A son of Cunobelin, therefore brother to Togodumnus and Caratacus. He appears to have been given administrative authority over Cantium towards the end of the reign of Tiberius around 35AD, replacing the old chief Vodenos who may have recently expired. This preferential treatment over his other two sons, must mean that Adminius was the eldest of the three. An issue of silver coinage appeared at this time in east Kent bearing the inscription AMM INVS on the obverse, the letters appearing to either side of a seven eared wheatsheaf, and DVN on the reverse, probably a mint-mark, possibly DV[roverno]N. Adminius was driven from Cantium by his two brothers, apparently with the approval of his father at around the same time as his enfeeblement in c.40AD. This was presumably because of his acquired taste for things Roman, which had resulted from his governing that part of Britain closest to Gaul and thus closest to Roman influence. He escaped capture and fled to Gaul, thence to Germany where in c.41AD he sought audience with the mad Gaius Caligula and tried to persuade the emperor that Britain was ‘ripe for intervention’ at this time. The attempt of Gaius failed dismally, and Adminius no doubt accompanied the emperor back to Rome where he was subsequently repatriated with his homeland by the emperor Claudius in 43AD. It is possible that he was installed as the nominal governor of Cantium for his services, and possibly lived in the Villa discovered at Eccles near the crossing of the North Downs Way and the river Medway.

Catuvellaunian Prince

Suetonius; Caligula, xliv.2.1

[40AD] All that he [Caligula] accomplished was to receive the surrender of Adminius, son of Cynobellinus king of the Britons, who had been banished by his father and had deserted to the Romans with a small force; yet as if the entire island had been submitted to him, he sent a grandiloquent letter to Rome, commanding the couriers who carried it to ride in their post-chaise all the way to the Forum and the House, and not to deliver it to anyone except the consuls, in the temple of Mars the Avenger, before a full meeting of the senate.

Identified With the Coinage of AMMINVS

Silver coin of Adminius minted at Durovernum [Cantiacorum] (Canterbury, Kent) c.30AD? This coin has inscriptions on both sides; on the obverse, the royal name AMMINVS to either side of a symbolic seven-eared wheat stalk, and on the reverse, beneath a prancing pegasus facing right, with the mint name D[vro]V[er]N[on]?.

Dr. John Kent, quoted from John Wacher’s The Coming of Rome, says of this coin;

“Amminius (Mack no.313). He has been plausibly identified with Adminius, a son of Cunobelinus expelled from Britain by his father. Perhaps he was an under-king, perhaps just a rebel. DVN on this silver coin presumably denotes the place of mintage, but might be a patronymic, if he were not in fact the son of Cunobelinus. His coinage might be Kentish, but this is not certain.”

Possibly Inhabited the Villa at Eccles in Kent

Detsicas; The Cantiaci, pp.126

… In all respects a major villa-estate, the Eccles villa has invited comment from the early years of its excavation. Firstly, the occupation of the site soon after the Roman invasion, the building of the earliest house and its baths suite with its mosaics and the military affinities of its plan have suggested perhaps official promotion of a philo-Roman aristocrat, perhaps even Adminius returning to Britain in the wake of the army.

General Notes

A brother of Togodumnus and Caratacus.

Was given administrative responsibilities for Cantium, and probably had his headquarters in the north-east of the canton, possibly at Durovernon on the Stour.

Held pro-Roman sympathies, diametrically opposed to his two elder brothers.

It is conceivable that a quarrel erupted within the household of Cunobelin, sparked by these opposed opinions, that resulted in the expulsion of Adminius by the aging king. It is evidence, perhaps, that the frail Cunobelin had been cleverly manipulated by his sons Togodumnus and Caratacus.

Adminius fled to Gaius Caligula in 40AD, taking with him a wealth of local knowledge and valuable military and political intelligence.

It is said that he managed to persuade the unstable young emperor to cease the operations he was then conducting against the Canninefates in Lower Germany and to divert his attention to Britain, where, he said, the political and economic situation was ripe for his intervention.

This is probably only half the truth, because some pre-planning, at the logistical level seems to have taken place, for where did the troopships come from that were to take Gaius and his army to Britain.

This suggests that some level of clandestine correspondence had been passing between the British prince and the Roman high command, prior to his being driven from Cantium.

His troops now stationed at Gesoriacum rebelled against this hasty and seemingly unprepared campaign, and refused to co-operate. In a fit of pique, Gaius ordered his legions to parade in full battle array upon the sea shore, whereupon he inspected them, withdrew a little way from shore aboard a warship, then returned and ordered them to collect sea-shells, perhaps in an attempt to humiliate them. Nevertheless, his plans for the conquest of Britain were shelved.

In all probability, Adminius was one of Aulus Plautius’ close circle of advisors during the initial campaign in 43AD, due to his unequalled local knowledge of Cantium, and in particular, the Wantsum channel and the Rutupiae landing site.

Using his local influence and knowledge of the native people he probably helped to arrange the swift surrender of Durovernon at the crossing of the Stour, whereupon he was reinstated to the throne that his brothers deprived him.

He became instrumental in the conversion of the settlement into what was to become a key civil and military administrative centre, initially providing logistical backup for the invasion forces, and later to become the tribal capital of the Cantiaci, known as Durovernum Cantiacorum.

The local knowledge of Adminius and his followers were probably of great consequence during the battle of the Medway, for Plautius would have been given detailed information about the local topography, including the strategic East Tilbury crossing place.

It is very probable that the two Belgic exiles Adminius, and the aging Verica were close associates during their stay in Rome and often met at social gatherings and official meetings within the Roman imperial court. Adminius would also have at least been aware of, if not personally then by reputation or dynastic connections, the kinsman of Verica, the British noble Cogidubnus.

Literary References

Classical Literature

Modern Historians

Flees Britain and Petitions Gaius Caligula

The Coming of Rome, pp25/26

“The increasing power of Cunobelin’s two more impetuous sons was demonstrated yet again within his lifetime, for in 40AD they expelled, presumably with their father’s approval, their brother Adminius. Since he fled to Rome, it is likely that he incurred their displeasure by too open a display of pro-Roman feelings and attitudes. From the distribution of his few coins we may conclude that his area of influence lay in Kent, although after the conquest he may have returned to Verulamium, occupying the sometime Catuvellaunian capital. On arrival in Rome he petitioned Gaius Caligula, Tiberius’ successor, for help in recovering his position, representing to him the ease with which he could invade and capture Britain. Gaius was at that time in Germany where he had been engaged in suppressing a revolt. Swayed by the arguments of Adminius, he collected an army at Boulogne ready for the crossing, when mutiny broke out. His feeble mind was just as easily switched to the other extreme by this event, and the whole expedition was promptly called off, the magnificent lighthouse which he built at Boulogne being the only lasting reminder of it.”