The Roman Invasion of Britain: When and Why?

When did the Romans invade Britain?

Over the course of nearly one hundred years, the Romans attempted to invade Britain three times.

  • In 55 B.C. Julius Caesar invaded Britain with two Roman legions. The Romans fought several battles against different Celtic tribes before returning to Gaul (France).

  • In 54 B.C. Caesar returned to Britain with a much larger army. He crossed the English Channel with five Roman legions, landing near Deal in Kent. The Romans marched inland and crossed the river Thames. Again they fought against the Celtic tribesmen and demonstrated the strength and power of the Rome. Caesar agreed to leave Britain, but only if the tribes agreed to make a tribute (payment) to Rome.
  • In 43 A.D. Emperor Claudius launched a third and final invasion of Britain. Four Roman legions, led by General Aulus Plautius, landed in three locations on the coast of Britain – Richborough, Lympne and Dover. A large battle was fought between the Romans and the Celtic tribes near to the River Medway. The Romans emerged victorius, but it took many years to gain control of Britain, as many tribes (such as the Iceni led by Boudicca) continued to fight against Roman rule. The Roman invasion of Britain was a gradual process.

Between Caesar’s second invasion and the final invasion under the Emperor Claudius, Roman traders and merchants had established trading relationships with the Celtic tribes living in Britain. As a result, some areas in the South of England were being influenced by the Romans and their culture before the final invasion.

Why did the Romans invade Britain?

The Romans were constantly making moves to extend the Roman Empire and push the boundaries of the land under Roman control. Having subdued the Celtic tribes in Gaul (modern day France), the Romans turned their attention to the tribes living in Britain. Britain was full of natural resources, and the Romans believed that it would be of great benefit to the Empire if the island could be successfully invaded.

What next? Find out more facts about the Romans, or learn about Boudicca, the leader of the Iceni tribe, who fought back against the Romans in East Anglia.

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