Roman Military Campaigns – Aulus Plautius ( AD43 -46)

The only classical account of Plautius’ invasion of Britain is Cassius Dio’s History of Rome (book LX, chapter xix), with anectodal references in Suetonius’ Claudius (chapter xvii). The best modern book on the subject by far is Graham Webster’s The Roman Invasion of Britain (Batsford, London, 1980).

The Career of Aulus Plautius

The original bridgehead fortifications at Rutupiae (Richborough, Kent) are well known and enclose an area of about 140 acres (c.57 ha). A military precursor to the civitas of the Cantiaci tribe at Durovernum (Canterbury, Kent) has been postulated but the only evidence which has come to light thus far are the foundations of a number of timber buildings built in Roman military style also a re-cut V-shaped defensive ditch at another location within the bounds of the later walled town. Another fortification is suspected at Durobrivae (Rochester, Kent) at the crossing of the Medway, where the Roman invasion force met its first real opposition and a major battle was fought which lasted two days and claimed the life of the British warlord Togodumnus, the brother of . The ditch of a large (c.75 acres, 30.5ha) Claudian camp has been confirmed at Londinium (London, Greater London) near the crossing of the Thames in Fenchurch Street, and it is thought that another camp, similar in size, was positioned further to the west near Hyde Park.

Following the advance through Cantium and the surrender of the British tribes near Caesaromagus (Chelmsford, Essex), a legionary fortress was built by the Twentieth Legion within the Oppidum of the [link_post post_id="1329" type="link"]Trinovantes tribe at Camulodunum (Colchester, Essex), which was supplied along the River Colne via a harbour on the estuary at Fingringhoe Wick. With his rear guarded, Plautius then sent his remaining three legions to the task of pacification.

  • The Second Legion Augusta under the able command of the young Titus Flavius Vespasianus, who was later to become emperor, marched south-westwards through Surrey, Hampshire and Dorset, capturing the Isle of Wight and establishing vexillation fortresses at Chichester in West Sussex and Lake Farm near Corfe Mullen in Dorset. The legion was evidently supplied by the British Fleet, who established supply bases for these fortresses at Bosham Harbour in West Sussex and at Poole Harbour in Dorset.
  • The Fourteenth Legion Gemina campaigned in the west, through the counties of Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Gloucestershire, establishing a campaign/vexillation fortress at Alchester near Bicester in Oxfordshire and an auxiliary fort at Corinium (Cirencester, Gloucestershire) in the centre of the Dobunni tribal territories.
  • The Ninth Legion Hispana moved northwards, campaigning in Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire and Leicestershire, through the lands of the Coritani, establishing vexillation fortresses at Longthorpe near Peterborough in Cambridgeshire and at Leicester in Leicestershire.

Many British tribes were brought under the yoke of Rome during the four years of this general’s tenure in Britain. Many of the Romanised civitas centres of these tribes began life outside the defences of Roman garrison forts built by the legionary troops and occupied by the auxilia, often being sited at the centre of the tribe’s territories or within oppida earthworks.

A notable omission from the above list is Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester, Hampshire) the civitas of the Atrebates tribe, who apparently continued to occupy their ancient woodland capital with no trace of a nearby Roman garrison fort.

Plautius was also active in the diplomatic arena during his governorship, installing Adminius as ‘client’ king of the Cantiaci in Cantium/Kent and recognising Cogidubnus as ‘pro-praetorian legate’ with authority over the Regnenses tribe of Suffolk and West Sussex. He also brokered treaties with two other major tribes, recognising Cartimandua of the Brigante in Northern England and Prasutagus of the Iceni in Norfolk as ‘clients’ of Rome.

Military Installations Attributed to Aulus Plautius
Name N.G.Ref. Description
Camulodunum (Colchester, Essex) TL9925 legionary fortress Legio XX Valeria.
Longthorpe, Cambridgeshire TL1597 vexillation fortress Legio IX Hispana.
Lake Farm, Dorset SY9999 fort, vexillation fortress Legio II Augusta.
Alchester, Bicester, Oxfordshire SP5720 fort, vexillation fortress Legio XIV Gemina.
Noviomagus Regnorum (Chichester, West Sussex) SU8604 vexillation fortress of Legio II Augusta, later civitas capital of the Regnenses.
Ratae Coritanorum (Leicester, Leicestershire) SK5804 probable vexillation fortress of Legio IX Hispana, later civitas capital of the Coritani.
Rutupiae (Richborough, Kent) TR3260 invasion bridgehead and naval base.
Fingringhoe Wick, Essex TM0519 naval base serving legionary fortress at Colchester.
Magnus Portus (Bosham Harbour, West Sussex) SU8003 naval base serving the early fortress at Chichester.
Hamworthy, Poole Harbour, Dorset SZ0090 naval base serving vex. fortress at Lake Farm.
Topsham, Devon SX9688 naval base
Caesaromagus (Chelmsford, Essex) TL7006 fort, later civitas capital of the Trinovantes
Canonium (Kelvedon, Essex) TL8618 fort
Stanway, Colchester, Essex TL9622 fort set in the middle of the British royal enclosure.
Combretovium (Baylham House, Suffolk) TM1152 fort
Ixworth, Suffolk TL9369 fort, possibly named Sitomagus.
Durobrivae (Water Newton, Cambridgeshire) TL1296 fort
Great Chesterford, Essex TL5043 fort
Verulamium (St. Albans, Hertfordshire) TL1307 fort, later civitas capital of the Catuvellauni
Shapwick, Dorset ST9402 fort near the Lake Farm campaign fortress.
Dunum (Hod Hill, Dorset) ST8510 fort in corner of a hillfort of the Durotriges.
Charterhouse on Mendip, Avon ST5056 fort protecting silver workings in the Mendip Hills.
Corinium (Cirencester, Gloucestershire) SP0201 fort, later civitas capital of the Dobunni.
Great Casterton, Leicestershire TF0009 fort
Causennae (Ancaster, Lincolnshire) SK9843 fort
Ad Pontem (East Stoke, Nottingham) SK7550 fort
Broxtowe, Nottinghamshire SK5242 fort
Marton, Lincolnshire SK8382 fort
Kirmington, Humberside TA1011 fort

References for Roman Military Campaigns – Aulus Plautius ( AD43-46)

  • The Roman Invasion of Britain by Graham Webster (Batsford, London, 1980);
  • Britons and the Roman Army by Grace Simpson (Gregg, London, 1964);
  • Historical Map and Guide: Roman Britain by the OS (3rd Edition, 1956; 4th Ed., 1990; 5th Ed., 2001);