Agricola and Roman Britain

By Andrew Robert Burn | Go to book overview

Chapter Twelve
People of Roman Britain

IN the south of Britain, Romanisation was proceeding satisfactorily. The schoolmasters and professors of rhetoric must have been numbered by scores; Gauls, most of them, since they were nearest, and their bright young literary men found posts in the new oversea province relatively easy to get.

Eloquent Gauls have trained afar
The leaders of a British bar,
And Thulé, like her predecessor,
Debates the hire of a professor,"

says Juvenal forty years after. The idea of a British barrister was as funny in its day as that of cannibals in tophats. It is, in fact, the same joke. But Juvenal's references to Britain in his satires seem to be something more than merely conventional jokes about the ends of the earth. There was, at least, a man with the same names, D. Junius Juvenalis, who dedicated an altar at Aquinum, Juvenal's native town, some time after the death of Vespasian, and who describes himself as sometime commander of the 1st Dalmatian Cohort, a regiment which was in Britain; and Juvenal the satirist, if born in 55, as a dubious tradition says, might very well have held that post under Agricola, and so seen for himself the Brigantian hill-forts, the war- chariots, the whales (then fairly common in northern waters), the mushroom Romanisation and the Gallic teachers of Latin eloquence, to which he alludes.

Some travelling professors came from farther afield and, with the prestige of knowing not only Latin but Greek, the very fountain-head of eloquence and culture, pre-

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