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CARACTACUS (fl. 50), king of the Britons, whose name is the latinised form of the English Caradoc and the Welsh Caradawg, was one of the sons of Cunobelin, king of the Trinobantes, whose capital was the fortified enclosure known as ‘Camulodunum’ (Colchester). As chief of the Catuvellauni he maintained an energetic resistance to the Romans for nearly nine years. Our only authority for the campaign of Aulus Plautius (A.D. 43–7) is a passage of Dio Cassius. The Romans landed in three divisions in the spring of A.D. 43. Plautius met and defeated in successive battles Caractacus and his brother Togodumnos, received the submission of the Dobuni (Gloucestershire), and, having established a stronghold in their country, pushed up the valley, of the Thames, and came opposite once more to the enemy, who were on the north bank of the river. The Britons, thinking themselves safe under the protection of the broad stream, took no precautions, and were surprised by the Celtic troops of Plautius swimming the river to attack them. This advantage was further extended by the exploits of a body of men which crossed the river under Vespasian, the future emperor. A desperate engagement was fought the next day, in which the Britons made a brave stand, but were completely defeated. The site of this decisive battle is uncertain. Dr. Guest seems to have good reason for placing it at Wallingford, on the Thames. Caractacus was doubtless the chief commander on the British side. The Britons retreated eastward, and put the Lea between themselves and the Romans, who, following them, crossed the Lea, partly by swimming and partly by a bridge, and succeeded in engaging and inflicting a great slaughter upon them once more. In attempting to follow up the flying Britons the Roman army became entangled in the Essex marshes and suffered severe loss. Plautius recalled his troops, and, settling them in some spot on the banks of the Thames, sent for the emperor Claudius, in accordance with orders which he had received when starting for Britain. Dr. Guest thinks that this spot was the site of London, and that the Roman works were the beginning of our metropolis. Dio, however, seems to imply that the Romans were on the south bank of the river. When Claudius arrived with reinforcements and a troop of elephants, the Romans advanced northward, fought a successful battle with the Britons, and captured Camulodunum. Claudius only remained seventeen days in Britain, and then hurried home to celebrate his triumph, leaving Plautius to complete the conquest of southern Britain. Caractacus meanwhile seems to have retired with his followers to the neighbourhood of the Silures (South Wales), and from his western fastnesses to have made frequent sallies to stop the gradually extending Roman dominion. For when in A.D. 47 Ostorius Scapula succeeded Aulus Plautius as pro-prætor, he found Britain in a disturbed and dangerous state. He seems to have taken measures at once to fortify the line of the Severn and Avon, but to have been recalled eastward by a revolt of the Iceni (Norfolk and Suffolk). Having put down this revolt, and having formally established a Roman colony at Camulodunum, he advanced once more to the west (A.D. 50). Caractacus had led the British host from the extreme south, and was now in the territory of the Ordovices (Shropshire), and somewhere in that district the final battle took place in the summer of A.D. 50. The site of the battle, like most matters connected with British history, is a subject of considerable doubt. Discussions on this point will be found in the books referred to at the end of this article. That which best suits the account given by Tacitus is the hill called Caer Caradoc, described by Camden. It is near the meeting of the Clun and Teme, and in Camden's time still retained traces of British fortification. Caractacus posted his army on a steep hill, and strengthened all possible approaches with heaps of loose stones ('in modum valli præstruit'). Between this hill and the Roman camp ran a river of unknown depth. Ostorius was dismayed at the spirit shown by the Britons; but the veterans easily forded the river. They were received by showers of darts; but at length forming a testudo, they scaled the hill, tore down the barricades of stones, and dislodged the Britons. The wife, daughter, and brothers of Caractacus fell into the hands of the Romans. Many, however, escaped to the mountains, among them Caractacus himself, who took refuge in the country of the Brigantes; but their queen, Cartismandua, delivered him to the Romans. He and his family were sent to Rome, and made to take part in a kind of triumphal parade, which defiled past Claudius and Agrippina. Crowds came from all parts of Italy to see the captive chief. His capture was declared in the senate to be as glorious as that of Syphax by Scipio, and Perses by Paulus. The undaunted bearing of Caractacus roused great admiration. He was allowed to address the emperor, whom he reminded that `the resistance he had made was a large element in his conqueror's glory; if he were now put to death he would shortly be forgotten, but that if spared he would be an imperishable monument of the Imperial clemency.' Claudius granted life to him and his family; and here all that we know of Caractacus ends, except the reflection which Zonaras records him to have made on seeing Rome: `That he wondered the Romans who possessed such palaces should envy the poor huts of the Britons.' Tradition, reproduced in the untrustworthy Welsh `Triads,' asserts that he lived some four years after his capture, and that his children, becoming christians, brought the christian faith into Britain. Some have even supposed that the Claudia of Martial's `Epigrams' (iv. 13, xi. 53) and of St. Paul's Epistle (2 Tim. iv. 21) was his daughter. The identity of the person alluded to in these passages, and her connection with Caractacus, are, however, entirely conjectural. With much more probability she has been regarded as the daughter of Cogidumnus.

[The ancient authorities for the history are Tacitus, Ann.xii. 31, 37,Hist. 3, 45; Dio Cassius, 60, 19-22;Eutrop.viii. 8; Suetonius, Claud. 17, Vesp.4; Zonaras's Χρονικόν, p. 186. A full account of the campaign of B.C. 50 will be found in Merivale's History of the Romans under the Empire, vi. 224-45, ed. 1865, and in Carte's History of England i. 100-11, ed. 1748. A full discussion of difficult points in topography and history will be found in Dr. Guest's Origines Celticæ, ii. 342. 394-400; see also Gough's Camden, iii. 3, 13;Horsley's Monumenta Britannica, i. 26-7, 31-2; Hugh's Horæ Britannicæ, pp. 19-22; Freeman's Old English History, p. 15. Caractacus, a drama composed like a Greek tragedy, with choric odes, was published in 1759 by W. Mason. A frigid poem, Caractacus, a Metrical Sketch, was published anonymously in 1832. For a discussion of the question of Claudia, see Williams's Claudia and Pudens, 1848; Guest's Orig. Celt. ii. 121; Conybeare and Howson's Life and Epistles of St.Paul, ii. 514, ed. 1862; Farrar's Life and Work of St. Paul, ii. 569; Quarterly Review, July 1858.]

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