Chapter 3, 55 BC to 78 AD – Caractacus – Continued
The task of completing the subjugation of the island was left to Aulus Plautius and to Vespasian, his second in command, and who was afterwards emperor. The former undertook to subdue the tribes north of the Thames, and the latter those on the south side. Vespasian fought no fewer than thirty battles, and took twenty fortified places, and in one of the battles his life would have been sacrificed but for the devotion and intrepidity of his son Titus, subsequently the renowned conqueror of Jerusalem. For five years also, Aulus found his utmost skill and resources severely taxed by the native tribes, and on his recall, the Britons immediately overran the territory which he had so dearly conquered. This spirit of independence and resistance broke out repeatedly during the propraetors ship of Ostorius Scapula, who succeeded Aulus, and found its height among the Silures, who had elected Cractacus to be their chief. These, joining with the Ordovices, of North Wales, awaited the arrival of the Romans in a strongly entrenched position among the Shropshire hills, though the precise spot is now only a matter of conjecture, and presented such a determined front that even Ostorius hesitated about attacking them. But his soldiers were clamorous, crying out that their valour would overcome all opposition. With much difficulty they crossed the river, and at first suffered much from the British defence, but closing their ranks, and placing their shields above their heads, they soon tore down the rough, irregular piles of stones, and attacking the defenders on level ground, obliged them to fly to the hills. Thither also they were followed, and thrown into disorder, and having no defensive armour, were at length cut in pieces by the swords and spears of the legionaries.
In this decisive battle the wife and daughter of Caractacus were taken prisoners, and his brothers surrendered soon after. He himself sought refuge with his step mother, Cartismandua, Queen of the Brigantes, a tribe dwelling in Yorkshire and part of Lancashire, but she, in order to obtain favour with the Romans, delivered him up to them. Great joy was manifested at the capture of this renowned chieftain, who was instantly sent to Rome with his family, and presented before Claudius and the empress Agrippina. Intense curiosity was manifested to see this chief from the remote west, who for nine years had defied and resisted the Roman power. Tacitus ascribes to him a speech which it is more than improbable that he delivered, although the sentiments it contains accord with his dignified and resolute bearing when exposed as a captive to the gaze of assembled Rome. To the honour of Claudius, he received the illustrious prisoner graciously and restored him to liberty, though nothing is known with certainty of his after career. It has been conjectured, with some degree of plausibility, that he was allowed to return to Britain, and was reinstated in his authority.
Undismayed by the loss of their new chief, the Silures continued their opposition to the Roman power, cutting off detachments, assailing foregoing parties, and those left to guard the ports, and even attacking the fortified camp, slaying its commanding officer, with eight centurions, and many of its bravest soldiers, compelling Ostorius to bring up strong reinforcements, but even with these, the Roman success was very doubtful and precarious. Tacitus says that there was incessant fighting, generally of a predatory character. Sometimes the armies met in the woods, at other times in the midst of marshes, according as chance or their own headlong valour directed. Many an expedition was undertaken to revenge some previous defeat, while others had plunder for their object. The Silures were most obstinate in their resistance, and this was increased by a threat of the Roman commander, that he would root their very name out of Britain, as had been done with the Sigambri, who had been transported to Gaul. This enraged the Silures, who stirred up other tribes to revolt by giving them a large share of booty, and thus exciting a love of plunder. Ostorious was so exhausted by labour and vexation that he died, to the great joy of the Britons.
His successor, Aulus Didius, though a man advanced in years, carried on the operations against the Silures with increased energy, and adapted to a yet larger extent a plan which had been used by his predecessor, of enlisting the aid of some of the native tribes, by promises of reward and protection. During his administration a circumstance occurred which greatly assisted him in this policy. Cartismandua, the queen of the Brigantes, who had betrayed Caractacus, afterwards married one of the chiefs of her own tribe, but speedily quarrelled with him on his demand for supreme power. She then separated from him, and cohabited with another man, and a civil war was the result, part of the tribe siding with her, and part with her husband. In the emergency she invoked the aid of the Romans, who, nothing loath to avail themselves of such inward dissensions went to her assistance, and overcame the other party. Cartismandua, however, was disowned and deposed, and henceforth lived under the protection of the Romans.
Chapter 3, Julius Caesar
Chapter 3, Caractacus
Proprietorships of Aulus and Ostorins
Chapter 3, The Romans Revenge
Categories: Book 1