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Prehistoric Britain

Pre-Roman Britain 55 BC-AD 10

by Peter Kessler, 25 August 2007



When Julius Caesar conducted his 'reconnaissance' trips to Britain in 55 and 54 BC, the island was properly mapped for the first time, at least in part.

The first visit was truly a reconnaissance, but it seems highly likely that this was to be a prelude to a full-scale invasion the following year, so great care was taken in learning as much about the warlike Britons as possible.

Both times Caesar was met by stiff opposition, and, at least on the second occasion, it was led by the Catuvellauni. The kings of this tribe, based north of the River Thames, had achieved overall authority, at least in the south of Britain, from the time of Cassivellaunus (circa 60-48 BC), if not earlier.

The Catuvellauni increased their power by gaining some level of direct control over many of their neighbours between about AD 10 (the Trinovantes) and AD 25 (the Cantii, and the Atrebates, which included the Belgae and Regninses). By AD 43, on the eve of Rome's renewed invasion, they also appear to have gained a level of influence over the northern Dobunni.

The Catuvellauni were definitely moving the Britons towards the development of a single kingdom. Unfortunately, when they were defeated by Rome in AD 43, their whole enlarged domain fell with them, gifting the south-east of Britain to the invaders.

In Depth
In Depth

All borders are conjectural, but rough territorial boundaries are known.


To select a territory for further information, click anywhere within its borders.

Map of Britain AD 10


Images and text copyright © P L Kessler. An original feature for the History Files.