Roman Britain

Line of the Fosse Way - Exeter to Lincoln

Invasion - AD 43

Roman control exercised by: Client Kings

and Direct Rule 


Government and Administration

Conquest AD 43

Roman control exercised by: Direct Rule and Client Kings 

Client King examples: 

Success: Cogidubnus, King of the Atrebates, Calleva Atrebatum, based in Silchester

Failure: Cartimandua of the Brigantes, Prasutagus of the Iceni (Boudiccan Rebellion AD 60/61)

Colchester was the capital (Camulodunum) 

Local native kings would:

Provide troops when necessary, pay nominal taxes and ensure the loyalty of their tribe

In return: Would have the right to bear arms and govern their own regions

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Government and Administration 2

AD 69 - 'Year of the Four Emperors' - Romans realised you could make an emperor somewhere other than Rome

Last of the emperors was Vespasian (AD 69 - 79)

Made an important change, ended Client Kings throughout empire after AD 70

Agricola AD 77 - 84

- Most detailed account of a governor in Roman Britain

- Expansionist policy

- Furthest extent of Roman movement north

The Frontier:

1) Forth - Clyde Line - AD 90

2) The 'Stanegate' - AD 100 - 120

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Government and Administration 3

3) Hadrian's Wall - policy was to have permanent frontiers (AD 122 - 125) - Built in stone AD 160

4) Antoninus Pius - Antonine Wall ( AD 140 - 160)

Duties of a Governor

Agricola 'Civilising' - Building works, huge change in fashion, latin speaking Britons

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Government and Administration 4

Governor's central policy was laid out and helped by a large amount of permanent staff attached directly to Headquarters, was initially Colchester (Camulodunum) and now London (Londinium) 

Upper levels were controlled by legionary soldiers and headed by a Princeps Praetorii of Senior Centurion Rank

Under him were men with legal matters, e.g 

Adjutants (Cornicularii) - Legal matters

Speculatores - Responsible for condemned prisoners and acted as official couriers

Beneficiarii - Oversaw organisation of supplies, maintenance of roads and posting stations 

Stratores - (May have been connected with public transport)

Below this: Staff of clerks, freedmen and slaves doing 'paperwork'

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Government and Administration 5

Governor's area of responsibility wide ranging - 

 When not campaigning in winter months, was expected to concentrate on central administration such as romanising the local nobility or construction of roads.

One of the most important roles was the administration of justice, he was involved in all cases with the possiblity of a death sentence or condemnation to the mines

He was NOT responsible for economic development 

This was in the hands of the Procurator, despite being socially inferior to the governor he was not subject to him 

We know the names of TEN procurators who served in Britain 

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Taxes were simple:

- ANNONA - Corn tax ( grain bought for a set sum and used to feed the army forces and administration) - We know this from Tacitus Agricola

- TRIBUTUM SOLI - Tax on other produce on land 

- TRIBUTUM CAPITIS - Tax on poll/property

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Local Government

1st Stage to AD 70 - Some client kingdoms, otherwise there was direct military rule e.g (40,000 troops in south - east)

e.g Hod Hill Iron Age Fort - was occupied by a cavalry unit 

2nd Stage - in the south at first 

Development or imposition of 'tribal cantons' (Civitates), each with a local council or ORDO based in a town 

Roles of the Civitas Capital:

- Law enforcement

- Tax collection

- Run by Ordo, nominally 100 strong men known as 'decurions' who initially were elected but became self perpetuating. Had two delegates that could be sent to the provincial council, so had direct contact with the governor. Organised justice, ceremonies etc. Two people presided over the meetings and 2 were Quaestores, responsibile for finance 

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- Originally elected by the 'citizen body' (free born members of the tribe? Not all were Roman citizens, individuals belonged to the Civitas. 

- This changed in AD 212 when the EDICT OF THE CARACELLA was enforced 

- Said if you are free - born, not a slave, you are a Roman citizen

- At a later stage, around about AD 325, these positions became hereditary 

- Two of the Ordo were elected by their own number as senior magistrates

- There were also AEDILES responsible for public works and QUAESTORES responsible for finance/treasury department

- This local admin helped replace the previous tribal admin pre - invasion AD 43. 

- This is also seen in the Client Kings, who were relied upon to maintain the loyalty of their tribe, freeing Roman forces for use elsewhere 

- In return the tribe maintained its laws, right to bear arms, native identity

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Local Government

The importance Rome placed on self - government was evident in the formation of the first COLONIA 6 years after invasion, of the conversion of the legionary fortress at COLCHESTER into a colony. 

- Status wise, the colony held prime position in local government, being essentially an urban settlement of legionary veterans, and due to their retirement grants, controlled a significant amount of the surrounding countryside

- By the end of the century two more COLONIAE were added, GLOUCESTER and LINCOLN 

- Again these were the conversion of legionary fortresses into civil settlements and centres of Roman influence intended to inspire the natives. 

- In the severan period, the civil settlement that had grown up around YORK was also upgraded to the status of a colony, as was probably London at some stage 

- The admin of the colony mirrored the admin of the Ordo in minature, made up of a 100 decurions which eventually became self - perpetuating 

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Similar to the colonies but with lower status was the Municipium

This was usually a pre - existing settlement within a province taken over by Rome 

One example, and the only one we have, is 

St Albans (Verulamium) 

Like the colonies, the municipium controlled a considerable amount of land and mirrored their administration 

Unlike Colchester when first founded, the inhabitants of the municipium weren't necessarily of full citizen status

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The Civitates

Civitates Peregrinae converted the old tribal areas into Roman administrative units, because by grouping seperate tribes into manageable units it made local government more effective, some tribes were too small to be independent.

The shift to self - governing civitates shows the Romans had a desire to hand over the responsibility for administration onto the local population

Each had its own administrative centre, the CIVITAS CAPITAL usually recognised by its DOUBLE - BARELLED name 


Ratae Coritanorum, (Leicester)

Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester)

These towns formed part of a whole civitas

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The Civitates

The result was that the legal point of origin for the non - citizen population was their civitas as a whole, whereas those enrolled in Municipia and Colonies, it was the town that served this purpose

The Civitas local administration reflected the system in the colonies, with the excepetion of Quaestores and Seviri Augustales. 

Within the area of the Civitates there are TWO other units:

The Vicus

The Pagus 


Smallest unit of self - administration, was mainly given to civil settlements that grew up around military forts, especially those along Hadrian's Wall (AD 120 - 122)

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The Civitates

Pagus - A subdivision of the civitas itself, a rural area of which the administration remains obscure. 

Administration of the Civitates were mainly concerned with local issues but did send delegates to the Provincial Council

However, it was a body with few powers, largely restricted to criticising or praising a governor

Otherwise it's chief funtion was the maintenance of the Province's imperial cult, which was very difficult.

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