Notes: Episode 41, Roman Britannia (Part 1)

As with every show, I’ll list any corrections or clarifications here. If there’s anything I’ve overlooked, please contact me by email or in the comments and I’ll edit the notes to reflect the new information.


9:47 – Phil’s question – why did so many wars end with one decisive battle – is something I’m going to talk about for a bit at this point in terms of social and conventional terms. There’s one thing I forgot to mention, though: armies weren’t generally big enough to support multiple engagements. The idea of a professional standing army is still a ways out for most nations at this point, with a few notable martial exceptions like the Romans or the Spartans. The rest are depending on mercenaries or on drawing from a base of their citizens, whose good will only extends to so much risk and so many defeats. While it was socially understood that a decisive battle was indeed decisive, it was also a practical consideration and limitation of armies at the time.

16:37 – Also of note were some major conflicts in Mesopotamia at this time, which began the Roman erosion of Hellenic power and facilitated their growth around the entire sea.

18:20 – I should specify that the consuls only traded command when the two of them fielded their armies together. Each had their own consular army; in rare instances where the full strength of the republic was needed, they would combine the two, leading to the power sharing measure.

27:46 – Turns out that “Gaulish” is correct, but this is one of those situations where honestly none of these sounds quite right to me.

38:41 – I of course meant at its narrowest point, and it’s just over 20 miles wide – not 26. That’s 32km for the vast majority of the world.

44:21 – I have no idea where I got the number 62 years from. Maybe Queen Victoria, who ruled for 63? In any case, Augustus was Princeps Civitatis for 42 years – not shabby, but two decades short of my guess.

51:20 – The introduction of the name Caesar as a title can be traced to 68/69 CE, also know as the Year of the Four Emperors. This took place literally as soon as the last member of the Julio-Claudian Dynasty (Caesar’s family) died out with Nero’s suicide in 68 CE.

55:48 – The scene we’re discussing in this section can be found here. I can’t believe I’m actually sourcing Monty Python for this show. I’m ashamed and proud.

58:48 – That speculation is going to remain speculation. I did a bunch more digging, and couldn’t for the life of me find anything else to indicate why Ireland was never invaded, other than that they considered the island “full” of tribes – though that hadn’t stopped them in their initial invasion of Britannia. I’m sure there’s some rationale behind it, but the only information I can confirm is that they didn’t. Some of their coins got there, but that stuff was like the glitter of currency back then – it got everywhere and you couldn’t get rid of it.

1:11:09 – This is incorrect; continental Gauls would indeed use chariots, and the Romans were no strangers to them. What was novel about British chariots, which I will shortly struggle to answer for Phil, is twofold: they had no front, allowing greater mobility for the passenger at the cost of protection, and the tactics employed by the Britons was entirely different from the way they would be used on the continent – more like fast troop transports from which soldiers would leap into the midst of enemy lines, rather than the heavy cavalry and archery platform the Romans would have been accustomed to.

1:14:30 – The video we’re discussing can be found here. CGP Grey can be very fast and occasionally difficult to keep up with, but he’s very good at summarizing complicated topics in digestible ways. I’d recommend any of his videos.

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