The Roman governor Agricola’s reception of an Irish prince in AD81 indicates that the army was well aware of the Irish problem, and Rome’s decision to reject his advice for the annexation of Ireland was to have appalling consequences.
With Scotland unsubdued and British refugees reaching Ireland’s shores with the warning ‘Us today, you tomorrow!’ Irish forces persistently joined Pictish resistance to imperial control.
Rome’s policy of trying to establish treaty relations with tribes north of Hadrian’s Wall was matched by similar attempts in Ireland. Traditional Irish history, largely dismissed nowadays as the imaginings of a later age, speaks of just such a process, with the almost inevitable emergence of pro- and anti-Roman alliances.
In The Limits of the Habitable World what we learn from Roman accounts converges with what we are told in Irish tradition. The result is an extraordinary but entirely credible story of how Rome extended its control over the Britain and how it intervened in Ireland.
© David Leedham 2011
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