Before looking at the Roman invasions, it is important to set the scene and get a picture of life in Britain in the first century BC, which was a time when the country was divided into regions, each occupied by a tribe.
Britain was well into the Iron Age. The natives had the ability to craft everyday items from metal. From the currency to weapons and transport, metal was an integral part of life.
This linked page shows the approximate distri-bution of the tribes and links to more detailed pages of information about each one.
The map to the right shows Northern Britain and the one below, Southern Britain...
Although Britain was divided into areas ruled by individual tribes, they all had very similar attitudes to their communities and way of life.
A tribe would be organised into individual kingdoms with each having it's own ruler who was the monarch of the tribe. Around them would be the members, each having their own status within the community and their own responsibilities.
Most of the income for the people came from the land in the form of arable and livestock farming. Growing cereal crops such as wheat and the rearing of livestock of which cattle and sheep where the main source of meat. This was very much widespread throughout Britain and Europe, which made trade with the continent a viable business. If a country lacked certain items, they could buy it from elsewhere or exchange goods with their neighbours. The British preferred to barter in goods rather than money
On the subject of the tribes, Pytheas, a historian of the time recorded :
This wheat the natives thresh, not on open floors, but in barns because they have so little sunshine and so much rain.
He also wrote :
They (the British) refuse to accept coin and insist on barter, preferring the exchange necessities rather than fix prices.
It is interesting to note that this attitude to bartering goods was still very strong in the period directly before the first Romans, who were avid coin makers, came to Britain in large numbers. The first coinage that we have evidence if did not appear in Britain until the second century BC. This did not mean that Britain was inhabited by total savages set in their old ways, far from it. Diodorus Siculus said :
The inhabitants of that part of Britain which is called Belerion (Land's End) are very fond of strangers and, from their intercourse with foreign merchants, are civilised in their manner of life. They prepare tin, working very carefully the earth in which it is produced. The ground is rocky, but it contains earthy veins, the produce of which is ground down, smelted and purified. They bear the metal into masses, like astrgali, and carry it to a certain island off Britain called Ictis. Then the merchants buy the tin from the natives and carry it over to Gaul, and after traveling overland for about thirty days, they finally bring their load on horse to the mouth of the Rhone.
In this, the time of the Iron Age, the British were very advanced in the production of items from metal, in particular tin from the mines of Cornwall where the raw materials were abundant. From the metals the Celts could forge and shape nearly anything, especially in bronze, of which tin is a major component They were able to manufacture almost anything from the finest swords, spears and chariots to intricate designs on jewelery worn by the aristocracy. Considering their, by today's standards, primitive tools, their achievements were outstanding.
To mention only two instances of the ancient Celtic crafts would be an understatement. But the two most notable and best preserved items are :
Metal was not the only material they could make into artefacts., the British were also very adept at making items of clothing from materials made to a high standard. The cloth trades were more towards the east of Cornwall were the tin mines were less concentrated. The most valuable item of attire was the sagum which was a woolen cloak worn by the Roman upper classes. To own such an item gave the impression of the wearer being in the height of fashion.
In the lead up to the initial expedition, Caesar's report to Rome made very interesting reading, for it painted a picture of a savage and backward society. This was far removed from the general opinion of the Romans, who regarded the quality of British goods with envy and awe.
Each tribe had their own method of fighting battles. By far the most common was in the use of the chariots to charge into the enemy's ranks, swords blazing out death. Once they had done their work, the soldiers would then join the battle at points where their leaders thought they would be most effective. It is important to mention here, that contrary to popular belief, the British chariots did not have swords jutting out from the wheels ready to take the legs off whoever was in range. This is one of those myths that has been around for so long, it has been taken as fact.
An advantage of the Britons trading with Europe was the traveling merchants could also collect information on techniques of fighting used in foreign lands. One such technique, copied from the Germans, used was to ride into the battle on horseback, then to leap from the animal and engage in face to face combat using swords. This was highly effective, as the enemy had expected an attack from warriors on horseback, then had to quickly adapt to a frontal ground advance.
As can been seen, this method of fighting was limited to fast assaults where the battle would last a relatively short time. A longer battle involving greater numbers on each side would soon degrade purely due to the physical exhaustion of all involved.