Caesar to Claudius
(continuing contact with Rome) 

44 BC-AD 14  Octavian/Augustus

What sort of diplomatic relationship existed between Britain and Rome after Caesar’s visits?

I imagine the local tribes of Kent had a lot to think about after the departure of the Romans in the autumn of 54BC. The conquerors had arrived in 800 ships - a massive force for those times and the Britons, after their defeat, must have been overwhelmed by even the thought of Rome. They had lost many men and high ranking hostages and now they had to pay tribute to Rome and duties on exports and imports. The Caesarean 'invasion' had brought with it, presumably, scores of traders since we are told there were many private ships among the landing force. Other Gaullish traders in France may well had been a little peeved since their monopoly on cross-channel trade must have been broken. It is conceivable that some Britons must have gone to Rome and returned to Britain after Caesar's visits and reported back to their Celtic masters.

Although the conquest of Gaul was going well enough, by 49BC there was civil war in Rome. This turned Rome's attention away from Britain. It was not until perhaps 34, 27 & 26 BC that re-occupation was planned but never took place. As long as the tribute was paid it was a cheaper option than stationing legions in Britain; the threat of Rome was there and that may have been enough. Octavian may have wanted a conquest, following in his father's footsteps but it was not to be. The Pax Romana was nevertheless having an effect on Britain.

Res GestaeWith the Augustan peace came expansion in Gaul as its three provinces (civitates) were created; new roads built by Agrippa meant better contact between Gaul and Rome, this must have made the trading with Britain and the continent easier. Mediterranean goods must have found an easier route. By the 1st century we know Augustus had received two British kings, Dubnobellaunus and Tincommius (mentioned in Res Gestae) so there must have been contact going on at the highest level and gift offerings taking place. The old traditional route from Armorica into Hengistbury Head was severely diminished since Caesar had earlier put down the Veneti rebellion in that area. 

After Caesar there seems to have been utter turmoil and inter-tribal manoeuvring amongst the tribes in the south, east and southeast. The Cassivellauni, earlier banned by treaty with interfering with the Trinovantes by Rome eventually did turn their attention to the east and Essex and took Camulodunum the capital of the Trinovantes under their control. A new route seems to have opened up into the Thames estuary and Essex from the Rhineland following the quelling of the Belgic/German tribes to the north. The hostility of the Kentish peoples to Rome may have meant they lost out in the post-Caesarean relationships that formed. Kent may have been somewhat impoverished too after the loss of so many men. The expanding, powerful, Cassivellauni may have been controlling eastern Britain's river estuaries and the Roman supply trade.

Coinage finds point to this movement of 'centre of gravity' from the Kent coast north of the Thames to Essex. Inscribed coins now began to bear the mint marks of Camulodunum and in some bore the letters REX so Romanisation was already taking place as the Celts realised the significance of the Roman Empire on its doorstep. The Cassivellauni chieftain dynasty (Tasciovanus, Cunobelin, later Caratacus and Togodumnus wrested control of large areas north of the Thames).

AD 14-37 Tiberius

After Augustus' death Tiberius view of the Britons was apparently much the same as Augustus' and he kept the borders of the Empire as they were - the status quo - a mutual non-interference pact vis à vis Britain and Gaul. The Britons even returned shipwrecked sailors to Gaul, such was the cooperation.

AD 37-41 Gaius (Caligula)

Gaius' (Caligula's) impact was minimal but had his men on the beach collecting sea-shells to be taken to Rome. (Seutonius & Dio). It was Claudius who made the next move - he needed a Triumph to survive as emperor

What sort of society was pre-Roman Britain and Kent in particular?

Pre-Roman Britain was a land of tribes and small kingdoms. In the immediate period before the Roman conquest the country was a maze of fiefdoms but here I shall say Britain was largely divided in two, a north-south divide due to successive small migrations of settlers with a different cultural background from the near continent in Kent. The incomers are commonly called Gallo-Belgic evidenced by La Tène III (sic) pottery finds; their way of life is a little different from that of the country further north but they were all still subsistence farmers.Dressel Type 1 amphora

Caesar in his commentary, 'De bello Gallo', tells a lot of what we know of the people of Kent in 55BC. He tells us that the tribes of Kent grew corn while those of the hinterland were meat and dairy eaters and herded animals perhaps living a more nomadic existence in upland remote areas. He tells us of some tribes in in the southeast - like the Trinovantes were already aligned with Rome and at the end of his second campaign here envoys from some tribes arrived to sue for peace with him: the Cenimagni, the Segontiaci, the Ancalites, the Bibroci, and the Cassi are mentioned. Caesar also tells us that there were four kings of Kent: Cingetorix, Carvilius, Taximagulus and Segovax. He says that the population was high and there were lots of cattle and homesteads, that we were very like the Gauls. Cross-channel trading trading had been going on for centuries as we know from Pytheas the Greek and his voyage in these parts in 320BC. In the south and southeast trading was across the channel strait and from Brittany (Armorica) into Hengistbury Head, (Southampton) where substantial finds of Dressel amphorae (wine, oil and fish sauce) have been made.

The Celtic tribes in Kent and much of the south were numerous and farmed on the fertile plains of river valleys. Often these were protected by oppida on suitable hilltops. e.g. Bigbury and Oldbury. The Kentish tribes were of Belgic origin and had similar societies to those in Gaul.

What differences are there in the types of information given by historical and archaeological sources?

Historical information may well be biased and written in such a way as to present the best political spin. There is no reason to suspect some sources like Strabo as he merely seems to a reporter in some instances. He writes of the exports to the Roman Empire that Britain made. i.e. gold, silver, slaves, hunting dogs presumably for the wealthy of Rome and grain, iron, hides, cattle for the military. Archaeology from Cambridge supports this - a gang chain and fetters found in the lands of the Cattivellauni.