Cost: Free

Julius Caesar in Britain

Ordinary Meeting of Fellows (Fellows and Guests Only)

Julius Caesar in Britain

Lecture by Andrew Fitzpatrick FSA and Colin Haselgrove FSA   

Julius Caesar invaded Britain in 55 and in 54 BC. It is usually assumed that these campaigns had little lasting significance and were soon a distant memory in both Britain and Rome. It is also thought that few, if any, archaeological traces should be anticipated. This lecture will explore two contrasting reactions to these events; one is set in Britain, the other in Rome.

Firstly the results of an ongoing project that is exploring the archaeological and numismatic evidence for Caesar's invasions will be presented. After summarising Caesar's own account of the invasions, the latest results of work on large defended sites in south-east England, including excavations on what may well be the main landing site of 54 BC, will be reviewed. The hillforts attacked by Caesar's army will also be considered along with the evidence for possible battlefield sites and consequent changes in settlement patterns.

After he triumphed Caesar made a peace settlement. This involved diplomatic relations whose existence is first reflected in finds from the graves of the elite and then, from the 20s BC, in their coinage and settlements. A century later in AD 43 these client kingdoms shaped the invasion of Britain by Claudius and ultimately the making of Roman Britain.

In 55 BC the reaction in Rome to Caesar's exploits was quite different. His invasions need to be understood in the context of extravagant competition between the senatorial elite and when in 55 BC he crossed the Rhine to Germany and the sea to Britain he created a popular sensation. Until then both places had lain beyond the known world but he had made both a part of it. It was a world whose intellectual compass Caesar was consciously rewriting.