The role of the Roman army in Britain

In Britain the Roman army played an important role in the maintenance of peace. After the first century AD large-scale warfare was rare, though around 50,000 troops remained in the province. A soldier's life, as today, was largely one of training and manoeuvres. In peacetime the armed forces were also employed in constructing and maintaining buildings and roads. Initially such work was the responsibility of the legionary soldiers, but it was soon shared by auxiliary forces.

Because of the way the province developed, archaeological evidence for army activities has mainly been located around the frontiers in the north and west of Britain, where preservation of sites has been good. In contrast, much less has been discovered from the south and east to provide information about the earlier days of the invasion.

The discovery of military documents and private letters at the fort of Vindolanda have revealed details of the day to day administrative activities of the fort. Amongst other things army personnel would have been involved with building work and the organization of supplies. There is some debate surrounding the extent of the impact the army had on the areas it occupied and its involvement in the process of Romanization. Civilian settlements developed around fort sites (including one at Vindolanda) called vici, and once peace was established in the region, interaction, from trade to intermarriage, would have taken place with the native population.

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