Caratacus- Prince of the Catuvellauni

Warlord of the Combined British Tribes

Read about the military campaigns of Caratacus ap Cunobelin Catuvellaunum.

His Family

Grandfather Tasciovanus

Father Cunobelinus, was said to have been the first British statesman, and generally opposed the Druidic anti-Roman faction of which his two sons Togodumnus and Caratacus were active members. His sudden enfeeblement in c. 40AD led to a very sudden change in the balance of power in the south-east of England due to the actions of his sons, particularly Caratacus. He died possibly as late as c. 43AD, after a long illness which made him incapable of ruling effectively.

Uncle Epaticcus, became king of the Atrebates after forcing Verica off the throne c. 10AD. Verica, however, fought back and killed the usurper, making an enemy of Caratacus, who had based his coins on those produced by this favoured uncle !

Brother Togodumnus, inherited the Catuvellaunian kingdom north of the Thames, probably because he was the eldest of the two Catuvellaunian princes.

Brother Adminius, possibly the eldest son of Cunobelinus, had his kingdom in the north-east tip of Kent forcibly taken from him for by Caratacus in c. 41AD probably because of his pro-Roman tendencies. He then crossed the channel and tried to persuade Caligula to invade.

Personal History

After the death of his father Cunobelin, the majority of the Catuvellauni tribal lands fell into the hands of his elder brother Togodumnus. Caratacus was inclined or encouraged to recapture the lands previously taken by his uncle Epaticcus, and subsequently regained by king Verica of the Atrebates. Friends in the Durotriges Tribe and Dobunni tribes may well have connived to help him to take over much of the south-east of England, to the loss of Verica and the Atrebates. It is known that he set up camp and issued coin near Guildford during this time.

Before very long, he managed to depose Verica from the Atrebatean throne and forced him to flee to Gaul, wherefrom the old king made his way to Rome and appeared as a suppliant before the emperor Claudius in c.42AD. This was possibly the undoing of Iron-age Britain, as it is likely that Adminius was instrumental in pursuading the aging emperor to seek the glory he needed to firmly establish his hand at the helm of the Roman empire by conducting an expedition there.

Following the crushing defeat at the Battle of the Medway and the loss of his respected elder brother Togodumnus, Caratacus abandoned Camulodunum and fled the south-east of Britain. He removed his family and retinue to Wales, where his reputation as a fearless warrior soon established him as leader of the Welsh tribes (Silures, Demetae, Ordovices and Deceangli).

Operating from lands of the Silures in the south-eastern part of Wales, he carried out a well-timed attack deep into the Roman held territory of Gloucestershire. The Roman governor, Ostorius Scapula managed to restore order and push Caratacus’ forces back across the River Severn, he also realised the need to eliminate the threat from Caratacus in the west and to halt the advance northwards.

As a prelude to his campaigns against Caratacus, Scapula moved the Twentieth Legion Valeria from its recently built fortress at Camulodunum to a establish a new one at Glevum (Gloucester) to guard the lower Severn. A colonia of veteran troops were left behind in Camulodunum as a reserve force, occupying the abandoned fortress. The Second Legion Augusta were then used to strike across the Severn deep into the Silurian heartlands.

In response, Caratacus moved his centre of operations from Siluran territory in southern Wales to the lands of the Ordovices in mid-Wales. Scapula reacted by building another fortress at Viroconium, re-grouping the Fourteenth Legion Gemina there as a secon base of operations. The wooded and hilly terrain in Wales had up to now helped Caratacus’ forces with its guerilla tactics to seriously hamper the Romans advance, the establishment of the Viroconium base enabled Scapula to trap the British forces in a two-pronged attack, using the Second Legion from the south and the Fourteenth from the north.

Caratacus’ forces were finally beaten in c.50AD by a frontal assault by ‘Roman legions’ up a steep slope. Caratacus fled north-east into the Pennines and Brigantia, and his defeated army melted back into the hills of Wales from which it had been raised.

The Brigantian queen Cartimandua had been recognised as a client of Rome, and she now honoured her agreement with Rome by deceiving and capturing Caratacus, and then handing him over to Scapula’s forces.

He was paraded in Triumph by Claudius before the populace of Rome, and acted with such dignity and fearlessness that he was spared the customary death by strangulation and allowed to live there with his family.

Caratacus was highly influenced by the Druids, and both he and his brother Togodumnus were among the leading lights of the British anti-Roman faction, supported by the druidical order.