Roman Hostage-Taking; After Caesar’s Invasion of Celtic Britain; Part 7—Apollo’s Raven

(ll. 131-132) ”The lyre and the curved bow shall ever be dear to me (Apollo), and I will declare to men the unerring counsel of Zeus.’ Homeric Hymn to Apollo, god of music, shooting, and divination (foresight and knowledge of the future)


The unpublished epic historical fantasy [1st novel: APOLLO’S RAVEN; 2nd novel: RAVEN’S FIRE] is envisioned to be a trilogy [Spirit Warrior Chronicles] set in Celtic Britain, Gaul (modern day France) and Ancient Rome prior to the invasion of Claudius in 43 AD. The trilogy begins in 24 AD when the heroine Catrin—a Celtic spirit warrior—begins a perilous odyssey that starts in southeast Britain (modern day Kent), ventures into Gaul, and finally ends in Rome where she must overcome slavery before she returns to her homeland.

This is Part 7 of historical and archaeological evidence supporting the theory that Julius Caesar’s invasion in 55-54 BC helped establish Celtic dynasties in southeast Britain loyal to Rome. Political unrest of rival tribal rulers in 24 AD provides the backdrop for the trilogy where Catrin meets the great-grandson of Marc Antony and is destined to become a warrior queen.

Pebble Beach Deal UK

Shingle Beach, Deal, UK; Landing Site Julius Caesar 55 – 54 BC

Hostage Taking Under Augustus

The previous posts highlighted the importance that Julius Caesar placed on retaining several hostages from the most powerful Celtic tribes in 54BC Britain for his political advancement. Emperor Augustus continued the strategy of exercising authority over hostages in the belief their thinking about the Roman Empire could be altered as follows:

  • Realign  loyalties by accepting hostages as wards in an extended Roman family headed by the paterfamilias, Roman father
  • Acculturate hostages in the Roman culture by offering formal, controlled education

Realign Loyalties

The historian Strabo stressed Britain kings came to Rome to pay obeisance to Emperor Augustus, practically giving the entire island to the Romans. In the Res Gestae, Augustus listed kings who had bowed to him in search of some kind of assistance, including the British king Dumnobellaunus. Based on ancient coinage, the Celtic king ruled northeast Kent before being supplanted by Cunobeline of the Catuvellauni tribe. Dumnobellaunus fled Britain in 7 AD to join the growing community of refuge British princes living in Rome. With the acquisition of the territory of the Trinovantes tribe, Cunobeline governed from Camulodunum (modern Colchester) for more than thirty years and issued a series of gold, silver, and bronze coins. The Romans came to regard him as Britannorum Rex, the king of the Britons.

Roman Fort Celtic Britain

Richborough Ruins Kent UK Landing Site Roman Invasion 43 AD

Augustus emphasized he did not need to fight these outlying countries because he could further Rome’s interest by sheer intimidation. An example of this is mentioned by Augustus in Res Gestae where he says the children of a Parthian king were given to him out of friendship. Augustus bragged he controlled the eastern states to such an extent that he could appoint their kings from among the batches of heirs who had surrendered. These heirs probably included the Parthian King’s children who resided with Augustus. The historian Seutonius reported Augustus once appeared with the Parthian children in public at the theater.

Gallo Roman Museum Mosaic

Roman Mosaic Gallo Roman Museum Lyon France

The ironic message of peaceful conquest was further articulated at the mausoleum complex of the sculpted frieze that depicts a procession of senators and members of the imperial family. As can be seen in the photograph below, there is a bare-footed child who looks distinctly Celtic in a short tunic, with long curly hair and a twisted torque necklace around his neck. This boy may represent a “barbarian” from Western Europe. It is theorized that this child may have been a prince of Gaul who was accepted by Augustus when he visited Lugdunum (modern day Lyon). The altar’s message is the children were in Rome as a result of peace and had come to him “not conquered by Rome.”

Celtic Child in Roma Ara Pacis Procession Nord Particolare

Celtic child in Frieze of Ara Pacis Augustae (Altar of Augustan Peace)

Acculturate Hostages

Acculturation of hostages into the Roman culture included offering a formal, controlled education. Loyalties could be realigned by placing hostages, viewed as helpless and savage, into an environment that taught them about Roman’s culture. The initial fear turns to sympathy, which grows into an appreciation of the captors. The younger the hostage, the more likely the transference. The longer a hostage is detained, the more likely he will identify with his captor. By holding hostages for years and by judiciously applying the threat of violence with a promise of salvation, the Romans essentially invited the hostage to collaborate with them.


The role of hostages probably played a role in Rome’s influence over Britain. Most likely, some of the British princes were formally educated by the Romans as described above.

The next series of posts will focus on the rise of client kings loyal to Rome and the subsequent rivalry between tribal kings that, in part, precipitated the Roman invasion in 43 AD.


Julius Caesar, translated by F. P. Long, 2005. The Conquest of Gaul; United States: Barnes & Noble, Inc.

John Peddie, Conquest: The Roman Invasion of Britain; Reprinted 1997 by St. Martin’s Press, New York.

Graham Webster, The Roman Invasion of Britain; Reprinted 1999 by Routledge, New York.

Fritz Graf, Apollo; Published 2009 by Routledge, New York.

10 thoughts on “Roman Hostage-Taking; After Caesar’s Invasion of Celtic Britain; Part 7—Apollo’s Raven

  1. “Always do right. This will gratify some people, and astonish the rest.” Mark Twain
    You have done this website “Right”! Very good job. I enjoy it. Tom


  2. Hi Linnea! It was so fun reading this post. I really enjoy reading history and historical fiction, so I’m looking forward to reading your books. You picked a compelling people and era to explore!


  3. What a fascinating post. I don’t know too much about Britain’s ancient history and have a general idea of Rome’s conquest of the country. The leaders of Rome were quite clever in developing ties among the local inhabitants to ensure their dominion. Your paragraph on Acculturate Hostages is something that still happens today, sadly.
    Looking forward to your next post 😀


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