The Roman Invasion
Although Julius Caesar visited Southern Britain in 55 and 54 BC, it was not until AD 43 that the Romans landed on the south coast to conquer territory. Some historians and archaeologists think that when the Romans invaded Britain they did not intend to take over the whole island. They might have been content to occupy the richer agricultural lands of south and east Britain and leave the Pennine uplands alone. This was impossible after the fall of Cartimandua in AD 69. The Romans did not want a hostile force on their northern border.
Slow progress northwards
In the early 70s AD major forts were established at Brough on Humber, York and Malton to allow the Romans to strike into the Pennines. The first fort at Castleford was probably founded at this time to control an important crossing point on the River Aire. However, little progress northward was made immediately. The Romans had to content themselves with pacifying the rebel Brigantes until Wales had been subdued. It was not until AD 79 that the Roman general Agricola was able to turn his attention to the conquest of the North.
The campaign begins in earnest
A description of the Roman campaign is given by Tacitus, a Roman writer and son-in-law of Agricola. Unfortunately, the account is possibly biased in Agricolas favour and there is not enough geographical detail to allow historians to establish the precise deployment of the Roman troops. Nevertheless, it seems likely that the Romans would have proceeded northward on two fronts, one on each side of the Pennines. The forts at Malton and York would allow for forays deep into Brigantian territory and the establishment of smaller outposts on the cross-Pennine routes would allow for communication between the two wings of the army. By AD 84, it was all over. Agricola had led his troops as far as the Scottish Lowlands. The conquest of Britain had been accomplished.
The Romans occupy West Yorkshire
Agricola established forts at regular intervals along the Roman road system so that the Romans could keep an eye out for potential trouble in their newly conquered territory.
Some of our regions forts date to this early phase of Roman activity in the north, although not all of them were occupied for the whole of the time that the Romans were in control of Britain. For example, the fort at Castleford was abandoned in the early years of the 2nd century. The fort at Slack, near the present Outlane junction of the M62, went out of use by the middle of the 2nd century AD. Ilkley may also have been an early foundation but seems to have continued in use throughout the Roman period. For some forts, such as the one at Adel, not far from Leeds, the period of occupation is not known.
What we know about Cartimandua comes from a single classical writer:
Tacitus, On Britain and Germany (translated by H. Mattingly 1967)
The following works look at the archaeological evidence for the period:
Branigan, K., 1980, Rome and the Brigantes: the impact of Rome on Northern England
Hartley, B.R. and Fitts, L., 1988, The Brigantes
Faull, M. L., 1981, The Roman Period in Faull M. L. and Moorhouse S. A., (eds) West Yorkshire: An Archaeological Survey to A. D. 1500 Vol. 1
Turnbull, P and Fitts L., 1988, The politics of Brigantia in Price, J. and Wilson, P.R. (eds), Recent Research in Roman Yorkshire BAR British Series 193
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