Caratacus's last battle
|Battle of Caer Caradoc|
|Part of the Roman conquest of Britain|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Publius Ostorius Scapula||Caratacus|
|21,000 Legio IX Hispana Legio XX Valeria Victrix||unknown|
|Casualties and losses|
The Battle of Caer Caradoc was the final battle in Caratacus's resistance to Roman rule. Fought in 50 AD, the Romans defeated the Britons and thus secured the southern areas of the province of Britannia.
Caratacus chose a battlefield in hilly country, placing the Britons on the higher ground. His forces were probably primarily made up of warriors from the Ordovices, though there may have been some Silures as well. This position made both approach and retreat difficult for the Romans, and comparatively easy for his own forces. Where the slope was shallow, he built rough stone ramparts, and placed armed men in front of them. In front of them was a river which appeared difficult to cross, but in the event the Roman troops crossed it easily.
The Roman commander, Publius Ostorius Scapula, was reluctant to assault the British lines, but the enthusiasm of his men won him over. The river was crossed without difficulty. The Roman soldiers came under a rain of missiles, but employed the testudo formation to protect themselves and dismantled the stone ramparts. Once inside the defences, the Romans broke through in bloody fighting. The Britons withdrew to the hilltops, but the Romans kept up the pursuit. The Britons' lines broke, and they were caught between the heavily armed legionaries and the lightly armed auxiliaries.
Caratacus's wife, son, and daughter were captured and his brother surrendered, but Caratacus himself escaped. He fled north, seeking refuge among the Brigantes. The Brigantian queen, Cartimandua, however, was loyal to Rome, and she handed him over in chains. He was exhibited as part of the Emperor Claudius's Roman triumph in Rome. He gave a speech which persuaded the emperor to spare him and his family. His defeat was publicly likened by the Senators to some of Rome's greatest victories, and Ostorius Scapula was awarded triumphal ornaments for defeating him.
The site of the battle is unknown. The hill fort on Caer Caradoc Hill in Shropshire is connected with the battle by virtue of its name. Local legend places it at British Camp in the Malvern Hills. However, the Severn, though visible from the latter location, is too distant to fit Tacitus's description of the site, and the Severn is not visible from the former location. A position just west of Caersws, where the remains of earthworks still stand, has also been suggested, as has a location near Chapel Lawn, Shropshire.
- Tacitus, Annals 12:33-38
- Sheppard Frere, Britannia: a History of Roman Britain, 3rd edition, 1978, p. 64