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Those who defied the might of Rome

Updated on February 9, 2013

Since the Roman Republic defeated it's Carthaginian rivals for supremacy of Southern Europe and North Africa, the Roman Empire was able to spread its power and influence beyond it's original borders. The Roman Empire offered its provinces the culture, trade and security of Rome's might and majesty. The promise of Roman civilization offered the native tribe's of Europe and the Mediterranean, an alternative to their historical and petty differences. Rome was offering it's wild and chaotic people's, the chance to be more than primitive and uncultured barbarian's,

All the future client state's of Rome had to do was forget their many years of cultural history and allow the Roman Empire to take over the destiny of their tribal lands. The tribal ruler's of the region's that the Roman Empire desired, were surprisingly not overly eager to give into the Roman world view. This usually resulted in conflict and the eventual destruction of the indigenous tribes. Once one tribe was defeated by the Roman Legion, other tribe's took the option of conceding to the new Roman authority.

The political heart of Rome, the Senate.
The political heart of Rome, the Senate.

Could the Silure's realistically of held off Rome indefinatley?

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In the space of 100 years the Roman Legions spread the glory of Rome across the continent of Europe and expanded its sphere of influence deeper into Asia and Africa. Whatever resistance was offered by the native inhabitants was usually smashed by the tightly drilled and professional Roman Legion's. The Legion's provided the basic infrastructure in the conquered lands, they planted the seed of Roman culture by using sword and shield.

There were of course those who dared to stand up against the relentless march of Rome, but they were usually destined to meet an untimely end by the Imperial Legion's. There were a few notable exceptions to this, leaders such as Hannibal and Vercingetorix inflicted various levels of defeat on the mighty Roman Legion's. Much has been written of the Germanic tribes resistance to the influence of Rome, but there were two tribes in what is now Wales who inflicted serious damage upon the occupying forces. These brave and defiant tribe's, were known as the Ordovices and the Silures.

The Roman legion's initially gained a strong foothold in the south of modern day England by forming alliances with the fragmented native tribes and playing them off against each other. By exploiting tribal divisions the Roman's were able to use native auxiliaries to help subdue the rebellious population who were hostile to the Roman occupation. The first attack on the lands bordering the Surile and Orvides tribes, were made under the Legate Ostorius in about 48 AD. The Roman forces attacked the Deceangli in what is now the north-east of Wales. The Deceangli did not put up much resistance to the Roman aggression, other than a couple of small skirmishes. It may have been the Deceangli's lack of fight, that made the Legion's believe South Wales was as good as pacified. History tell's us that the Roman Legion's were very much in for a fight.

The Surile and Orvides tribes, were a very disciplined and fierce alliance, and in their War leader Caratacus they had a general who wanted to rout the Romans. Caratacus was from the Catuvellauni's tribe who were the neighbour's of the Iceni. Caratacus had tasted defeat at the hands of the Legion's, and he desperately wanted revenge. The Legions were unable to best the Surile and the Orvides as they used the geography of the land to their advantage, the Welsh tribes employed hit and run Guerilla warfare tactics upon the Roman forces.

They also held the Legion back in a set battle, and even forced the mighty Legion to retreat. Ostorius the Roman legate said of his defiant opponents " They posed such a danger that they should be either exterminated or transplanted ". This comment probably reinforced the Surile and Orvides to continue resist and defy the Roman aggression.

The Legion faced a tough test against the Silures.
The Legion faced a tough test against the Silures.

The Roman legate Ostorius did not get to see the Welsh tribes crushed as he passed away soon after he made his anti-Silure statement. In fact the Silure and Ordovices alliance went on to decimate the 2nd Augustan Legion. This caused a stain on the Legion's honour which took a long while to clear. The Silure and Ordovices eventually did end their campaign of defiance against the Roman forces.

We are unsure if they were eventually defeated by a military campaign or by been offered favourable concessions by Ostorius successor Sextus Julius Frontinus . Roman sources state that Sextus Julius Frontinus succeeded in subduing the Ordovices and Silures in 78 AD. From Archaeological evidence we know that the tribal lands of the rebellious fighters received a lot of Roman perks, we know that a massive fort was built to control the population and in Venta Silurum excavations have revealed a forum, a temple, an amphitheatre, and many buildings with mosaic floors.

Maybe it was inevitable that the Welsh resistance was destined to eventually fall to the might of Rome. But the Welsh tribes kept the Legions at bay for over a decade, and when you consider that the Roman Legions had shredded all opposition on the continent without taking much in the way of outright defeats, their achievement could be classed as monumental. It seems that the ancient British tribe's such as the Iceni, the Picts, the Silures and the Ordovices were able to cause the mighty Roman Legion's more than a few problems.


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    • Asp52 profile image

      Asp52 6 years ago from England

      Thank you for the comment Lone77star. The genetic make up of the British Isles at that time was extremely varied. Most islands attracted multiple settlers from different cultures, and out of the cultural melting pot a shared identity is formed. I would hazard a guess that the Native American tribes would have had the same kind of diversity prior to European settlement. I wonder if any of the settlers in Britain made it even further?

    • lone77star profile image

      Rod Martin Jr 6 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      A fascinating look at history. Thanks for the research and for bringing it all to life.

      The original inhabitants of the British Isles are an intriguing enigma. I read several months ago that genetics tied them to the Basques of Spain and France. And it's interesting to speculate where they all came from; were they related to the Cro Magnon of 40,000 BC? Could they all have come from Plato's mythical Atlantis? I've studied this for the last fifty years and think I've found some interesting clues. The same fierceness of the Picts, Ordovices and Silures seems to reside in the Basques and several other agglutinative-speaking cultures across Eurasia.

    • Asp52 profile image

      Asp52 6 years ago from England

      Thank you RJ for the feedback, I shall check out your link and let you know how i find it.

    • Reynold Jay profile image

      Reynold Jay 6 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      Very nice. I study ancient history as a hobby and can appreciate something like this. I own a few roman coins that go back to this period of history. Keep up the great HUBS. I must give this an “Up ONE and Useful.” I'm always your fan! RJ

      Based upon your HUB, you might enjoy some Egypian history