THE ROMANS ON ANGLESEY


Just why did the Romans wish to subdue Anglesey? If you stop to reflect on the psychology of conquering armies then a number of reasons spring to mind.

  • Pique. How dare anyone stand between an emperor and his further deification?

  • A mopping-up exercise after bringing the major population and administrative centres to heel?

  • A strong desire to own the whole world and, probably the most important of all, Anglesey had become a rallying point for rebellion among the Britons?

  • Valuable resources?

    CONTENTS

    ANGLESEY DRUIDS

    HOW TO INVADE?

    INVASION

    MODERN DRUIDISM

    SHARE YOUR VIEWS AND STORIES


    If you reflect further you just might conclude that it's not only gold and silver that make an empire powerful.

    It is also the availability of valuable minerals and metals that makes an army function successfully.

    Therefore it's probably the final reason that compelled action against anybody who dared stand between the might of the Roman Empire and its resources.






    ANGLESEY DRUIDS


    I am delighted to announce that Anglesey Druids were a pretty irksome bunch who could, without lifting a golden sickle in anger, scare the bejazzus out of your ordinary Roman soldier.

    In truth, not much is known about the Druids other than the monoliths and megaliths they constructed that still cast an occasional and darkly mysterious shadow across Britain.

    Much that we regard as knowledge about the Druids is no more than a romanticised fabrication created by William Stuckley during the late eighteenth century. Though like any religious power base of those times, it would undoubtedly have been based on terrorising the feeble-minded and poorly educated.


    Nonetheless, Mona would have been seen as a resource-valuable addition to the Empire. Other than being a military mopping-up exercise the draw of the copper in Amlwch might well have underpinned the motivation for vanquishing the obstacle of the Druids.

    Indeed, once conquered a small fort was established in Caergybi (Holyhead) and it is thought that its primary role was to protect the copper mines in Amlwch. Evidence of their copper mining on Anglesey has been found in the form of copper cakes (or ingots) that were discovered locally bearing a Roman stamp.

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    HOW TO INVADE?


    MONA, as Anglesey was called by the Romans, was conquered on two occasions: in AD61 and AD76, by Suetonius Paulinus and Agricola respectively (although the latter date seems to vary according to commentators).

    Why two invasions?

    According to Tacitus and the history of the Empire, after his first invasion Suetonius Paulinus and his army were drawn away by a more significant military necessity. Boudicca ('Buddug' in Welsh), Queen of the Iceni, had amassed a massive army to the South that was a threat that was roundly defeated by Suetonius Paulinus.

    At that time (AD61) it appears that the Druids had been overwhelmed and opposition was finally suppressed. There were plenty of other brushfires that had to be put out around this dank and miserable periphery of the Empire.


    Suetonius Paulinus located his army at the fort in Segontium in Caernarfon and, according to Tacitus (Annals, book XIV, chapters 29-30).

    Stand gazing toward Brynsiencyn from the quayside in Caernarfon and you can see one of the challenges that faced Paulinus. How to traverse the Menai Straits at its widest with an army? Further, imagine that the open farmland that you see before you was a thick forest of deciduous trees.

    I guess that it would have been to the advantage of any invader to engage the Druids in open battle. Although very skilled and seasoned soldiers, legionaries would have struggled to subdue the Druids and refugee Britons in their dark deciduous forest backyard.

    As the tide recedes you'll notice that much of the Menai Straits at this point is wide sandbars. Therefore Paulinus built flat-bottomed craft and set forth. The cavalry men swam across beside their horses.


    As David Hopewell of Bethesda writes in Wikipeda we have to be careful of the descriptions of these two campaigns because the reports are written by Tacitus Agricola, who was Agricola's son-in-law.

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    INVASION


    Despite its understandable confidence gained from countless military engagements what should have been a straight-forward battle nearly faltered at its outset.


    Tacitus writes,

    'On the beach stood stood the adverse array, a serried mass of arms and men, with women flitting between the ranks. In the stule of Furies, in robes of deathly black and with disshevelled hair, they brandished their torches; while a circle of Druids, lifting their hands to heaven and showering imprecations, struck the troops with such an awe at the extraordinary spectacle tha, as though their limbs were paralysed, they exposed their bodies to wounds without an attempt at movement.

    'Then reassured by their general, and inciting each other never to flinch before a band of females and fanatics, they charged behind their standards, cut down all who met them, and enveloped the enemy in his own flames. The next step was to install a garrison among the conquered population, and to demolish the groves consecrated to their savage cults: for they (Druids) considered it a pious duty to slake the altars with captive blood and to consult their deities by means of human entails.'


    It was assumed that Paulinus established a garrison on Anglesey to ensure order before he was called away to more presing engagements against Buddug and her army of Britons intent on driving the Romans back into the sea, whence they came.


    There is no evidence to support the report of human sacrifice described by Tacitus; however, it would have been usual Roman politics to enlarge the repuation of the Druids in order to elevate the scale of Paulinus' victory.



    The Romans effectively left Anglesey alone for eighteen years before returning to pacify one of their territorities that was once again showing signs of becoming rebellious and challenging.

    Agricola took a more devious approach than the head-on assault of Paulinus. In other words, he crept up on the Druids by swimming his forces across the Menai Straits and falling upon the Druids so unexpectedly that they capitulated almost immediately.

    The Druids had been keeping a weather eye for scores of Roman assault craft. Agricola took advantage of local knowledge and sneaked across.

    Thus, Anglesey was finally subdued and the power of the Druids to rally British opposition was broken.


    For a wonderfully intact example of Druidic burial and sacrificial traditions please visit my page about BRYN CELLI DDU

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    CONTACT ME TO SHARE INFORMATION OR ASK A QUESTION

    Do you have important information you want to share? I'm sure we'd all love to hear from you.

    Maybe you have questions you want to ask that might enhance your Anglesey visit?

    Please feel free to contact me by CLICKING HERE.

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    DRUIDISM TODAY


    Simply put, there is none. As written above, the modern view of druidism is that based on William Stuckley's 18th Century romantic ruminations.

    Some people look to the Druidic Traditions of the Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales as a representation. However, it should be noted at the very outset that the tradition was set up by Iolo Morgannwg and further elaborated by the poet Cynan in the late 1950s. This was done to elevate the sense of theatre attached to a cultural event.

    It would be incorrect to infer any historical precedence or significance from this theatre.

    Cynan is buried on the island churchyard of Llantysilio below the Menai Suspension Bridge. Follow the path to the right around the small island. To follow one of Cynan's local earthly journies head for the Mostyn pub.




    Briefly, Iola Morgannwg (the bardic name of Llancarfan-born Edward Williams, 1747 – 1826) of was a bit of a ... well .. a NUT. A South Walian who so despised and envied the rich druidic history attached to North Wales that he sought to create a revisionist history that placed Druids in South Wales.

    Of course, this was no more than the mad musings of a pretty demented and odd individual, by all reports.

    It wasn't until 1819 that Iolo Morannwg managed to persuade the organisers of the National Eisteddfod in Caerfyrddin (Camarthen) that his 'Bardic Traditions' were incorporated into the festival in the form of the Gorsedd.

    The Gorsedd is now the ruling body of the Eisteddfod, with more ambition than money - as recurring financial disasters appear to confirm.


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