History Files


Celtic Kingdoms

Celts of Prydein




MapRoman Governors of Britannia
AD 43 - c.213

The Roman invasion of Gaul under Julius Caesar in the first century BC made it all but inevitable that a similar invasion of Britain would follow. The only question was when. Rome's sweeping conquests were effectively halted by the disastrous defeat of three legions in the Teutoberger Forest in AD 9. That loss to the Chauci was a tremendous blow to Roman plans for expansion into Germania Magna, something from which they never entirely recovered, and expansion was halted.

The pretext for the invasion of Britain was one of prestige. Fresh from succeeding the 'mad' Caligula, Emperor Claudius needed a victory. He faced opposition from the Senate, and many of Rome's elite thought he would not last long at all as emperor, and only a victory would secure his position. Roman leaders had to prove themselves on the field of battle (even if they no longer physically led from the front), so where better for Claudius to prove himself than in Britain? The invasion went ahead, and in AD 43 the legions landed.

The formal title of the governor under the early empire was legatus Augusti pro praetore. This list of governors is complete from the Roman invasion until the recall of Julius Agricola, either in AD 83 or 84, and often with a margin of error of no more than a year. Subsequently, record-keeping (or the survival of records) becomes patchier, with frequent gaps in the records and elements of unreliability in all dating. The situation becomes worse following the division of Roman Britannia into two provinces, and records for the fourth century vicarii are almost nonexistent.

(Additional information by Edward Dawson, from The Oxford History of England: Roman Britain, Peter Salway, and from Roman Britain: A New History, Guy de la Bédoyère.)

AD 43

Under the command of Aulus Plautius, the Roman invasion force probably consists of four legions of citizen troops, II Augusta, XIV Gemina, XX Valeria Victrix, and IX Hispana. Each legion has a nominal strength of just over 5,000 men and is divided into ten cohorts, each of 480 men except the first which probably has 800. Each ordinary cohort comprises six centuries of eighty men. Additional units of auxiliaries probably brings the total strength of the force up to about 40,000 men (although it has to be assumed that four legions in fact take part in the invasion).

Britons attack the Romans
The invasion of AD 43 was no repeat of the expeditions of Julius Caesar - this time the Romans came in strength and from at least two directions of attack

The landing places are not known for certain, and it is generally assumed that at least two locations are used. One division of the force certainly makes its base at Richborough (in eastern Kent), while another seems likely to have landed near Chichester, possibly to link up with pro-Roman members of the Atrebates. There is the possibility of a third landing site, but this is entirely unknown and may only be a feint to throw off the Britons.

AD 43 - 47

Aulus Plautius

Julian-Claudian Period. First Roman governor of Britain.


The main British force has apparently been divided into two columns, one each under the high king, Togodumnus, and his brother, Caratacus, both of the Catuvellauni tribe. They are defeated in detail by Plautius and pushed back, after which, Plautius seems to receive the surrender of part of the Dobunni, possibly the pro-Roman section under Bodvoc. Plautius immediately establishes a legionary fort at Durovernon (Latinised as Durovernum) in order to secure his rear, and heads towards the River Medway. The battle there is an unusual two-day affair, with the west bank being defended by a substantial British force. The Romans use their Batavi mounted troops to cross the river and surprise the Britons on the first day, but it takes much more hard fighting to force Togodumnus to withdraw, apparently into the territory of the Trinovantes, leaving the Cantii under Roman control.

It is at this point that Togodumnus dies, either by being killed in action or succumbing to his wounds. The loss serves to unite the Britons, giving them fresh spirit to fight on. Plautius decides to pause and wait for Emperor Claudius to join him and command the final attack on the Catuvellauni capital at Camulodunum. Despite stiff fighting, the Catuvellauni under Caratacus are conquered and subjugated. To the immediate north, the Iceni welcome the Romans, while on the south coast the loyal Cogidubnus is installed as the client king of the Belgae and Regninses.

43 - 44

While Claudius is overseeing the conquest of the south-east of Britain, Vespasian campaigns westwards with the second wing of the Roman army. Landing his force on the south coast, he is probably welcomed by the pro-Roman faction of the Atrebates. Then he takes the Isle of Wight and fights thirty battles on his way into the west country, also capturing over twenty native centres (oppida) and subjugating two warlike tribes. The first to fall are the hard-fighting Durotriges, scattered over Dorset in their formidable hill forts. Next in line are the Dumnonii of Devon and Cornwall, although Roman penetration into their territory is never particularly heavy.


The Corieltavi of the eastern Midlands seem to welcome the Romans, perhaps as an antidote to the powerful Catuvellauni menace on their eastern border. The principle Corieltavi settlement at Ratae Corieltauvorum (modern Leicester) is captured and the IX Hispania Legion is assigned as the garrisoning force (although the location of the fort is yet to be unearthed).


Accepting the fairly meek surrender of the Cornovii after one battle, the Romans leave tombstones for the few casualties suffered by the XIV Gemina at Viroconium (modern Wroxeter). Although the governor during this action is not certain, it is possibly the last act of Aulus Plautius in his term of office.

47 - 52

Publius Ostorius Scapula

Died in office.


The arrival of the new governor, Publius Ostorius Scapula, is marked by an attack by hostile tribes from outside the Roman-occupied zone, in the hopes that the new commander will be taken by surprise. It is the onset of winter, when the normal campaigning season has come to an end. Ostorius immediately marches at the head of units of lightly-armed cohorts and stamps out the attack. Then he goes a step further and orders everything between the Trent and the Severn to be tamed, which seems to refer to the building of more forts but could also refer to a policy of disarming the tribes. This policy backfires when he attempts to disarm the Iceni, with his heavy-handed tactics causing a serious uprising. Once this is put down, after a stiff fight, the Iceni officially become a client kingdom.

Hockwold Treasure
On the eastern edge of the Fens, in Hockwold, close to the former Catuvellauni border, a hoard of Roman silver plate was probably buried by an unfortunate Roman official who was caught by the Iceni uprising of AD 47

47 - 48

The first campaign by Ostorius outside the conquered territory is against the Deceangli. He ravages their territory and collects extensive quantities of booty. Only an outbreak of violence among the Brigantes forces him to break off and head north, but a fresh threat also apparently emerges at this time - the resurgence of Caratacus, high king of Britain.


Rome creates its first colonia in Britain at Camulodunum (modern Colchester), the captured former oppida of the Catuvellauni. The Romans have already appropriated the former royal estates there, but it seems that they are also claiming much greater areas of land around the colonia, raising resentment in the locals, the Trinovantes.


Ostorius finally confronts Caratacus and his British army at a location along the Severn, and Roman tactics and equipment produce an overwhelming superiority. Caratacus' wife and daughter are captured, and his brother surrenders. Caratacus flees northwards, seeking safety with the Brigantes. They hand him over in chains and Ostorius takes him to Rome in triumph.

However, he has to return to Britain as the resistance on the Welsh border does not slacken. Roman forces are constantly harassed, most especially by the Silures. A trapped force of legionaries suffers the loss of the prefect and eight centurions, a foraging party is put to flight, and the cavalry and auxiliary infantry sent to restore order are dealt with in the same way. Ostorius is forced to commit the legions to bring the situation under control, but even then two auxiliary cohorts are captured and spirited away to be distributed amongst other tribes, thereby binding them to the cause and building a new British confederacy. Ostorius, 'worn out with care' (Tacitus), dies. Rome appoints Aulus Didius Gallus, who manages to bring the situation under control.

52 - 57

Aulus Didius Gallus

Removed following the murder of Emperor Claudius.


Rome appoints Aulus Didius Gallus with remarkable speed. He arrives in Britain soon after the Silures have defeated an entire legion, possibly XX Valeria Victrix, and are ranging far and wide. He manages to bring the situation under control, building forts along the border area and containing the Silures until they can be dealt with at a later date.


Cartimandua's husband, Venutius, leads a rebellion against her, probably as a ring-leader of the anti-Roman faction amongst the Brigantes. Didius puts down the rebellion, and Venutius and Cartimandua bury their differences and are reconciled. Venutius apparently retains his position as co-ruler.


Quintus Veranius

Died in office.


During his short term of office, Quintus Veranius conducts a few raids against the Silures, but nothing of significance according to Tacitus. His sudden death puts paid to any further plans in the short term.

58 - 61/62

Gaius Suetonius Paulinus

58 - 60

The new Roman governor, Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, campaigns into Wales, ending his march north-westwards with an attack on Mona (Anglesey), which he describes as having 'a considerable population of its own, while serving as a haven for refugees'. The main incentive for the campaign seems to be the desire to destroy the druids. They have Mona as the centre of their remaining power in Britain (and certainly their last major outpost).

Roman troops attack Mona
The Romans attacked Mona with a level of brutality and ferocity rarely seen elsewhere in their conquest of Britain, such was their determination to wipe out the druids


Following the death of Prasutagus of the Iceni, the Romans had begun to ignore the terms of the Iceni's client-statehood. Stirred up by imperial heavy-handedness, Boudicca now leads a powerful Celtic uprising involving the Iceni, the Trinovantes and other tribes. It results in the loss to the Romans of lower eastern Britain. The Celts sack and burn Camulodunum (Colchester), Londinium, and Verulamium (St Albans). Gaius Suetonius Paulinus hurries back from Wales and, abandoning Londinium as a rallying point for scattered Roman units, collects together an army formed around the core of his own force, probably somewhere in the Midlands. They clash with the Celts in a devastating battle and Boudicca's force is defeated. Boudicca's fate is unknown, but it is presumed that she commits suicide rather than allow herself to fall into Roman hands.

During the uprising, the Silures, Ordovices, Dobunni, and perhaps the Durotriges are probably pinned down by the Second Legion and are unable to join Boudicca. The presence of the legion, under Poenius Postumus, is perhaps due more to fortune than planning. When Suetonius marches back from Wales to reassemble the scattered Roman forces, Postumus refuses to move. Possibly he is influenced by memories of the death of the praefectus castrorum at the hands of the Silures during the governorship of Ostorius. When he hears of Suetonius' victory against Boudicca, Postumus kills himself and his legion joins the governor in the field.


Suetonius immediately reorganises his forces, bringing units up to strength. With fire and sword he lays waste to the territory of all those British tribes that had joined the uprising or remained neutral. Resistance is still fierce, however, with tribes facing starvation during the oncoming winter after having failed to sow their crops in the summer. They are encouraged by a new arrival, Julius Classicianus, the new provincial procurator. He is there to report to Rome on the situation, and perhaps one of his findings (and his support of the tribes who are still fighting) is that the Britons dislike Suetonius so much that they will continue to refuse to surrender. A commission of inquiry is convened under the ex-slave Polyclitus (freedmen of this type hold great positions of power under the Julian-Claudian emperors). Suetonius is recalled in favour of Publius Petronius Turpilianus.

61/62 - 63

Publius Petronius Turpilianus


Together with Polyclitus, Turpilianus immediately delivers peace to the south-east. In fact, the settlement is so successful that the region never rises again. Later governors are able to plan and carry out campaigns to the west and north without fear of uprising in their rear.

63 - 69

Marcus Trebellius Maximus

Forced to leave Britain during 'Year of Four Emperors'.


Direct rule over the Belgae by Rome follows the reign of client king Cogidubnus. The tribal territory is later organised into the civitates (administrative districts within a Roman province) of the Atrebates, Regninses and possibly the Belgae.


The Kingsholm fortress in the territory of the Dobunni is prone to flooding so a new and larger fortress is built on the higher ground one kilometre to the south, at what becomes Gloucester Cross. It is around this fort that a civilian settlement grows up, forming the early city. Troops are based here in the build up to the invasion of Wales, with the first strike planned against the Silures and Demetae. However, this is apparently delayed by the events of AD 69.

69 - 71

Marcus Vettius Bolanus

Flavian Period.


Despite being appointed by Emperor Vitellius, Bolanus takes no action when Vespasian marches into Rome as the last act of the 'Year of Four Emperors'. For this he retains his position as governor, ruling with the same post-Boudiccan light hand as his predecessor. However, in the same year, Cartimandua of the Brigantes deserts her husband for his armour-bearer, Vellocatus. The infuriated Venutius foments revolt within their scandalised tribe and summons help from outside. Bolanus sends a force of auxiliary cavalry and infantry which, amid some bitter fighting, can do little more then rescue the queen.

71 - 73/74

Quintus Petilius Cerialis

Previously defeated by Britons during the AD 61 uprising.

72 - 79

Faced with the fact that their northern border now has a hostile tribe on it instead of a cooperative client tribe, the Romans invade the territory of the Brigantes under the new governor, Petilius Cerialis (who had made a notable escape from total defeat during the Boudiccan rebellion in AD 61 and was fresh from quelling the Batavian revolt of AD 69). Following a hard campaign, the Brigantes under Venutius are conquered in AD 73 following what may be a concentration of the main force at Brough-on-Humber, in Parisi territory, a pincer movement by two wings of the force on the southern Pennines, and a final drive by the combined force as far north as Carlisle. The site of the final battle is still open to debate.

73/74 - 77/78

Sextus Julius Frontinus

A military writer when not serving as governor.

c.73 - 78

During the governorship of Sextus Julius Frontinus, the Twentieth Legion is moved from Glevum (within the former Dobunni tribal territory) to a new fortress at Isca (Caerleon, in the Silures tribal territory). The legion only returns to Glevum in AD 87.

74 -75

As part of his policy to pacify the Silures, Frontinus establishes auxiliary forts well into their territory and also into that of the Ordovices, but the latter tribe makes it quite clear that they are not easily subdued by destroying a Roman cavalry squadron. The Silures, however, do seem to be subdued by his military advances. They are moved from their fortress in Llanmelin Wood to a new Roman town at Caerwent (later capital of Ewyas), probably during the governorship of Frontinus.

Moridunum Demetarum
The Roman tribal capital at Moridunum Demetarum (the civitas of the Demetae) was founded soon after AD 74

77/78 - 83/84

Gnaeus Julius Agricola

Invaded Caledonia and defeated the early Picts.


Governor Julius Agricola strikes against the Ordovices as soon as he assumes his post, gaining revenge for the lost cavalry squadron in AD 74-75 and almost causing the tribe's annihilation. Then he continues his campaign northwards to break the Deceangli in Mona (Anglesey). Troops are withdrawn from Dumnonia to support the campaign, which is immediately followed by a campaign further north, as continued unrest leads to the territory of the Brigantes being annexed by Rome.

80 - 82

Agricola leads two invading columns into Lowland Scotland, with (probably) the Twentieth (previously based at Glevum in Dobunni territory) and Ninth Legions meeting up at Inveresk (near Edinburgh) in the territory of the Votadini Britons. The force sets up permanent garrisons in its wake. The following year, the Forth-Clyde line is secured, perhaps slightly south of the later Antonine Wall, subduing the Selgovae and Novantae tribes. In 82, the Romans secure the Novantae western coast up to the Clyde to also contain the Damnonii tribesmen there and perhaps to prevent Irish landings.

Forts are raised at Dalswinton in the Nith valley, close to Dumfries in Novantae territory, at Glenlochar and Gatehouse of Fleet, and towards the west coast at Loudoun Hill. The discovery of another fort at Annan (not far west of Gretna) on the south-facing coast suggests that the 'crossing' mentioned by Tacitus is a seaborne assault across the Solway Firth from the coast near Luguvalium in the territory of the Brigantes. This would have surprised the Novantae, who are perhaps expected to offer stiff resistance to a westwards assault from the territory of the Selgovae.

83 - 84

Within the Caledonian heartland, firstly north of the Firth of Forth (in AD 83) and then at Mons Graupius (or Mons Grampius, in AD 84), the Romans under Agricola win victories over what they call the 'Caledonides' led by Calgacus (using the diminutive form of the name, perhaps to suggest that this is viewed as a minor group, possibly without a recognised leadership). The first area of operations, north of the Firth of Forth, is probably against the Venicones and their navy. The idea is to pre-empt an intended attack by the Caledonians, but it almost proves disastrous in the first year as the Ninth Legion is surprised by a night assault and is only just rescued by the main force.

The following year, perhaps now buoyed by the arrival of reinforcements including auxiliaries from the Usipetes tribe, the Roman fleet goes ahead along the coast to spread terror, and is accompanied by British allies. The location of the decisive battle has been strongly identified with the mountain now known as Bennachie in Aberdeenshire. It is possible that the tribal grouping of the Creones and their neighbours along the western coast could be involved.

84 - c.89

Sallustius Lucullus

Uncertain. Executed for conspiracy against Emperor Domitian.

85 - 88

A large number of Caledonians had escaped after the battle, leaving the Romans with a very difficult security job. Agricola and his replacement, probably Sallustius Lucullus, continue the job of securing the exits to the Highland glens along the east coast. But by 86-88 many forts are dismantled, possibly due to troop shortages while Rome is fighting the Dacian War. Apart from some possible watchtowers that remain in use until about AD 90, the main Roman forces retire to the Tyne-Solway line.


Sallustius Lucullus is executed, possibly for a perceived (or real) connection with the revolt of Antoninus Saturninus in the previous year against the increasingly paranoid Roman Emperor Domitian. That revolt had failed before it even began, put down by the governor of Germania Inferior.

fl 93

Aulus Vicirius Proculus

92 - 96

At some point between AD 84-96 the first Roman citizen colony in Britain is established at Lindum (modern Lincoln), in the far eastern section of Corieltavi territory. It is possible that a date between 92-96 is more accurate for this founding, as the second citizen colony is founded at Glevum, in Dobunni territory, between 96-98. Lindum's colony is built over the evacuated legionary fort and is given a new set of walls almost straight away, no doubt a move designed to impress as well as to defend at a time in which few towns have walls.

fl 96 - c.97

Publius Metilius Nepos



Without the accounts of Tacitus to provide detailed information, the names and dates of office for successive governors now becomes less certain. What is known is that both T Avidius Quietus and L Neratius Marcellus are both prominent senators in Rome, and the governorship of Britain is a high prestige posting.

97/98? - c.101

Tiberius Avidius Quietus

Adoptive Emperors Period.

c.100 - 105

The northern Brigantes apparently revolt, perhaps under the leadership of Arviragus, a possible candidate for High King (as is any British chieftain who refuses to surrender to the Romans). Arviragus seems to be responsible for the burning of the auxiliary fort at Corstopitum (Corbridge), as well as others at this time (including Trimontium (Newstead)), as the British tribes of Lowland Scotland stage a major uprising. By AD 100 the Romans give up Scotland, and fully establish their defences along the Tyne-Solway line. Although the mess at Trimontium is cleared, suggesting a temporary return by Romans, the forts in this region are not reoccupied.

Roman bronze diploma
This bronze military 'diploma' from Malpas in Cheshire, dated to AD 103, is an official military discharge issued by Emperor Trajan to Reberrus, a Spanish decurion in the 1st Pannonian Cavalry regiment, which also grants him citizenship and the right to marry

c.101 - c.103

Lucius Neratius Marcellus

Immediate successor? May have remained in office after 103.

c.103 - 115


Unknown governor(s).

115? - 118?

Marcus Appius / Atilius Bradua

Uncertain. Alternatively dated to c.127.

118 - 122

Quintus Pompeius Falco

Oversaw the start of construction on Hadrian's Wall.

c.118 - 120

FeatureThat Britain is the scene of some serious warfare is not in doubt. However, although the weight of evidence points to an invasion from outside the province, this is by no means certain. Emperor Hadrian visits shortly afterwards and authorises the construction of a stone Wall along the Tyne-Solway line in 121-122 as part of his defensive reorganisations to divide the barbarians from the Romans. Some forts are maintained to the north of the western section, once the wall is completed around AD 127. Hadrian probably brings the VI Victrix with him, seemingly to replace the unlucky Ninth (last recorded in Britain at Eboracum (York), the capital of the North, in 107/108), and they are subsequently based at Eboracum.

122 - 125?

Aulus Platorius Nepos

Friend of Roman Emperor Hadrian.


Nepos oversees most of the construction work on Hadrian's Wall and also manages most of the later modifications as changes are made according to the terrain and a revision of how the wall is to be garrisoned. He falls out of favour with Emperor Hadrian, though, perhaps thanks to the record levels of expenditure incurred for the building of the Wall, and is replaced. The name of his replacement is unknown.

c.125 - ?


Unknown governor. Replaced by M Appius (115-118)?

c.125 - 130

A fairly serious fire occurs in Londinium, presumably from accidental causes. The later archaeological record shows a clear burn layer for this period. Rapid action is taken to rebuild the damaged sections of the city.

Roman Londinium
A recreation of Roman Londinium showing the legionary fort (centre front) and the River Walbrook running from the north wall (on the left) into the Thames

fl c.127

Trebius Germanus


c.131 - 132/133

Sextus Julius Severus


FeatureSextus Julius Severus is transferred in short order to Judea to deal with a serious uprising against Roman rule that is led by Simon Bar Kochba. His replacement in Britain, P Mummius Sisenna, probably oversees the final, complicated stages of the Wall's construction. The largest fort on the Wall is Stanwix, the crossing point of the western route into Caledonia and probably the headquarters for the most senior unit commander on the Wall, answering directly to Eboracum. This centre eventually develops into a civil civitas with its own city at Luguvalium (Carlisle), within the territory of the Carvetii.

c.133 - c.135

Publius Mummius Sisenna

Uncertain. May have remained in office later than 135.

c.138 - 144?

Quintus Lollius Urbicus

Former governor of Germania Inferior.

140 - 143

The Romans move north to the Forth-Clyde line, roughly the southern Caledonian boundary, reoccupying British Lowland Scotland on a permanent basis and beginning construction of the more basic Antonine Wall. Troop concentrations are higher along this shorter and more easily defendable wall, while the Vallum of the southern, Hadrianic Wall is deliberately cancelled and gates are removed from the mile castles to restore free movement past them. It is around this time that the geographer, Ptolemy, notes the tribes to the north of the wall. Some of them receive their one and only mention in history and it is thought that at least one or two tribes may have been created by refugees fleeing the Roman invasion of the south.

The tribes mentioned include the Caereni, Caledonii (along either side of Loch Ness southwards from the Moray Firth to Ben Nevis), Carnonacae, Cornavii (possibly formed by members of the Cornovii tribe fleeing from the south), Creones, Decantae (on the western side of the mouth of the Moray Firth, possibly formed by fleeing Cantii), Epidii, Lugi, Smertae, Taexalli, Vacomagi (on the eastern side of the mouth of the Moray Firth), and Venicones (on the peninsula between the Firth of Tay and the Firth of Forth, possibly refugee Veneti from the Continent).

by 146

Gnaeus Papirius Aelianus

c.147 - c.154


Unknown governor(s).


Corvus of the Alt Clut Damnonii apparently announces the creation of the kingdom in 148, raising a following of British patriots. It seems possible that this is the spark for a serious train of events along the Antonine Wall. The forts are apparently evacuated and burnt, either by the enemy or by retreating Romans - there is some slaughter at Newstead at least. It is quite possible that the Romans are severely mauled before they can put down the revolt. Corvus himself dies fighting the Romans in 184 but his kingdom remains outside direct Imperial control, one of four such kingdoms. The others are probably those of the Votadini and Selgovae Britons, and the Novantae Caledonians.


Gnaeus Julius Verus arrives in Britain, quite possibly bringing with him reinforcements for all three of the legions from the armies of Germania Superior and Inferior (Upper and Lower Germany respectively). Whether he arrives to put down the revolt or after the event is unknown, but he is still in Britain in 158.

154 - 155

Despite over two generations of possible Romanisation (although the process is never fully effective outside of the south and east of Britain), the Brigantes revolt again, burning down Ilkley fort (Olicana). They are soon overcome and the fort rebuilt. As a punishment, the Brigantes suffer the loss of their territories, which are broken up. It seems possible that either two civitates are formed, or an imperial estate. For a time the civilian population is probably administered under direct military rule before a civil administration is appointed.

Ilkley fort
An artist's impression of Ilkley fort and town (vicus) which was rediscovered after 1865

by 158

Gnaeus Julius Verus

Former governor of Germania Inferior.

c.158 - 160s

Roman forts in the Pennines are reoccupied, most likely as part of the process of denying the Brigantes their territory. It could be at this time that the civitas Carvetiorum is formed out of north-western Brigantes territory, with a capital at Luguvalium (modern Carlisle). There is also a probable reoccupation up to the Antonine Wall around 160 (known as Antonine II to archaeologists) after a suggested withdrawal under Julius Verus, possibly because the resources are simply too thin on the ground to make permanent occupation viable.

158/159 - 161

-anus Longus or Longinus

Several variants of name possible on his inscription.


Marcus Statius Priscus Licinius Italicus

A figure of some distinction - Britain is still a key posting.

163/164 - c.166?

Sextus Calpurnius Agricola

Recalled about 166.


FeatureIn response to a growing need for troops elsewhere, the Romans seem to abandon the northern, Antonine Wall, although some outpost forts may remain in use until at least the 180s. A fort excavated at Camelon, just two kilometres or so east of Falkirk in the territory of the Damnonii, seems to confirm a withdrawal date of this time. Hadrian's Wall itself is certainly still garrisoned, as archaeology has proven, especially at Newsteads.

165 - 180

Plague enters Rome from the east, brought back by returning legionaries. It quickly spreads throughout the empire and is generally known as the Antonine Plague. When it arrives in Britain it strikes hard. In 2004, archaeologists uncover the remains of ninety-one men, women and children dumped haphazardly into a mass grave at Glevum, in the civitas of the Dobunni. The bones are dated to this period, and are unusual as the Romans are typically very careful about interring their dead. The situation must be fairly dire.

Glevum plague victims
The Antonine Plague that killed these people is thought to have been smallpox

c.166 - ?


Unknown governor(s).

fl c.169 - 178?

Quintus Antistius Adventus


The Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius, defeats the Iazyges tribe of Alans (otherwise known as Sarmatians). He takes them into Roman service and settles them in northern Britain, at Ribchester, south of Lancaster. The Alans are assigned to the VI Legion Victrix, commanded by the Alani warlord who is renamed Lucius Artorius Castus (a candidate for the battle leader, Arthur, of the fifth century).

c.178? - c.180

Caerellius Priscus?

Governor uncertain.

180 - 185

A serious attack of the northern peoples takes place in Britain upon the death of the Roman emperor in 180, either from north of Hadrian's Wall into the province itself (with Damnonian Alt Clut being an especial candidate), or by Caledonians from beyond the Antonine Wall to attack and devastate Roman forts in Lowland Scotland.

c.180 - ?

Ulpius Marcellus

In the post before the end of 180.

184 - 185

Whoever the attackers of AD 180 might be, it seems probable that the Roman governor, Ulpius Marcellus, now campaigns with two legions into Lowland Scotland and beyond the Forth-Clyde line. He is a man of austere incorruptibility and an extreme disciplinarian, and he exacts a terrible retribution from the enemy. Given the date of death for Corvus of the Damnonii, this is probably the campaign that causes his end and perhaps alleviates the threat to Rome for a while.

c.185? - c.187

Publius Helvius Pertinax

Later Roman Emperor (193).


Pertinax becomes prefect of Rome by the time of the death of Emperor Commodus, at which point he is proclaimed emperor by the same praetorian prefect who arranged to have Commodus assassinated. Unfortunately he is a strict disciplinarian whose approach to politics ruffles a lot of feathers and begins a period of instability and military mutiny. The 'Year of the Five Emperors' begins with his short reign in AD 193.

c.187 - c.191


Unknown governor(s).

191/192 - c.197

Decimus Clodius Albinus

Unassociated Emperors Period. Usurper in Britain. Caesar.


Severus marches on Rome and the praetorians declare for him. Emperor Didius Julianus is dispatched only six months after the death of Commodus. Severus, now fully in command, offers Albinus the junior title of Caesar.


After an attempt to have Albinus assassinated fails, Emperor Severus marches on Gaul to meet Albinus' forces. The final battle is a close-run affair, but Albinus does not survive the encounter. Severus immediately divides the single province of Britain, probably in a temporary fashion at first, with division being confirmed within two or three years.

197 - 200/202?

Virius Lupus

Severans Period.


There appears to be an increasing threat by the Caledonii and Maeatae, amalgamations of the earlier tribes in Scotland, to invade Roman Britain, and they may already have risen. Lupus appears to lack the strength in men to fight them off, so he buys them off with a very large bribe (approved by the emperor).


Marcus Antius Crescens Calpurnianus

Acting governor.

c.202 - c.205

Gaius Valerius Pudens

May have remained in office later than 205.

c.205 - c.207?

Lucius Alfenus Senecio


Dio records success in 'the wars in Britain', which may involve Senecio. It is not clear what this success is, or where in Britain, but it seems likely that it is related to the Caledonii and Maeatae. This situation may be potentially serious, as the governor has to ask the emperor for reinforcements or an imperial expedition, and no governor would willingly invite imperial interference unless the situation was serious. Emperor Severus soon begins to make his way to Britain, collecting a large number of military units along the way.

Multangular Tower
The third century Multangular Tower in York lies at the western corner of the legionary fortress, which probably later served as the military HQ of fifth century Northern Britain. The tower's remains are now part of York's Museum Gardens

208 - c.213?

Some sources list a further governor, a second Ulpius Marcellus. He has been interpreted as a son of the first Ulpius Marcellus, serving around 211. This is based on a misdated inscription and it is now accepted that it refers to the earlier Ulpius Marcellus only. The two sons of emperor Septimus Severus, Caracalla and Publius Septimus Geta, administer the province to some degree during and immediately after their father's campaigns there which take place between 208 and 211.

209 - 211

Roman Emperor Severus leads his campaign against the Caledonii and Maeatae in person, making his headquarters (and the centre of the Roman empire for three years) at Eboracum (York), but ill-health means that he has to hand control of its day-to-day conduct to Caracalla. A scorched earth policy is pursued to try and bring the ephemeral tribesmen either to a pitched battle or to surrender, neither of which actually occurs. Following Severus' death, either immediately or shortly afterwards, Rome permanently abandons Scotland, possibly in stages.

MapRoman Governors of Britannia Superior & Britannia Inferior
c.AD 213 - 274

The single province of Britannia, long a prestigious posting for aspiring politicians or generals, was divided in two at the start of the third century, following the disastrous events of the 'Year of the Five Emperors' and its repercussions. Britannia Superior incorporated the more wealthy and settled south, along with rough-and-ready but largely peaceful Wales. Britannia Inferior was a military zone that covered the Pennines, with a 'v'-shaped southern border that stretched from the Wash to the mouth of the River Dee in the modern county of Cheshire. From here it reached to Hadrian's Wall, and probably past it to include the client tribes beyond.

While it is hard to be sure precisely when the division took place, it seems to have begun in AD 197, when Emperor Severus took steps to reduce the capacity of the island to produce claimants to the imperial throne. This list assumes the final division into two provinces occurred around 213, or a year or two before, and after the governorship of Lucius Alfenus Senecio. A consular governor commanded the southern province, probably from London, while a praetorian governor was based at Eboracum (York) for the north (founding a position that would later descend, according to tradition and the remaining literary evidence, to Coel Hen and his so-called 'Kingdom of Northern Britain' of the late fourth and early fifth century). Neither would command armies on the scale of their predecessors, and the post seemed to lose some of its appeal as a result. From this point the record of governors becomes increasingly patchy or unclear.

(Additional information from The Oxford History of England: Roman Britain, Peter Salway, and from Roman Britain: A New History, Guy de la Bédoyère.)



c.213 - c.222


Unknown governor(s).

by 213

Gaius Julius Marcus

First recorded governor of the north. Disgraced and erased.

by 216?

Marcus Antonius Gordianus?

Unassociated Emperors Period. Emperor Gordian I in 238.

by 219

Modius Julius

Severans Period.


Tiberius Claudius Paulinus

fl c.220?



The dating for Rufinus is extremely uncertain. He is recorded by a stone at the fort of Reculver and is tentatively dated by accompanying pottery finds to a point not far from 220. There exists scant information on most of these early regional governors, but the next sequence is nothing more than a catalogue, with dating sometimes speculative.

Durngate Street mosaic
The complex Durngate Street Roman mosaic pavement was unearthed in Dorchester in 1995 and is on display at Dorset County Museum, an example of the large and expensive villas that began to appear in south-western Britain at this time

221 - 222/223

Marius Valerianus

222? - 235?

Gaius Junius Faustinus Postumianus?

Governor in this period. Previously served as a staff officer under Septimus Severus.

c.223 - 226

Tiberius Julius Pollienus Auspex

Governor at a point during this period.


Claudius Xenophon

by 225


222 - 235

Claudius Apellinus

Governor at a point during this period.

222 - 235

Calvisius Rufus

Governor at a point during this period.

222 - 235

Valerius Crescens Fulvianus

Governor at a point during this period.

c.226 - ?


Unknown governor(s).


Marcus Martiannius Pulcher?

Named on an inscription in London for the Temple of Isis.


Emperor Severus Alexander is murdered for failing to fight the Germanic tribes. His death ends the principate system set up by Augustus and begins a period of chaos in which usurper after usurper gains and loses the imperial throne as palace plot, mutiny, and murder create a climate that elevates no less than seventeen would-be emperors to the purple.

by 237


Soldier Emperors Period.

238 - 244

Maecilius Fuscus

Governor at a point during this period.

238 - 244

Egnatius Lucillianus

Governor at a point during this period.

by 242

Nonius Philippus


The accession of Valerian and his son, Gallienus, as joint emperors marks the end of nearly two decades of chaos at the centre of the empire. It also comes just in time as pressure on the Roman frontiers both in the west and east turn into a series of massive invasions.

253 - 255

Titus Desticius Juba

Governor at a point during this period.

260 - 274

Crisis strikes the weakened Roman empire, with the Rhine frontier collapsing completely to the Alemanni. There is a possible flight of villa owners to Britain from Gaul, along with their associated wealth. This continues into the 270s against the backdrop of the Bacaudae in Gaul; bands of the dispossessed, ex-soldiers, rogues, and refugees who act as brigands. Cities in Gaul are subsequently too poor to be able to afford walls while those in Britain begin to gain theirs around this period. The flowering of villas in Britain also begins from about 270, perhaps thanks to the newly imported wealth and using, between Cirencester and Dorchester in Dorset, former imperial estates.

Chedworth Roman Villa
The great age of villas in Britain (this example is at Chedworth) was in the third and fourth centuries, probably as a result of wealthy landowners from Gaul joining their peers in Britain and using former imperial estates

Britain and Gaul revolt against Rome's control when Marcus Cassianus Latinius Postumus, second-in-command on the Rhine, murders the praetorian prefect, Silvanus, and declares himself emperor. The Roman provinces in Germany, Gaul, Spain, and Britain and their armies support him. For the next thirteen years the whole of the north-western part of the empire is run as an independent but fully Roman state with its own series of emperors, and is called the 'Empire of the Gallic Provinces' (Imperium Galliarum / the Gallic Empire - 260-274).

260 - 269

Octavius Sabinus

Under the Gallic Empire of M Cassianus Latinius Postumus.

269 - 274


Tetrarchs Period. Unknown governor(s).


The Imperium Galliarum collapses when Roman Emperor Aurelian defeats its military power in battle at Châlons. The third emperor of the Gallic Provinces, Tetricus, surrenders and is permitted to pursue a useful and distinguished career in Roman life.

MapRoman Diocese of the Britains
AD 274 - 409

The creation of the Diocese of the Britains followed the reabsorption of Britain into the Roman empire. In addition, the two provinces were further repartitioned by Diocletian, this time into four separate provinces; Maxima Caesariensis in the south-east, with its capital at London, Flavia Caesariensis in the east, with its capital at Lind Colun in the civitas of the Corieltavi (modern Lincoln), Britannia Secunda in the north, with its capital at Eboracum in the militarised zone that was formerly the civitas of the Brigantes (modern York), and Britannia Prima in the west (including present day Wales), with its capital at Cirencester in the civitas of the Dobunni. At the same time the British Church was gaining a foothold and, like its later Roman Catholic successor, probably used Roman administrative names for its own officials.

A fifth province called Valentia also briefly existed, probably in the far north, but its exactly location is hotly contested (and the name may only be a transcription error which should have said that Maxima Caesariensis had been renamed Valentia at the same time that London was renamed Augusta, after 367). Each province had a governor of equestrian rank (a praeses) and these were overseen by a new tier of administration which was headed by a vicarius. Later in the fourth century, the governor of Maxima Caesariensis had to be of consular rank. The following names are the few which have survived from this era, covering almost a century until about 409, when the Roman civilian administration was expelled by the native population. Records are extremely sparse in this period, much worse even than for the division of Britain into Superior and Inferior. In fact, it is at least two decades after the establishment of the diocese that the first vicarius is known. Also largely unknown are the names of the governors of each of the individual provinces into which the previous two had been subdivided.

(Additional information from The Oxford History of England: Roman Britain, Peter Salway.)


Roman emperor Diocletian takes the title of Britannicus Maximus, and it seems reasonable to assume that a military success of some importance had been won in his name in Britain. This could be a raid across the Wall by Scotti, which is sometimes placed in 296.

286 - 287

Carausius, a Roman commander of low birth who had been impressive under Maximianus' command, is suspected of collusion with raiding barbarians. When his execution is ordered he proclaims himself emperor and seizes the provinces of Britain. It is at this time that at least one of the Saxon Shore forts is built, that of Anderitum in the civitas of the Regninses, and perhaps it is no coincidence that the extensive villa at Fishbourne is apparently destroyed by fire in the same period as the seizure of Britain by Carausius.

Fishbourne villa
Fishbourne villa was one of the most extensive and richly-decorated establishments in the whole of Britain, following its construction in the late first century


Following the loss of their Imperium Galliarum territories in Gaul to western Roman Caesar Constantius Chlorus, Allectus assassinates Carausius and assumes command himself.


Emperor Constantius launches a major invasion of Britain. Constantius' division is delayed by bad weather, but another division, under the praetorian prefect Asclepiodotus, takes advantage of fog to avoid Allectus' ships stationed around the Isle of Wight, and lands near Southampton Water, where they burn their ships as a gesture of defiance and determination. Allectus is forced to retreat from the coast, but is cut off by another of Constantius' divisions and is defeated. Allectus himself is killed in the battle and Asclepiodotus is left in charge. Geoffrey of Monmouth gives him the title 'Duke of Cornwall'.

296 - 305

Aurelius Arpagius

Britannia Secunda (uncertain)? Governor during this period.


Aurelius Arpagius is a provincial governor on the Wall (known by a Birdoswald inscription dated between 296-305). His presence shows that the new system of civilian governors that may have been introduced as early as 274 has not been universally adopted throughout the empire at the same time. Britain has also held a unique position recently, as it has been part of the Imperium Galliarum, and therefore detached from Rome's central control.

305 - 306

MapBritain's two provinces are subdivided into four by Roman reorganisations. These are named (by no later than 314) as Britannia Prima, Britannia Secunda, Maxima Caesariensis, and Flavia Caesariensis (although their distribution in Britain is open to doubt and disagreement). The post of provincial governor (praeses) becomes a civil one, normally without command of the troops but with an increasing administrative load.

In terms of that administration, a new level is introduced in the form of the diocesan vicarii, placed between the provincial governors and the praetorian prefect (who is himself the subordinate of the regional Caesar). The prefecture which oversees the control of the north-west is the 'Prefecture of the Gauls' (which includes Britain). The four new provinces of Britain constitute one of the dioceses of this prefecture and are headed by the vicarius Britanniarum. At the same time, Emperor Constantius Chlorus personally leads a campaign into Caledonia to bring the elusive tribes in the Highlands to battle and ensure a period of renewed peace.


The Panegyrici Latini Veteres, or Panegyrics, which praises the later Roman emperors, carries the first known use of 'Picts' to describe the British tribes of the far north of the country, meaning the Caledones 'and others'.

by 319


Vicarius in this year, and probably before and after.

337 - 343

The death of Constantine, and then his eldest son, Constantine II in battle in 340, proves serious for Britain. Its early fourth century age of peace and prosperity begins to vanish. Constans makes a sudden visit in early 343, suggesting something happens in 342 to bring him to Britain at a most unusual time for Channel crossings (possibly warfare against the tribes north of the Wall, evidenced by severe fire damage to at least three forts, Risingham, High Rochester, and Bewcastle). It is also suggested that the widespread refortification of cities which occurs in this century happens as a result of this visit. Units of Germanic laeti begin to appear in some cities, notably Venta Belgarum in the Belgae civitas, and migration begins from south-western Britain (notably the former territories of the Cornovii and Dumnonii) into Armorica.

Venta Belgarum
The Roman city of Venta Belgarum was refortified in the fourth century and Germanic mercenaries were brought in to improve the defences, suggesting an increasing lack of Roman soldiery fitted to the task


Constantine II objects to the attitude of Constans and launches an invasion of Italy. It is disaster: his army of the Gallic Prefecture is defeated and he is killed at Aquileia. This point seems to mark the start of Britain's troubles, weakening the garrison there and perhaps contributing to a general loss of confidence. The Scotti and Picts on its border certainly seem to pick up on this, and begin raiding near or across the border on a regular basis.

? - 353

Flavius Martinus

Second Flavian Period. Vicarius up to this point.


Following the rebellion of the Roman usurper Magnentius, a witch hunt is conducted, notably in Britain, where the feared notarius (imperial notary) Paulus lives up to his reputation by targeting the innocent as well as the guilty. In fact the methods used are so extreme and unjust that the vicarius, Flavius Martinus, attempts to persuade Paulus to release the innocent, and when he fails he threatens to resign. This only results in false accusations against him, so as a final desperate act, Martinus is driven to attack Paulus with a sword. Unsuccessful, he commits suicide.

mid-4th century

Flavius Sanctus

A governor, and later a Roman consul.


It is probably in this unsettled and deeply unhappy time for Britain that the otherwise unknown usurper, Carausius II, makes his appearance. Local coins bearing his name appear, but what territory he controls is entirely unknown.

fl c.360?

Lucius Septimius -

Britannia Prima. Period of office unknown. Rest of name lost.

The praeses of Britannia Prima, Lucius Septimius, makes an almost aggressively pagan dedication at Corinium in the civitas of the Dobunni. There is a continuing tradition of paganism amongst people in positions of authority and influence, and the British Church is far from the only available option when it comes to religion. While this dedication is more likely to occur during the reign of the pagan Emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363), this is far from certain.

360 - 361

At the start of 360, Roman Caesar Julian (the Apostate) is wintering in Lutetia Parisiorum (the early Paris) when reports reach him that the Scotti and Picts have broken a previous agreement (perhaps made in 343) and are plundering lands close to the frontier in Britain, presumably those of the Novantae and Selgovae. Given the situation on the Rhine, especially with the Alemanni, he is unable to leave, so he sends his magister militum, Lupicinus, along with some of his best units, the Heruli, the Batavi, and two numeri Moesiacorum. Lupicinus marshals his forces at London, but is recalled following Julian being proclaimed Augustus by his troops. Whether the campaign goes ahead under a less senior commander is unknown.

361 - 363

Alypius of Antioch

Vicarius soon after Martinus.

360 - 361

According to Ammianus Marcellinus, the Picts, Scotti, Saxons, and Attacotti (possibly the Britons of Alt Clut) attack Britain in what seems to be a serious incursion. The term 'Saxons' is used by the Romans to cover all Teutonic races, so these attacks might also be by Jutes, Frisians, or Angles on the eastern North Sea coast, or even the Danes in southern Scandinavia.

? - 367


Name unknown. Killed during the Barbarian Conspiracy?

? - 367

Fullofaudes, Dux Brittanorum

'Put out of action' during the Barbarian Conspiracy.


FeatureThe Barbarian Conspiracy sees attacks falling on Britain from all sides, although this seems to be the culmination of seven years of large-scale trouble on behalf of the Picts, Scotti, Saxons, and the mysterious Attacotti. Initially, Rome is taken by surprise, and the emperor's dux Fullofaudes is put out of action, either killed or cut off, probably near the Wall. Then Nectaridus, comes maritimi tractus (count of the maritime region), is killed in action. Both loses are serious blows, and the barbarians are now able to divide up into bands so that they can steal and sack and burn whatever they like. General Theodosius (the Elder) is sent to salvage the situation, which he does by restoring the army in Britain as a fighting force, pardoning soldiers who had deserted, attacking bands of brigands and looters wherever he finds them, and installing a new vicarius.

During the same period, the evidence points to Roman towns being much poorer, politically inactive, and socially weak, although by no means dead. However, decline is clearly setting in. Ratae, in the civitas of the Corieltavi, is struck by a serious fire which destroys the forum, basilica and market hall, as well as a fair chunk of the centre of town. The buildings are never restored. Many forts along the Wall and in the Pennines have also been damaged by fire, probably during the Conspiracy, and only some are restored.

368 - ?


Mentioned by Ammianus as being appointed in 368.


Almost certainly as part of the rebuilding of Britain and the restoration of the army following the Barbarian Conspiracy, a tower and fort at Ravenscar in the former territory of the Brigantes are built 'from the ground up', according to an inscription found there. The magister, Vindicianus, is responsible, but it is unclear whether the inscription refers to the original construction or its later rebuilding.


FeatureAlthough his exact rank is unknown, Magnus Maximus (or Maximianus, British Maxsen, or Welsh Macsen Wledig) is clearly a senior commander in Roman Britain, and an invasion of Picts is successfully defeated by him shortly before he mounts his expedition into Gaul.

c.384 - 390

Warfare flares up with the Picts again, and according to Gildas (the first of his 'Pictish Wars'), it lasts 'for many years'. Upon Maximus' death in 388, Emperor Theodosius sends a legion (or a specialist taskforce), probably by 390, to help stop the Pictish attacks once he has promises of submission from the island.

388? - 406?

Coel Hen, Dux Brittanorum

Feature'King of Northern Britain', based at Ebrauc.


Another dux appears in Britain (the previous known incumbent of this military office being the unfortunate Fullofaudes of 367). Coel Hen, as he is known in later British oral and written material, appears to exercise a good deal more power in the northern half of Britain than previous holders of the office. If the traditions about him are correct, he may represent a transition between Roman military official and a ruler in an increasingly independent Britain.

392 - 394

Britain is again isolated from Rome by the revolt of Arbogast and Eugenius. Theodosius responds by raising his own two year-old son, Honorius, as Western Emperor, and marches on Italy, defeating his enemies at the Battle of Frigidus in 394 on the Italy-Slovenia border.

Roman silver ingots
Silver ingots from the late fourth or early fifth century which were used to pay soldiers and civil servants in the Late Empire, and which were discovered at the site of the Tower of London, and at Reculver and Richborough in Kent


FeatureThe formal partition of the Roman empire into the Eastern and Western sections is undertaken by Honorius and Arcadian. An official register of all the offices, other than municipal, which exist in the Roman empire at this time is compiled in the Notitia Dignitatum.

395 - 406


Vicarius, probably during this period.

395 - 406


Vicarius, probably during this period.


FeatureIt is possible that Roman forces defeat Saxons, Irish Scots, and the Picts in fighting which has been linked to the second of Gildas' 'Pictish wars'. This is the probably source of the Britons' appeal for help to Rome around this time, although it seems possible that there is in fact no victory, and Stilicho merely attends to the island's defences before withdrawing more troops. One of the Saxon Shore forts known to undergo repairs at this time is that of Anderitum, in the civitas of the Regninses.


Troops are withdrawn from Britain to form part of the Roman army that defeats a force of Goths and other barbarians in northern Italy. This comes in the same year as further Irish Scotti raids take place on the south coast.

Post-Roman Londinium
At the turn of the century, Londinium began to show increasing signs of decay, as trade faltered and people started to migrate back to the countryside. but it took perhaps another half a century before the decay and the abandonment were complete

406 - 409

While the situation on the Continent is problematic, in Britain it is even worse. The British provinces are relatively isolated and constantly lack support from the Roman empire, so the soldiers raise a series of their own claimants to the throne. While the first two are minor, the third, Constantine III, takes Gaul and Spain to add to his dominions. This signals the effective end of Roman control in Britain, as Constantine withdraws the last of the major garrisons to aid his war effort. Just three years later, in 409, Roman administration is ejected from the country, three hundred and sixty-six years after it arrived. Britain now looks to its own defence.