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In a number of letters written by Caesar to Roman writer and historian Cicero, one finds that Caesar admitted "no hope of delivering booty except slaves" from Britannia and confirms "his failure to acquire booty and reports that he is only returning home" to Rome with hostages and the promise of tribute (Arnott, 232). Therefore, Caesar's two excursions into Britannia were miserable economic failures and did not live up to Rome's financial expectations which before the excursions were seen as being a matter of fact.
In essence, Caesar's excursions into Britannia in the early years of the 1st century B.C.E. And all subsequent excursions in the early years of the 1st century a.D. were based upon one simple quest -- that Britannia could be heavily exploited by the Roman Empire and thus result in the acquisition of many natural resources which Rome required for its citizens in order to maintain their elegant and lavish lifestyles. For obvious reasons, the citizens of mighty Rome regarded Britannia as a very valuable and desirable commodity, especially after discovering that the Greek historian and geographer Strabo (63 B.C.E. To 24 a.D.), just prior to Caesar's first expedition, was overflowing with many agricultural products, such as corn and grain, and possessed a wealth of natural resources like gold, silver and iron, along with a number of minerals.
Strabo also spoke of Britannia's natural waterways and ports and its many pastures which in his eyes offered "enormous profitability related to financial revenues" (Frere, 258). Thus, for Rome and its citizens, Britannia had much to do with huge profits and served as one of the most desirable prizes related to the expansion of the Roman Empire. Besides the abundance of gold, silver, iron, lead ore, copper, tin and timber, Britannia also possessed a huge amount of stone, such as limestone, granite and basalt, which the Romans utilized for the construction of their homes, temples, bridges and wharves. In addition, Britannia held an almost unlimited amount of timber which could be used for fuel, not to mention enormous deposits of coal.
Unfortunately, Caesar did not gain possession of any of these material goods in any great number, perhaps because of the Celtic desire to oust the Romans at all costs which greatly interfered with Caesar's ability to collect and gather together enough booty to take back to Rome as evidence of his power and influence. But after the death of Julius Caesar, the Roman Empire did manage to subdue Britannia and its Celtic people and placed much of the island, approximately south of present-day Scotland and down to the Atlantic coastline, under Roman rule and control.
Thus, by 47 a.D., "the whole of southern Britain was safely under Roman control" which allowed for the construction of a gigantic raised road "with a ditch on either side, defining the northern edge" of Roman Britain ("History of Roman Britain," Internet). Also, at about the same time, the city of London came into being and quickly developed into one of the busiest centers of Roman trade in the entire western world.
In conclusion, the proposition that Britannia was an "economic lame duck" may have been a true statement when Caesar first entered Britannia, but by the 400's a.D., Britain had become one of the wealthiest Roman occupations in history, for according to some ancient sources, the people of Britannia, i.e., the Romano-British, were experiencing great prosperity and had been, for the most part, converted to Christianity, doing away with their ancient pagan religions, except of course for the Druids. However, as Arnott reminds us, relations between the Romans and Britannia's barbarians remained extremely fragile if not downright hateful despite all that had been accomplished by the Roman Empire by the 5th century a.D.
Arnott, Peter. The Romans and Their World. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1970.
Frere, Steven S. Britannia: A History of Roman Britain. London: Constable Press,
History of Roman Britain." History World. 2008. Internet. Accessed October 11, 2008 at http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?historyid=ac71.
Potter, T.W. Roman Britain. London: The British Museum, 1997.[continue]
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