Great Britain, also known as just Britain, was not always what it is today. Like many other countries and territories, Britain had to fight over wars for its independence.
What is the difference between Britain and The United Kingdom?
First it is important that we clarify the difference between two terms that are commonly used interchangeably; The United Kingdom and Great Britain.
Britain, today, is the island conformed by three countries; England, Scotland and Wales. On the other hand, when we refer to the United Kingdom, we are expressing the short term for The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Island, which along with the three mentioned countries, a fourth one is added; Ireland. Again, this is the correct terminology that is applied in the present.
In this article we will be focusing on the past. We will analyze the events that occurred all the way back to 55 B.C.
The Roman invasion in Britain.
Before Romans even thought of making an attempt to invade and conquer Britain, the island was lead by Celtic kings and chiefs. The Celts, or Britons, were people gathered in many different tribe groups. At that time, Britain was a territory of villages and farmers. No roads existed, and the common way of transportation would be by horse on land, or by sailing small boats in rivers.
Just across the sea, Britain was relatively close to the Roman Empire, which was quite strong already and just getting stronger and stronger with time.
The Roman Empire had been forming and extending since around a century by the time it was ruling Gaul in 55 B.C., which is what we know today as Rome. This magnificent Empire was being lead by the Roman General Julius Caesar at that time.
Julius Caesar is today very well known for the history of his conquests and military leadership. Britain was in Julius Caesar’s plans. He had the desire to fight and make Britain part of his Empire. This is when in 55 B.C. he decided to lead his army to fight for Britain against the Celts.
What he did not expect was that the Celts fought back with such bravery, that they made him go back with his troops empty-handed. But, Julius Caesar was not an opponent that gave up with one try.
During the next year, in 54 B.C. he decided to go back with many more soldiers than the last time. Although, once again he did not obtain the Briton’s territory and he no longer wanted to lose time and troops with an island that he thought wasn’t worth that much after all.
The Celts lived peacefully with their own; pacifically taking care and managing their culture and land. And that went on for approximately 100 more years. Until in A.D. 43, the Romans returned to Britain.
Stronger than ever and without the leadership of Julius Caesar; the Roman Empire battled fiercely with four legions against the Celts. This was when the Romans, leaded now by Emperor Claudius, finally conquered the Southern half of Britain and turned into part of the Roman Empire. The Empire showed up at Britain with newer weapons, and it is said that even Emperor Claudius joined his own army with a troop of elephants prepared for war.
Claudius gave the British Celts the opportunity to decide if they would fight against them or not. Those who decided to make peace had to agree to obey their laws and pay Roman taxes. Many Celts did agree to join the Empire, but many others were convinced to fight for the island.
The conquest was not done overnight, though. The Celts made it pretty difficult for the Romans to take over their territory. It took the Romans about 30 years of intense fighting until they were actually in control of most of the Southern area of Britain.
It took a total of three attempts from the Romans to finally succeed. Two failed attempts from Julius Caesar and the successful one from Claudius. The main reason why the Romans desired to win over Britain that much was due to Britain’s natural resources.
In one of Julius Caesar’s books that were found by archaeologists, it is possible to read the following statement, written by his very own hand, all those years ago:
“The Britons have a huge number of cattle, they use gold coins or iron bars as their money, and produce tin and iron.”
The Romans wanted to take over Britain in order to become richer and more powerful.