The Romanization Of Britain

Submitted By pskrog
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Roger Wert
Early English History
Dr. Reiter
The Romanization of Britain

Romanization was the process by which cultural exchange flowed in a one dimensional axis, with little of the initial culture being maintained and a slow but steady push towards adopting new, Roman ways, resulted in the eventual acculturation of the population into which Roman citizens, society, and beliefs were transplanted. Though the Romans would have no doubt considered this an educational process by which barbarians were brought into the folds of civilization, the accultured population did not always view this in such a positive light. Britain was one such example of a prolonged effort to maintain autonomy, both culturally, politically, and in sovereignty.

Romanization was a popular method of folding new cultures into the greater Roman blanket. Military conquest could gain you the land, but a crossing over of culture is how you ultimately win the people. Rome was proficient at doing just that. Brittainia, however, posed a new set of problems for it's Roman conquerors, in part by their geographically small but important separation from the mainland, the availability or lack thereof of resources as a means of supporting their forced inclusion, the language barriers experienced at levels previously inexperienced, and the ultimate will of the people to fight til the bitter end to maintain their independence.

The first problem involved in occupying or annexing Britain was the opportunity for enrichment of the Republic by doing so, or the lack thereof, in Augustus' Caesars case. In the first major clash between the Romans and the Britons, very little reason was seen to justify the resources necessary to put down local resistance, and very little potential profit was identified. Strabo sent correspondence back to Rome while accompanying Augustus Caesar on the first incursions to Brittainia saying that, “For though the Romans could have held Britain, they have rejected the idea, seeing that there was nothing to fear from the Britons, since they are not powerful enough to cross over and attack us, nor was there much advantage to be gained if the Romans were to occupy it.”

With that words being said and popularly accepted in Rome, it was surprising to see how much time, energy, and rhetoric the Roman people would eventually invest into British conquest. While Augustus Caesar would leave Britain for the Britons, it was a century later that Claudius Caesar, seeing new riches, as well as a chance to make history by doing what Augustus could not do, invaded the Isles. This time, however, he faced an entirely new set of problems.

There was a lack of continuity of culture in both mainland Britain as well as the associated isles. While the people there certainly identified in an “us / them” mentality in regards to the Roman invaders, there were many converging and diverging cultural traits amongst the various peoples of the lands. For instance, although many of the different communities spoke various forms of Celtic, the local dialects were so different that in some cases the two dialects were not identifiable as the same language. This would have created additional barriers to assimilation into the Roman culture, since they were not able to effectively communicate with so many disparate communities on any meaningful level. Language can prove an insurmountable barrier to cultural adaptation, as it certainly did in the northern reaches of Brittania and Ireland, where the Romans were never fully able to commingle culturally. Not only were these areas more geographically distant, but they were more insular and less interested in a cultural exchange, especially one not preempted by themselves. Throughout the entire story of the Roman conquest of the British communities, there is little evidence to suggest that they ever succeeded in holding lands in the west or to the far north. Part of this could easily be attributed to the argument that the western and