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Caractacus: The Celtic King Who Defied Rome

Caratacus (Brythonic *Caratācos, Middle Welsh Caratawc; Welsh Caradog; Greek Καράτακος; variants Latin Caractacus, Greek Καρτάκης) was a first-century British chieftain of the Catuvellauni tribe, who led the British resistance to the Roman conquest.

Before the Roman invasion Caratacus is associated with the expansion of his tribe’s territory. His apparent success led to Roman invasion, nominally in support of his defeated enemies. He resisted the Romans for almost a decade, mixing guerrilla warfare with set-piece battles, but was unsuccessful in the latter. After his final defeat he fled to the territory of Queen Cartimandua, who captured him and handed him over to the Romans. He was sentenced to death as a military prisoner, but made a speech before his execution that persuaded the Emperor Claudius to spare him.

The legendary Welsh character Caradog ap Bran and the legendary British king Arvirargus may be based upon Caratacus. Caratacus’s speech to Claudius has been a common subject in art.

Caratacus is named by Dio Cassius as a son of the Catuvellaunian king Cunobelinus. Based on coin distribution Caratacus appears to have been the protégé of his uncle Epaticcus, who expanded Catuvellaunian power westwards into the territory of the Atrebates. After Epaticcus died about 35 A.D., the Atrebates, under Verica, regained some of their territory, but it appears Caratacus completed the conquest, as Dio tells us Verica was ousted, fled to Rome and appealed to the emperor Claudius for help. This was the excuse used by Claudius to launch his invasion of Britain in the summer of 43 AD. The invasion targeted Caratacus’ stronghold of Camulodunon (modern Colchester), previously the seat of his father Cunobelinus.

Cunobelinus had died some time before the invasion. Caratacus and his brother Togodumnus led the initial defence of the country against Aulus Plautius’s four legions, thought to have been around 40,000 men, primarily using guerrilla tactics. They lost much of the south-east after being defeated in two crucial battles, the Battle of the River Medway and River Thames. Togodumnus was killed (although John Hind argues that Dio was mistaken in reporting Togodumnus’ death, that he was defeated but survived, and was later appointed by the Romans as a friendly king over a number of territories, becoming the loyal king referred to by Tacitus as Cogidubnus or Togidubnus) and the Catuvellauni’s territories were conquered. Their stronghold of Camulodunon was converted into the first Roman colonia in Britain, Colonia Victricensis.

Resistance to Rome

We next hear of Caratacus in Tacitus’s Annals, leading the Silures and Ordovices of Wales against Plautius’ successor as governor, Publius Ostorius Scapula. Finally, in 51, Scapula managed to defeat Caratacus in a set-piece battle somewhere in Ordovician territory (see the Battle of Caer Caradoc), capturing Caratacus’ wife and daughter and receiving the surrender of his brothers. Caratacus himself escaped, and fled north to the lands of the Brigantes (modern Yorkshire) where the Brigantian queen, Cartimandua, handed him over to the Romans in chains. This was one of the factors that led to two Brigantian revolts against Cartimandua and her Roman allies, once later in the 50s and once in 69, led by Venutius, who had once been Cartimandua’s husband. With the capture of Caratacus, much of southern Britain from the Humber to the Severn was pacified and garrisoned throughout the 50s.

Legends place Caratacus’ last stand at either Caer Caradoc near Church Stretton or British Camp in the Malvern Hills, but the description of Tacitus makes either unlikely:

[Caratacus] resorted to the ultimate hazard, adopting a place for battle so that entry, exit, everything would be unfavorable to us and for the better to his own men, with steep mountains all around, and, wherever a gentle access was possible, he strewed rocks in front in the manner of a rampart. And in front too there flowed a stream with an unsure ford, and companies of armed men had taken up position along the defenses.

Although the Severn is visible from British Camp, it is nowhere near it, so this battle must have taken place elsewhere. A number of locations have been suggested, including a site near Brampton Bryan. Bari Jones, in Archaeology Today in 1998, identified Blodwel Rocks at Llanymynech in Powys as representing a close fit with Tacitus’ account. SOURCE

Caractacus: The Powerful Celtic King Who Defied Rome

The Speech of King Caratacus

Caractacus

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Alexander The Great

Military history and ancient cultures/civilizations are favorite subjects of mine especially certain key figures that left such an impact that it is still felt to this day. One of those historical figures is Alexander The Great, Megas Alexandros (July 20, 356 BCE – June 10, 323 BCE), also known as Alexander III, king of Macedon (336-323 BCE). The feats he accomplished in really such a short amount of time at such a young age is almost something you would expect from some big blockbuster movie but actually happened over 2,000 years ago. From conquering the Persian Empire to literally building a land-bridge in order to sack a city. He was a larger than life leader and I wanted to share a ton of resources for you to have an opportunity to enjoy.

Alexander III the Great, the King of Macedonia and conqueror of the Persian Empire is considered one of the greatest military geniuses of all times. He was inspiration for later conquerors such as Hannibal the Carthaginian, the Romans Pompey and Caesar, and Napoleon.  Alexander was born in 356 BC in Pella, the ancient capital of Macedonia. He was son of Philip II, King of Macedonia, and Olympias, the princess of neighboring Epirus.

Alexander spent his childhood watching his father transforming Macedonia into a great military power, winning victory after victory on the battlefields throughout the Balkans.   At age 12 he showed his equestrian skill to his father and all who were watching when he tamed Bucephalus, an unruly stallion horse, unable to be ridden and devouring the flesh of all who had tried. Plutarch writes:

“Philip and his friends looked on at first in silence and anxiety for the result, till seeing him turn at the end of his career, and come back rejoicing and triumphing for what he had performed, they all burst out into acclamation’s of applause; and his father shedding tears, it is said, for joy, kissed him as he came down from his horse, and in his transport said, ‘O my son, look thee out a kingdom equal to and worthy of thyself, for Macedonia is too little for thee’ ” (Alex. 6.8.). Continue reading HERE.

The Cold Case of Alexander the Great: Have Toxicologists Finally Explained His Untimely Death?

Alexander The Great

Alexander III The Great

Alexander The Great (world history)

The Rise of Macedon and the Conquests of Alexander the Great

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Hannibal Barca – The Scourge of Rome

Hannibal Barca is a historical figure who has fascinated me for years not just for who he was as a man in ancient times but is unbelievable accomplishments during the Second Punic War against the Roman Empire. Hannibal is by far one of the greatest military leaders in all of military history and was taking vengeance in thew most astounding ways not just in the name of his father but for Carthage, one of the most advanced civilizations in history as well. So this Blog post I decided to feature him and deserving so because in my humble opinion I will say the following. If Hannibal had listened to his counsel after the Battle of Cannae, also known as thew Battle of Annihilation, where it was strongly suggested he advanced upon Rome and lay siege, I believe if he had done so the course of history across Europe and North Africa would be far different.

The Carthaginian general Hannibal (247-182 BCE) was one of the greatest military leaders in history. His most famous campaign took place during the Second Punic War (218-202), when he caught the Romans off guard by crossing the Alps.

Youth (247-219)

When Hannibal (in his own, Punic language: Hanba’al, “mercy of Ba’al”) was born in 247 BCE, his birthplace Carthage was about to lose a long and important war. The city had been the Mediterranean’s most prosperous seaport and possessed wealthy provinces, but it had suffered severe losses from the Romans in the First Punic War (264-241). After Rome’s victory, it stripped Carthage of its most important province, Sicily; and when civil war had broken out in Cartage, Rome seized Sardinia and Corsica as well. These events must have made a great impression on the young Hannibal.

He was the oldest son of the Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca, who took the ten-year old boy to Iberia in 237. There were several Carthaginian cities in Andalusia: Gadir (“castle”, modern Cádiz), Malkah (“royal town”, Málaga) and New Carthage (Cartagena). The ancient name of Córdoba is unknown, although the Punic element Kart, “town”, is still recognizable in its name.

Hamilcar added new territories to this informal empire. In this way, Carthage was compensated for its loss of overseas territories. The Roman historian Livy mentions that Hannibal’s father forced his son to promise eternal hatred against the Romans. This may be an invention, but there may be some truth in the story: the Carthaginians had excellent reasons to hate their enemies.When Hamilcar died (229), Hamilcar’s son-in-law, the politician Hasdrubal the Fair, took over command. The new governor further improved the Carthaginian position by diplomatic means, among which was intermarriage between Carthaginians and Iberians. Hannibal married a native princess. It is likely that the young man visited Carthage in these years.

In 221, Hasdrubal was murdered and the Carthaginian soldiers in Iberia elected Hannibal as their commander, a decision that was confirmed by the government.The twenty-six-year old general returned to his father’s aggressive military politics and attacked the natives, capturing Salamanca in 220. The next year, he besieged Saguntum, a Roman ally. Since Rome was occupied with the Second Illyrian War and unable to support the town, Saguntum fell after a blockade of eight months. Already in Antiquity, the question whether the capture of Saguntum was a violation of a treaty between Hasdrubal and the Roman Republic was discussed. It is impossible to solve this problem. The fact is, however, that the Romans felt offended, and demanded Hannibal to be extradited by the Carthaginian government. Continue reading HERE.

Trade played a significant role in Carthage’s legacy. The Carthaginians dominated the ancient Mediterranean trade. At a time when the Greeks and many others were going through a dark age, they sailed the western Mediterranean. Carthage’s empire grew as a result of trade profits, and it eventually rivaled the Roman military in size and power.

Five Amazing Facts About Hannibal Barca: Rome’s Most Dangerous Enemy

The Life of Hannibal Barca

Hannibal of Carthage: Military Commander and Greatest Enemy of Rome

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Arminius (Hermann the German)

One of my favorite historical figures during the Roman empire age is Arminius (Hermann the German). Who lived a life that was filled with so much that I felt the need to feature him on my Blog with the best resources I believe exist.

Arminius (b. circa 18 BC, d. circa 21 AD, assumed to be the Latinized form of Hermann) was the chief of the Germanic Cherusci tribe during the later stages of Augustus’ reign. Prior to the great revolt which pushed Rome permanently out of the Germanic interior, and after the conquests of Drusus and Tiberius, Arminius served as a Roman auxiliary (c. 1 to 6 AD), apparently with much success. Some have painted a picture of a young Germanic warrior with the ultimate goal of freeing the tribes by learning Roman military ways, but his service and that of his fellow Cherusci warriors, actually exemplifies the completeness in which the Romans had spread their influence throughout Germania (as well as identifying the early stages of the barbarization of the Roman Legions). Though at this stage, Germania Magna was not an official province, and was still unsettled per Roman victory conditions, the slow process of Romanization had begun in earnest. Arminius, it seems, even earned Roman citizenship as well as equestrian status, perhaps in part, as a peace settlement.

During the revolt in Pannonia, which forced Tiberius’ withdrawal from Germania, and his replacement by Publius Quinctilius Varus, conditions seem to have deteriorated considerably. Varus, it seems, (one must consider the conflicting reports by Dio Cassius, Tacitus, Florus and Paterculus regarding the political climate and the battle itself) was probably given the task of completing the subjugation of Germania and implementing Roman provincial standards by Augustus. Regular taxation, undoubtedly a condition that the Germanics were unaccustomed to, as well as other ‘excesses’ seem to have turned the tribes against their Roman occupiers.

Arminius returned to the Cherusci as early as 7 AD, and likely began preparing for a massive revolt soon after his arrival. Inter-tribal warfare and lack of unity was something that would plague the Germanics for centuries, but in this one instance, the tribes were uniquely brought together in their zeal to throw off the Roman yolk. Everything was not completely in unison, however. Arminius’ rival, Segestes, actually his own father-in-law, reportedly betrayed the plans of revolt to Varus, but these reports were unheeded. Perhaps writing off the idea as political infighting for personal gain, or trusting Arminius due to his service as a Roman auxilia, and equestrian, Varus ignored the warnings, with predictable results. In 9 AD, the situation had come to a head and reports of a growing uprising in northern Germania (perhaps the Chauci) began to reach Varus. Encouraged by promises of allied assistance from tribal leaders like Arminius, Varus set out northward for the Chauci.

In late summer of 9 AD, Varus marched in loose formation with the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth legions, and did so through what they thought was friendly territory. According to Cassius Dio, ” They had with them many wagons and many beasts of burden as in time of peace; moreover, not a few women and children and a large retinue of servants were following them. one reason for their advancing in scattered groups.” As the Romans approached a particular hilly and forested area (and likely fortified in advance) known as the Kalkriese, Arminius and fellow allied chieftains ‘begged to be excused from further attendance, in order, as they claimed, to assemble their allied forces, after which they would quietly come to his aid.’ Unbeknownst to Varus, regional tribes had already put the ambush in motion by killing or capturing legionary detachments that had been working on various projects throughout the region.

Over a period of 4 storm filled and rain drenched days, the Germanics launched a series of blistering attacks on the disorganized and unprepared Roman columns. All three legions and accompanying cavalry were so scattered and beaten in the surprise attacks that communication and cooperation between the two were non-existent. The cavalry attempted a breakout and escape but was cut down before they could. The infantry continued to fight, with little success in hopes of reaching safety. By the 4th day, the cause was lost and Varus committed suicide rather than submit to capture (and the shame). All three legionary standards (eagles) were captured by the Germans and the survivors, of which there were very few, scattered in various directions to safety. Conflicting ancient source material tells differing tales, but some officers joined Varus in suicide while others surrendered. The battle itself was little more than an overwhelming massacre. Read the entire article HERE.

The Hermannsdenkmal (German for “Hermann’s Monument”) Located in
Teutoburger Wald, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

The Varus Battle

Hermann the Cheruscan

The Battle of Teutoburg Forest