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Celtic Tribes

The main tribes in the southern part of Britain during the 1st century BC were, the Catuvellauni, in Middlesex and North London, the Atrebates, in what is now South London and Surrey, the Cantiaci in Kent and the Trinovantes in Essex.

With the proximity of these tribes, there is interaction, mainly dealing with power struggles regarding leadership.

The Catulleaunians

The leader of the Catulleaunian tribe, Cassivellaunus, was instrumental in organising the resistance to Caesar’s invasion of 54 BC. Although other tribes had their local kings, Cassivellaunus was regarded as the overlord.

Cassivellaunus ordered the local Cantiaci Kings to attack Caesar’s camp. However, the attack failed and Caesar continued his advance. Cassivellaunus finally sent ambassadors to Caesar to treat for surrender, hostages were exchanged and Caesar returned to Rome.

The Catulleaunians continued to be one of the leading tribes up till the Roman occupation.

At the beginning of the 1st century AD, their leader, Cunobelinus, expanded his kingdom by taking over the Trinovante, and incorporating the Cantiaci into his Catuvellanuni kingdom. He appointed Dubnovellaunus, a Trinovante, as King of East Kent cAD17.

Just prior to the end of Cunobelinus’ reign, he appointed one of his sons, Adminius, as King of East Kent c 37AD and Dubnovellaunus was expelled.

Cunobelinus had other sons, two of whom, Togodumnus and Caratacus, took over his kingdom. They were against Rome and encouraged anti-Roman feeling throughout the south-east. Around c41AD, Caratacus took over Kent and removed Adminius from his throne. Adminius fleed to Rome. Caratacus also removes Verica of the Atrebates around the same time.

In 43 AD, Aulus Pautius landed at Richborough, and won a decisive victory over Caratacus on the River Medway. Caratacus was finally defeated.

The Atrebates

During the period c 25BC to 7AD, Tincommius, was King of the Atrebates. His kingdom stretched into parts of what is now west Kent.

Around 1BC, Cunobelinus decided to expel Tincommius, King of the Atrebates, for being pro-Roman. His brother Eppillus, took over the throne.

Around 41AD, Verica was King of the Atrebates, his kingdom also extended into Kent. Cunobelinus' son, Caratacus, deposed Verica who fleed to Rome to ask for assistance in gaining back his kingdom.


The Trinovante King, Imanuentius, was killed by Cassivellaunus, Mandubratius, his son fled to Caesar to ask for protection and he joined Caesar’s second expedition to Britain in 54BC.

Cunobelinus appointed Dubnovellaunos, a Trinovante, as King of East Kent, however, he was expelled, c17AD, for being pro-Roman.


The Cantiaci occupied the north and east of Kent. The first kings were recorded by Caesar in his war commentaries, when Cassivellaunus, leader of the Catulleaunians sent messengers into Kent to four kings: Cingetorix, Carvilius, Taximagulus and Segonas, and ordered them to gather their men and attack Caesar’s camp. The attack failed and one of their war leaders captured.

Caesar reports that the most civilized of all the tribal nations are those who inhabit Kent, their ways being similar to Gallic customs.

Following the initial Roman invasions, in 55 and 54 BC, Britain was left in peace for nearly 100 years, continuing to build trade links with Rome.

The sons of Cunobelinus, Togodumnus and Caratacus, encouraged anti-Roman feelings in the south-east. They stop paying tribute to Rome and they first expel their brother, the pro-Roman ruler Adminius from Kent and then Verica from Surrey in c41AD. Adminius and then Verica flee to Rome for assistance and finally this gives Claudius the excuse to refocus on Britain.

In 43AD, Claudius sent a Roman expedition led by Aulus Plautius. They sailed from Portus Itius (Boulogne) and landed at Rutupia, which at this time is an island in Wantsum Strait (which separated the Isle of Thanet from the mainland of Kent and formed a harbour at Richborough).