Archaeological Park

Where the history of Colchester began.

Gosbecks could be described as the place where Colchester's history began. Colchester was known from earliest times as Camulodunum. Its recorded history of human occupation dates from at least as far back as the first century BC, and has been well researched and recorded. However, Gosbecks has, for too long, been overshadowed by the much later Roman Colchester period which began when the Roman emperor Claudius came here in 43 AD to accept the surrender of eleven Celtic British tribal chiefs.


Historical Background for Iron Age Britain

The Celtic British tribes, the Belgic invasion, the Trinovantes, the Catuvellauni, etc.


 Evidence from coins found

CAMU, CUNO, Tasciovanus, Cunobelin, Addedomaros, Caratacus, Verica, Claudius, etc.

 Iron Age Gosbecks

Earliest evidence, Celtic burials, warriors, the doctor's grave, Lexden Tumulus, Cunobelin, the temple, the dyke system, etc.
Roman Gosbecks
The Roman Invasion of 43 AD, the colonia, the theatres, the temple, etc.
Modern Day Gosbecks

Aerial photography, cropmarks, the Barbour family, the Archaeological Park, the interpretations, the preservation and development, etc.

Iron Age Earthworks
Bluebottle Grove, Cymbeline Meadow, Lexden Earthworks (Triple Dyke), Grimes Dyke, Lexden Mount.


The Historical Background.

Evidence of human activity in Britain, as far back as 150,000 years, has been discovered. But, apart from substantial archaeological finds from pre-history and the Bronze Age, we can only properly start to tell Gosbecks' story from the Iron Age period (500 BC to 43 AD). Let us start with the map shown here. This shows how the southern part of Iron Age Britain was divided up by powerful tribal kingdoms of that time. The area that we now know as Essex and much of Suffolk was controlled by the British tribe known as the Trinovantes. We first learn of them from the historical record of Julius Caesar, from his two exploratory British campaigns in 55 and 54 BC. He told us that his principal opponents during the 54 BC campaign were the Catuvellauni and the Trinovantes. Just before Caesar's arrival, the Catuvellaunis had defeated and killed the Trinovantian king, whose young son, Mandubracius had then sought the protection of Caesar. His tribe had therefore become Caesar's allies.

Camulodunum is the name that has come down through the annals of time. It was, many centuries ago, the name of the Colchester that we know today. Its meaning - the fortress of the war god Camulos.

Camulos was a Celtic god, whose Roman equivalent would have been Mars. Here lived the Trinovantes. To the west were the Catuvellauni, to the north the Iceni and to their south, the Cantiaci. Trinovantian lands stretched over a large part of modern day Essex and Suffolk and inter-tribal warfare was commonplace. The place called Camulodunum occupied an area of land that was located between the River Colne to the north and Roman River to the south. Over a period of time it became protected from attack by an incredible system of man made dykes, a series of earth banks and ditches. Most of these are still visible today.

To give a good account of Gosbecks, we need to understand the people that once lived here. Gradually, the indigenous British people were being enjoined by Belgic people, from the continent, who probably came to Britain as a result of, or to escape, the upheaval caused by the expanding Roman Empire and, in particular, the Roman conquest of Gaul. Archaeologists are able to easily identify these Belgic incomers from a clear culture change. The Belgae brought with them; coinage (quite rare in Britain up until that time), metal brooches and different artistic styles. They brought wheel made pottery for the first time and their burial rites were quite different to that of the native inhabitants. The indigenous Brits must have been seen as quite culturally backward by Belgic standards at that time.



The picture by Peter Froste shows a group of Trinovantes at a graveside, burying one of their warriors. Several graves like this have been studied by archaeologists; the most famous ones being the tumulus at Fitzwalter Road and the Doctor's and the Warrior's graves at Stanway. With extensive gravel quarrying in the area, perhaps many more such sites have already been lost forever.

We cannot say how smooth the transition of culture was, but the Belgae were renowned for their 'oppidae'. Their most important defended sites were known as oppidums, large areas of (usually low lying) land defended by massive linear dykes, behind which settlements and farmland could be better protected from attack. Gosbecks fits this description perfectly.



The above map shows Camulodunum as it would have been after the Roman invasion of 43 AD. It shows how it was situated between the River Colne to the north and the Roman River to the south. Its defences to the east and west were substantial dyke systems. Modern day Gosbecks formed only a small part of the settlement, with today's Colchester now covering most of the land that, under Cunobelin, became the largest and best defended 'oppidum' known in Britain. The area at Gosbecks would have been one of the most important areas of the whole of Camulodunum. Sheepen was known to have been an area of industry - but that is another story for another page. For now we concentrate on Gosbecks, at the centre of Camulodunum.



Coin Evidence.

So, from archaeological evidence, Gosbecks' history can certainly be traced to the middle of the first century BC. Coins were introduced to Britain by the Belgic people and give archaeologists a powerful tool for dating finds. Whilst the Belgic coinage that arrived in Britain gradually spread in use throughout the land, ascribing a mint or a date to it is not an easy matter. The first identifiable inscribed coinage to emerge in this area is that of Addedomaros, dating to around 35 BC. He issued gold staters (a large coin), as well as a range of silver and bronze coinage. It is believed that he was the leader of the Trinovantes, whilst his contemporary was Tasciovanus of the neighbouring Catevellauni tribe, whose coins were being minted in Verulamium (modern day St Albans). For a time, Tasciovanus was minting coins from Camulodunum, with the tell-tale letters CAMU, suggesting an alliance or a conquest of some sort. He died around the year 7 AD. In due course, Addedomarus was succeeded by Dubnovellaunus and then Tasciovanus' son Cunobelin.

It has been suggested that the Lexden Tumulus (as it is known, in Fitzwalter Road) was the burial place of Addedomarus, dated to around the year 1 AD. The grave contents were extensive and clearly belonged to a man of great importance.

Cunobelin united the territories of the Trinovantes and the Catuvellauni to form the most powerful kingdom in Celtic Britain for the three decades before the Roman conquest in 43 AD. The Roman Seutonius, in his 'Lives of the Caesars', described Cunobelin as 'Britannorum rex' - the king of the Britons.

The several illustrations here show some of the images depicted on coins of the period. Cunobelin's first coins were minted in Camulodunum, with CAMU on one side and a two horse chariot or biga (as encountered by Caesar many years before), on the obverse. His later coins adopted an ear of wheat or barley, also CUNO, short for Cunobelin, as well as a single horse. Archaeologists have not only found many examples of Cunobelin's coins but also the coin moulds, found in the industrial area of Camulodunum at Sheepen.

Tasciovanus died around the year 7 AD and was succeeded by his son Cunobelin. It is believed that Cunobelin was responsible for the merging of the Catuvellaunian kingdom with that of the Trinovantes. Cunobelin died around 41 AD. His son Caratacus succeeded him but appears to have fled to Wales with another of his sons, Togodumnus, following the Claudian invasion. The opportunity for a Roman invasion was provided in 42 AD by the flight to Rome of Verica, King of the Atrebates of modern day Sussex. The Atrebates had been steadily encroached upon by the increasingly powerful Cunobelin and his sons. In 42 AD they were overrun by Caratacus and Togodumnus. Verica appealed to Claudius for assistance, giving the Romans a convenient reason for a full scale Roman invasion. After landing in Kent, the Roman army made their way to the most important settlement at Camulodunum, having dealt with attacks by Caratacus and Togodumnus on the way. They waited for Claudius to join them from Italy, before making the final leg of their journey, allegedly with elephants, leading a victorious army into Camulodunum.

Note the coin on the right of the page above. What is the significance of the images? Is this the face of Cunobelin, with spiky hair and strong features. On the reverse side, a winged seated goddess - an angel perhaps? The angel is very similar to that shown on the top of Longinus Sdapeze's tombstone, now in the castle museum.


So that is the background over with!

Let us now talk about what we know of Camulodunum - and Gosbecks in particular.


British warriors were renowned for their fighting techniques, using chariots, darting in and out of the defensive dyke system, harrying their opponents. Also, their hunting dogs were of great renown. This is a picture by Peter Froste showing warriors at Gosbecks, with the dyke structures in the background. With their spiky hair and blue woad war paint, they must have been formidable in battle.

On the death of Cunobelin, his son Adminius took flight to seek help from the Emperor Caligula. His eldest son Togodumnus took over his father's kingdom and Caratacus embarked on invading lands to the south. Verica of the Atrebates then sought the help of the Emperor Claudius.

Gosbecks is probably where the Roman emperor Claudius accepted the surrender of eleven British kings in the year 43AD, after his short campaign of invasion and the conquest of south east Britain. We do not know this for sure but the presence of a Roman fort nearby, must give a fair clue to the significance of this particular area of Camulodunum. Of course it took many more years to conquer Britain; a task that was never actually completed. Among the eleven 'kings' were probably leaders of the neighbouring territories of the Iceni and the Coritani.

Those who voluntarily submitted to Rome at Camulodunum were treated favourably, being allowed to govern themselves, but under Roman supervision. We know of two 'client kings', Prasutagus, king of the Iceni and husband to Boudica, and Cogidubnus (Tiberius Claudius Cogidubnus) who ruled in the south. These kings had a nominal authority over their people but were obligated to maintain Rome's interests rather than their own. They would have acted as a buffer between Roman held territory and any potential enemies.

. The Trinovantes however, would have been treated very differently. They were a defeated people who had few rights afforded to them. Their immediate future was to be a difficult one. A callous brutailty is recorded as being meted out on the Trinovantes. Their warring son Caratacus could not have helped their cause very much. Their lands were appropriated and given to the Roman soldiers who had settled in the new colonia that was fast becoming the new capital of Roman Britain.

Thereafter, Gosbecks became a place of peace and of worship; a place where the British people lived alongside their Roman masters. The colonia at Camulodunum became a place where retired legionary (therefore Roman) soldiers could live and to relax in pleasant, and hopefully peaceful, surroundings - for a while at least! They were being rewarded with the gift of land taken from the native peoples.

We should of course also mention Queen Boadicea at this point. She was the widow of the Iceni king Prasutagus who, when he died, was treated very badly by the Romans. She was so enraged that she formed an army and marched south to the unfortified and undefended Camulodunum, where she was joined by the Trinovantes in destroying the Roman colonia, before continuing on to Londinium and then Verulamium - and then on to a nasty death at some unrecorded location. History does not record what punishment was visited on the people of Gosbecks but it must have been brutal. Eventually life would have returned to a peaceful state and the further romanisation of the British would have continued up until the Romans upped and left these shores in the year 410 AD.




Two sides of a coin of Caratacus.



One British king who did not bow down to Roman rule was Caratacus, another son of Cunobelin. For a short while Caratacus had formed a kingdom and was issuing coins in his name; although this was to be short lived.

When the Romans arrived in AD 43 and took the surrender of the British, Caratacus was having none of it. Whilst his brothers seem to have settled down to a life of subjugation under Roman rule, Caratacus became a renegade, a thorn in the side of the Romans with his guerrilla warfare attacks from different parts of the country.

It wasn't until the year AD 50 that he was eventually captured by Scapula, only because Caratacus was betrayed and taken prisoner by Queen Cartimandua of the Brigante tribe (somewhere in the region of present day Chester).

To cut a long story short, Caratacus had won great acclaim and the people of Rome were anxious to see this famed British hero. The Emperor Claudius demanded that he and his family be taken to Rome, where he was paraded through the streets, so that Rome could see what this infamous and troublesome British warrior looked like - and to perhaps to inflict a horrible death upon him, as his punishment.

But no, history tells us that Caratacus gave a good account of himself, was pardoned by Emperor Claudius, given a pension, and was allowed to live in peace in Rome, with his family, for the rest of his life.

Did he ever return? We will never know.




Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus - known as the Emperor Claudius - 41 to 54 AD

Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus - better known as the Emperor Nero - 54 to 68 AD


Aulus Plautius become the first governor of Britain 43 to 47 AD.

Publius Ostorius Scapula was appointed by Claudius as the second governor of Britain in 47 to 52 AD.

Aulus Didius Gallus became the third governor of Britain 52 to 57 AD










The above maps give a concentrated view of Gosbecks, showing the important temple and theatre locations and some of the many dykes and crop marks. We have then added what we know of archaeological finds to modern day ordnance survey maps and aerial views, so that you can getter a good idea of how Camulodunum was situated in relation to modern day landmarks. Here you have an opportunity to explore your area and to imagine how our ancestors once lived 2000 years ago. Note the Roman road that leads directly to the colonia and would have brought people to the site for worship and/or entertainment.




Evidence of the original dyke system today requires a degree of imagination. Along Lexden Straight Road, is what are known as 'The Triple Dyke', shown to the left of centre on the above map.

Grimes Dyke cuts across modern day Dugard Avenue and, again little is in evidence today, other than the footpath that follows its route. It's quite easy to find, if you would like to explore some more.

The two images that follow show the pathway that follows teh defensive dyke that is shown crossing the Cymbeline Way (the old 1930s built Colchester bypass). This is located opposite to Sheepen Road, where the bank height at the north-west corner of Sheepen Road is actual evidence of a section of the defensive dyke.

There are severl other examples of the different sections of the dyke system that can be explored, particularly at Bluebottle Grove and along the road from Gosbecks towards the zoo.

Why not use the maps here to help you with some fieldwalking.

The following images show some of the signs that we found during a walk in October 2023.


Triple Dyke.

an old sign, since replaced.


The illustration shows the type of Iron Age round house that the Trinovantes would/may have lived in. Archaeologists have identified the locations of these across Camulodunum by the marks made in the soil by the wooden posts. Very few round houses have been found at Gosbecks, perhaps because the site was special, a place of worship, a place for burying the dead, perhaps for animal management. Being on relatively high ground, the people would have lived on lower ground near to the rivers or where the spring water was nearby. Interpreting the landscape is not an easy matter, after over 2000 years of occupation and subsequent modern day farming methods.

Today, the site is protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument, afforded the highest protection possible against damage of any kind.


Roman Gosbecks

The Roman invaders built a fort very close to Gosbecks, no doubt to keep a watchful eye on their troublesome subjects. This can be seen on the above map. However, this seems to have been short lived, with a further fortress being built on a nearby hillside, overlooking the whole of Camulodunum. This was located in the area of Head Street and St Mary at the Walls in the town centre. In the goodness of time, with the British people subdued and resigned to their new masters, that hilltop fortress became a colonia, a town by any other name. Here lived retired Roman soldiers in peace and harmony, together with a growing populace of British peoples, tradesmen and mercenaries, many from far flung places of the Roman empire. Meanwhile, the Romans spread further afield, intent on making the whole of Britain the northern frontier of the Roman Empire. Gradually Camulodunum lost its importance, as Londinium (London) was developing as a major port (due to the all important and strategic bridge that was built to cross the Thames) and garrisons at York, Lincoln, Caerleon, etc. were established. At Camulodunum the Romans built two theatres and many temples. One of the theatres was at Gosbecks. A huge, and presumably very important, pre-Roman, Celtic temple at Gosbecks was enhanced with a Roman portico. This place would have been visited by thousands of people, as the size of the structures can testify. The following pictures show how both the theatre and temple at Gosbecks might have looked in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD.



The theatre at Gosbecks (above). One of only five that we know of in Roman Britain and this one was the largest of them all. Today, only a slight earthwork remains, marked on the ground and with an information board close by.

The other theatres that we know of in Britain are: another in Colchester centre and another in St Albans (Verulamium). The theatre at Verulamium is surprisingly well preserved and has been put on view to the public. A visit is to be recommended. Then there is the Roman theatre at Canterbury (Durovernum Cantiacorum) and what is thought to be a theatre at Cirencester.

Not to be confused with amphitheatres, theatres hosted events such as plays, pantomimes, choral events, and orations. Their design, with its semicircular form, enhances the natural acoustics, unlike Roman amphitheatres constructed in the round and which would feature races and gladiatorial events. We do not know whether Colchester had an amphitheatre. One has never been found and hopefully none ever will be. Wouldn't an amphitheatre spoil our image as a place of peaceful retirement, for the pursuit of the arts and to encourage harmony with the indigenous people of Britain?



The Temple at Gosbecks.
The central part of the temple dates from at least 100 years before the Roman invasion and comprised a ditched enclosure with a shrine. During the Roman period, a massive portico was built to surround it, with a single entrance point. This would have been for what we now term 'pagan' worship. Christianity was not to come to Britain until 330 AD. Today, the temple footprint is marked out on the ground and with a nearby information board.

Both the theatre and the temple are marked out in the grass at Gosbecks today as part of the park interpretations. 


The above illustration is of how archaeologists believe the temple structure would have looked. It is this design that is felt should be reconstructed at Gosbecks, for educational and interpretation purposes.

The Roman builders followed set mathematical standards of construction. Just as the Temple of Claudius, over which our Norman castle was built, had a standard layout for its columns, the portico for the Gosbecks temple followed the same rules.. The rules were those of the Roman architect Vitruvius.

One of Colchester Museum's most important artefacts is a statue of the Roman god Mercury. It was ploughed up by a farmer in the 1940's close to the temple and remained in his shed for many years. Experts tell us that it is from the Roman period, although we can only guess at any significance attached to where it was found.

It is said to be one of the finest Roman bronze sculptures so far found in Britain. Our modern day Mercury Theatre in Colchester took its name from this statue and a replica is to be seen on the roof of the building.

 Today's Gosbecks Archaeological Park

The above aerial view shows modern day Gosbecks Archaeological Park, with the boundary coloured in blue, the Temple, the Theatre, the Fort and the Roman Road leading to the colonia, in red. Also shown is a suggested location for a full sized marking out of the 2004 discovered Roman circus. It was suggested that the shape could be mowed into the grass for open day chariot racing activities of a very Roman type.

The above aerial view was taken in the 2020s and shows how our city maintains its heritage assets; the white lines that are painted to show the original positions of the temple features, from Iron Age, through to Romano-British times. Where the celtic god Camulos, and the later Roman god Mars, would, presumably, have been worshipped.

Gosbecks is the modern day name (taken from a medieval period land owner) for an area that formed a part of Iron Age Camulodunum. It is located on a gravel spur overlooking the Roman River. The present day Gosbecks Archaeological Park, 66 hectares in area, makes up approx. 2% of the total area that was Camulodunum of around 3200 hectares.


 A Timeline.

Sadly, history does not record the people of Gosbecks, the indigenous Britons, the Trinovantes, etc. after Boadicea's destruction. We can only conclude that the idea of tribal identity gradually disappeared as the Roman way of life became the only way that was allowed. Today we have no concept of ancestral connection with the Trinovantes, having become used, instead, to our ancestral associations with other, more recent, invaders, the Anglo-Saxons, the Normans, the Hugeonots, etc. The writings of Tacitus, Dio Cassius, Ptolemy, etc. only recorded the lives of Britons in the 1st century AD, mainly due to their warlike activities and the bruatl suppression meted out by the Romans. Over the many centuries since the Romans left, the Dark Ages brought Danes and Saxons and perhaps a Viking or two. William the Duke of Normandy built the largest Norman keep over the Temple of Claudius in the old colonia and life went on - as it tends to do.

The land that became known as Gosbecks was farmed, the materials used by the Romans to build the theatre and the temple at Gosbecks was robbed away very effectively (probably in the 11th century) to enable other buildings to be constructed. In so doing our Roman heritage was largely destroyed. The ditches and dykes either flattened down through natural forces or were infilled and levelled, so that better use could be made of the land through farming. Then along came the industrial revolution, Watt's steam engine, the Victorians and their inventions that led to the production of flying machines, later named aircraft. The First World War saw aircraft technology improve and, when the war was over, aircraft became a rich man's pastime. One of those early pilots looked out of his cockpit one day and saw odd looking marks on the ground below. These turned out to be crop marks, made by the process of soil quality dispersal over hundreds (if not thousands) of years, brought about by long gone ditches and man made earth workings. The next step was to photograph these marks and then to dig some holes in the ground to see what they were all about. Whilst farmers had known of the presence of substantial stone foundations below ground from early days (recorded from the 1840's at least) due to their ploughs making contact with them, gradually it dawned on archaeologists the significance of what had been found.

The following picture shows an example of aerial photography, together with an inset sketch of what turned out to be Iron Age enclosures. Later archaeological excavations made some incredible discoveries.

Sadly, the quest for gravel, meant that this site was completely destroyed by quarrying. But not before the site had given up many of its secrets, from a time around 2000 years ago. This Iron Age burial site is what has become known as the Stanway Graves site, now swallowed up by quarries and landfill sites. Perhaps we will give details of the finds here at a later date.
Again, here is another aerial photograph, showing what has been called Cunobelin's Homestead,. Whether or not his home, this piece of land is in private ownership and it would be good if it could be brought into public ownership. See the map above to see where this fits in. The temple is shown bottom right, the theatre bottom left.


The Barbour Family, who had farmed the land for many years, decided on a plan to develop some of the land for housing and to donate the archaeologically interesting area to the borough. They had been severely limited by heritage led restrictions to what ploughing depth they could use on the land, making the land unprofitable for farming.

Oct 1989

CBC's Recreation Tourism and Arts Committee agrees in principle to an Archaeological Park.

Feb 1990

CBC's Planning Committee considered a proposal made in the Draft Review of the Borough Local Plan to include the site for residential, recreational purposes and agreed to 20 acres of land being released for 150 dwellings with conditions, including provision of an Archaeological Park of at least 166 acres and a dowry of £500,000.

Nov 1992

Management Plan agreed by RTA Committee.

Dec 1992

Management Plan agreed by Planning Committee.

10 Dec 1993

Essex County Standard has Archaeological Park as main front page news with editorial comment in favour.


Archaeological and Landscape strategies agreed by RTA (29th March) and Planning (6th April) Committees.

5 Dec 1996

Arts & Leisure and Planning & Transportation Committees at a joint meeting consider consultants' findings and agree that a major visitor centre, involving the reconstruction of the temple portico, be constructed.

23 Dec 1997

Arts & Leisure Committee agree, as a result of discussions between the officers and English Heritage and further work by the consultants, to a modified scheme for the design of the interpretation centre.

June 1999

Heritage Lottery Fund reject an application for £11M grant. C.B.C. pledge to fight on and the officers were charged with finding a commercial sponsor.

Education Officer's salary provided by English Heritage for 2 years - site unseen, as it were; agreed 1-2 years in advance. Started Jan 1995, though land for park not formally handed over until 7th August 1995.


Schools - 600 schoolchildren spent an average of 3-4 hours visiting the site in latter part of summer term and first half of autumn term 1995. 1060 pupils in 22 parties in 1996.


Public awareness developed 1995-99 - centred round on-site activities.

Archaeological investigation - not excavation.

National Archaeology Days for 5 years. 600 people in wet summer of 1995.

In 1997 numbers had risen to 3,500. Public very supportive - no adverse comment detected.

In 1997, Colchester Borough Council agreed in principle to develop Gosbecks Archaeological Park into a £10 million heritage attraction. A team of consultants was engaged with a view to providing a visitor attraction that would interpret the historic nature of the site whilst developing its environmental character. By 1998, their plans had been finalised and they had submitted a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) bid for the new Visitor Centre. The bid was unfortunately turned down.

· Apart from some of the donated money (around £60,000) being spent on developing the site by providing a car park, some fencing, the marking out of the temple and theatre and some signs,etc, the balance is in the bank and being used for site maintenance. This is a source of disappointment to both:

  • the Barbour family, who had owned and farmed the land for many years and who had given the money for the stated purpose
  • and to the people of Colchester, who had expected great things to be done for the park - rather than to make it the dog walking park that it has since become. However, CBC see this money as future maintenance funding to be used as they see fit. Only public opinion would change their minds, we believe. 


History Alive
On 18th July 2010, our Town Guides came to Gosbecks to present their 'History Alive' display, a series of five playlets, explaining to guests some of the history of Camulodunum Park at Gosbecks. The following photographs gives a flavour of their presentation.

A British women of the Trinovantes explains about the food that she has prepared, the ingredients and her dislike for the Romans. She demonstrated cooked nettles, various beans, ale, breads, fruits, herbs, etc.


Togodumnus, brother of Caratacus received an earbashing from his nagging wife who wants to be queen, now that Cunobelin is dead. But he would rather go fishing .


A group of British women discuss the likelihood of a Roman invasion and how their life might change as slaves under the Romans.


Two druids discuss the future under threat from the Romans and how they might fare. The casting of divining rods and the study of animal entrails led them to conclude the worst.


Marcus Favonius Facilis, a Roman centurion, gave a talk to the Brits about how things were going to be under Roman occupation and all the nasty things that were going to happen under their peaceful rule. The druids decided to scarper, closely followed by a Roman soldier with murderous intent.


The finale.

An excellent series of stories, worthy of inclusion as part of the new interpretation centre displays.


What would have been the worst nightmare for the Trinovantes when Cunobelin died? Here was a powerful king who had terrorised tribes all over the south of Britannia. He was probably a quite unpleasant sort of person. Only 100 years previously, within living memory, his Belgic ancestors had fled Gaul to escape the tyranny of the equally unpleasant Roman Empire and had come to Britain to start a new life. Gradually the Belgae had become Trinovantes and had worked their way up to such an extent that they had become the rulers of their new people and homeland. They had successfully fought off Julius Caesar's attempt at an invasion in 54 and 55 BC.

The Romans had always been at their door but had never been allowed to get a proper foothold. The Trinovantes had clearly enjoyed much trade with Rome, judging by the archaeological finds - especially the funerary ones. Cunobelin had inherited his warrior mentality from his father Tasciovanus, and his sons were heading the same way. Their aim seemed to be to rule the whole of southern Britain. As a result, after Cunobelin died, his sons stepped up the pressure on the Atrebates, leading to their chief, Verica, pleading for help from the Roman emperor Claudius. Thus the Romans invaded Britain.

The Belgic people, who had escaped Roman domination in Gaul and had fought so hard to keep the Romans at bay, were at last forced to accept Roman rule as a result of their own behaviour towards a neighbouring tribe. They had, effectively, brought trouble upon themselves.

An interesting question would be - how many modern day Trinovantes (especially the people of Colchester) have true British blood? A few hooligans at the Weston Homes Community Stadium could perhaps find a DNA connection with Cunobelin himself.

It's an interesting thought! We are attempting to find out.



With special thanks to Peter Froste for permission to use his conjectural drawings and illustrations shown on this page.


Also thanks to:

Philip Crummy of the Colchester Archaeological Trust

Mark Davies for his infomative and constructive comments

Extracts from the work of Rosalind Dunnett

Colchester Castle Museum

and numerous other sources, from whom this information has been collected.

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