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Civitates and Client Kingdoms of Warwickshire

Reactions of the Warwickshire Tribes to Rome

As already stated in the section on the arrival of the Romans, here in the West Midlands as elsewhere, the first action of the Roman army was that of conquest, with the Romans wishing to pass swiftly through the region to crush the resistance led by Caratacus in Wales and to occupy Britain up to the frontier made by the rivers Mersey and Humber where the Brigantes - a client kingdom - lived (see Mattingley 2006, 83). So the Roman military presence in the West Midlands was of short duration. The history of occupation at Lunt Fort for example shows an initial period of activity followed by a period when the fort may not have been in use. In this initial period the presence of the army played a huge part in cementing relations with the local Iron Age inhabitants of the region, especially in the transition from rule by these independent peoples in the mid-first century AD to being an integrated part of the Roman province that emerged two or three generations later. With little known resistance, the tribes of Warwickshire settled into becoming civitates or client Kingdoms of the Romans.

A civitas (plural civitates) was a town or settlement loosely based on a pre-existing Iron Age tribal territory. Civitates were independent administrative centres, governed by the the Britons themselves, though under the supervision of Roman provincial administration based in London.

A client Kingdom was created when the governing Romans felt that influence without direct rule was desirable. Client kingdoms were ruled by client kings or Queens and often represented an entire tribal group.

It is possible that the Dobunni entered into a client Kingdom relationship with Rome, possibly under their King Boduocos (as named by Cassius Dio in Book 60 of his Roman History) as did the Catuvellauni under Cunobelinus.

The Corieltauvi

There is little evidence that the Corieltauvi offered resistance to Roman rule, and we know that Leicester (Ratae) was captured around AD 44, so very soon after the invasion of AD43. It may even have had a Roman garrison. Thus the Corieltauvi seem to have swiftly entered into the status of acquiescence to Roman rule. Without knowledge of relations between Rome and a single ruling figure we cannot qualify the relationship as that of a client Kingdom. But certainly the larger settlements would have had the status of civitates.

It is possible that Lunt Fort lay in the territory of the Corieltauvi, as discussed in more detail elsewhere, where it seems to have played a role in the aftermath of the revolt of Boudica and was short lived during this first period, a sure sign of good relations with the locals.

The Dobunni

The Roman historian Cassius Dio (ca.AD155-235) referred to the tribe as "Bodunni", probably a misspelling of the Dobunni in his Roman History. Tributary to the Catuvellauni, at least in his account, they capitulated to the invading Romans when Caratacus and Togodumnus withdrew. As he states in Book 60.20 of his Roman History:

[Aulus] Plautius, accordingly, had a deal of trouble in searching them [the Britons] out; but when at last he did find them, he first defeated Caratacus and then Togodumnus, the sons of Cynobellinus, who was dead. (The Britons were not free and independent, but were divided into groups under various kings.) After the flight of these kings he gained by capitulation a part of the Bodunni, who were ruled by a tribe of the Catuellani; and leaving a garrison there, he advanced farther and came to a river.

It seems that Dio Cassius' Bodunni may be the tribe we know as the Dobunni, who occupied the southern part of modern Warwickshire. What we can read into their supposed subservience to the Catuellani (Catuvellauni) is unclear, but what may be recorded here is the moment when the Dobunni accepted the status of client Kingdom of the Romans, thus avoiding the horrific consequences of continued rebellion. This attitude of the locals and their rulers will have been crucial in determining the Roman response to them. Where there was acquiescence - as seems to have been largely the case in the West Midlands following the disarmament of the tribes either by Plautius (if you believe Dio) or by Publius Ostorius Scapula his successor (accepting Tacitus' report of the subduing of the tribes across to the Avon and Severn) - Roman control was maintained with a light touch. But any resistance was brutally dealt with. As stated above, it is possible that the Dobunni entered into a client Kingdom relationship with Rome, possibly under their King Boduocos (as named by Cassius Dio in Book 60 of his Roman History).

Although the Dobunni were incorporated into the Roman Empire in AD 43, it is possible that their territory was not formed into Roman political units until AD 96-98. The tribal territory was then divided into a civitas centred on Cirencester (Corinium Dobunnorum), and a Colonia at Gloucester (Nerviana Glevumin) set up in the reign of the emperor Nerva (AD 96-98). Besides this there were numerous smaller towns, and many rich villas. A colonia was the highest rank of a Roman city, and normally all citizens of a colonia were also Roman citizens.

The Catuvellauni

The reaction of the Cutuvellauni to Roman rule is covered in more detail in the section on Caratacus. As previously mentioned, Cassius Dio suggests that at least in the matter of initial resistance to Rome, the Catuvellauni may have held sway over the Dobrunni.