Roman Britain: Maybe Not Worth the Trouble?

In honor of the World Cup Semi-final Match today between the former Roman Provinces of Britannia and Dalmatia, we wrote a slightly farcical post for the SCS blog. Here are some passages that did not make it into the post.

Appian Roman History Preface, 5

“When you cross the Northern ocean you come to the island of Britain which is bigger than a continent [The Romans] possess the greatest half of it and aren’t really missing the rest. For even the part they do hold doesn’t bring them a good profit.”

καὶ τὸν βόρειον ὠκεανὸν ἐς τὴν Βρεττανίδα νῆσον περάσαντες, ἠπείρου μεγάλης μείζονα, τὸ κράτιστον αὐτῆς ἔχουσιν ὑπὲρ ἥμισυ, οὐδὲν τῆς ἄλλης δεόμενοι· οὐ γὰρ εὔφορος αὐτοῖς ἐστὶν οὐδ᾿ ἣν ἔχουσιν.

Suetonius, Divus Julius 47

 

“They say that [Julius Caesar] attacked Britain because of a hope for pearls and that in comparing their mass he used to check their weight with his own hand. For he was extremely eager to collect gems, carvings, statues, and images by ancient artists. He was also fond of rather good looking slaves with better training for a huge price—this also caused him enough shame that he did not allow them to be entered into his expenditures.”

 

XLVII. Britanniam petisse spe margaritarum, quarum amplitudinem conferentem interdum sua manu exegisse pondus; gemmas, toreumata, signa, tabulas operis antiqui semper animosissime comparasse; servitia rectiora politioraque inmenso pretio, et cuius ipsum etiam puderet, sic ut rationibus vetaret inferri.

 

Tacitus, Agricola, 13

 

“The people of Britain themselves respond eagerly to drafts, tributes, and obligations set by the government, if abuses are absent. They endure these poorly since, although they are conquered enough to obey, they are not yet slaves [to us].  

As a matter of fact, the divine Julius of all the Romans first attacked Britain with an army, and, although he terrified the inhabitants with a hasty battle and was master of the coast, he seems to have exposed Britain for his successors rather than handed it down. The Civil Wars followed soon after and while the arms of Rome’s first men were turned against the state, there was a prolonged forgetfulness of Britain, which the divine Augustus used to call a “plan” and Tiberius called a “precedent”.

 

13. Ipsi Britanni dilectum ac tributa et iniuncta imperii munera impigre obeunt, si iniuriae absint: has aegre tolerant, iam domiti ut pareant, nondum ut serviant. igitur primus omnium Romanorum divus Iulius cum exercitu Britanniam ingressus, quamquam prospera pugna terruerit incolas ac litore potitus sit, potest videri ostendisse posteris, non tradidisse; mox bella civilia et in rem publicam versa principum arma, ac longa oblivio Britanniae etiam in pace: consilium id divus Augustus vocabat, Tiberius praeceptum.

 

Some words;

σφαιριστής: “ball-player”

σφαιριστικός: “skilled at ball-playing”

σφαιρομαχία: “ball-match”

σφαιροπαίκτης: “ball-player”

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