Agricola and Roman Britain

By Andrew Robert Burn | Go to book overview

Chapter Seven
New Conquests in Britain

VESPASIAN, who looked at all problems with the eye of a tax-collector and who knew better than any man the need for economy, certainly did not adopt a forward policy in Britain merely for the sake of gloire militaire. He must have calculated that it would, in a phrase popular with modern generals, "pay a dividend". To hold and defend the Lowland Zone, as the empire was now doing, an army of three legions plus auxiliaries was barely sufficient; but if increased by one-third, the army could take the offensive; and then, once the whole island was pacified, a great reduction of the garrison might be possible. In Spain, a land almost equally isolated, this policy had already borne fruit. The three legions left there after the completion of the conquest by Augustus were reduced under Vespasian to one, stationed at Leon (which is the word "Legion") in the mountainous north-west; municipal self-government on the Roman model was being rapidly extended, and the peninsula remained happy in having no military history until the beginning of the barbarian invasions. To this hope of economy in the long run could be added the prospect of increased exploitation of the mineral wealth of the British Highland Zone. Gold and silver were still hoped for; and if the yield of these proved disappointing, there was a large output of lead. This is the branch of Romano-British mining of which we know most, by reason of the considerable number of pigs of lead, stamped often with the date and the name of their place of origin, which were lost in transit in boggy country and have been recovered in modern times.

The new reinforcements were sent over in time for the campaign of 71. They included a whole legion; not XIV

-70-

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