Year 2 History and Geography

Romans in Britain

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The Romans were a famous ancient civilisation, just like ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia, or ancient Greece. The Romans came from the city of Rome, which is now the capital of Italy, but was then the centre of a huge empire. Like ancient Egypt or Greece, Roman civilisation was very advanced compared with others at that time. The thing that made the Romans different was that they used their technology and large army to explore and rule places all across the continent of Europe and North Africa. Have a look at the map (click here to see a larger version). Do you see how, at its height, the Roman Empire stretched from Britain to the north of Africa and to the Middle East?

At the same time as many Romans lived in large towns and cities, with roads and big buildings under the rule of a huge empire, the people in the British Isles were still living in what was known as the Iron Age.

Before the Roman invasion, the British Isles were much less developed and life was very different from life in Rome. There were no roads in Britain, like there were in Rome, and people still lived in small huts made from wood. These buildings did not last as long as the stone ones that the Romans had. This is just one reason why we know more about what happened in Britain after the Romans arrived than before. Romans also had emperors who ruled over the whole empire with their armies, but in Britain there were lots of smaller tribes, each with their own king. This made it easier for the Romans when they decided to invade Britain because they only had to defeat smaller tribes rather than one big country where everyone fought together.

Despite their large, organised army and modern weapons, the Romans did not find it easy to conquer Britain. The famous general Julius Caesar invaded first, in 55 BC, but he thought it would be a big job to conquer Britain. So it was not for almost one hundred years that the Romans tried again, in 43 AD. This time the invasion was led by Emperor Claudius, who sent a large army to Britain. It must have been a terrifying sight!

Some tribal kings decided not to fight and accepted Roman rule. This meant that they could remain as the head of their tribe, but they had to accept Roman law and pay taxes to the Romans. Other tribes fought back.

Eventually, the Romans beat the native tribes in Britain but, even after the Romans had taken control of the south of Britain, people fought back. Some were happy to be ruled by the invading Romans, but others were angry. If you had lived in Britain at this time, would you have been friendly with the Romans, or would you have fought them? In What Your Year 2 Child Needs to Know, we'll read more about one of the most famous rebellions against the Romans, which was led by Queen Boudicca.

This activity is adapted from pages 158 - 160 of What Your Year 2 Child Needs to Know, which can be purchased here. This activity has a connection:

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