for Atrebatean produce. A cordial relationship could not be anything but mutually advantageous. Trade began to increase, as is shown by the growing opulence of grave goods from the period and from other relics. A flourishing export-import market was re-established with the Continent. Roman consumer goods began to appear in south central Britain in increasing quantities, one of the main items being wine, of which huge quantities were imported. The Celt is typified in little so much as his love of display, finery and comestibles and British chieftains lived a lavish lifestyle. Increasingly this trade brought with it a creeping, and sometimes not so creeping, Romanization across southern Britain. Roman goods and the influence of of Roman traders effected a gradual adoption of Roman material culture, Roman commercial practice and, inevitably, Roman political institutions. Coinage of the period indicates that Roman political forms came increasingly into vogue. It was Roman in type and gold and silver were common.


Some sort of treaty arrangement was reached with Augustus. It may have been ab initio short of the actual political recognition implicit in the title of rex socius, but a firm diplomatic tie nonetheless. The arrangement commenced in about 16 BCE and from this point Roman manufactures and trade goods appeared in Kaleoua in increasing numbers. Interestingly, this date is coincident with the clades lolliana, at which time Augustus was in Germany where, having defeated the rebels, he was able to force Tasciovanos to withdraw from Trinovantia. Any foedus struck between Augustus and Tincomaros at this point would have been a neat move to further constrain the Cattuvellauni by strengthening the position of the Atrebates of the south west. It has been suggested [Black 1987: p7] that Tincomaros supplied corn and cattle to the Roman army during their movement into bases on the Rhine and for their first advances into Germany as a quid pro quo to the honour of treaty recognition.


Roman moneyers struck coins of Tincomaros at Kaleoua, hinting at the equivalent of a modern technical aid programme. It has been pointed out, realistically, that this aid would hardly have stopped at the minting of currency [Frere 1967: p42], and Tincomaros would logically have received other benefits as well. Such things were not supplied gratis by an altruistic Roman administration, and tribute flowed from southern Britain into Roman coffers.


Augustus had thus achieved a cheap and effective means of containing Cattuvellaunian ambitions. The establishment of a pro-Roman regime in southern Britain counterbalanced the northern menace, the one negating the other, and thus obviating the enormous cost of an armed expedition. Not only had Augustus saved himself the huge sums needed for an invasion, any outlay in shoring up the Atrebatic kingdom was offset by the income of substantial amounts of tribute. The classic tactic of divide et impera, divide and conquer, is again evident in yet another form in that a potential pan-British polity that could pose a threat to Rome’s north-west flank was securely fragmented. The rivalry between the two major groups was now aimed at each other and Rome could only benefit. The struggle for control of the Thames valley continued, no doubt, for many years, costing much of the best blood on both sides to their mutual detriment. Rome would simply have shrugged at such internal squabbling. It kept the two rivals busily maintaining ill-will and prevented any possibility of their combining against a third party. Moreover, such warfare provided the raw material for the slave trade, and Rome could use all the slaves that she could get hold of.


But although trade and prosperity began to increase, all was not well in the royal house of the Atrebates. Internal strife was causing considerable rifts between individuals. Somewhere around 5 BCE, this domestic bickering came to a head in an altercation that could have been full civil war, but as the polity of the area did not appear to change substantially, was probably a limited action such as a palace coup. Whatever happened, Tincomaros was forced into exile. He fled to Augustus for sanctuary, as is recorded in the Res Gestae Divis Augustus, the Acts of Augustus, an autobiographical inscription the Emperor had erected to boast to posterity of his achievements. Tincomaros’ brother Eppilos took power, ruling from Kaleoua. Augustus took the exile in but seemingly made no move to restore him to his throne. More, he bestowed upon Eppilos the coveted title of rex, conferring the highest diplomatic accolade upon a usurper, much, no doubt, to the chagrin of Tincomaros.


Augustus, in so doing, was sending a very clear message to British potentates, stating unequivocably that he was the maker or breaker of client kings and that the rex was in fact a subject of the Emperor. Perhaps Tincomaros had done something to earn the disfavour of Augustus, which caused the withdrawal of imperial patronage, and Eppilos was rewarded for a restoration of the status quo. The client king could always be kept in fear of renunciation and of the transference of Rome’s favour to another member of the royal family [Sands 1908: p81]. As the kingship was of a personal nature, and the king’s relations with Rome also of a personal nature, Rome had no need to treat him as a foreign enemy but instead as a recalcitrant subject to be called back into line in the event of disobedience. She could simple transfer her patronage to another member of the family and thus separate the ruler from his people. She could show disfavour to him while preserving good relations with the rest of the family [Ibid: p81], and there can be no doubt that Rome supported dynasties rather than individuals.


The rivalry between the Cattuvellauni and Atrebates continued both on and off the battlefield. It has been suggested [Frere 1967: p43] that a propaganda war was waged for the loyalty of uncommitted tribes. The Atrebatic coinage sports a vine leaf, indicative of a strong connection with the favoured drink of the Empire, the flourishing import-export trade that it represented and also the advancing Romanization of the south. Cattuvellaunian coinage was stamped with an ear of corn, representing not only the agricultural wealth of the tribe but also one of its products, beer. Could it be that the robust British beer drinkers were sneering at the airs and graces of their wine tippling neighbours? Not that the Cattuvellauni spurned wine. They were as fond of it as anyone, as the huge numbers of amphorae suggest. Propaganda, after all, appeals to the emotions not to reason, and need not have any more than a nodding acquaintance with fact. Moreover, coins of Tasciovanos bear the legend rigonus, the Celtic word equivalent to the latin rex. The nationalism inherent in these tokens can hardly be doubted.


Eppilos was not fated to occupy whatever equivalent of a throne may have existed at Kaleoua for very long. After about six years, in 1 CE, he was ousted in his turn by a relative, perhaps a younger brother or perhaps a nephew, by the name of Verica. Eppilos managed to flee, but he did not have to leave the island. He managed to ensconce himself amongst the Cantii, where he was able to either completely oust Dubnovellaunos Cantiacos [1], or take over much of the territory. There is no suggestion of an Atrebatean invasion of Cantium, so it must be assumed that the changeover came from within and that Eppilos managed to establish some constitutional right to the throne by virtue of the close blood relationship that without doubt existed between him and the prior paramount. It seems clear that Cantium was, and had been perhaps since the time of Mandubracios, under the political domination of Camulodunon.


The tensions between the two rivals for power continued unabated and probably increased. Dubnovellaunos Trinovantios was still ruler of Trinovantia and seems, on the basis of coin records, to have maintained some foothold in Kent. It is probable that a political understanding, if not a formal alliance, for the containment of the growing power of Cattuvellaunia existed between Verica, Dubnovellaunos and Eppilos, with the latter the junior partner in the triumvirate with obligations to both his seniors. This was a heavy counter to Cattuvellaunian power as the authority of Camulodunon still straddled the whole of the Thames estuary, thus controlling the trade with Gaul and the Rhine.


It is not hard to see Roman fingers in this particular pie. Augustus had, as far as was possible, maintained the links that his much admired foster father had created and had nurtured pro-Roman groups in Britain with an eye to the future. Geographical knowledge of the south of Britain was by now comprehensive. It is possible that the importance of the safe harbourage of Thanet and the significance of the future site of Rutupiae had already been noted on a contingency plan for later invasion. In that case, control of eastern Kent by a Roman ally was crucial. Quite possibly Dubnovellaunos’ hold in east Kent and his strategically vital control of the Thames was directed and ordered by Rome.


There was a period of pause then, but the game of musical thrones was not yet over. Dubnovellaunos was not to retain his crown much longer as the Res Gestae records that he, too, like Tincomaros before him, was forced to flee to Rome. The Res Gestae was written down in 7 CE, so he was certainly ejected before then. Control of the vital Thames sea route by pro-Roman powers was thus broken, and the balance of strategic weight was shifted through 180 degrees.


The man who threw him out and broke the Trinovantian stranglehold on the eastern trade route was a son of Tasciovanos and the man destined to create the Cattuvellaunian empire, the greatest of the free British states. His name was Cunobelinos.



Chapter 5: The Settling Dust. Notes to the Text.


[1] There are two personalities identified by the name Dubnovellaunos in this period, the Kentish prince ousted by Eppilos of the Commii in circa 15 BCE, and the successor to Addedomaros of the Trinovantes. To avoid confusion I have adopted the hybrid and somewhat cumbersome names of Dubnovellaunos Cantiacos and Dubnovellaunos Trinovantios respectively. The question that these two pose is a vexed one and a matter of ongoing debate: some would have it that we are speaking of two individuals, others suggest that there was only one person. For the sake of simplicity, I have bowed to Prof. Cunliffe and accepted the two individual viewpoint. Dubnovellaunos Trinovantios was that Dubnovellaunos cited in the Res Gestae Divis Augustus.


[2] This is the rendering of the geographer Ptolemy, and the word seems be related to the Welsh ceilli, meaning woods. Kaleoua, therefore, means something like “The Place in the Woods” (refer Jackson 1970: p70). The Romans pronounced this word “Calleva”, and eventually Calleva Atrebatum became the capitol the Atrebatean civitas. It is now known as Silchester and is no longer a town. It perished as a settlement in the vicissitudes of the Dark Ages and was never reoccupied.

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