Agricola and the Final Invasion of
by John Griffiths (email@example.com)
Gnaeus Julius Agricola is far better known in the history of
Anglesey than his predecessor, Suetonius Paulinus. Whilst Paulinus’s invasion
was the first aimed at the Druidic homeland of Mona Insulis, scant knowledge is
available to historians as to its extent and effect. Many historians have
suggested its purpose was the total destruction of the Druids whilst others
have said that the push was a determined effort to crush, totally, the base of
resistance for the Ordovices of North Wales. If anything, it is generally
agreed that it was left as unfinished business although the reasons for this
are tactical, given the uprising which Paulinus was hastily called away to
quell. The records pertaining to the second campaign under Agricola provide
more detail - due, it has to be said, because the famous Roman historian
Tacitus was Agricola’s son in law. Tacitus left behind a very detailed
biography of his father in law thus guaranteeing him a permanent place in
history as a result. Interestingly, Agricola had served under Paulinus as a
military tribune during much of the British campaign. The son of a wealthy
Senator, he was following the cursus honorum - the way of honour - which would
take him through traditional posts, both civil and military, to the eventual
one of Consul. His was a marked path from birth, both by virtue of his class
and the opportunities it afforded him and in his long career he achieved high
status. He is recorded as being both a fair and an honourable man, humane even,
which is perhaps at odds with the way some of the British campaigns were
carried out - but he was also a competent, astute soldier. Whilst Tacitus may
have had reason to portray his father in law in a good light, there is no
denying that Agricola was one of the better representatives of Rome and its
presence in Britain.
Therefore, in terms of the Anglesey campaign, here was a man who had served
with Paulinus against the tribes on Anglesey and later in the Boudicca uprising
- a man who had been in the thick of the fighting during the earlier battles in
Britain. The island was already well known to Agricola; history would record
that it would also remember him.
Background to Agricola.
During the Roman civil war of AD69, Agricola had lent his full support to
Vespasian. Nero’s reign as Emperor had been marked by greed and autocratic
rule, a madman who had brought mistrust and shame to the glory of the Empire.
It was, as some historians have remarked, a miserable end to the Julio-Claudian
dynasty, which had done so much for the Empire and its people. The civil war
resulted in much blood letting and fighting and three emperors were appointed
in one year - and just as quickly destroyed. It was a time of instability and
confusion at all levels of society and whilst the end of Nero’s reign had
generally been greeted with jubilation, it also provoked some very mixed
emotions. Amongst those experiencing this were many of the Legions and their
commanders - a situation capitalised on by the would-be Emperors who quickly
made offerings to buy the loyalty of the army to ensure their own rise to
power. However, the previously secret workings of the empire had been thrown
open for all to see; an emperor did not need to be made in Rome.
The Civil War came about during AD68 and for many reasons. The Judean War was
dragging on, the provincial armies - which were supported by their civil
populations - wished for their generals to aspire to Emperorship and there was
revolt and dissatisfaction throughout the far corners of the empire itself.
Julius Vindex, who was then Governor of Central Gaul, and the commander of
Legio III Augusta - Macer - both revolted against Nero. Sulpicius Galba, then
Governor of Spain, proclaimed himself emperor and joined the revolt - though
the Senate supported him in his aims. He marched on Rome in strength that led
Nero to commit suicide as a result. Galba was briefly made Emperor but was
murdered in a plot by Marcus Salvius Otho whom Galba had not chosen as his
successor, the murder being arranged with the support of a large number of
legions. This then caused the Rhine legions to seize the moment and also to
revolt, choosing Aulus Vitellius for Emperor, and also marching on Rome to lay
claim to the title and position. In the ensuing battle Vitellius defeated Otho
at Bedriacum after which - rather than face the charges which would be laid
against him - Otho committed suicide. Peace, however, was not to be for the
newly proclaimed Emperor. Vitellius learned that the eastern legions had
declared for their general, Vespasian, and he had no choice but to prepare to
counter this threat. Vespasian, however, had at his disposal the legions
occupying both the east and those stationed on and around the Danube - a
considerable force. At the second battle of Bedaricum the pro-Vespasian legions
under Primus defeated Vitellius’s forces and Vespasian was duly made Emperor.
The civil war was ended.
Interestingly Tacitus records that Otho’s men had during the civil war,
plundered and murdered Agricola’s mother, Julia Procilla, on the family estate
situated at Intimilium, near Liguria. Tacitus states that Agricola joined
Vespasian because of this although it has been suggested that the siding with
Vespasian had something to do with the fact that Agricola had spent time in
Britain during Vespasian’s early career. The truth we shall perhaps never know
but the outcome was that Agricola’s loyalty to Vespasian was to pay him
handsome dividends as a result.
Whilst there were many battles fought - on the fields of the empire and,
undoubtedly, in the Senate - the army stationed in Britain were less
troublesome. Tacitus puts this down to the fact that they were further afield
and separated by the sea - but also states that another reason may have been to
do with the fact that they were seasoned enough to save their hatred for the
enemy. Whatever, the result of the bitter civil war was a new emperor,
Vespasian - undoubtedly a soldiers choice. He rewarded Agricola’s loyalty by
appointing him commander of a force headed for Britain. Agricola had served as
a military tribune - tribunus laticlavius - on the staff of Suetonius Paulinus
during 58-61 so knew the tribes, their strengths and weaknesses and - more
importantly - the Britons themselves. His military career had also seen him
serving under Cerealis as legate of the Legio XX, at both times during
intensive campaigning. As commander of XX, Agricola knew he had under him a
seasoned and experienced legion that had added the title Valeria Victrix to its
standard. When is not entirely certain, although it is likely it was awarded
for their service during the Boudiccan revolt.
Having served Rome well, a seasoned leader and combatant with experience in
both the affairs of state and the army, he was a natural choice. Vespasian’s
choice of the legion’s new commander, however, was also a political one. The
legion, under its previous commander Roscius Coelius, had been reluctant to
swear allegiance to Vespasian and had allied itself initially with Vitellius.
By removing Roscius Coelius and replacing him with Agricola, Vespasian knew he
had given the legion a hard choice as they would have difficulty in rejecting
someone as high profile, and as loyal, as Agricola was. Vespasian had chosen
In AD73 Agricola returned to Rome, serving as Governor of Aquitania before
returning to Britain and taking up the post of Governor in AD78, replacing S.
Julius Frontinus. It was during the late end of the campaign season of AD78
that Agricola had reason to turn his eyes towards Anglesey again and this time
determined to finish what Paulinus had begun.
It is thought that the founding of Legio XX may have been as early as 40BC in
support of one of Octavian’s campaigns. Again, there is historical evidence to
support the fact that the legion was likely active during 31BC when Rome fought
against Antonius and Cleopatra. Again, there is evidence of the legions
exploits during the Pannonian revolt of 6AD and P. Quinctilius Varus’s defeat
of 9AD, a dark year for Rome. During that year, three legions - The XVII, the
XVIII and the XIX - were completely destroyed in the Tuetonbergwald Forest by
the Germans under Arminius. This set back the planned annexing of the land
across the Rhine and was viewed as a considerable loss of men and equipment.
The base of the XX at Nuess ( Nouaesium ) was thus probably tied in with the
campaigns across the Rhine which were, at that time, extremely active
In 43AD, the legion was part of the Claudian invasion of Britain and it is
likely that they made their first base at Camulodunum, modern day Colchester,
before moving on to Kingsholm, near Gloucester and from there possibly to Usk
in what is today the county of Gwent. The legion fought many actions against
both the Silures and Ordovices during this time and was part of Suetonius
Paulinus’s first campaign against the stronghold of Anglesey. From here, a
vexilation of the XX then joined with Legio XIII Gemina and some of the
auxiliia used in the Anglesey campaign to support Legio IX Hispania, who had
been ambushed by Boudicca’s rebel forces as they rampaged across the country.
The ensuing battle - against a vastly superior number - was a victory for
Paulinus and his legions and was so viciously fought that it effectively ended
rebellion in southern Britain. As a result, the XX were probably awarded the
title Valeria Victrix. A lot has been written on the origin of this title and
it is, perhaps, best not to add fuel to the debate apart from to say that both
titles - meaning martial and victorious but also meaning victorious eagle - are
probably an apt honour title and recognition for the way in which the legion
conducted itself on both campaigns.
In 65-66AD the legion appear to have been based at Viroconium (Wroxeter)
replacing the XIV Gemina who were returned to Germany. Their previous base at
Kingsholm was taken over by the Legio II Augusta. In 87AD the XX moved to Deva
(Chester). Evidence for their occupation of Deva can be found in, amongst other
sources, the Antonine Itinerary of the late second century, which displays
Chester as Deva Leg XX Vict. Deva itself came into being during the Scapula
campaigns, and was probably a marching camp situated at the mouth of the River
Dee Deva Fluvius. By 79AD, the camp had developed into a large military base
for Legio II Adiutrix Pia Fidelis, who were withdrawn to support Domitian in
the Dacian wars in 87AD, replaced by the XX and the main base for the rest of
their time in Britain.
The Welsh Campaign of Agricola
News had reached Agricola of an attack on a small fort in North Wales that had
almost wiped out the cavalry regiment stationed there. These forts had been set
up during Frontinus’s excursion into Wales when he had defeated the Silures
before pushing on into the territory occupied by the Ordovices. They were not
only small garrison settlements but also provided much valuable intelligence on
events within the provinces and so had an important strategic value. Agricola
knew that the situation with the Ordovices needed to be settled once and for
all as, in the years since Paulinus’s withdrawal from the area to crush the
Boudiccan revolt, there had been opportunity for the Ordovices and their Druids
- a religion Rome saw as dangerous - to gather strength anew. Left alone, it
could prove to be a nagging thorn in the side of any Governor and thus
militarily irritable. Such a situation meant that valuable troops and resources
would be tied up indefinitely, slowing down the push Agricola wished to make in
the conquest of Britain.
At worst, however, there was the real threat of a continued organised
resistance. This was something Agricola saw as a reality and he was determined
to crush it once and for all. His reasoning was that in order to continue
North; he had to settle the situation to his flank and rear or risk having to
abandon his campaign. Once again, the island was to know the might of Rome -
and the methods that the Empire preferred to use to mark its authority. Unlike
Paulinus, Agricola took one legion - Legio XX - on campaign into North Wales
and, in one determined push not only smashed the Ordovices - but did it with
such totality that the tribe never fully recovered until the third century AD.
The Ordovices, shortly before Agricola’s arrival, had destroyed nearly the
whole of a squadron of allied cavalry quartered in their territory. Such a
beginning raised the hopes of the country, and all who wished for war approved
the precedent, and anxiously watched the temper of the new governor. Meanwhile
Agricola, though summer was past and the detachments were scattered throughout
the province, though the soldier’s confident anticipation of inaction for that
year would be a source of delay and difficulty in beginning a campaign, and
most advisers thought it best simply to watch all weak points, resolved to face
Tacitus. Agricola 18.
In this, the first of his battles with the Ordovices, Tacitus records that
Agricola gathered together a force of veterans and some auxiliaries and
immediately went to do battle with the enemy. Tacitus records that Agricola
found the Ordovices would not meet him on the level field of battle but
preferred, instead, to attempt to take advantage by remaining on a hilltop.
This did not appear to bother Agricola, who - leading his men from the front -
advanced up the hill to fight. Again, I turn to Tacitus:
The tribe was all but exterminated.
Tacitus. Agricola 18.
Interestingly, the use of the word ‘exterminated’ brings to mind the purpose of
Suetonius Paulinus’s initial campaign - and perhaps reason - for showing what
appears to be no quarter. However, it is likely that Agricola’s aim was to
punish the tribes who had dared to taunt him. There is, in the spaces between
the words of Tacitus, reason to suspect that this was not a vengeance mission
designed to show the enemy his displeasure but rather to show them his mettle.
By making his mark now, at this early stage, Agricola was sending a clear
signal to his enemy; I will retaliate. Also, when one considers that this was
not the traditional campaign season - which usually began in the warm summer
months - Agricola was perhaps also saying that he would fight no matter what
and that the old status quo, the established and unwritten rules of the
previous governors, were not the rules by which he lived or intended to
Having won the initial battle, he now turned his attention towards Anglesey
again knowing full well that this was the island stronghold from which the
enemy not only operated but also could retreat to. Divided from the mainland by
the treacherous waters of the Menai Straits, a source of readily available food
and rich in natural resources for weapon making, it was a tempting target. The
opportunity to stamp out the threat once and for all was before him and, while
he had the impetus, he took it.
However, the problems that had faced Suetonius Paulinus also faced Agricola.
How to get across from the mainland. He had no fleet available to him,
displaying clearly that his actions in continuing the campaign were not fully
thought out. A successful occupation could have been carried out by using
elements of the Roman Navy - but this would have taken time to gather and to
plan - and time was something Agricola did not have on his side. With autumn
coming fast, weather conditions alone would be problematic. The winds across
Anglesey are predominately southwesterly and the Straits run roughly in a SW-NE
diagonal. The Irish Sea can spawn some ferocious winds and even in what appears
to be a sheltered area; the Menai Straits can produce some nasty surprises. Add
to that the incredibly swift tides which run through and you have the makings
of an assault that would need careful planning, probably having to be left
until the following year - by which time the island tribes would have had time
to prepare and to plan.
However, and as he had himself been with Suetonius Paulinus during the first
invasion, Agricola knew the Straits could be forded. Tacitus records that:
He picked a body of native auxiliaries who knew the fords and that had a
facility for swimming which belongs to their nation..... he then launched them
upon the enemy so suddenly that the astonished islanders, who looked for fleets
of ships upon the sea, promptly came to the conclusion that nothing was hard
and nothing invincible to men who fought in this fashion.
Tacitus. Agricola 18
This, in itself, is interesting in that Tacitus’s references clearly show that
the Auxilia took the brunt of the fighting in the initial assault and did so
with such success that the result was a surrender. It is widely recorded that
the Auxilia were usually first in battle, being re-inforced by the main body of
the legion, and were not - as some have suggested - ‘reserves’ pushed into
battle when there were gaps in the main ranks. The term ‘Batavians’ has been
mentioned in many historical texts at this point, referring to the renowned
swimmers and horsemen mentioned by Tacitus. However, who they were in reality
is uncertain although it is likely that the use of the term ‘Batavians’ was a
general one, indicating an acknowledgement of a geographic region that produced
individuals of high calibre. As it stands, Batavia was a Rhine island which
shows that the area referred to was Germany - though, just to throw us off
course - many historians say that the title was no more than a title, with the
men within the unit being drawn from various locations. Thus a Friesian could
quite easily be found serving alongside a German or a Gaul!
Notwithstanding the debate, the assault - according to Tacitus - was quickly
decided. Again, many historians have said that the crossing of the main body of
the legion was made via the Lavan Sands, which - at low tide - almost span the
Menai Straits from the mainland. This is feasible, as the sands can dry enough
to provide a firm surface for movement - but only if you know the area. They
shift, being changed by the strong tides, and there is never a guarantee that
what was once a safe crossing will remain so. It is my belief that Agricola
used locals, recruited expressly for the purpose, to show him the routes used
by the Ordovices and others to access Anglesey. What is clear is that the route
used by Suetonius Paulinus - near to Llanfairisgaer - was not used for the
second invasion. Unlike Paulinus, Agricola did not have artillery support,
relying instead on cavalry and infantry to support the invasion. A definite
assault point is hard to find although my own knowledge of the area leads me to
believe that the staging point would have been just south of Llanfairfechan and
Lower Bangor. I would also tactfully suggest that once the Auxiliaries had
gained their foothold, the rest of the legion followed in boats perhaps
commandeered for the purpose by the advance party. If this were the case, then
the shortest boat route across would almost certainly be Lower Bangor to the
village of modern day Menai Bridge. If, however, they did use the sands then
they would have to have swum - even if only for a short distance - at some
stage as the sands do not dry out so as to make for a total dry crossing. Given
the equipment carried by the typical legionary in battle, I will stick my neck
out here and say that, at some stage, the bulk of the XX were brought across by
Again, whilst I use the term legion here, we must not forget that there were
also an Auxilia involved - both needing the strong support organisation who
travelled with them. A legion is some 5000 men strong, for the best part
infantry, organised into ten cohorts of six centuries each. Remembering the
structure of my previous article on Paulinus, this is true except for the first
cohort who had five double centuries, and thus were twice the size of the
others within the legion. There would also be cavalry alae within the legion
itself, figures of which vary but the most likely being 18 troops of 32 mounted
Figures for the auxiliaries are again somewhat disputed but an auxilia could
comprise three distinct sections. Alae (cavalry), cohorts (infantry) and
numeri. In terms of total numbers, the auxilia could match the legion it
supported in also having a total of 5000 men. Looking back to my previous
comment that Agricola must have had local knowledge available to him to mount
such a successful attack, the numeri were a unit of non-Roman origin who
maintained their own language, uniform, weapons and ethnic characteristics. It
is, therefore, reasonable to assume that such men would be attracted into
serving with the Roman army, perhaps recruited from local tribes by the
prospect of regular wages and good food. Whether Agricola had at his disposal
elements of his old enemies, the Silures and Ordovices, whom he was able to use
as guides is unknown but my contention is that he did. How else would he have
successfully forded what is, even today, a dangerous stretch of water?
There were then the other troops involved in support of a campaign. Transport,
medical aides, pack animal handlers, caterers, and armourers. There was the
support of the administrators - the writers and messengers. At the single end
of the scale there would also be a haruspex, a priest-like individual who read
the omens found in the entrails of the sacrificial animals, as well as the
keeper of the sacrificial animals themselves - in short, a whole corps of many
different trades which were vital to the campaign as they allowed the soldiers
to do what they did best. So, when we talk of campaigns, we must not forget
that the legion itself was not the only mass on the battlefield - it needed
support to ensure its well being.
Bearing in mind the need to have retained some of his forces behind him,
Agricola may only have used vexilation of the legion, together with a similar
number of the auxilia - but, even if he were to have divided his forces as
such, the number of armed men available to him would still be considerable.
Anglesey - the final battle.
On landing, with the auxiliaries having borne the brunt of the fighting, was
there then a wholesale slaughter of the Ordovices? Many historical texts allude
to it being a bloody campaign and yet Tacitus clearly states that peace was
asked for. Without the benefit of any real historical accuracy it seems
feasible to suggest that Agricola used the legion to slaughter those that had
stood against him. Tacitus himself suggests that the tribes were almost
completely wiped out. Did he, perhaps, recall Suetonius Paulinus’s invasion and
deliberately set out to complete it? In terms of strategy, if his aim were to
ensure there would be no more rebellion from the tribes then it would follow
that the best way of ensuring this would be to maintain the thrust of invasion
and to massacre his enemies. Roman tactics would usually involve no mercy in
many cases as a living adversary was to be considered a threat. The usual
practise was to kill outright although some prisoners would be taken - though
their choices were limited; become slaves to their new masters or gladiators
for their enjoyment.
The historical reason for the initial invasion of Anglesey had been to smash
completely the ‘power base’ of the Druids, thus negating the threat posed by
them and those who followed them whilst also ensuring Roman superiority in the
area. Anglesey was, after all, a valuable strategic asset to both sides and to
leave it capable of being used by the enemy surely must have resulted in a
bloody assault now that Agricola had the land - and, unlike Paulinus, the time
to ensure the job was completed.
It is probably useful to point out at this stage that the cavalry and infantry
performed the action and not with the resources that Paulinus had had at his
disposal. This leads me to believe that Agricola almost certainly took full
advantage of the opportunity won by him to ensure he did not need to come back
and finish what he had started. As a forward thinker, the need to tie up
valuable resources should he lose the day must have been a spur for him and it
is therefore almost certain that the legion spent a considerable time on
Anglesey ensuring that what they started, they finished. Add to this the fact
that a number of the legionaries would have been involved in the first invasion
and would therefore recall they had indeed ‘unfinished business’ and it is fair
to assume that there was no withdrawal - or acceptance of any surrender - until
it was clear there was to be no more threat.
How would the battle have been fought? At this point, I would assume that many
of the Ordovices who had fled the earlier battle with Agricola may well have
sought refuge on Mona and so more or less forewarned the resident tribes of the
event. Whether this meant they were prepared is something we do not know for
certain, though Tacitus does state that Agricola:
...launched them on a surprise attack.
Tacitus. Agricola 18.
It seems very strange that the islanders would not have posted patrols along
their coastline, seeing as how news of the defeat of the Romans earlier -
before Agricola had retaliated - must have reached them. Again, the massing on
the far bank of the Menai Straits of a large enemy army would surely have given
the local tribes time to prepare some form of defence.
In terms of defence and meeting the invading Romans, the battle must have been
fought the way many had been fought before. On foot, with chariots and mounted
horsemen. Their families would also have been nearby, camped out to watch the
battle and to tend to the many wounded who would come their way as the day
progressed. The drawing up of ranks of men would have been made with tribal and
familial distinctions to the fore, so in terms of discipline it is probably
best to assume there was none apart from the single focus of ridding the land
of the enemy. Whilst the Celts as a whole often outnumbered their Roman
adversary, it was the tight discipline and training of the Romans who more
often than not won the day.
It is feasible to assume that the standard Roman response of two javelin
volleys and a counter-charge would have met the initial charge they would have
made. This would allow the advancing Romans to gain ground, freeing up the rear
where other troops would still have been landing. If the initial wave acted as
infantry to buy time for the others to mount up a successful stand would have
been easily established. In terms of attack tactics, this seems the likely
start of the day. This use of cavalry as infantry was not new - in AD48,
Scapula had used dismounted cavalry to attack the Iceni defences (Annals 12.31)
- and it is recorded that the Romans would always try to seize any initiative
available to them to achieve their goal.
If there were no organised stand by the inhabitants of Anglesey, did the
invasion move from the initial stand to smaller ones as the Romans landed and
hunted down their foe? We cannot be sure of either for what Tacitus records he
does so briefly and without being specific. However, while he had the
initiative, it seems fairly certain that Agricola did not withdraw the bulk of
his forces from the island until he had completed the task in hand. The
building of Segontium took place shortly after so perhaps the role of the
troops eventually stationed there was to operate within Anglesey to maintain a
presence. The building of a small defensive fortlet at Holyhead and the
establishment of a watchtower may have come much later but another fortlet was
built at Aberffraw sometime during this period. This in itself showed that
either Agricola or his force ranged right through the island during the first
push and, with the establishment of Segontium, suitable sites for fortlets were
chosen and manned after his withdrawal. Either way, it shows clearly that the
reach of the empire was long.
Whatever action was fought, it resulted in the end of Anglesey as an anti-Roman
stronghold. Quite apart from any battle - which must have been a disorganised
affair if the resident tribes were, as Tacitus says, taken by surprise - the
Romans would then have undertaken the wholesale slaughter of the remaining
tribes followed by a tactical policy akin to the ‘scorched earth’ methods used
in later years by many other armies of invasion and occupation. Their aim in
doing this was two-fold: to ensure their control was absolute and to make quite
certain there would be no further rebellions.
Some historians say he deliberately continued the work left unfinished by
Suetonius Paulinus and decimated almost the whole of the tribes occupying the
island. It is certainly true that he would have wished them rendered unable to
rise against him, becoming no more of a threat - and we must not forget that
these tribes had been a thorn in the side of the Romans for many years. He
would almost have certainly ensured that their potency was diluted and that,
this time, they would not dare to take arms against Rome. It is doubtless true
that Agricola’s audacious thrust against the mainland Ordovices and then his
tactical swing towards Anglesey earned him a reputation as a man not to be
crossed. Agricola did, therefore, achieve what Suetonius Paulinus had not been
able to do in his Welsh campaign against the Ordovices - the near total
annihilation and removal of a significant tactical threat. Agricola thus
quelled the Ordovices and Anglesey, at last, fell. Tacitus records:
And so, peace having been sued for and the island given up, Agricola became
great and famous as one who, when entering on his province, a time when others
spend in vain display and a round of ceremonies, chose rather toil and danger.
Nor did he use his success for self-glorification, or apply the name of
campaigns and victories to the repression of conquered people....Yet by thus
disguising his renown he really increased it, for men inferred the grandeur of
his aspirations from his silence about services so great.
Tacitus. Agricola 18
It is known that, once he had garrisoned the island, he then began to impose
quotas on the remaining population - as he did throughout Britain. However, he
was not unjust in his dealings with the vanquished. It was common practise for
the Britons to have to purchase back from the Romans the grain they had paid as
taxes - and at a much higher price than they had been given for it. Not only
did they have to endure this imposition, but they also had to deliver their
taxes (grain) to military posts, some of which were miles away! Certainly a
harsh interpretation of the ‘hearts and minds’ philosophy used by various
military leaders since. Agricola all but put a stop to this, ensuring that they
were treated with some respect and so he came to be seen as a fair man by the
local population. However, he also ensured a military presence remained. He
built forts in strategic locations and controlled the area of his conquests by
separating tribes into small units, keeping them constantly under surveillance.
Many tribes surrendered rather than fight as his reputation and policies of
fear against opponents (and advantages for those who co-operated) went before
him. He had, it appears, the judgement to strike the best balance between
pressure and persuasion and to ensure that it was delivered in equal measure.
Yet even this fairness was, perhaps, a psychological exercise.
Agricola went on to greater glories than those of Anglesey, and his deeds are
well documented in the history of Britain. In terms of what he achieved in
North Wales and Anglesey - I leave it to Tacitus to end this piece which shows,
quite clearly, how forward thinking Agricola was.
And so the population was gradually led into the demoralising temptations of
arcades, baths and sumptuous banquets. The unsuspecting Britons spoke of such
novelties as ‘civilisation’, when in fact they were only a feature of their
Tacitus. Agricola 21.
Sources of reference used in both Anglesey pieces:
Tacitus The Agricola and The Germania. Trans. H. Mattingly and revised
translation by S. A. Handford. Penguin Books 1970.
Yann Le Bohec. The Imperial Roman Army. Trans R. Bate. Routledge 1989.
K. Goldsworthy. The Roman Army at War 100BC - AD200. Clarendon Paperbacks
Oxford University Press 1998
Todd. Roman Britain (Third Ed) Blackwell Books 1999.
Guy de la Bedoyere. Eagles over Britannia - The Roman Army in Britain. Tempus
A. Birley. Garrison Life at Vindolanda - a band of brothers. Tempus 2002
M. Simkins. The Roman Army from Caesar to Trajan. Osprey Men-at Arms series.
Osprey Publishing 1984.
P. Wilcox. Rome’s Enemies (2) - Gallic and British Celts. Osprey Men-at-Arms
series. Osprey Publishing 1985.
Henri Hubert. The History of the Celtic People. Including: The Rise of the
Celts and The Greatness and Decline of the Celts. Bracken Books. 1993.
Frank Delaney. Legends of the Celts. Grafton Books. 1989.
Ian Skidmore. Anglesey and Lleyn Shipwrecks. Christopher Davies. 1979.
Also, many Internet sites of specific interest. These can be recommended to all
students of the Roman Army. Some were specific to my research whilst others
provided an excellent portal to many sites of historical interest.
© John Griffiths 2002.
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