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Battle of the Medway

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For the battle of the Second Anglo-Dutch War, see Raid on the Medway.

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Battle of the Medway

Part of the Roman conquest of Britain

Date 43
Location A river in south eastern England, probably in
Result Roman victory


Roman Empire British tribes

Commanders and leaders

Aulus Plautius, Togodumnus,

Galba, Caratacus

Titus Flavius Sabinus,

Gnaeus Hosidius Geta,



45,000 150,000

Casualties and losses

850 5,000


Roman invasion and
occupation of Britain

Caesar's invasions (5554 BC)

Conquest of Britain(4376 AD)


Capture of Camulodunon

Caer Caradoc


Boudica's uprising (6061 AD)


Watling Street

Scotch Corner (71 AD)

Mons Graupius (83 AD)

Siege of Burnswark (140 AD)

Caledonia (208210 AD)

Carausian Revolt (286296 AD)

Usurpation of Magnentius (350353 AD)

Carausius II (354358 AD)

Great Conspiracy (367368 AD)

Usurpation of Magnus Maximus (383388 AD)

Stilicho's Pictish War (398 AD)

Usurpation of Marcus (406407 AD)

Usurpation of Gratian (407 AD)

Usurpation of Constantine III (407411 AD)

The Battle of the Medway took place in 43 AD, probably on the River Medway in the lands
of the Iron Age tribe of the Cantiaci, now the English county of Kent. Other locations for the
battle have been suggested but are less likely. This was an early battle in the Claudian
invasion of Britain, led by Aulus Plautius.


4See also
On the news of the Roman landing, the British tribes united to fight them under the
command of Togodumnus and his brother Caratacus of the Catuvellauni tribe. After losing
two initial skirmishes in eastern Kent, the natives gathered on the banks of a river further
west to face the invaders.
At the same time, the Romans received the surrender of the Dobunni tribe in western
Britain. The Dobunni were subjects of the Catuvellauni, and this diplomatic gain was
probably a blow to native morale and manpower.

There was no bridge over the river where the battle was fought, so a detachment of
specially-trained Roman auxiliaries (described by Cassius Dio, the only contemporary
source for the battle, as "Celtic") swam across the river and attacked the
natives' chariot horses. In the chaos that followed, the bulk of the invasion force
spearheaded by Legio II Augusta under Vespasian crossed the river, under the overall
command of Titus Flavius Sabinus. The natives were taken by surprise at how fully armed
legionaries were able to cross the river, and Peter Salway has stated even Dio seems
taken aback. The Romans were unable to press on to victory immediately, and the first day
of fighting ended without a result. During the second day, a daring attack led by Gnaeus
Hosidius Geta almost led to the Roman officer being captured. His troops retaliated,
however, and put the Britons to flight. Geta was awarded a triumph for securing victory, a
rare honour for someone who had not been consul. Given the primary roles taken by Geta
and Sabinus on different days, it has been suggested by the historian Malcolm Todd that
the Romans were operating as two, or possibly three, battle groups.
Such a long battle was unusual in ancient warfare, and it is likely that the Romans defeated
a significant native force. The Britons fell back to the Thames, where they were afforded a
greater strategic advantage.

Dio does not name the battle's location, nor the river, but its site is claimed to be on the
Medway. The Romans would have used existing trackways as they moved west
from Richborough, and the most well-travelled prehistoric trackway would have been the
route of the later Pilgrims' Way, which forded the Medway at Aylesford. Other theories,
however, note that the river is narrow enough at Aylesford not to pose significant difficulties
in crossing, and place the battle closer to Rochester, where a large Iron Age settlement
stood at the time. Further evidence of a more northerly possible location is at Bredgar,
where a hoard of Roman coins from the period was found and has been interpreted as a
Roman officer's savings buried for safekeeping before a battle. This hoard could, however,
post-date the battle by as much as 20 years. Possibly the Romans followed the future route
of Watling Street to the battle, although its role as a pre-Roman communications route is
not certain.

See also[edit]

Frere, S., Britannia (Routledge, 1987)
Salway, P., Roman Britain (Oxford University Press, 1986)
Todd, M., Roman Britain (Fontana, 1985)
Coordinates: 51.440N 0.742E
1st-century conflicts
Battles involving the Roman Empire
Battles involving the Britons
Military history of Roman Britain
1st century
1st century in Great Britain
40s in the Roman Empire