It is the re-match of the millennium – Roman Britains will take on Ancient Romans in Euro 2020 in Londinium again, this time on Sunday 11 July, just a day or two before the birthday of Julius Caesar, who was born on 12 or 13 July in 100 BC.
Caesar first landed on the shore of Ancient Britain on 26 August 55 BC – unwisely he arrived with only two legions and got no farther than Kent. However, he was so taken with the green, temperate island that he returned in 54 BC with a 2,000-strong cavalry and five legions. A legion at full strength was approximately 6,000 men – the population of Britain when Caesar arrived was around 300,000, with 60,000 living in London.
Caesar made it to London this time – and despite opposition led by the military leader Cassivellaunas, he eventually conquered Britain and added it to the Roman Republic. Caesar was not an emperor, however, but a military leader and statesman. The empire officially came into being after his murder in 44 BC, after which his successor was Octavian, his adopted son and great nephew, who became Rome’s first emperor, taking the name Augustus.
The Roman Empire was actually established in 27 BC – seventeen years after Caesar’s death – and continued until 476 AD, when it fell into decay and was finally laid to rest by the Goths and Vandals.
This could well be good news for Britannia when they face the Romans in Euro 2020 on Saturday.
We have already seen how Gareth Southgate has turned out to be a right little Emperor Trajan in guiding his troops to victory against Ukraine (formerly the Dacians) and the Early Danes (probably unknown to ancient Rome, apart from trading).
But you would think that Roman Britons meeting their ancient conquerors again, even over a game of football, might be a bad omen. However, when the Roman Britons begged the then Emperor Honorious for help in 410 AD after suffering attacks by the Saxons and Picts, Rome (and what we now know as Italy) were both being sacked by the Goths, leaving Britain to fend for itself. If Britannia had suffered a bloody conquest by Rome, the future held a whole panoply of bloody invaders, including the Saxons, Angles, Jutes and Frisians, the Vikings, the Normans, the Plantagenets (both French – Richard III was a Plantagenet), followed by the Tudors (very bloody Welshmen), the Stewarts (Scottish-English-Irish), the German House of Hanover and the German House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (yes, those Goths again, this time mainly from Crimea).]
Turning out for England on Sunday – Julius Caesar, William the Conqueror and King Henry VIII (Images Wikimedia )
Through the centuries, Britain’s conquerors disseminated their own gene pools – many Britons today are direct descendants of the the bloody Norman ruler William the Conqueror (King William I of England) and the Tudors and Plantagenets, as well as the Stewarts and Hanoverians; plus the Vikings and Goths. it is estimated that approximately one-quarter of the global population is descended from the Romans, including people from Africa and the Middle East, such was the length and breadth of the Roman Empire.
But it is little wonder that Britons are known as fierce warriors – the French left behind their notion of manners and a class system, in an attempt to refine us, but it is perhaps only Henry VIII who fell for it big time, when his eyes alighted upon the French-educated Anne Boleyn and her fancy ways.
Before the Roman invasion, Britain was mainly an agricultural land of tribal farmers – very similar to Rome, before the Roman Republic was established in 510 BC.
Contemporary Italians are also descended from the Northern Celts and the Romans, but with a wide mix of other European nations, including the Ancient Greeks, the Sabines, the Etruscans and others, such as the Goths and Vandals – Germanic peoples. The Vandals originated from the area now known as Southern Poland. After the Third Sack of Rome in 409/410 AD, many citizens of Rome fled the city to Africa, Egypt and the East. The first King of Rome is supposed to be the mythological founder of Rome, Romulus, who killed his twin Remus. After the Vandals sacked the Roman Empire, in 476 AD the Germanic Barbarian leader Odoacer declared himself First King of Italy, replacing the last Western Roman emperor Romulus Augustulus, who was ruling as a child emperor.
So who will be meeting who on the pitch on Saturday for the finals of Euro 2020?
On the one side, Italy: Ancient Romans, Celts, Ancient Greeks, Sabines, Etruscans, Goths, Vandals, Afro-Caribbean, Asian and Middle Eastern peoples and other ancient Indo-European nations.
On the other side, Britain: Romans, Celts, Picts, Saxons, Vikings, Normans, Plantagenets, Tudors, Stewarts (now called Stuarts), Hanoverians, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha Germans, Afro-Caribbean, Asian and Middle Eastern peoples.. And not to forget Boudicca and her Iceni tribe.
The Romans loved to gamble and placed bets on anything and everything. They also loved nothing more than a visit to a soothsayer or a prophetess to tell them whether they would be triumphant in their conquests. We may not be able to visit the ancient oracle of Delphi today for an answer, however, as Roman emperors like Hadrian did.
But let battle commence – Ancient Britons Vs Romans. The most anticipated re-match in history, perhaps. Place your bets now et bona fortuna tibi!
Featured Image: Tre Leoni Pizzeria, Venice, Italy
All images copyright A. Meredith except where stated