Pre-Roman Kent

Nov 2010
At the time of Caesar's invasion of Britain he records that Kent, or Cantium as he called it, was divided into four regions each ruled by its own king. These kings were, Segovax, Carvilius, Cingetorix, and Taximagulus. Caesar commented that the people of Kent were by far the most civilised of the island; that they were a maritime people; and that they differed very little in their customs from the Gauls.

In the time between Ceasar's expedition and Claudius' invasion, the kings of Kent began to issue coins. From these coins we can determine Kent was ruled by five kings: Dubnovellaunus, Vosenius, Eppillus, Cunobelinus, and Adminius.

Does anybody know anything more about these kings, these people, and Kent before the Romans conquered?
Feb 2011
Perambulating in St James' Park
"Of these, the inhabitants of Kent are honorably mentioned by Caesar. "Of all these people, by far the most civilized are those inhabiting the maritime country of Cantium, who differ little in their manners from the Gauls."—Bell. Gall. v. 14."


That's all I could find from Tacitus, as a Man of Kent I'd be interested to find out more though.

Jan 2011
From Timothy Darvill's Prehistoric Britain:

Settlements continued to develop along the lines established in the fifth to first centuries BC. Farmsteads and villages were the main centres of occupation, some enclosed and some not. However, a few settlements stand out as being rather different from the others. They are generally much larger, and tend to be situated in river valleys. They are richer in terms of traded artefacts than contemporary small sites, suggesting that the occupants had greater involvement in foreign trade. Five such sites can be recognized, Skeleton Green (Braughing) and Verulamium, Hertfordshire, Camulodunum (Colchester), Essex, Canterbury, Kent and Silchester, Hampshire. These sites are generally called oppida in deference to a term used by Caesar in his commentaries... In Kent, potin coins (silver-bronze alloy) were made... Evidence for the fact that the oppida were heavily involved in trade and commerce may be found in the fact that small-denomination coins are more common at such sites that the larger denomination issues which John Collis has shown cluster on rural settlementes round about... (pp. 169-170)
Looks like they definately had more contact with the Gauls on the continent than the rest of the Britons at that time...

I would bet that those kings spent most of their time in competition over control of trade, on both land and sea, and as middlemen were richer than their other neighbors. The abundance of coins in association with these sites makes sense in that context too.
Jan 2011
The same book I mentioned above also notes that there is evidence that their settlements were different than other Briton settlements in that they were constructed in a rectangular style similar to the Gauls' settlements. Also, the Romans tended to plant their towns (when they did come) on these oppida sites more frequently than they did other, less-developed, settlement sites across Britain.
Jul 2008
This is a little something that I had posted a long while ago, hopefully it may answer some of your questions.

Coins were first introduced into North Western Europe by returning mercenaries who had fought in the wars of Phillip II of Macedonia. The majority of the coins, gold staters had the head of Apollo on the obverse and a two-horse chariot on the reverse. When the tribes of the upper Danube, the upper Rhine and in northern Gaul, decided to mint their own coin. It was these images that was used on the native produced coins, the imagery was to remain remarkably conservative, with small regional variations till Roman incursions into Gaul.

At the close of Caesars wars Roman coins came to be used, but in Southern Britain coinage can tell a lot about the social and political changes affecting the region. So a short note on what Late Iron Age coinage can tell us about the social and political life in the core area of Britain between 100 BC and 43 AD. Hope it is of interest.

The south east of Britain, the core area of late pre-Roman Iron Age experienced a social, economic and political revolution between 100 BC and the Claudian invasion. Coinage of the period can provide evidence for these changes, Belgic coinage entered Britain alongside other artefacts such as amphora’s. It is important to note that there was two types of coinage in use in the late Iron Age, over time there usage changed as did there iconography and metallic content. The catalyst for the change was the Gallic war and Caesars British incursion of 54 BC. These events would fundamentally change tribal society in the south east of Britain.

Coinage of any quantity was first introduced into Britain from the middle to late second century BC. These imported gold coins predominantly originated from Belgic Gaul, roughly the area between the Seine and the Rhine. These Gallo-Belgic coins have been divided into six types, A to F, which entered Britain in a series of waves between 120 to 50 BC. It was not long after that native Britain gold coins also appeared, based on the style of the continental imports. It is generally believed that Gallo-Belgic A-D found there way to Britain during the century or so before Caesars Gallic campaigns, and the E-F type represent the war coinage of the period 60-50 BC.
  Caesar comments that envoys had told him that within living memory Divicaus, King of the Suessiones had controlled not only a large part of Gaul but Britain as well. Caesar also informs us that Britons had fought in most of the Gallic wars. The impression of close diplomatic ties across the channel are apparent. It must be remembered that waterways were major transportation routes; it would have been easier to have travelled from the south east coastal regions to France than it would to travel overland into the interior of Britain. It may well be that the tribes of the core region of Britain had more cultural and political affiliation with the continental Belgic tribes than with the British tribes of the hinterland.

   Given the designs inscribed on the coins and there clear religious iconography it can be assumed that the coins had a religious significance. It could be speculated that the image of the horse is related to Celtic Kingship in some sacred way. If coins had a religious as well as asocial relevance then it may be that the priestly caste (Druids) had a responsibility for the iconography and also directly involved in the production of coins. These coins show a remarkable degree of conservatism; each new issue closely followed its predecessor until felated coinage covered much of lowland Britain. An incremental change took place from issue to issue, each clearly refers back to the last, whilst also displaying a tiny but limited degree of innovation. This early Gallic- Belgic gold coinage represents one long related series.
Coin imports of Gallo-Belgic A & B are rare in East Kent but more common to the North and West. Imports into East Kent only began to increase in the early first century BC with Gallo Belgic C. The Gallo-Belgic E is found in abundance on both sides of the channel and is understood to be the coinage of the Belgic confederacy minted to pay for the war against Caesar. At the end of the Gallic war Celtic gold coinage had disappeared on the continent, to be superseded by silver and bronze coins of the Roman Empire.

Next we come to what I really want to talk about, The Celtic Kings and how we can tell who was in charge where and when. Having set out the stall so to speak, we know that Gallo-Belgic coins were circulating in Southern Britain for 50 years before Caesar, that they had no inscriptions and there iconography is indicative of religious symbolism. We now turn to indigenous coinage, the earliest coins in Britain were produced in Kent; the Thurrock potin series. These coins required a very different method to the die struck continental coins, molten alloy was poured into moulds joined by runners and when cooled broken apart. These coins had no or very little monetary value, there is debate as to there purpose, I would view them as votive offerings for the peasantry, small tokens that could be offered to the gods. The Thurrock coins were replaced by flat linear I and later by type II, these are of particular note as it has been suggested that the manufacture of the iconography of the coins were produced with the aid of papyrus. If this is so why was there papyrus in Britain in 50BC if not for the use of writing, this could be evidence for literacy in Britain before the Claudian takeover.

These coins were again supplanted by cast bronze coins, the development of bronze coins in Kent indicates a degree of sophistication not evident in the rest of Southeastern Britain, and echo’s Caesars comment that ‘By far the most civilised inhabitants are those living in Kent’ Within a decade or so of the end of the Gallic War the first inscribed native British coins appeared. These coins were a significant departure from what went before. The new coins would bear inscriptions naming local rulers, and would develop a new aesthetic imagery based on the classical imperial coinage of the Roman Empire. Not only were they a contrast to previous imagery it is believed that earlier gold coins in circulation were withdrawn and reminted, signifying a prodigious shift in the political and/or religious arrangements in southern Britain.
Following Caesars incursions into southern Britain in 54 BC the pro- roman tribes including the Trinovantes gained a monopoly over the importation of prestigious Roman imports such as wine. These were either traded out or used in gift exchange to the outlying tribal units. Kent fell outside this area of monopoly, most probably becourse of the fierc Kentish opposition to Caesars incursions. It is against this background that one sees the very beginnings of the development of oppida’s . It is indicative of a society moving into a market economy and it may be that the trace finds of the coinage is evidence for a politically more independent Kent than the coinage suggests, it may be that following the suppression of Gaulish currency it may have been expedient for Kentish folk to have used any currency that was most acceptable
    The first coin to bear an inscribed name was that of Commius, possibly the same Atrebates King mentioned by Caesar, this was followed by the issuing of dynastic coinage, firstly by Tincomarus, who seems to have held power in the southern half of the Atrebates territory, (may by as firstly a subking under his father, allow it is also possible that the extent of his coinage may have been hampered by a power struggle in the northern part of the kingdom). His coins are at first ‘Celtic’ in style, but by the late first century BC a dramatic change took place in the stylistic portrayal of his coinage. It was Tincomarus who is first accredited with the new imperialistic style, probably made from melted down Roman denarii, ( metallic content is comparable to Roman coinage, ‘Celic coinage was somewhat debased). This would suggest that by this time the social and political prestige of possession of coinage had changed to prestige of production.

This is where we can see the emergence of tribal elite into the historical record. In the north of the Atrebates territory Eppillus struck coins proclaiming himself King of Calleva (Silchester), maybe a brother or relation of Tincomarus. Around 10 AD the Atebates are united under Verica, who issued a long series of coins, mostly displaying motifs of classical designs and inscribed gemstones. he reigned for several decades and succumbed in the mid to late 30’s Ad to invaders from north of the Thames. It is interesting to note that all of the aforementioned mentioned on there coins that they were decended from the original Atrebatic King Commius (sometime friend of Caesar) proclaiming dynastic lineage.
  At the same time as this was happening in the country to the west of Kent, to the north of the Thames was the territories of the Trinovantes and Catuvellauni. Now it is difficult to understand the relationship between these two tribal groupings, but as there cultural trappings are pretty much the same one could conclude that the tribal elites co-existed on a near equinity. What is known is that coinage was minted in the names of Addedomaros and Tasciovanus, both of who used classical designs. Tasciovanus styled himself TASCI RICON or RICOIN, possably equivalent to the Latin REX. Emphasizing his position as tribal over king. He may have had a number of subordinate kings who also issued coinage (again emphasising prestige of production). The name of these sub kings were Andoco, Sego, Dias and Ries. Addedomaros was followed by Dubnovellaunus , and Tasciovanus was followed Cunobelin, who on some of his coina styled himself son of Tasciovanus.

It was this Cunobelin who united the two tribes and was recognised as the ruler of Southern Britain by the Romans. It was these dynastic houses that had the most direct impact on the four sub kingdom of Kent and who were the regional power players when the origins of Canterbury were being laid, power play between the two big boys; Atribates to the West and the Catuvellauni in the North, poor little Kent in the middle and the Romans haven even got here yet

From about 15AD power seems to have changed in Kent, with the rise of Cunobelin, attested in Roman sources as Britannorum Rex. This is bourn out by his coinage which has a wider and more even distribution across the southeast than any other inscribed dynastic issues. The stylistic differences in the coins suggests that they were not produced in the Camulodunum mint; and that there was a mint in the East of Kent producing middle to low denomination coins. The final coins to be produced in Kent were those of Amminus, probably Amminus the son of Cunobelin who fled to Emperor Gaius in about 39 AD.

It was during this time line that the Hillforts of the old Celtic tribal areas fell into disuse and the emergence of open and undefended oppida such as Canterbury. Some hill forts did continue for some time such as Oldbury and Bigbury but thay may be considered as evolved enclosed oppida. The development of oppida is matched by the development of coinage.
In the mid to late Iron Age weaponry and large metal objects as well as coins are found as votive deposits at boundary areas, such as bogs rivers and lakes, 71% of finds are from such sites, with the remainder coming from settlement sites. With the advent of the new coinage the find sited change proportionately; with between 70% gold and 77 % of silver and potin coins coming from settlement sites. Significant deposits of votive offerings are now found on the oppida sited within the boundaries of the new architectural temple sites. . Allow called Romano-British the temples were being built before the ‘official’ arrival of the Romans. I would suggest that society was already changing before Romans came. That the power of the druids was in decline and that new styles of government had emerged


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