When the Romans invaded Britain in AD 43, their most implacable enemy was Caractacus, the chief of the Catuvellauni tribe.

Caractacus was the overlord of all the tribes of south-eastern Britain. When the Roman army landed, led by Plautius, Caractacus gathered his warriors and headed south to meet them. The two armies met on the banks of the River Medway.

After two days of ferocious fighting, the Britons were forced to retreat. Caractacus turned to fight at the Thames, but was again beaten. His kingdom was conquered by Rome, but Caractacus was not.

He moved westwards with a warband of picked Catuvellauni warriors. For the next four years Caractacus launched numerous raids on Roman Britain. By AD 47 Caractacus had gathered a sizeable force and had gained the loyalty of the western tribes. He launced them in a major attack on the Romans. The new Governor, Ostorius, only managed to push Caractacus back with difficulty.

The next year, Ostorius launched a Roman attack, only to fail when faced by a fresh attack by Caractacus' Britons.

The strong charismatic leadership of Caractacus held the free tribes of Britons together while his careful planning launced them on a series of successful attacks which the Romans could barely withstand.

In AD 51, Caractacus was betrayed to the Romans by the queen of the Brigantes tribe. He was taken to Rome in chains and paraded through the streets by the Emperor Claudius. His capture was a great victory and the Romans were determined to make the most of it. The last word though belonged to Caractacus. Gazing at the mighty temples and palaces of Rome he asked the Emperor: "Why, when you have all this, did you want my poor hut?"

The curious thing about Celtic history is that it cannot be easily seperated from Celtic myth.

Caractacus appears in the Mabinogion as Caradoc or Caradawg ap Bran, the son of Bedigedfran ap Llyr, the god-like king of Britain who is mortally wounded but possess a cauldron of rebirth. This Caradawg is betrayed by Caswallawn ap Beli, a rival for the throne of Britain in the Roman era--according to the Britons. History, of course, is at odds with this.

According to the triads, this Caradawg was taken prisioner by Eurowyssod (the real-life general and governor Ostorius, who defeated the real Caractacus), along with his father and grandfather, King Llyr (King Lear). Once in Rome, according to the triads, the three were converted to Christianity, and once released, brought the religion back to Britain. This is obviously a later confusion with the Joseph of Arimathia legend, wherein Joseph is imprisoned by the Roman emperor Valerian, only to be given the cup of the last supper and be released (c.f. Gospel of Nicodemus). Robert de Boron's Le Roman du Graal later had Joseph traveling to Britain with his brother-in-law Brons, who became the Fisher King of the grail legend. This Brons is of course Bran (Bedigedfran).

Upon returning to Britain, Caradawg's aunt Branwen is married to the king of Ireland, touching off the events of "Branwen uerch Llyr" in The Mabinogion. While his father is at war in Ireland, Caradawg and his companions hide from the usurper Caswallawn, who dons a magic invisibility cloak and kills his companions. Caradawg dies of a broken heart from all the destruction, and thus Caswallawn becomes king of Britain, as King Bendigedfran is now dead also.

The real Caswallawn--Cassibellanus--actually lived about a hundred years earlier, and was the chieftain who lost to Julius Caesar. And as we can see from the above w/u, we know what happened to poor Caractacus.

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