A bestseller in 2008, Remember Remember has continued to enlighten and entertain readers wanting to brush up on their history. Lively, exciting, full of great stories and humorous asides, this book looks at the key events in British history, covering all the important dates, people and events. Each subject is presented in short, self-contained 'articles', designed to be dipped into on the readers whim. Concise and authoritative, Remember, Remember makes history interesting and accessible for everyone once again.
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Judy Parkinson is an author and compiler, her most recent book for Michael O'Mara was the bestselling title / Before E (Except After C).Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
THE ROMAN INVASION
The Romans were empire builders on a mission to spread their civilization to barbarian lands. One such was Britain, which consisted of various unruly Celtic tribes in conflict with each other (a situation the Romans exploited). Julius Caesar's attempts, in 55 and 54 b.c., to occupy Britain were defeated by bad weather. Augustus threatened, but never carried out, invasions in 34, 27 and 25 b.c. In a.d. 43, the unpopular Emperor Claudius needed to improve his image in Rome, an invasion of Britain would bring favorable publicity.
The Romans landed on the south coast—possibly Kent—and swept through the south, with fierce fighting that drove the British northwest. By a.d. 50, eleven tribes had surrendered and southern Britain was Romanized. Camulodunum (modern Colchester) was the first capital, but the Romans soon saw the potential of the Thames and established Londinium as a commercial and administrative center at the hub of a road network. London soon became capital of the new province, Britannia.
Partial domination of the west came with a Welsh campaign in a.d. 54-60, though Boudicca's rebellion in East Anglia delayed occupation. Northward expansion was more problematic, and despite several efforts Scotland was never wholly conquered.
The influence of occupation on British culture was enormous. Roman customs, laws and religions were adopted, while the Romans introduced such facilities as public baths and exercise areas, underfloor central heating and a road system on which today's network is loosely based.
THE FOUNDING OF LONDINIUM
c. a.d. 50
Before the Roman invasion of a.d. 43, the site of London was a marshy patch of wasteland through which the River Thames flowed. As the Romans advanced northward, they came to a point where they could ford the river. A fort was built on the north side, and work began on a network of roads.
With the river's usefulness as means of transport and its wide estuary facing the European mainland, the region's potential was not lost on the Romans. A bridge was built, and settlers, mainly traders, began to arrive. Slowly a town, Londinium, grew up around them.
It was not safe, however, and when Boudicca's Iceni tribe rose up against the Romans, the governor of Britannia, Suetonius Paulinus, displayed cool leadership, urging the citizens of Londinium to flee. Those who could not were slaughtered, and the town was razed by the angry Britons.
Apart from a quay, little was built on the site for some twenty years, but then began a period of spectacular growth, and by about a.d. 120, Londinium had established itself as the administrative, commercial and financial center of Roman Britain. A major fire in the following decade marked the start of a setback, but it still remained a wealthy and important Roman stronghold, as revealed by the remains of large and fine Roman villas found in the city area and the great defensive wall built around the city between a.d. 190 and 225.
d. a.d. 60/61
"A Briton woman of the royal family...In stature she was very tall, in appearance most terrifying, in the glance of her eye most fierce, and her voice was harsh; a great mass of the tawniest hair fell to her hips; around her neck was a large golden necklace...(The Roman historian Cassius Dio on Boudicca, some 150 years after her death).
When the Romans invaded Britain in a.d. 43, they allowed some tribal rulers to remain as "client kings" under the Roman emperor. One such was Prasutagus, who ruled the Iceni (in the East Anglia region) with his queen, Boudicca. When he died in a.d. 60, the Romans ignored his will, which left the kingdom to his daughters jointly with the Roman emperor, and instead took control themselves. For good measure they publicly flogged Boudicca and raped her daughters.
In response, Boudicca mustered the support of other English tribes and rose up against the Romans. From her chariot, her daughters at her side, she led an army of some 100,000 men, which destroyed the Roman capital at Camulodunum (Colchester), went on to devastate Londinium and Verulamium (St. Albans), and slaughtered the 9th Roman Legion, despite being vastly outnumbered.
The Romans rallied, however, and eventually defeated Boudicca, perhaps in the West Midlands. Boudicca herself died, having reputedly taken poison. Nothing is known of the fate of her daughters.
Hadrian's Wall was a seventy-three-mile fifteen-foot-high wall built by the Romans under the Emperor Hadrian to separate the barbarians in Scotland (Britannia Inferior, as the Romans called it) from the newly civilized Britons to the south (Britannia Superior), and to prevent raids from the north. Its height made it useful for surveillance as well as defense. Stretching from Wallsend-on-Tyne to the Solway Firth, it marked the northern boundary of the Empire and influenced the position of the current Scottish border.
The wall consisted of a stone wall with a ditch or vallum to the south, interspersed with a number of forts. It was built by skilled members of the Roman army, who took pride in being part of the greatest civilizing force of all time, as well as local people who would benefit from the increased security and economic stability the wall would bring. Settlements soon sprang up nearby.
Under Antoninus Pius, further attempts to conquer Scotland led to the construction of the heavily fortified Antonine Wall one hundred miles north in 138-142. Antoninus could never completely conquer the Scottish tribes, however, and the border returned to Hadrian's Wall from 164 until the end of Roman occupation.
Hadrian's Wall was one of the most sophisticated border posts in the Roman world; an icon of security to Britannia Superior. Despite having been plundered for building materials over the centuries, parts of the wall remain today and it is a popular walking area.
Saint Alban was England's first Christian martyr. A pagan living in Verulamium (now St. Albans) during a period of vicious Roman persecution against Christians, Alban offered refuge to
Amphibolus, a Christian cleric on the run, and was so impressed by Amphibolus's belief that he converted and was baptized. Alban then made the ultimate sacrifice and, disguising himself in his guest's cloak, gave himself up in his stead (though this hardly helped Amphibolus, who was caught and stoned to death days later).
The story has various associated legends—most famously, his executioner's eyes are said to have fallen out in an act of divine retribution. As he was about to be beheaded Alban declared, "I worship and adore the true and living God who created all things." These words are still used in prayer at St. Albans Abbey, which stands on the site of his death.
The accession in 306 of Emperor Constantine I, who converted to Christianity in 312, brought greater religious tolerance. In 313, the Edict of Milan proclaimed protection for Christians throughout the Empire.
Saint Alban is the patron saint of converts, refugees and torture victims. In 2006, a group of Church of England clergy campaigned to replace Saint George with Saint Alban as England's patron saint.
CONSTANTINE THE GREAT
Constantine was the son of the military commander Constantius, who became emperor in 305, and Helena, a woman of humble origins (discarded in favor of a noblewoman when Constantius became emperor). Constantius died while fighting in Britain in 306, and Constantine was declared emperor—but for many years he had to fight off rivals and was not secure in his position until 324. In 312, on the eve of a battle against a rival, Christ appeared to him in a dream and told him to inscribe a sign resembling a cross on his soldiers' shields; a vision followed of a cross against the sun, with the words In hoc signo vinces ("In this sign you will conquer"). He did conquer—and converted to Christianity.
Constantine had already been promoting religious tolerance throughout the empire since 306; in 313, he and his co-emperor issued the Edict of Milan ordering that no action should be taken against any religions. The Christian Church, moreover, was granted special benefits.
In 324 Constantine took command of the whole empire, uniting it through Christianity, which he proclaimed the official religion. He built a new capital city, Constantinople, on the site of the ancient Greek city of Byzantium. As the first Christian emperor of Rome, he played a major part in establishing Christianity in Europe, paving the way for it becoming the predominant religion in Britain. (His mother, also Christian and of English extraction, was later remembered as Saint Helena.)
THE DECLINE OF THE ROMANS
Tribal skirmishes against the Romans were commonplace throughout the four-hundred-year Roman occupation. But until the fourth century a.d., the "barbarians" were kept at bay. Even the Picts of Caledonia were held back north of Hadrian's Wall.
But then came increasing attacks from Germanic invaders in the east, and in 367 Picts and Scotti took advantage of a rebellious garrison on Hadrian's Wall to pour through into Britain. Simultaneously, there came hordes of Saxons from the east, and from the west attacks by the Irish and the Attacotti tribe.
Cities were sacked and civilians raped, murdered or enslaved, as bands of marauders fought and looted their way across Britain. Confusion reigned for many months, but by the end of 368 the barbarians had been driven back. However, the attacks continued, and Angles and Jutes as well as Saxons came over from Germany and Denmark. Some Saxons were even believed to have been invited over by the British warlord Vortigern to act as mercenaries against the Picts, only for them to revolt and establish their own power bases in the southeast. With the Celts driven westward as the Anglo-Sax...
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