Carausius

Marcus Aurelius Mausaeus Carausius was born in Holland and joined the Roman Army as a young man.

He led a distinguished career and in 286 AD was given command of the Roman Navy, called the Classis Brittanica, based in the English Channel to deal with the increasing problem of raids on the coasts of England and France by Saxons.

Painting in 1672 by Lorenzo Sastro of roman ships engaged in naval battle http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Castro,_Battle_of_Actium.jpg picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

 

There were rumours that Carausius used his position to enrich himself by  making deals with the Pirates.

Whether this was true we won't know but history records that he had a very poor record at intercepting pirates on their way to plunder but a very high rate of intercepting them and their booty on their way home after pillaging a coastal town.

In 287 word of his behaviour reached the ears of Emperor Maximian who ordered his arrest and execution.

Carausius heard of the order before it could be executed and moved his fleet plus a Roman Legion stationed in France , all merchant vessels that were in the French Ports and many mercenaries to England.

Stripped of the fleet at a time when the Roman Empire was under threat from several sides there was little that Emperor Maximian could do.

There is no surviving documentation to tell us how Carausius dealt with the Roman troops in England although by this time most of the troops would be recruited from parts of the Roman Empire largely from Holland and Germany so they may well have joined his cause rather than battles taking place.

By the latter part of 287 Carausius was styling himself Emperor of Britain and wore the Imperial Purple clothing.

He also issued coins bearing his head.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Antoninianus_Carausius_leg4-RIC_0069v.jpg Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Emperor Maximian planned an invasion of Britain in 288 but a combination of bad weather and a superior strategy by Carausius foiled the plan.

At this point negotiations took place and a peaceful settlement was agreed that allowed Carausius to rule Britain whilst acknowledging the figurehead role of Emperor Maximian.

From this point Carausius fortified England by completing the line of 9 forts that included Othona and built many more merchant and warships.

Many scholars believe that Othona was completed before Carausius took up his post with the Classis Brittanica although perhaps the majority believe that the forts south of the Thames were in place and that Carausius added Othona and  forts north of the Thames to complete the line.

Othona had a quay on its seaward side to link up with the naval vessels that were so key to Carausius's power.

Whether he built Othona or used it there is little doubt that it was one of the key defensive locations in his empire.

No doubt that he would have been a regular visitor to ensure they loyalty and efficiency of his garrison.

In the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire , Edward Gibbon described the success of Carausius in the next period.

Carausius still preserved the possession of Bologne and the adjacent country. His fleets rode triumphant in the Channel, commanded the mouths of the Seine and of the Rhine, ravaged the coats of the ocean and diffused beyond the Columns of Hercules, the terror of  his name. Under his command Britain, destined in a future age to obtain the empire of the sea, already assumed its natural and respectable station of a maritime power.

The Romans hit back in AD 293 when  a Roman army under Constantius Chlorus reclaimed France from various rebels including Bologne and then marched through German and Holland taking the European bases of Carausius.

Chlorus then began planning an invasion of Britain.

This undermined the authority of Carausius  who was assassinated by Allectus who was his deputy.

Allectus immediately assumed power but his reign was short lived before he was killed by the Roman Commanders and once again Roman rule was felt in Britain.

to visit a web page with details of the Roman Fort of Othona at Bradwell on Sea

 

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