Monday, 5 October 2009

Thanet and the Roman invasions.

Thanet in ancient times was very much the gateway to the United Kingdom and if nothing else the Roman forts of Richborough and Reculver show this areas importance to the Romans.

So when, why and where were the Roman invasions.

During the first and second centuries BC there was a fair amount of cross channel contact there are few remaining roman accounts of anything to do with Britain and nothing else written down at all from this period.

About 50 AD the Roman Julius Solinus wrote about Britain, he described the inhabitants as savage and warlike staining their faces with the blood of their enemies after battle. Our boats he describes as being covered in the hides of oxen.

However of the Isle of Thanet he says it is rich in cornfields and luxuriant glebe.

Caesar wrote an account of his invasion of Britain, I was going to scan my own copy in for you to read but it’s already on the web you want pages 1 to 72 click here for it.

He probably landed somewhere between Thanet and Dover and got routed by the locals who were probably used to invasions, if you read the 72 pages in Latin with the English translation underneath, (somehow it is the only way, as the rough paraphrase allows much more space for the readers imagination) when Latin was taught as a major school subject this was normally the book pupils started with.

Every school child living in a southeastern costal town obviously assumed that that was where the landing took place. He certainly fell back to near North Foreland after the attack,

His landings were in 55 and 54 BC as you will have gathered if you read the Caesar’s account the British had a fair idea of what was going on.

Around the same time (the end of the iron age) there was a lot of toing and froing between Britain, Belgica and Amorica (roughly now Belgium and Brittany) people immigrated both ways and archaeology shows they developed the same burial customs.

The main Roman occupation didn’t happen until the invasion of AD43 this was Aulus Plautius on the orders of the emperor Claudius, some forty thousand troops with elephants this time, landing probably at Richborough.

There is quite a bit of archaeological evidence, and of course the expected argument about it, to suggest Thanet was fairly heavily occupied by the Romans.

Ramsgate has had a lot of roman finds and it would seem that the inlet where the harbour is now has been protected from costal erosion by the build-up of sand since those times, Roman finds were found when the slipway was built.

I think it also probable that the cliff top locations would have been attractive to roman settlers so much of our Roman remains probably vanished due to erosion.

With the two important fortifications of Richborough and Reculver nearby Thanet’s pastoral environment must have had its attractions.

As to where the Romans first landed the coastline would have been quite a bit different due to costal erosion, however if you click on the map above and enlarge it, it is fairly obvious from where the shaded bits are where the Wantsum channel was.


  1. Fascinating stuff Michael, I look forward to more!

  2. Thanks Michael - what's the date and source of the map please?

  3. 10.06 1830 I think and I am looking for the source for you.

    Peter just done more.

  4. This is fantastic- do you know what the source and the date of the map are?


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