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weights^ tweezers^ a curiously -formed brass lamp for three lights^ a patera
of Samian ware, and many other articles which may be seeiT in the Nor-
wich Museum.

AVliat few traces we have of the religious rites of the early inhabitants
of this island vary but little from those brought to light by our travellers
who have visited newly-discovered lands in our own age. The natives
have all been idolaters, and except in those countries where the Hebrew
patriarchs lived, the same Egyptian darkness settled over the whole world.
We have yet to learn by what hands the round towers of Ireland were
reared, and by what race the ancient British monuments that yet remain
were piled together, ere we can enter those mysterious gates which open
up the history of the past.

Modern historians have invented a system of religion for the ancient
Bx'itons. In times of peace the civil government was no doubt in the
hands of the Druids, who, being also priests, exercised enormous power ;
for no species of superstition we are told, was ever more terrible. In
Eastern England, however, there are no traces of it ; there are no monu-
ments to mark the spots where the tribes assembled, or where the Druid
with his flowing vestments, his hoary beard and golden torque, performed
his mysterious rites. There is no proof that Druidical altars were ever
raised within any dark groves in this eastern part of the island.


Julius Caesar, having established the Roman supremacy over the Gauls
and Belgians, cast his eye upon Britain, and resolved to carry his
victorious arms among the kindred tribes who inhabited that almost
unknown island. Accordingly in the year 55 B.C. he crossed the British
Channel in the first instance, merely as he states to obtain information
respecting the people, and to survey the coasts and harbours of the island,
the season being too far advanced for military operations. The British
chiefs having received notice of his design, endeavom'ed to avert hostili-
ties by sending over ambassadors with an offer of hostages and submission
to the Roman authority. But though he received these overtures kindly,
Cgesar persevered in his design, and set sail at night from Portus Ictius,
or Witsand, between Calais and Boulogne, about the end of August, with
a force of 12000 infantry, and landed at 5 p.m. on August 26th, B.C.
55, on an open flat shore, probably between Walmer Castle and Sandwich.
The natives who saw the approach of the armed vessels, made a bold
attempt to prevent the landing of the invaders, but after a short though
fierce contest on the beach, they yielded to supreme skill and discipline,
and withdrew in disorder from the coast.

Thus defeated in battle, they made a hollow peace with the Roman


general^ who suuii after returned to Gaul, The Britisli chief s^ relieved
from the presence of the invader, failed to perform the .stipulations of
peace, and by this breach of treaty afforded the Roman general a plausible
pretext for renewing his invasion of their country. In the spring of the
following year (b.c. 54) he again embarked for Britain fi'om the same
place with a force which must have amounted to 32,000 men. He statGs
that the distance was thirty miles to cross, the shortest distance between
the continent and Britain, and that he landed in Kent (Cantium) .

Daunted by this formidable armament, the natives retired from the
coast of Kent, and allowed the invaders to disembark without opposition.
Caesar lost no time in following the retreating enemy through Kent, and
by a rapid march overtook and defeated them on the bank of a river, pro-
bably the Medway. They retired into a position in the midst of a forest,
strongly fortified both by nature and art, but the entrenchments were
carried by the seventh legion after a fierce struggle, and the Britons were
driven from the cover of the wood, but they were not pursued by the
Romans through an unknown country.

The news of a great disaster which had meanwhile befallen the Roman
fleet, not less than forty vessels having been driven ashore or destroyed by
a tempest, compelled CtBsar to retrace his steps to the coast, and restored
the drooping spirits of the islanders, who availed themselves of this
opportunity to increase their army, to combine their forces, and to appoint
Cassivilaunus, one of their petty princes, to the supreme command of the
confederate armies. The Roman general soon returned with his legions,
routed the native warriors, proved victorious in every battle, passed
the river Thames in face of the enemy, took and burued the capital of
the British commander (Camulodunum), and compelled that prince to
sue for peace. Having thus reduced the maritime southern states of
Britain to a nominal submission to the Roman authority, Ctesar again
withdrew his forces and retired into Gaul, having, as Tacitus remarks,
been a discoverer rather than a conqueror. The civil wars which broke
out in Italy saved Britain for a time from the Roman yoke, and for nearly
a century the natives enjoyed their rude independence.

When Julius Ciesar quitted this island after his second expedition,
Mandubratus was sovereign of the Trinobantes in Essex, and most
probably had his seat at (Colchester) Camulodunum. On his death he
was succeeded by Tinnant, whose son, Cunobilinc, being anxious to
obtain a knowledge of Roman manners, went over to Rome. After the
decease of the latter, his son, Guiderius, or Togodumuus, succeeded to
the government of the Trinobantes, and ambassadors were sent to Rome to
demand the arrest of some fugitive Britons, to whom the Emperor
Claudius had given protectiou.


This demand being evaded^ the payment of tlie tribute wliicli Cassar
had imposed was withheld. The Eomans eagerly seizing the opportunity^
commenced war, and under the command of Plautius, a skilful general,
defeated Guiderius, who retreated across the river, but was followed so
quickly by the Romans that he was again forced to engage with his
wearied warriors, and after valiantly defending himself was slain. His
brother, Caractacus, by a successful stratagem, saved the remnant of
the British Army, and nearly effected the discomfiture of Plautius, who,
in the eagerness of pursuit, lost many of his soldiers in the bogs and

New forces from all the British provinces with which the Trinobantes
were in league, came to the aid of Caractacus, and Plautius, apprehensive
of the danger that darkened around him, sent to Rome for assistance, and
waited the arrival of Claudius, who landed in Britain" with a large army
A.D. 44. The united forces of Plautius, Claudius, and Vespasian passed
the Thames, and the Britons posted on the opposite bank resolutely
sustained the onset of the Romans, but were ultimately obliged to fly
into the adjacent woods.

Claudius pursuing his victory, proceeded to Camuloduuum (Colchester),
of which he took possession and established in it a colony of Roman
veterans, consisting of the second, ninth, and fourteenth legions. After
establishing his colony he marched northwards, and reduced the surround-
ing country of the Iceni to a Roman province. He behaved so well in the
way of conciliation to the natives, that he became endeared to them, and
they erected an altar to him at Camulodunum, and honored him as a god.
Having appointed Plautius propriator, he returned to Rome, where a
magnificent triumph was decreed to him, and the surname of Britannicus
was entailed in his family. All the events in which he was concerned in
Britain occurred in the eastern part of the island.

After the invasions of the Romans in the reign of Claudius, a.d. 45,
they soon fought their way into Norfolk, and built military stations oi-
camps at different places. A question naturally arises, in what order of
time were all these camps built by the Romans in the Eastern Counties.
The camps were probably built in succession in Essex, Suffolk, and Nor-
folk, from south to north as the Roman legions advanced through the
country. The principal stations were first at Camulodunum (Colchester) ;
then Sitomagus (Dunwich) ; next at Gariaunonum (Burgh), near Lowes-
toft ; Venta Icenorum, near Norwich ; Ad Taum (Tasburgh) ; Branno-
dunum (Brancaster) .

About the year a.d. 48, Plautius was succeeded in the government of
Britain by Ostorius Scapula, who finding that inroads had been made on
the territories of the Roman allies, killed many of the natives, and


dispersed the remainder. The desire of independeiico was uot^ however,
destroyed ; the neighbouring states again flew to arms, and having
obtained the assistance of the Iceni, a powerful force was raised against
the Romans ; but their superior disciphne again prevailed, and the Britons
were defeated with great slaughter in many battles.

The Bntish tribes were still animated by the spirit of freedom, and the
Silures and other states, headed by the gallant Caractacus, steadily
opposed the progress of the invaders ; but were ultimately defeated, and
the country of the Silures was subdued. Caractacus, with inferior forces,
continued for about nine years to oppose and harass the Romans, till at
length he was totally routed, and taken prisoner by Ostorius, who sent
him in triumph to Rome. When he arrived there, he appeared to be in
no way dejected at the concourse of spectators, to whom he was exhibited
in chains. Beholding the splendour that surrounded him, " Alas ! " he
cried, " how is it possible that a people, possessed of such magnificence
at home, could envy one a humble cottage in Britain." The emperor
Claudius was affected by the misfortunes of the British hero, and, won by
his addi-ess, ordered his chains to be struck off and the captive to be set
free, with his wife and family.

Prastagus, a.d. 59, was King of the Iceni, and he dying, bequeathed
one half of his domhiions to the Romans, and the other half to his wife
and daughters, hoping that his Queen Boadicea would be allowed to enjoy
her moiety. But no sooner was Prastagus buried than all his domain
was seized by the Roman Pro-curator. Boadicea loudly complained of
the injustice, but it was only increased by insult and cruelty. She was
publicly whipped, and her daughters ravished by the brutal soldiery.
These outrages were sufficient to produce a revolt throughout the island.
The Iceni, as being the most deeply interested in the quarrel, were the
first to take up arms ; all the other States followed the example.
Boadicea, a woman of great beauty and masculine spirit, was appointed to
head the common forces. These, exasperated by their wrongs, success-
fully attacked several of the Roman settlements, and destroyed them.

Camulodunum was the first sacrifice to British vengeance ; and Tacitus
says its destruction was foi'etold by fearful prodigies. " The image of
Victory," says this historian, " without any visible cause fell down, and
turned backward, as if yielding to the enemy. Enthusiastic women
foretold the approaching desolation ; strange noises were heard in the
Court, and bowlings resounded in the theatre, and an apparition of
a colony destroyed was seen on the estuary of the Thames. The sea
looked bloody ; and in the ebb the efligies of human bodies were left upon
the shore."

These fabled prodigies strongly marked the consternation that prevailed


among the Eomaiis, when they were overwhelmed by the Britons under
Boadicea. On the earhest mtelHgence of this formidable insurrection
Suetonius Paulinus, the Roman General, hastened with his whole force
from Anglesea to relieve London, but on his arrival found that it would be
necessary for the general safety to abandon that flourishing town to the
merciless fury of the enemy.

As he retreated the Britons entered, and out of the vast multitude,
which a few hours before those walls had enclosed, scarcely a soul remained
alive. The Roman soldiers, overpowered, rushed into their temples to
avoid the assailants, the figure of the goddess of Victory, which they
worshipped, fell to the ground ; the females ran wailing and shrieking
into the streets, into the council chambers, into the theatres, with their
children in their arms. Before the desolating forces of the stern
Boadicea ran Fear and Terror with trembling steps and pale looks, by her
side grim Destruction, and blood-dyed Carnage stalked, while Death
marched behind, taking no note of sorrow and grief and silence, whom he
left together to mourn amid the solitude of these unpeopled ruins.
London was soon reduced to a heap of ashes ; such of the inhabitants as
remained in it were massacred, and the Romans with all other foreigners
put to the sword. Meantime Suetonius, having strengthened his army to
a force which now amounted to 10,000 men, chose the most favourable
position for his troops, where he awaited the arrival of the Britons to
begin the battle. Nor had he to wait long ; for, flushed with victory and
reeking fresh from the carnage, the assailants came up with Boadicea,
thundering in her war chariot, at their head, and soon drew them together
in the order of battle. With her long yellow hair, unbound and falling
in clusters far below the golden chain which encircled her waist, her dark
eyes flashing vengeance as she looked around on the Roman legions drawn
up in the distance, she rose, tall and Queen-like, from her war chariot,
and turning to her warriors, who hemmed her around with a forest of tall
spears, she raised her hand to command silence ; and when the hum of
applause had subsided, she bade them remember the wrongs which they
had to avenge, the weight of oppression which had so long bowed them
to the dust, the sword and fire and famine which had desolated their fair
land, their sons and daughters carried ofi" to slavery, their priests
butchered at the foot of the altar, their ancient groves consumed by fire,
she pointed to her violated daughters, and showed the marks on her white
arm from the scourge of the Roman rufiian Catus; then brandishing
aloft her glittering spear, shook the loosened reins over her restive steed,
and rushed into the thickest of the fight, followed by her brave warriors.

Dire Avas the slaughter deep the groans ; despair
And agonies in every form were there.


But all the battles which the Britons had fought had not enabled them
to stand before the shock of the Roman legions, who came like an
avalanche in one dense mass of steel, and bore down the Britons who
were routed with tremendous slaughter, and the Queen, who had behaved
nobly, only escaped the carnage to perish by her own hand, rather than
fall into the hands of the victors.

According to Morant, the old historian of Essex, '' the famous battle
between Suetonius and Boadicea was fought somewhere between Epping
and Waltham, near which a fine camp remains.''' How little does the
quiet traveller from Epping, or Waltham, or Loughton, think that such a
scene of slaughter has passed upon the very spot he is crossing, how little
does he reflect on the fact that the bones of 80,000 men lie beneath the
surface, and with them are buried the wreck of that people who first
possessed the land.

This appears to have been the very last struggle of the Iceni for liberty,
and as in the case of all unsuccessful revolts, served only to rivet the
chains of the natives more firmly than before ; and the Romans smarting
under the recollections of the past, paid them a very great but not a very
agreeable compliment, by establishing several important military stations
among them, the camps at Walton, Dunwich, and other places along the

But neither the death of Boadicea, nor the destruction of her immense
army, nor the erection of forts and camps all over Norfolk and Sufiblk,
enabled the Romans to extend their possessions with safety in the island.
They were ever upon the defensive, no colony, unless a legion of soldiers
was encamped in the immediate neighbourhood was safe. Even after
Suetonius had received great reinforcements of both infantry and cavalry
he left the country unconquered, the war unfinished, and returned to

After the defeat of the Iceni, the Roman power was established all over
East Anglia for several centuries, and during all that time the history of
the district is almost a blank. There is every reason to believe, however,
that the natives enjoyed both internal tranquillity and freedom from
external invasion. The Iceni inhabiting their fertile territoiy seem to
have made some progress in civilization and to have adopted the useful
arts, the costumes, and the manners first introduced by the Romans.
After a war of about forty years, commenced by the most stupid, main-
tained by the most dissolute, and terminated by the most timid, of all the
emperors, the far greater part of the island submitted to the Roman yoke.

Marius, king of the Trinobantes (a.d. 75), succeeded his father
Arviragus, who had reigned thirty-one years. Marius married a
daughter of Boadicea, queen of the Iceni. CoiU, King of the Trinobantes

C c


(a.d. 126), succeeded his fatlier Marius, who had reigned fifty-one years.
Lucius, king of the Trinobantes (a.d. 180), succeeded his father Coill, who
had reig-ned fifty-four years. He was made monarch over the other petty
Kings by the command of the Emperor Aurehus, by whom he was much
favoured ; which honour, with the love of his subjects, he well deserved for
his wise and just administration of his authority. Lucius having been
made acquainted with the principles of the Christian religion, sent an
embassy to Eleutherius, then Bishop of Rome, that he and his nation
might be received into the Christian Church (a.d. 188). The Temples of
the Pagans were used for the rites of the new religion. The Temple of
Apollo, which stood in a place near London, called the Isle of Thorney,
from the number of thorns that grew there, was destroyed, and a new
Church erected called Westminster.

Grafton tells us that in those days Britain was divided into three
religious jurisdictions, under the direction of Archflamens, according to
the Pagan rites — viz., at London, York, and Gloucester. These Pagan
divisions were converted into archbishoprics under the Christian dispensa-
tion, which continued until the time of the Saxons, when, in process of
time, these Christian sees were reduced to two, York and Canterbury. It
may be conjectured that from the reported gTeater antiquity of the see
of York above that of Canterbury arose those disputes which lasted for
centuries, from the claim of the Archbishop of York to take precedence
of those of Canterbury, and which gave occasion by shameless intrigue to
great scandal against Christianity. Lucius, who was the first Christian
King in the world, having reigned twelve years, died without issue
(a.d. 192). After him there was no British King worthy of mention for
many years.

Coill was King of Colchester (a.d. 262), under the reigns of Diocletian
and Maximilian. He died (a.d. 289), having reigned twenty-seven
years and been constantly obedient to the regulations of the Eoman

In 284 Diocletian became Emperor. He appointed Carausius an oflScer
of valour and ability, to the command of a considerable fleet which was
destined to ward off the attacks of the Saxon pirates from the eastern
shores of Britain. The Admiral at first actively opposed them in the
North Sea, but soon began to connive at their depredations, on condition
of receiving a portion of the plunder. A weU grounded fear that his
perfidy would be punished by the Emperor, led him to seduce the fleet
from their allegiance, and to seek the government of Britain which his
wealth and reputation enabled him to obtain in 286, and he ably con-
ducted its afiairs till he was killed at York by his minister Allectus, who
then assumed the purple in 294.


King Coel or Coelius, a.d. 300, tlie last British Princo of that name,
is said to have been invested by the Romans with the government of the
district, of which Camulodunum was the chief station, about the time
when the Roman Empire was distracted by the numerous usurpers of the
Imperial purple whom historians have stigmatised by the name of the
" Thirty Tyrants/^ This was near the middle of the third century, when
Coel, taking advantnge of the general confusion, assumed independence,
and having repaired the buildings and public works, gave to his capital
the appellation of Caer Coel. As a means of perpetuating this assump-
tion of power, he is said to have become tributary to Curausius, and the
other usurpers of imperial dignity, who renounced their allegiance in Britain.
At length, Constantius Chlorus, great nephew to the Emperor Claudius,
who had been invested with sovereign authority under Diocletian and
Maximian, landed in Britain with a powerful army to chastise the revolters.
He commenced the siege of Caer Coel, as being the focus wherein the
flames of insurrection had been elicited. The resistance opposed to his
arms was so determined that the siege was prolonged for three years, and
even then seemed very distant from a successful termination. In this
state of affairs, Constantius beheld Helena, Coel's daughter, who possessed
the most fascinating personal charms, as well as uncommon mental endow-
ments. Struck with her beauty, and interested by her acquirements,
Constantius became violently enamoured of the British princess, and did
not hesitate to make peace with Coel, on condition of receiving Helena as
his bride. The issue of this intercourse is said to have been Constantino
the Great, who, with his mother Helena, were avowed upholders of
Christianity. During his reign, the Chi'istian religion was tolerated
throughout the Roman empire.

That Christianity made rapid progress under the Roman sway is attested
by the fact that twenty-seven sees were established in cities in Britain,
and in a.d. 314 we find that Adolphius, Bishop of Colan (or Colchester),
attended a council at Aries. The names of many Britons are amongst
the martyrs in the persecution of Diocletian ; and in the Councilium to
consider the deposition of Vortigern, the clergy were admitted as
a body to vote.

Mr. Coller, in his "History of Essex," gives the following old legendary
story of Helena, no doubt as true as many others of the like kind.

" The story of Helena and the birth of Constantino — the first Christian
Emperor in the woi'ld — is so intimately connected with the county of
Essex and so interesting to the Christian mind, that we must introduce it
here. It would be heresy in Colchester to doubt this legend. It has been
moulded into an article of the bouschold faith of the inhabitants. It is
emblazoned in their arms, and it is to be traced even in the form of their


principal street. It has been doubted, nevertheless ; it has even been
irreverently asserted that Helena was the daughter of an innkeeper in
Nichomedia, and that Constantino was born in Dicea. We are rather,
however, disposed to trust unvarying tradition than to the words of the
doubting Gibbon, or any writer who would rob us of the proud belief that
Constantino was an Essex man, and that the foot of Helena has trod the
streets of Colchester. The story is that Coel the Second, the governor
of this district, revolted against the Romans, seized Essex and the
adjacent counties, and declared himself independent. Constantinus was
sent against him, and laid siege to Colchester ; but having caught a sight
of Helena, the daughter of Coel, the most beautiful British woman of her
time, skilled in music and adorned with every other female accomplishment,
he became enamoured of her.

He could not stay the siege of loving terms,

ISTor bide the encounter of assailing eyes.

He therefore made peace with Coel, and entered into a treaty of love with
the daughter. Constantino, the future Emperor, was born before the
solemnization of the nuptials, but was adopted by Constantino imme-
diately after the marriage. The " Colchester Chronicle," written at the
back of the Oath Book of the town, apparently in the time of Edward
the Third, thus records these events :

242 A.D. Helena, daughter of Coel, born at Colchester.

260. Constantinus, the Eoman General in Spain, sails to Britain, and besieges
Colchester, which continued to be held by Coel against the Eomans.

264. The siege is raised, Constantinus betrothing Helena.

265. Constantine (afterAvards Emperor, surnamed the Great), son of Constantinus

Online LibraryA. D BayneRoyal illustrated history of eastern England, civil, military, political, and ecclesiastical .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 46 of 70)