Ancient Roman Invasion of Britain Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Philip McMurry

Philip has taught college history, English, and political science, and he has a doctorate in American history.

In this lesson, we will learn about the adventure that the Romans took across the English Channel to add the island of Britannia to their empire in the 1st century BCE, as well as the changes they brought once they arrived.

Island Adventure

Wouldn't it be fun to live on an island? Lots of interesting things can be found on an island, and they are certainly exciting places to explore. Well, the Romans thought the same thing thousands of years ago, when they looked across the English Channel from the northern coast of what is today France and saw the shores of an island that they named Britannia.

The Roman Empire

By the 1st century BCE, the Roman Empire was in control of much of the known world. However, like many empires, they were always looking for other regions to conquer and other peoples to tax. The quest brought the Romans to Gaul, which was their name for what we call France. After defeating the Gauls, they took control of the territory. On the north coast of Gaul, the Romans could look across the thin channel of water that separated them from an island with white-colored cliffs.

Hail Caesar!

The Roman general leading the Roman forces in Gaul was Julius Caesar, who was hungry for more political power. For a Roman soldier, the best way to earn political power was by conquering more territory for the glory of Rome. The island across the channel was very tempting for Caesar, who hoped than an easy victory against the inhabitants of the island would bring him glory.

In 55 BCE, he led an army across the channel, but bad weather greatly damaged his efforts to mount a large invasion. So the very next year, he returned with a larger force and conquered the southernmost tribes of Britannia.

Julius Caesar

The Celts

The people who live on the island of Britannia were called the Celts. They had originally lived in central Europe, but their neighbors had fought with them and pushed them across Europe until they eventually made their way to Britannia. Their culture flourished in their new home. It was these people that Julius Caesar encountered when he invaded the island. After securing tribute, also known as taxes, from the Celts on the southern coast, Caesar left Britannia. There were no further serious attempts to expand Roman control of the island for another 100 years.

Emperor Claudius

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