05:02. A New Sense of Purpose.

Britannia Capta Part 5.



Chapter 05:02.

A New Sense of Purpose.



05.02:01. A Man of Two Masters: Vettius Bolanus.


At the death of Nero, the boundaries of Britannia were, in the west, a line drawn roughly from Newport through Shrewsbury to Chester, and in the north from Chester, through Derby, around the southern Pennines and on to Lincoln. These boundaries were little changed after nearly a generation as Nero had little interest in Britain, and a policy of consolidation by a comparatively easy-going administration had conspired to provide little incentive for expansion into economically marginal territories. When the turmoil surrounding the death of Nero and the civil wars accompanying the brief principates of Galba, Otho and Vitellius had finally come to an end and Vespasian was able to assume the purple, a new era began for Britain. With a new dynasty headed by one who was more familiar with Britain than any previous Emperor, attention was once more focussed on the remote province. Vespasian, better than any of his predecessors, was intimately acquainted with the strategic situation in Britannia. The menace of Venutios was clearly perceived and the legions began to move into the rugged hills of Wales and Derbyshire and especially into the north.


Affairs in Britain, as were those in most parts of the Empire, were in something of a state of flux, and they were presided over by one Marcus Vettius Bolanus. Bolanus’ tenure as Governor is an intriguing  one, for even though he was appointed by Vitellius to replace the shiftless Trebellius [Tacitus: Histories ii:65], and even though Vitellius had fought the Flavians and 8,000 British troops [Tacitus: Histories ii:57] plus the entire Legio XIV Gemina had been serving in the Vitellian army, Vespasian apparently confirmed Bolanus in office after the turmoils. This would suggest that not only was Bolanus a reasonably competent administrator but he was also able to ingratiate himself with the new Augustus in some way.


Who was this Vettius Bolanus? Little is known of his career before his appointment to Britain. His origins appear to have been in northern Italy, in Gallia Cisalpina, where several inscriptions record Vettii [A Birley 1981: p62]. A Milanese inscription that records a Bolana Secunda whose daughter was a Vettia suggests that Bolanus may have been a maternal nomen used as a cognomen after the Etruscan fashion, which in turn would suggest an Etruscan origin for the family [Ibid: p63]. Judging from the meagre record, he was probably born in about 17 – 20 CE, and his birthday is definitely attested. A certain M Vettius Philo, who presumably owed his Roman citizenship to Bolanus, left money in his will, in 95 CE, for the councillors in Derriopus, in Macedonia, to celebrate Bolanus’ birthday every year on 19 October [Ibid: p63 & note 8]. He was a legionary commander under Domitius Corbulo in Armenia in 62 [Tacitus: Annals xvi:iii], and, if Statius’ comment that “his was the second crest in battle, his helm stood nearest to his chief’s” [Statius: Silvae v:ii] means what it appears to mean, he was second in command of Corbulo’s force. Indeed, he was more than just Corbulo’s Number I, he was a valued friend and confident of the great general, one upon whom Corbulo was “wont to lay his keenest anxieties, and shared with him his fears” [Ibid: Silvae v:ii]. He was suffect consul along with M Arruntius in the latter part of 66, and thus it is possible that he was proconsular Governor of Macedonia in 67. What brought Bolanus into the camp of Vitellius is not known, but he was with him in Gaul when Vitellius, hearing the news of the victory over the Othonians at Bedriacum, left Lugudunum in April of 69, and probably received his appointment by May when the somewhat bedevilled Trebellius overtook the imperial progress.


The first responsibility of Bolanus was likely to have been to lead Legio XIV Gemina back to Britain. The Fourteenth, in having sided with Otho against Vitellius, had rather blotted its copybook, if indeed that is the right expression for a time when army formations were running amuck right across western Europe.


The men of the Fourteenth legion had had an unsettling couple of years. Withdrawn by Nero from Britain where they had been ensconced for nearly twenty five years, and where they had won fame and accolade, for service in the east, they had been marched back and forth across Europe at the whims of four successive Emperors. From Italy they had been moved to Pannonia or perhaps Dalmatia [Wellesley 1975; p98], whence they had then been recalled to Italy for service with Otho. The Othonians had been beaten at Bedriacum, and for a formation with the battle-honoured history of the XIVth that was grievous. To add insult to injury, the battle had been won before the main body of the XIVth had been able to arrive, and only the advance guard had been routed in the action [Tacitus: Histories 2:66]. This annoyed them greatly, as they quite rightly felt that they had been denied a fair crack at the enemy and they refused to admit defeat. Three successive Emperors in almost as many months had further confused matters and the legion was becoming more and more fractious. Morale and discipline plummeted. To defuse things a bit (so they perhaps thought), the Vitellian commanders moved the XIVth back to Turin with the view to marching them back to Britain. For reasons that are not clear, the XIVth was brigaded in camp with the Batavian cohorts, units that, while as battle-hardened as the fighting XIVth, had never got along with that formation. Tempers flared.


One day, so Tacitus [Histories 2:16] relates, a Batavian began to abuse a workman at Turin. A soldier of the XIVth who was billeted with the workman defended his host and a scuffle took place. Their mates joined in and the fracas escalated from a knockabout scuffle to bloodshed and was on the point of turning into an actual pitched battle when two Praetorian cohorts moved in on the side of the XIVth which discouraged the Batavians who retired muttering abuse. Vitellius then arrived on the scene and attached the Batavians, who were, after all, excellent fighting men, to his column and ordered the XIVth to head back to Britain via the Little St. Bernard Pass. They were ordered to circumvent Vienna [Vienne], as they was unrest there also, and Vitellius did not want two mutinous and militarily powerful formations to unite behind his back. On the night they left, in a fit of peevishness, the legion set fires all over Turin, burning part of the city to the ground and no doubt inflicting horrific casualties in the process. This dastardly piece of gratuitous violence, though horrifying, was, as Tacitus points out, largely forgotten in the face of the even worse horrors that overtook other cities such as Cremona.


The XIVth marched out of Turin in May, and it is here that Bolanus probably took the unenviable job of leading the riotous legion back to the relative isolation of Britain. He seems to have managed fairly well, for, although some hot-heads were all for heading to Vienne once they were over the Alps, cooler counsels – presumably those of Bolanus and the more intelligent centurions – prevailed and the legion passed over to Britain further without incident [Tacitus: Histories 2:66].


Bolanus was not in for an easy ride through his Governorship, and the problems began as soon as he disembarked onto British soil in the June or perhaps early July of 69. The legions were still restive and the Othonian Roscius Coelius, feisty legate of Legio XX, is unlikely to have received a Vitellian Governor with open arms, but Bolanus nevertheless ruled “with a hand too gentle for a warlike province” [Tacitus: Agricola 8]. Vitellius shortly afterwards requested more troops, but Bolanus delayed with the excuse that Britain was “never really a peaceful country” [Ibid: Histories 2:97]. Indeed, Vitellius’ request for troops was somewhat dilatory as he had been misled into thinking that only one legion had declared for Vespasian and he did not want to alarm people any more than need be by excessive demands for more men. This, plus the fact that Vitellius was openly playing down the threat of a Flavian war, would have given Bolanus the incentive to withhold his men. “Both (Bolanus and Hordeonius Flaccus in Upper Germany) were in two minds about supporting Vitellius” [Ibid: Histories 2:97]. The fact is that Bolanus had very little room to manoeuvre and a lot of doubts about the whole business. He had a turbulent frontier to garrison, and, although he had brought Legio XIV back with him to Britain, nevertheless the military establishment had lost 8,000 men and there is nothing to suggest that they ever returned [A Birley 1981: p63], although it is possible that they were brought back with Cerealis in 71 after the conclusion of the war with Civilis [Kennedy 1977: p252]. He was badly undermined. More: his legionary commanders were still giving him problems.


To add to Bolanus’ administrative problems, he had not long been in office when there came a desperate call from the north. Venutios of Brigantia had attacked his sometime wife Cartimandua and a popular uprising against the Queen had brought her to the most dire of straits. The Governor was in the most difficult of positions, for here was a monarch who had given solid support to Rome for nearly thirty years and to whom Rome owed a debt of great gratitude. Yet Bolanus was desperately short of men, with Vitellius demanding more, and he simply did not have the resources to wage a war in the north of Britannia. The most he could do was to send an auxiliary force to extricate the Queen and bring her back into the safety of the Province. It is stated that he “took a cuirass from off the British King” [Statius: Silva 5:2], which may be taken as a reference to a defeat of Venutios, when Bolanus received the King’s armour as a prize of war, but it would seem unlikely that the Governor actually managed to defeat the new King. Perhaps at most he managed to contain him as “watch-towers and forts in wide circuit he did set – and threw a trench about these walls” [Ibid: Silva 5:2]. It would appear that Bolanus was able to throw some auxiliaries into the fray at Cartimandua’s request, but was able to do little more than extricate her from her plight and to put up some forts to try and hedge Venutios about, and to contain the new ‘Brigantian Problem’.


In view of the long pro-Roman stance of the Brigantia, it is quite probable that the garrison along the Trent, more or less the boundary between the Province and Cartimandua’s lands, was no more than a few cohorts of auxiliaries and this is all Bolanus had to call on in a hurry. No legionary troops are mentioned by Tacitus at this point, and it is certain that he would have said something of them if they had been involved. The Governor sent these men to the aid of Cartimandua, and it is possible that he underestimated  matters.


Assuming the centre of unrest to be at or around Stanwick, something of the line of march may be reconstructed [Hanson & Campbell 1986 p83]. Two temporary camps, undated but falling approximately within this chronological bracket, are known at Wath and Catterick. Both are about 4.5 hectares in extent, just about right for a force of about 3,ooo – 3,500 men and they are about 50 kilometres apart, a long day’s march but by no means extraordinary for Roman troops in a hurry as these men were, and Catterick (later Roman Cataractonium) is only 11 kilometres from Stanwick. This route is somewhat circuitous, but would have allowed the troops to march on good, solid ground, avoiding the swamps and mires of the more direct route north. It would have also have brought the column through the territory of the Parisii of East Yorkshire, a community that is usually considered to have been pro-Roman largely due to the lack of fort sites in their region, and the passage of Roman troops could well have been designed to keep the auxiliaries in friendly territory for as long as possible and to reassure the locals that the problems in the north were under control. Equally, the troops would have been a reminder of the dangers of going over to the enemy [Hanson & Campbell 1986 p84].


It is probable that the troops were taken by surprise by the scale and vigour of the altercation. If the camps at Wath and Catterick are indeed indicators of their strength there would have been about three thousand strong, a formidable force indeed but probably not near enough to cope with a problem that it would later take an army group of two full legions to bring to heel. The best they were able to do was carry out their orders in the narrowest interpretation and simply grab Cartimandua and her entourage and make good their escape.


Bolanus would have asked no more of them. He had a border war on his hands and could do little more than keep it at bay. He had other and more immediate internal problems to cope with such as doing something about Coelius and Legio XX. He could not allow himself to be pushed out like Trebellius as his career would thereby suffer mortal damage. He had to take account of a rapidly shifting political quagmire.


What with civil war in Italy, conflicting loyalties in his own mind, unruly legions, recalcitrant legionary commanders and now a border war that he had neither the time nor the resources to fight effectively, it is no wonder that Bolanus displayed eadem inertia erga hostes, the same old paralysis in the face of the enemy [Tacitus: Agricola 16]. Tacitus is ironic in his criticism of Bolanus’ inertia: agitavit Britanniam disciplina certainly means ‘harassed Britain by keeping (his army) in training’ [Ogilvie & Richmond 1967: p204], but is better expressed as ‘declined to disturb the province by enforcing discipline’ [Mattingly 1970: p67]. Bolanus could do little more than try and maintain an even keel until the political weather calmed down. But the squally weather was not yet over.


Within a few weeks, or perhaps even days of his arrival, momentous news from the East threw the situation into a different spin again.


On 1 July 69 CE, Tiberius Alexander, Prefect of Egypt, caused the Egyptian legions to swear allegiance to Titus Flavius Vespasianus and to declare him Emperor [Suetonius: The Twelve Caesars: Vespasian 6]. Word spread rapidly, the eastern legions fell in behind their Egyptian colleagues, and armies moved from Moesia towards Italy. Legions in the west were suborned and Legio XIV in Britain (and, apparently, the only legion of the British garrison to do so) received a letter from the leading Flavians Antonius Primus and Cornelius Fuscus enjoining it to espouse Vespasian’s cause [Tacitus: Histories 2:86]. There is also the possibility that messages arrived from the east for Bolanus. He had been a senior commander under Corbulo, and it is reasonable to believe that the now pro-Flavian former officers of Corbulo, especially C Licinius Mucianus and Aurelius Fulvus, would have written to their old colleague Bolanus urging him to join Vespasian’s cause [Nicols 1978: p120]. There is no doubt that Legio XIV agreed to support Vespasian, and the other legions, particularly Legio II Augusta, Vespasian’s old unit, also declared for the new Augustus, especially after the Flavian victory at Cremona and the capture of Fabius Valens in the November, acts which seem to have dealt the death blow to Vitellian resistance [Tacitus: Histories 3:44]. But what of Coelius? Just whom did he support?


Tacitus, writing in a Flavian context, states that Coelius was disloyal, that the XXth was slow to transfer its allegiance, and that it could not be properly controlled by its Praetorian commander, let alone a Governor of proconsular rank [Tacitus: Agricola 7]. The legion, in other words, was out of control. Bolanus thus had sufficient excuse to retire Coelius from a command that he seems to have held for some time and request a new man from the new administration, a man who would be able to bring the troops back under control and who, being grateful to the Governor for his command, could help to integrate Bolanus into the new regime with a minimum of fuss. And so it happened. Coelius was sent back to Rome very early in 70 and seems to have vanished for ten years. Obviously his conduct in 69 had been a black mark against him [A Birley 1981: p232], but Vespasian was not one to bear a grudge, and in due course he was rehabilitated, finally attaining the coveted fasces in 81. His family and descendants continued to enjoy influence. He may have had additional names, and he may have been the ancestor of Pompeius Folco, Governor of Britain under Hadrian, whose nomenclature includes the items Roscius Coelius Murena, and there are attested several senatorial Roscii Murenae of the second century who may be descendants [A Birley 1981: p232].


Gaius Licinius Mucianus, the Governor of Syria whose backing had been instrumental to the Flavian cause and who thereafter achieved the highest importance in the imperial household, managed to have Gnaeus Julius Agricola appointed to the command of Legio XX to return the legion to discipline, and to inculcate loyalty to the new regime. Agricola, an experienced soldier, had served in Britain before under Paullinus during the war with Boudica and was a firm advocate of the Flavians. In other words, he was a technically competent as he was politically reliable. a rare combination in those troubled times.


Agricola took up his post and seems to have been very successful. A popular commander, he seems to have been able to restore order and discipline without too much bother. This would have been something of a feat in an age when discipline was harsh and when, after a defeat, every tenth man, chosen by lot, could be beaten to death by his comrades. Decimation was becoming increasingly rare under the principate (Watson 1969: p119), but may not have died out entirely: the threat was still there. Agricola therefore “took disciplinary measures” [Tacitus: Agricola 7], but was considerably more humane than he might have been. His methods, it would seem, were appreciated by the men and by his superiors and his discipline was successful. There can be no doubt that Agricola was ambitious, and sought both the gloria and fama that military success would bring him. He must have chafed at the bit for a while, eager to try his legion out on the Brigantes but Bolanus restrained him. He did not have to wait for too long, however. With the death of Vitellius, Vespasian was unchallenged, and life could begin getting back to normal. His term of office done, Bolanus returned to Rome in the spring of 71 [A Birley 1981: p65], making way for his successor Quintus Petilius Cerealis.


Bolanus’ career was not done. He was elevated to patrician rank in 73 or 74 [A Birley 1981: p65], a recognition that he might have been active in securing Britain for Vespasian [Nichols 1978: p120]. That he “bore the commands of Caesar (ie Vespasian)” when “in what might he entered Thule that sets a barrier to western waves” (Statius’ geography leaves a little to be desired) [Statius: Silvae v:ii] would suggest that he was actively working for Vespasian, at least in the latter stages of the civil war. He was afterwards awarded the plum job of proconsul of Asia [Statius: Silvae v:ii]. Bolanus seems to have married late, or else an earlier and perhaps childless marriage is unrecorded, for he certainly had offspring: Crispinus who, at sixteen became a military tribune and was the subject of Statius’ poem Silvae v:ii, and an older brother. This poem, written about 95 CE, extols this ‘noble youth’ and from the context Bolanus had been dead for some time. There were obviously some dirty deeds going on, as Crispinus’ mother, Bolanus’ widow, seems to have tried to poison the youth [Statius: Silvae v:ii], perhaps in the hope of securing his share of the inheritance [A Birley: 1981: p65], but she was dead when the poem was written, perhaps as punishment for her unnatural crime., and it is possible that this young man was the C Clodius Crispinus who was consul ordinarius in 113, perhaps adopted into another family after the murder attempt [Ibid: p65, note 24]. From this it is presumed that Bolanus himself died in or about 93 CE [Ibid 1981: p65].




05.02:02:The Character of Cerealis.

Bolanus was replaced as Governor of Britain by one Petillius Cerealis, a man who had three qualifications for the governorship of Britain. Firstly, he was a friend and probably a relative of Vespasian, secondly he had had experience of the province by virtue of his term as legate of Legio IX during the war with Boudica, and thirdly he was unswervingly loyal to the Flavian dynasty. Not a lot is known of his antecedents, but a little can be gleaned.


Quintus Petillius Cerealis Caesius Rufus, to give him his full name, was a member of the ancient gens Petillii whose roots reached back at least to Quintus Petillius Spurinus, a consul of 176 BCE. This latter, along with his cousin, another Q Petillius, attacked the elder Scipio at the behest of M Porcius Cato, with whom they were connected by amicitia. Other Petillii are known from the late republic and early principate. Our man was probably born about 30 CE and his name would indicate that he was probably in origin a Cerealis Caesius, being later adopted by one Petillius Rufus and thus acquiring his full nomenclature [A Birley 1973 p 181]. The latter had been praetor in 27-28 and Tacitus lists him [Annals 3:63] as one of several propraetors suborned by Lucius Aelius Sejanus to perjure themselves at the trial of Titius Sabinus to secure the latter’s conviction. It is usually believed that Petillius Cerealis was the younger brother of Caesius Nasica, together with whom he saw service with the legions in Britain.


Three Caesii of the later first century are known to have connections with Umbria, one of them as patron of Mevania [A Birley 1973 p181]. As Tacitus states [Histories 3:59] that Petillius Cerealis had local knowledge of this area when first he joined up with the Flavian forces during the Civil War of 69 (see below), it can be assumed that he had been born into this family. It is assumed that during his military service with Legio IX in Britain Ceralis made the acquaintance of the young Titus Flavius Vespasianus, elder son of Vespasian and later Emperor in his own right, and that this acquaintanceship blossomed into friendship. One result of this was his marriage to Flavia Domitilla, Vespasian’s only daughter, with whom he had a daughter of the same name. Flavia seems to have been dead by the time of the Civil War, and was later deified [A Birley 1973 p182], but this family connection with the gens Flavii was to be crucial to his long and distinguished career.


His is an interesting character and to understand his actions and achievements as Governor of Britannia, it is essential to first look at him in the context of his known history.


            Known almost entirely from the works of Tacitus, the picture of this man that emerges from a study of the relevant passages in the Annals, the Histories, and the Agricola is at best equivocable. His first appearance is in the Annals [14:32), where, as commander of Legio IX Hispana during Boudica’s War, are shown to be wanting. Leading a large force from the legionary camp at Longthorpe to the relief of Camulodunum, his column was overrun by Boudica’s warriors and suffered defeat with heavy casualties. So serious was it, indeed, that Tacitus describes it as clades, a disaster. He was forced to flee back to camp with a few cavalrymen, where they barricaded themselves in. From the first he seems at times headstrong, at others dilatory; he rushed into the fray, too late, as it happened, got slapped down good and hard and had to run for cover. From the very first we get the distinct impression that Tacitus really does not like this fellow very much at all. Indeed, it shall be argued, Tacitus actively hated him and sought to blacken his name.


His next appearance is in the Histories [3:59], and the references become more ambiguous, even snide.


In 69, during the closing weeks of the civil war, Cerealis appeared amongst the Flavian forces camped in the Appenines, having bypassed the Vitellian guards around their stronghold at Merania by disguising himself as a peasant. Having arrived in this somewhat ignoble manner, he was co-opted into the ranks of the Flavian leaders because he was “closely related to Vespasian, and a distinguished soldier in his own right” [Histories 3:59]. The ‘distinguished soldier’ part seems well enough, but prefixed by the statement that he was Vespasian’s relative seems to give the impression that this was the primary cause of his appointment to command rather than his soldierly skills [A Birley 1973, p182]. He was given a force of a thousand cavalry and ordered to make for Rome. Meanwhile, in the City, Vespasian’s brother Sabinus clashed with Vitellian troops, during the course of which action he was besieged in the Capitol and many of its ancient temples were destroyed by fire in the process. Tacitus notes [Histories 3:78] that the disaster was largely the fault of Sabinus who rashly resorted to arms when the abdication of Vitellius was in sight, and who proved to be unable to hold the supposedly impregnable Capitol against as little as three cohorts. But Cerealis had to share the blame: “Even Petillius Cerealis – had failed to make sufficient haste”. In other words, Cerealis was late again.


            Nevertheless, Cerealis proceeded to Rome, where he engaged Vitellian cavalry and infantry units in the suburbs. Unfortunately, the engagement took place “amid buildings, gardens and winding lanes familiar to the Vitellians but formidable to the enemy” [Histories]. The result, once again, was severe defeat with heavy losses and Cerealis again in flight, a grisly reprise of his experience with Boudica’s warriors. Worse was to come when senatorial emissaries went out to meet the various Flavian units to urge a settlement. The senators received rough treatment from Cerealis’ men [Histories 3:80]: the praetor Arulenus Rusticus was wounded, senators were manhandled, and the senior lictor was killed when he sought to clear a way for the senators through the throng. Only the provision of an escort by Cerealis prevented further bloodshed. Envoys sent to meet Antonius Primus, on the other hand, were treated with dignity and respect because “their general had more control over [his men]”. The purpose of this juxtaposition is quite clear; Cerealis was unable to control his men, a trenchant indictment on any man’s power of command, and one to which Tacitus returns on several occasions. Cerealis is portrayed not simply as headstrong, but also weak and indecisive.


            Headstrong or not, weak or not, Vespasian thought highly enough of him to award his a suffect consulship briefly for the year 70.


            Shortly after this sorry series of events Cerealis was despatched to take command of the Rhineland and to confront the very serious situation that now arose there. At first he seemed to do well against the powerful forces of Gaulish and German communities that had arisen in rebellion under the command of Julius Civilis and his allies Classicus and Tutor.


   “On his arrival there was a resurgence of hope. Petillius Cerealis was spoiling for a fight, and his strength lay rather in his contempt for the enemy than in any wariness he displayed in his dealings with them. His impassioned language fired the enthusiasm of the troops, and it was clear that he would engage the enemy as soon as he could make contact with them” [Histories 4:71].


            In other words, he was headstrong, lacking in caution, and relied on his passions rather than cool judgement.


Marshalling his men, Cerealis set out from Mogontiacum and three days later routed a rebel force at a village called Rigodulum, capturing their commander Valentinus. The next day he marched his men into Trier, the home of Civilis and Tutor, two of the now fugitive leaders of the rebellion. Seeing the wealth and magnificence of the great City,  the men were eager to sack the place and plunder it, but Civilis restrained them and was obeyed. Legionary troops who had joined the rebels were pardoned and Cerealis reassured them by “blaming destiny for the events” and remarking that they “should regard this day as a fresh start to their military service and sworn allegiance” [Histories 4:72]. So desperate now were the rebels that Civilis and Tutor sent Cerealis a letter inviting him to take control of the Gallic provinces, with the hint that they could become his vassals in some sort of Gallic Empire. Cerealis made no reply but passed the letter straight to the young Domitian, who was present on the campaign, to appraise him of the situation and, no doubt, to impress the 18 year old son of Vespasian with his (Cerealis’) loyalty and forbearance, virtues none the less real for being advertised.


Spurned in this matter, the rebels advanced upon Trier, and many, such as Tacitus, later blamed Cerealis for what followed, stating that he had given the enemy time to regroup when, had he acted swiftly and decisively, he could have destroyed them piecemeal; another stated example of indecisiveness.


Whatever the reasons, the rebels advanced on Cerealis’ camp in three columns and fell upon the Romans unexpectedly. Cerealis was in bed elsewhere and was swiftly awoken by terrified messengers whom he sternly rebuked as rumour-mongers until he had dressed and had a look outside [Histories 4:77] when he realised that their words were only too accurate and a general’s worst nightmare was in progress; the rebels had overrun his camp, his cavalry had fled in a panic, his men were being slaughtered in witless, leaderless droves, and the bridge over the Moselle that linked the City proper with the outlying suburbs was held by the enemy. Roman troops, panic-stricken and confused, ran hither and yon. Then Cerealis showed his mettle as a leader:


“Cerealis was not a man to lose his wits in a tight corner. He caught hold of the fugitives and forcibly drove them back towards the bridge, showing great dash and exposing himself to the front line, although unprotected by body-armour. Thanks to this reckless but successful energy and to the rapid concentration of his best fighters, he recovered the bridge and made sure that it was strongly held by a picked force.” [Histories 4:77].


Following the example and exhortations of their commander, the cohorts were rallied and began to fight back: Legio XXI, taking advantage of open ground, formed up, held their ranks and then began to advance. The rebels, most of whom were by now preoccupied with looting, were thrown back. Their nerve broke suddenly and they were routed. The legions followed remorselessly. The rebel camp was reached, taken, and destroyed. “Thus, though Cerealis had nearly ruined his chances through carelessness, he restored them through determination” [Histories 4:78].


            Civilis was not finished yet, however. Retreating and gathering his forces all the while, he established himself at the legionary fortress at Vetera (just outside modern Xantan) on the left bank of the Rhine in what is now West Bank – Westphalia. Cerealis followed him with a powerful force of six legions, including Legio XIV under its commander Fabius Priscus. The two armies faced each other across a wide expanse of marshy land near Vetera, a morass that had been greatly enlarged by the partial damming of the Rhine on the orders of Civilis. The armies engaged and the result was a resounding defeat for Cerealis as his heavily armoured and laden legionaries floundered in the mud at the mercy of the lightly armed and more mobile German troops. Fortunately for Cerealis, Civilis’ men did not pursue their advantage and at the close of day both sides retired to firm ground with relatively light casualties [Histories 5:14 – 15].


            Battle resumed the next day, but with a rather different configuration of troops. This time the Romans stood their ground and did not seek to venture into the marches. At first Civilis’ men appeared to be getting the upper hand, but then a Batavian turncoat offered to lead Cerealis through hidden paths of solid ground to take his enemy in the rear. Two cavalry regiments were told off to follow the man, the Germans were outflanked and routed. Victory was Cerealis’. Tacitus, however, is disdainful in his praise:


   “ This day’s work would have marked the end of the war if the Roman fleet (under the command of Cerealis) had been quick enough to follow up. Nor did the cavalry press their advantage either, as rain suddenly poured down and dusk was at hand”. [Histories 5:18].


            The victory, Tacitus implies, owes no thanks to the generalship of Cerealis, but rather to luck in the form of an enemy deserter. Once more there is the unstated but obvious criticism that Cerealis – again – has been dilatory in failing to grasp an opportunity [A. Birley 1973 p185].


            Once more Civilis was down but not out His forces regrouped and attacked four Roman emplacements: Legio X at Arenacium, Legio II at Batavodurum, and auxiliary infantry and cavalry positions under their commanders Grinnes and Vada. The attacks on the Legions had only limited success [Histories 5:20] but those on the auxiliaries were more serious, being turned around only when Cerealis himself, along with a picked body of horse, routed the Germans and forced Civilis, Tutor, Classicus and the fourth commander, Verax, to flee ignominiously. Cerealis’ personal courage and audacity brought victory once again, but Tacitus has scant praise, stating that complete victory once again eluded Cerealis because the fleet, which, if it had been to hand, could picked up the fugitive enemy commanders as they fled across the Rhine, but was not because of cowardice and mismanagement. Such success as Cerealis enjoyed was due to good luck rather than anything else:


   “Cerealis allowed insufficient time for the execution of his orders, being a man who improvised on the spur of the moment and yet in the upsot was brilliantly successful, luck supplying any deficiency of generalship. Hence neither he nor his army worried overmuch about discipline”. [Histories 5:21].


Tacitus has one more incidence of discreditable behaviour on the part of Cerealis. A few days after the action described above, Cerealis went upriver to inspect the camps at Novaesium and Bonn where the troops were preparing their winter quarters, returning back to the area of Vetera with a naval flotilla. The Germans noted that discipline was poor and the pickets lax [Histories 5:22] and determined to attack, destroy as much as possible and to capture the General. When the night was dark and cloudy the Germans attacked, inflicting heavy casualties on the Romans as they fumbled about in the dark amongst and within their tents. The raiders cut the moorings of Cerealis’ flagship and dawn saw them towing the vessel away to be presented as a gift to the German Queen Veleda, thinking they had captured the commander. Luckily for Cerealis, he had not been sleeping on his flagship but was quartered elsewhere for the purpose, it was rumoured, of debauching an Ubian woman by the name of Claudia Sacrata. The commander was safe, and despite the acrimony and damage, the army was still sound enough to mount more blows against Civilis and his colleagues.


            Despite the asinine defeat inflicted on Cerealis with the taking of the flagship, Civilis now began to realise that he was losing the war. Public opinion was turning against him. Cerealis had been secretly in communication with Queen Veleda, urging her to make peace, and subsequent events would indicate that she agreed with him. Increasingly Civilis’ allies were beginning to realise that support for him “brought nothing but wounds, defeat and bereavement” [Histories 5:24]. The Germans and Batavians were beginning to see the inevitability of defeat, and there was a feeling that the resources of the Empire were limitless: “ The fire and slaughter inflicted on Roman legions had merely resulted in bringing more and stronger ones to the scene” [Histories 5:25]. The revolt collapsed and Civilis surrendered. The Histories break off in mid-sentence, with a meeting between Cerealis and Civilis on a bridge over the River Nabalia (Yssel?) in which Civilis begins to plead his case.


            And there the record of Cerealis’ Continental exploits ceases, but it is clear that in this instance Rome was prepared to be magnanimous. The Rhine defences were rebuilt and peace was restored to the battered Rhineland. By the time that Tacitus’ “Germania” was published some twenty years after these events, the Batavi have been rehabilitated and do not appear to have suffered reprisals. There is the suggestion that they had retained their tax-exempt status as servants of Rome, supplying the Empire only with military levies. The troubles of 69/70 were not repeated here, and this in itself is a vindication of Roman imperialism [Wellesley 1964 p287] and of Cerealis’ administrative abilities.


            There remains one more reference to Cerealis in the works of Tacitus. In the “De Vita  Agricolae” he refers very briefly to Cerealis’ incumbency as Governor of Britain:


   “Brevi deinde Britannia consularem Petilium Cerealem accepit. Habuerunt virtutes spatium exemplorum, sed primo Cerealis labores modo et discrimina, mox et gloriam commincabat: saepe parti exercitus in experimentum, aliquando maioribus copiis ex eventu praefecit. Nec Agricola umquam in suam famam gestis exulavit: ad auctorem ac ducem ut minister fortunam referebat. Ita virtute obsequando, verecundia in praedicando extra invidiam nec extra gloriam erat.”


   “Shortly afterwards Petillius Cerealis, a man of consular rank, was appointed Governor. Agricola now had scope to display his good qualities, but first it was merely hard work and danger that Cerealis shared with him. The glory came later. Several times he was entrusted with a detachment of the army to test his ability; eventually, when he passed the test, he was placed in command of larger forces. Yet he never sought to glorify himself by bragging of his achievements. It was his chief, he said, who planned all the operations, and he was merely the agent who executed them. Thus by his efficiency in carrying out his orders, and by his modesty in speaking of what he had done, he won distinction without arousing jealousy” [Agricola 8}


            This is an odd passage, as it says almost nothing about Cerealis and a lot about Agricola. Clearly, Tacitus includes reference to Cerealis only grudgingly because he can hardly leave him out of the tale. He really did not want to talk about Cerealis at all.


            So what are we to make of all this? Tacitus records at least five defeats for Cerealis: in Norfolk at the hands of Boudica’s men, in the suburbs of Rome during the Civil War, at Trier, outside Vetera, and on the banks of the Rhine when he suffered the additional indignity of having his flagship stolen. Such victories as Cerealis achieved are ascribed to luck. What Tacitus cannot conceal is that Cerealis nevertheless won major and decisive victories, and concluded the war against Civilis successfully. What is more, he imposed peace on the Rhine provinces in an orderly and lasting manner, and in such a way that the defeated parties were treated with mercy and magnanimity. His clemency is clearly demonstrated by his statesmanlike treatment of rebel soldiers after the taking of Trier, and by his gentleness with that City and its people when he could have sat back and let his vengeful troops have their way with fire and sword. Tacitus tries on several occasions to accuse Cerealis of weakness and an inability to control his men, but the instance of Trier clearly shows that he could and did maintain discipline and his authority under the most stressful of conditions.


            One thing Tacitus cannot conceal: Cerealis’ considerable personal courage. He is always in the thick of it when battle comes, even if he is caught napping (literally) a couple of times, and he leads from the front. His actions at Trier, when, unarmoured and virtually single-handed, he turned his panic-stricken troops around to retake the strategically vital bridge could, if written up by a different hand, have become a legend of valour. His courage in leading a group of cavalry to the rescue of his embattled auxiliaries near Vetera shows courage of the highest order. He displayed the highest integrity in ignoring Civilis’ invitation to head a Gallic Empire, and unswerving loyalty to the Flavian dynasty.


            Certainly he was inclined to be headstrong, rushing into things without full planning or clear thoughts of the consequences of his actions. He was inclined to rush in with sometimes disastrous consequences in terms of lives lost and material damage. He often failed to follow up advantages with swift and decisive action, but in this he is no more guilty than most of his contemporaries, and it is always easy to be wise in hindsight. He was no stern disciplinarian, a quality that Tacitus admired, but nevertheless seems to have enjoyed both the loyalty of, and popularity with, the men under his command.


            Headstrong perhaps. Rash probably. Impetuous certainly. The picture that emerges of Cerealis is that of a man of strong passions easily aroused, but otherwise fairly easy-going and tolerant. He was not the most brilliant of field commanders, but was clearly competent, and deemed capable enough to conduct a major campaign against a wily, determined and powerful opponent in a politically volatile climate and bring it to a successful conclusion. He showed clemency to the defeated, integrity to his principles, and loyalty to his masters. So what did Tacitus have against him?


            The reason can only have been Domitian, who quite clearly favoured Cerealis and seems to have had little time for Tacitus’ revered father-in-law Gnaeus Julius Agricola. Cerealis held his first consulship under Vespasian in 70, just before his departure from the Rhineland and his second under his brother-in-law Titus in 74 when he returned from his tour of duty as Governor of Britain. The favour and esteem of the Flavians would therefore seem assured and his second consulship would have contained a considerable element of reward for a job well done in the provinces. Despite Tacitus’ dismissive and very brief mention of Cerealis’ term of office Titus obviously considered his service to have been valuable and deserving of the highest acclaim. Furthermore, there seems to be a strong possibility that Cerealis enjoyed a third consulship under Domitian [A Birley 1973 p186] in 83, a particularly significant year for Agricola. In that year he was busy in the North of Britain. Having roundly defeated the Caledonii and their allies at the epic battle at Mons Graupius, the conquest of the entire island was in his grasp. Then Domitian demanded troops to reinforce the army of the Rhine preparatory to his campaign against the Chatti, and Agricola was left short-handed, with insufficient men to complete his task. This would have made him very bitter.


            There is some question about the holder of this third consulship. The Quintus Petillius Rufus who is known to have held office could have been Cerealis for a third term, or it could have been his son for a first term [A Birley 1973, p186-7], but father or son is immaterial for our purposes here. Even if Cerealis pater was not consul in 83 he could well have played a key rôle as an advisor on Domitian’s Chattan campaign [A Birley 1973 p187], being both a trusted supporter of the Emperor and a man of considerable experience in matters German due to his extensive time involved in the campaign against Civilis. Either way, Petilii were in control of the decision-making process that led to the siphoning off of desperately needed troops from Britain at a crucial time, and thus depriving Agricola of his fullest possible glory. To add final insult to injury, Agricola was recalled to Rome the following year where, despite the usual accolades and the promise of a plum job as Governor of Asia, nothing more materialised. He seems to have been quietly pensioned off and died in retirement a few years later, never again holding public office. It is possible, even probable, that he viewed his eclipse as the work of Cerealis. This hatred would have been passed on to his son-in-law Tacitus, who, in turn would have taken revenge on Cerealis in the form of denigration of the latter’s exploits, a sort of literary damnatio memoriae.


But what were the man’s exploits in Britain? No literary record of them now remains, but something may be reconstructed even if the evidence is now only circumstantial.




05:02:03: The Brigantian Problem.

The ‘Brigantian Problem’ posed by Venutios and his men had now focussed the strategic picture in Britain into an entirely new pattern. Whereas beforehand, when Cartimandua had held sway and the economically uninteresting area of Northern Britain had seemed to be securely held by a pro-Roman administration, a limit to the province at the southern Pennines had been the logical terminus of direct Roman rule. A limes at the Mersey-Humber line, incorporating a neatly docile Wales, would have been ideal. Rome was not interested in highland areas of low economic productivity and high military resistance, but the intransigence of Venutios forced a confrontation and, in retrospect, became a pivotal moment in Romano-British history. Rome was now alert to the provinces and was ruled by a man who was not only an experienced fighting soldier but had also seen service in Britain and had direct personal knowledge of its strategic value, potential wealth, and military requirements. Had events been otherwise, the next steps in the strategy would have been the subjugation of Wales and then the consolidation of the northern limes between Deva (Chester) and, perhaps, Petuaria (Brough on Humber). Sadly, matters seldom turn out so neatly, and the reality was an urgent need for a return to discipline in the North of Britain. More, it entailed the necessity to conquer Brigantia up to and beyond its northern marches and to entrench a powerful garrison in Britain for three and a half centuries.


The primary task facing Cerealis when he arrived in Britain in 71 was the swift and successful conclusion to the Brigantian problem and the first and most obvious objective was to find Venutios, bring him to battle, defeat and take him. This was mandatory, as the turmoil brewing in the North could well spill over into the Province. The last thing that Rome needed at the moment was a grisly reprise of the War with Boudica, but fortunately Cerealis had the men, the infrastructure and, most importantly, the backing of the Imperial will. He set to work immediately, and despite Tacitus’ dismissive comments [Agricola:17] there can be little doubt that he was eventually able to achieve his primary purpose of taking Venutios and then overrunning the Brigantian territory, during the course of which he was engaged in a considerable number of actions.


Legio II Adiutrix, which Cerealis had brought with him from the Continent, was installed in the legionary fortress at Lindum, together with various auxiliary units such as two cohorts of Tungrians [Jarret 1994 p48], the Ala Augusta Gallorum Petriana [ibid p38], and Ala Gallorum Sebosiana [ibid p41]. Legio IX Hispana, long familiar with the locals, the lie of the land, and the accompanying problems, was sent north where the men set about building themselves a new base in the Vale of York. Previous Roman activity in the area is most probable as the siting of a base at this point indicates a very good knowledge of the local and regional topography and its strategic implications. That knowledge could well have been acquired through previous acquaintance with the area through investigation carried out under the orders of Bolanus [Frere 1987 p83]. It would seem likely [Hanson & Campbell 1986 p84-5] that an already-existing vexillation fort was expanded to accommodate one half the army group that was to spearhead the campaign, a group made up of Legio IX, Cerealis’ old formation, and Legio II Valeria Victrix under the command of the then thirty year old Gnaeus Julius Agricola.


Current local tradition would have it that Venutios was taken after a grand battle at his stronghold at Stanwick, a position supported by many [eg Frere 1987 p83] but there is no archaeological evidence to support this legend. The huge size of the main enclosure, some 5.6 kilometres in circumference, quite clearly precludes the notion that it was built as a defensive rampart. It may be that this outer work was abandoned and the much smaller circuit put into defence against Cerealis’ legions, a militarily sensible suggestion, but there is no evidence that the earthworks were slighted at this period, as would surely have happened had it been taken by the Roman army, and there is some evidence to suggest that the stone revetments existed until the medieval period [Hanson & Campbell 1986 p86] when they were eventually robbed out. Nor is there evidence in the form of broken or discarded gear of war, or human bones with injury marks, that would suggest a major military engagement. The enticing and heroic notion of a valiant final battle, a clash of giants, at Stanwick between Venutios and Rome does not bear scrutiny. We must look elsewhere for the last stand of Venutios.


Tacitus implies [Agricola:17] that there were many battles fought during this campaign and we should take him at his word on that as the Brigantes were numerous, warlike and obstinate. Their territory and that of their allies was very large indeed, with a concomitantly large catchment of fighting men. Covering North Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cumbria, County Durham, and the Scottish Borders, much of the land is marginal hill and moorland, but there are many pockets of good land and it could have supported a very large population, while Brigantian allies or confederates could have extended a far north as the Tay. Reading between the lines of Tacitus’ comment that Agricola did not encounter ‘previously unknown tribes’ until his fifth campaigning season would suggest that Roman military activity under Agricola’s predecessors had penetrated deep into southern Scotland. Tacitus does not mention such activity in so many words as to do so would detract from Agricola’s achievement, but clearly Cerealis (certainly) and his successor Frontinus (possibly) cast a very much wider net that would at first appear to be the case. This is a lot of territory and Cerealis had a long, hard slog on his hands. But how did he go about it?


The greatest problem in reconstructing Cerealis’ lines of march and the progress of his campaign is that he built few permanent forts that are now recognisable as the work of his time. Brough and Malton were almost certainly founded during this campaign [Frere 1987 p84], as was Carlisle but few others can be securely dated. It is most probable that he chose a two-pronged advance. Cerealis himself, together with Legio IX headed north up the east coast towards Stanwick and the Stainmore Pass, while Agricola led Legio XX up the west coast from Wroxeter via Middlewich along what would later become known as King Street. The two forces would eventually have met up somewhere in the region of Carlisle.


The logical line of advance for Legio IX would have been north from Lindum to the Humber Estuary. A fort of some sort had been established on the south bank more or less at what is now Old Winteringham in the early 50’s [Goodburn 1974 p378], creating the northern terminus of Ermine Street. The fort at Brough, begun as a temporary camp during Nero’s reign, was enlarged and would have served as a secure bridgehead on the north bank of the estuary. From here the army, having been ferried across to the north bank, would then have marched north-north-west through the territory of the Parisii. Halfway between Brough and York, following the line of the Roman road, lay the fort at Hayton. This complex was founded at the beginning of Vespasian’s reign, say 70 or 71, close to a large native farmstead and had a lifespan of no more than ten years [Johnson 1979 p78], indicating that it was purpose-built for Cerealis’ campaign and was demolished when matters were firmly in hand. Extensive animal bone evidence would suggest that it was a temporary supply base, gathering meat and produce from the surrounding area, and the fact that the army did not appear to have interfered in local farming practice [Johnson 1979 p78] tends to confirm the notion of amicable relations between Rome and the Parisii. The garrison at Hayton had permanent barracks and workshops, while troops in transit would have bivouacked in the northern annexe, resting and stocking up for the next leg of their journey on to York or Malton.


Three real possibilities exist in the form  of three camps that follow the line of Stainmore pass. They are approximately one day’s march apart [Hanson & Campbell 1986 p86] and follow what would later become the main Roman road from York to Carlisle. They are all about the right size to accommodate a legion and the camp at Rey Cross is only 29 kilometres west of Stanwick [Hanson & Campbell 1986 p86]. It would appear that Cerealis, having first secured Stanwick, then marched north west across the Pennines to establish a forward base at Carlisle, thus cutting southern Brigantia in half. Units were sent north along the east coast and it is probable that Corstopitum (Corbridge) was first occupied at this time; a tombstone of of the cavalry regiment Ala Augusta Gallorum Petriana appears to date from this time [Jarret 1994 p38].


Meanwhile, Agricola was advancing up the west coast, camping at Middlewich and then crossing the Mersey at Wilderspool [Rogers 1996 p367]. It is likely that he followed the coast as far as possible and probable further camp sites are at Wigan and Preston. Although archaeological evidence for the latter two is unavailable, the area north of Warrington is a natural gap of well-drained gravels between swamps to the east and west and had been a well-established path since the most ancient of times [Rogers 1996 p367]. It would have been only natural for the XXth to follow this easiest of routes. Their next stop would have been at Lancaster at a temporary camp of which no sign has been found but may be beneath the auxiliary fort which has been dated to a foundation in circa 75 [Jones & Shotter 1988 p24], almost within our date range.


In the course of time Agricola and his column arrived at Carlisle, and if the founding date of 72/3 for the first Flavian fort is indeed accurate [Caruana 1992 p106], it would indicate that it took a whole campaigning season to reach that point. The going would have been hard and at points bitterly contested. Many ancient paths existed and these the Romans would have used whenever possible, but much of the area, especially inland across the Tyne-Solway isthmus, was still heavily forested with a dense cover of oak, birch, alder and hazel [Dumayne 1994 p217ff]. Only much later when Agricola in the 80’s consolidated the line of the defences along the Stanegate would the ancient wildwood begin to recede, a process that would be virtually complete by the time Hadrian’s Wall was built in the 120’s.


Reach their destination they did, Agricola, Cerealis or both, and a fort was built to house a garrison. Pottery analysis from the annexe ditch to the south of the earliest known fort clearly demonstrates occupation from the earliest Flavian period. The pottery, some of it unused, was accompanied by glassware, assorted documents, tent pegs, tent leather, scraps of shoe leather and something that may have been part of a chicken coop, all items typical of the contents of a Roman quartermasters’ store. All were dumped in the ditch, indicating a major cleanout in 83 – 84, preparatory, perhaps to a change of garrison at that stage. Overall evidence would suggest a founding date for the fort at 72 and occupation seems to have been continuous thereafter [Caruana 1992 p103]. The place was named Luguvallium, which would appear to be a latinisation of a hypothetical British name that may be approximated as Luguualiion or Luguualion, The Town of Luguvalos, which in turn includes the elements Lugus, the name of a popular pan-Celtic deity whom the Romans equated with Mercury, and ualo, meaning power, or strength (cf. The latin valeo and the English valour). This may well translate to ‘The Place of the Power of Lugus”.


This would have to be a name of some considerable potency, which may suggest that the decision to found the fort, and its later development into a civilian settlement and ultimately into a civitas capital, was based on purely military strategic considerations. Perhaps, like Camulodunum, this was a centre of spiritual power of long standing and to plant a fort and garrison on this spot would be seen not only as the reality of military domination but symbolically as a token of the spiritual conquest of that land. The Carvetii, the tribe of the Carlisle area may well have had to suffer the humiliation of Roman appropriation of their gods as well as the shame of military defeat.


The fort certainly housed elements of Legio XX and we even have the names of some of the men. A document recovered from the annexe ditch [Caruana 1992 p69] brings them into immediate focus:


imp domitiano uiiii cos

uii idus nouembres q cassius

secundus miles leg xx 7 calui

prisci scribsi me debere

c geminio mansueto militi

leg eiusdem 7 uetti proculi

denarios centum quos….[.]

[.  .  .  .]


Imp(eratore) Domitiano VIIII co(n)s(ules) VII Idus Novembres. Q(intus) Cassius Secundus, miles leg(ionis) XX (centuria} Calvi Prisci, scribsi me debere Gaio Geminio Mansueto leg(ionis) eiusdem (centuria) Vetti Proculi, denarios centum quos [tibi?] {. . . .].


“In the 9th consulship of the Emperor Domitian, on the 7th day before the Ides of November [7th November 83], I, Quintus Cassius Secundus, soldier of the Twentieth Legion, century of Calvius Priscus, have written that I owe Gaius Geminius Mansuetus, soldier of the same Legion, century of Vettius Proculus, one hundred denarii which [I will repay you……date due]. [Tomlin 1992 p147]


            Did these men march behind Agricola as he headed into the north along the Cumbrian coast to meet Cerealis, remaining in garrison these for the next decade or so as part of a policing presence? Or were they transferred there later to bolster Agricola’s fighting strength when, as Governor, he pushed into the far north? Or were they brigaded there for a while with others as they headed back to winter quarters after the battle of Mons Graupius? Whenever they came, and whatever their ultimate fates, we are poignantly reminded by the letter that the men of the Twentieth Legion were not shadowy, two-dimensional creatures but real people who used plates and bottles, needed their shoes repaired, slept in leather tents, looked after chickens, and borrowed money from each other for ordinary, mundane purposes. The fact even of spelling mistakes like scribsi for the correct form scripsi shows clearly that the Romans, like many a modern schoolchild, could not write Latin correctly!


After Luguvallium the trail of Cerealis runs cold: there is no evidence of his campaigning north of the Tyne Solway isthmus but it may be safely assumed that the legions did not stop there half way through Brigantian territory. They would surely have continued on, Agricola to harry the Novantae of the West and Cerealis the Selgovae of the central Borders. The territory of the Carvetii seems to have extended around the waters of the Solway Firth, and without doubt Agricola and the men of Legio XX would have marched that far. It is probable that the enigmatic Brittones Anavionenses, a people attested once only, on an inscription from Foligno in Umbria commemorating the career of one T. Haterius Nepos, were indeed the pro-Brigantian inhabitants of Anava (Annandale) [Rivet 1982 p321], and that the first agents of Roman civilization on their soil were the legions of Petillius Cerealis. That Venutios was at last run to ground is not in doubt. Such a man would not have run forever and there is no mention of him in the Agricola; Tacitus would surely have made much of the fact if his father-in-law had indeed taken the British king. It seems most probable that Statius refers [Silvae 5:2] to the fact that someone “took a cuirass off the British king” and then “watchtowers and forts in wide circuit he did set – and threw a trench about these walls” he is not talking about Vettius Bolanus but about Petillius Cerealis.


Cerealis departed Britain forever in 74, summoned by Titus to take up the consulship for a second time, clearly a reward for a job well done. With his departure Britain passed into the stewardship of his successor, Julius Frontinus. The Brigantes, it would seem, were left stunned and leaderless, fragmented once more and unable to offer effective resistance to Rome. Cerealis and Frontinus seem to have been content with that as both seem to have taken few steps to police the conquered lands effectively, although the west coast at least as far up as Carlisle was secured and the East as far as York, by as a whole Brigantia was not incorporated into the Province [Frere 1987 p85]. That would be the task of another.




2:04. Julius Frontinus

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