Historians at Oxford University have revised one of the most dramatic periods in British history, in which ancient Britons are traditionally portrayed as the victims of a brutal and ruthless invasion.
In fact the early Britons welcomed the Romans with open arms and there was little organised resistance against the Roman military advance, according to Martin Henig, visiting lecturer in Roman art at Oxford's Archaeology Institute.
Dr Henig argues that the "Boy's Own" descriptions of the battles fought between the Romans and the British Celts were invented as part of a propaganda campaign designed to inflate the importance of Agricola, the 1st-century Roman governor of Britain.
"All the evidence suggests Britain's southern rulers were Romanised before the invasion, welcomed the invasion and profited from it," Dr Henig said.
"They had effectively been conquered by the tribes to the north, who had virtually enslaved the whole area to the south. The inhabitants of southern Britain were really refugees and the Roman `invasion' was a liberation."
Several new archaeological discoveries and interpretations of historical sources point to the Roman "conquest" being an invention. The Romans were most likely to have been invited by a dethroned Celtic king who wanted to oust an occupying northern tribe from his land, Dr Henig writes in British Archaeology.
He believes Agricola's historian Tacitus may have borne a grudge against upwardly mobile Celts and resented the role these Celtic friends of Rome played in quelling the uprising led by Boudicca (Boadicea). "An intense personal animosity may easily have coloured the historian's interpretation of events," Dr Henig said.
"Someone like Boudicca was not a British nationalist. She murdered so many Britons it is better to see her in the light of someone like Pol Pot."Reuse content