Book 1, Chapter 3, 55 BC to 78 AD – Caractacus – Continued
One of the first things which Suetonius did was to resolve on the conquest of Mona (Anglesea) and the extirpation of the Druids, who had retired thither, and instigated the tribes in their continued opposition. He marched his army to the coast of Carnarvon, and baying constructed a number of flat-bottomed boats, crossed the strait. The opposite shore was lined with the native defenders, among whom women dressed in dark garments, with their hair streaming to the wind, ran up and down like furies. The Druids stood there, uttering dreadful imprecations. The novelty of the sight filled the Roman troops with dismay, and they hesitated to advance, but at length shame and the reproaches of their leader urged them on to the attack it was resistless, and carried all before it. The British were utterly routed, many of the Druid priests perished in their own sacred fires, the consecrated groves were cut down, and a blow was given that day to the old religion from which it never recovered.
While Suetonius was thus engaged, a formidable insurrection broke out on the eastern side of the island, which seriously threatened the safety of the Roman power. Tacitus admits that the distant provinces of the empire were often unjustly and cruelly governed by avaricious and arbitrary propraetors, whose sole object was to extort as much tribute as possible, partly to help maintain the pomp and luxury of Rome, and partly to amass wealth for themselves, and he states that the British were made to feel this most acutely. Many of their youth had been forcibly deported to the continent to serve among the auxiliary troops, whence there was no likelihood of their returning. Some of the noblest families had been reduced to slavery, the chiefs were required to pay enormous tribute and fines, and non-payment was swiftly followed by increased imposts or confiscations. In the Roman colonies which had been planted in the island much cruelty and oppression were exercised, and in addition to all this, the conquerors had introduced priests of their own creed, who with a pretended zeal for religion devoured the substance of the land. These are the very words of Tacitus, who, summing up the consultations of the British chiefs, says that they reflected on the miseries attendant upon servitude, and when they came to compare their several injuries, they were heightened tenfold by putting them together. It was clear that passive submission would but encourage their oppressors to proceed to still greater lengths. Instead of one king, as formerly, they now had two, the lieutenant and his procurator, the former exercising tyranny over their persons, the latter over their goods. Nothing was now safe from the avarice and the licentiousness of their governors.
The meanest spirited and most contemptible of men entered and pillaged their houses, carried away their children, and sold them as slaves, or made them enlist abroad in the Roman armies. The Britons considered their own numbers as more than a match for the paltry and inconsiderable Roman force, and love of country and freedom, with the presence of wives, children, and parents, were strong motives to sustain a war, in which it was hoped that their oppressors might be driven off, as their fathers had driven off the first invaders.
Chapter 3, Julius Caesar
Chapter 3, Caractacus
Suetonius Conquers Mona
Chapter 3, The Romans Revenge
Categories: Book 1