Roman Britain: The Trophy No One Wanted

In the world of the Holy Roman Empire, Britain was barely a blip on the radar. The island country wasn’t seen as desirable for the simple fact that it wasn’t. The land was sparse, the people were weird, and after conquering the great Gaul, Rome was less than interested in shelling out more troops in order to occupy an otherwise money-draining venture. This topic is discussed at length in the “Roman Britain” podcast from the In Our Time History series.

Caesar first set foot on the island of Britain in 55 BC. It was around this time that the participators in the podcast introduced the idea of Britain as a “trophy”. Caesar, after conquering Gaul, had sailed across the sea, to a world unknown by all his people, and then promptly left. The Britons were seen as barbaric. Since at the time, Britain had no real appeal to the Roman Empire, it was therefore allowed to remain of its own at this time.

The winds shifted to a new direction in the year 43 AD with the coming of Claudius. Unlike his predecessors, Claudius was not as accomplished or as intimidating as the successful generals before him. In order to show his right to rule, Claudius had to do something no one else had thought to before. This is why Claudius decided to claim the trophy no one wanted, Britain. He had to make an impression. And so, with an intricate focus on infrastructure and maintaining the Roman Empire, Claudius weaved Britain into the legend of Rome. He worked tirelessly not only to make Britain solely Rome’s, but also to make it a place Rome could be proud of. This was unfortunately cut short with his death in 54 AD, at which point his adopted nephew Nero ascended the throne and led Britain into a new time of calamity and revolt. And with this, the trophy no one had wanted, but Claudius needed, was again discarded in order to focus on larger issues concerning the Roman Empire.

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