Caradoc - Hero of Ancient Britain


Many years ago, the island nation currently known as Great Britain was a much more primitive place. Some of the oldest literature about this part of the world is written by Celtic tribal peoples and by the immortal Roman historian Tacitus.

At this time the Angle, Saxon, and Jute tribes had not yet moved onto the island. It was inhabited by an ancient people called the Britons. The land was covered with swamps, fields, and great forests. Dangerous wild animals roamed the island freely, as well as wild cattle.

The Britons lived in huts built from sticks and mud. Sheep and horses were stockaded within small tribal villages. Ditches were dug around these settlements to protect the villagers from both man and beast. For these wild people had made a tradition out of fighting each other.

The Britons had predominantly blue eyes, and many accounts by Romans remarked at how common red and blonde hair was among those who inhabited the entire island. The Britons wore skins from local animals they routinely hunted, especially during the snowy winters so regularly endured. It was a wild and free land with much natural beauty. A beauty that these people lived in for the entirety of their lives. They were a noble and brave culture with strong traditions and tribal identities.

One thousand miles away lie the Italian peninsula. An arduous journey over seas, across plains, through enormous mountains, over rivers, and through forests. Here stood what was at the time the most powerful and enlightened civilization the world had ever seen. The Roman Empire stood with an army of 25 legions with 5,000 men each.

The Romans lived an economically and technologically advanced lifestyle. But they were also an assertive and aggressive culture that valued conquest and domination. These traits consistently lead them out of their land and into others, including the land of the Britons. Even this land, being colder, darker, and much less advanced was attractive to the Roman empire.

The Romans had already at this time conquered all the lands around their home territory when Claudius became emperor. But Claudius was anxious to achieve his own conquests and to prove his prowess as an emperor. Knowing that the Britons were a fierce and brave people made them all the more attractive of an opponent. Claudius sent an army of forty thousand men towards them lead by two skillful generals.

When the tribes of Southern Briton looked across the sea and saw it covered with Roman vessels, they knew they would have to fight the worlds most powerful army in order to defend their land, not to mention their freedom and way of life. The Romans were there to conquer all that they could. The Britons watched with anger and horror as each Roman legion disembarked from their vessels. Brightly polished armor and weaponry shining in the sunlight. As well as the bronze and silver eagles carried in front of each legion. At the same time however, they were greatly encouraged by the stories told by their elders of the time when they had previously defeated the Romans when they were lead by Julius Caesar.

Word was sent to all of the tribes that they must defend their common homeland at all cost. Chiefs and their followers all resolved to fight to the last man.

Battles raged across the entire island. The Britons proved to be some of the fiercest warriors the Romans had ever had the pleasure to encounter. Great victories were won by both sides. The Romans were a disciplined and trained army. They had the best tactics and most advanced weaponry in the world. The Britons were wild and undisciplined. But they were fighting for their homeland and their way of life.

The most fearless chief among the Britons was Caradoc. The Romans called him Caractacus. When other chiefs, losing many battles, were forced to surrender, Caradoc fought on and refused to accept defeat. Fighting fiercely, he contested every advance made by the Romans, but was slowly pushed back towards the mountains of Wales.

Here he gathered together the most determined warriors in all of Britain. Word spread of the ferocity of Caradoc and warriors came from far and wide in his support. Here they gathered and for nearly nine years held the Romans back. The Britons knew their land well. The Romans, being in an unfamiliar land, came to suspect every forest and hillside as being full of Briton warriors.

As hard as the Romans tried they could not reach Caradoc in this wild and unfamiliar land. Caradoc would continuously and relentlessly sweep down from the mountains. The Romans would at a moments notice be faced with a band of red headed warriors screaming war cries and firing arrows before they smashed into Roman camps swinging swords and wreaking havoc. And as soon as they had appeared they vanished back into the forested mountains from which they had came, the Romans having little time to retaliate.

As years of war raged on, the Romans accepted that they would never defeat their foe so long as they had Caradoc as their leader. Knowing this, the Romans assembled a large army and marched it directly towards the daring chief's camp. Nine years the Romans had been held off. Now each side saw the opportunity to break their enemy. The Romans thought of their army as so vast that none could defeat them. The Britons saw their courage proven so many times over that now was the time to defeat and drive out the enemy from their homeland.

Armies met on the border of Wales.

The Britons saw their enemy on the plain below. A tumultuous river rushing through it by the side of a steep hill. Caradoc ordered his men to take up a position on the adjacent hill. All night long the Britons worked to fortify their position, piling up walls of stone.

Morning came and the Roman army was seen with legions taking position. Bronze eagles at the head of each one. Armor and weapons once again gleaming in the morning sunlight.

Caradoc came forward. "Men of Britain," he said, "this day decides the fate of your country. Your liberty, or your eternal slavery, dates from this hour. Remember your brave ancestors, who drove the great Julius himself across the sea!"

So inspired were the Britons by these words that they responded with great shouting. Rushing down the hill, they slammed into the Roman army in the fury of battle. As more and more Romans came across the river, they were met with a courageous enemy. Many were swept away in the current. Others made it across to fight hand to hand with their enemy. The Britons took stones from their barricades to throw at the Roman legions as they marched up the steep hill. In spite of the ferocity of their defenders, the Romans advanced steadily up the hill. They passed the stone barriers. Covering themselves with shields, they continued their advance.

Soon it was obvious the Romans would be the victors of this battle. The Britton's bronze swords and wooden shields were no match for Roman weaponry and armor. Britons scattered in all directions. During the chaos, Caradoc's two brothers were taken captive, as well as his wife and daughter. Caradoc himself, being wounded and terribly weary, found refuge in the home of his mother in law. She covered him with a wolf skin, and he quickly fell asleep by the fire.

For a while the old woman sat and watched him. Her mind wandering. She grew respect for the conquering marauders who were laying ruin to her people's country. Soon wicked ideas began to stir in her mind. She somehow found ways to rationalize her evil thoughts. She soon saw her own hardships as more urgent than those of her country.

She ventured out of her home in search of any of the Roman army. Soon she came across two soldiers. She scurried around closer to them and hid in a grove of bushes. She whispered to them softly. Shocked, the Roman soldiers came closer. She whispered to them in what was to the Romans a strange and barbaric language. The old woman persisted. Soon the Romans understood what she was trying to tell them: That she knew where someone quite valuable to the Roman army was hiding.

"Well," said one of the soldiers, "show us where this man is hiding." Wicked selfishness came into the woman's face, "Wait just a moment," she said, "what will I receive in return?" The soldiers gave her one gold coin. "Not enough," she said. "For such a valuable enemy as this I deserve much more." The soldiers grew puzzled. "Caractacus" she said. Now the Roman soldiers knew this old woman had knowledge of the location of the army's most valued chieftain. "Come here," the soldiers said, "if this man is of so much value, you must come with us to meet our general."

The woman was delighted to do so. Being a general, this Roman was sure to be a rich man. And would no doubt give her a great deal in exchange for her betrayal. "Let us hurry," she said, "my captive is sure to wake soon…" The great general met with her and asked, "What have you of value to us old woman?" "A very great man, one who I will only surrender for a large sum of money." "You must tell us who it is first," said the general. "It is none other than Caradoc himself!" she shrilled. "That will do old woman," he said, cutting her short of what was to be a long and boastful speech. The Roman general soon gave her a fist full of gold coins. Her delight and greed blinded her from the contempt the Romans saw in her for betraying her countrymen. She thought proud of herself.

Swiftly she lead then army towards her home where Caradoc slept. The Roman soldiers burst in. He looked up at them, and into the eyes of his mother in law. He instantly understood. He stood up proudly and faced the soldiers and their general. They bound his legs and wrists with thick leather straps. The old woman left her hut, disappearing into the forest with her ill gotten gains. Soon she felt terrible remorse for her actions. And she was ashamed. Though she was the richest of all the Britons, she was never happy again for the rest of her life.

When Caradoc was delivered to the Roman prisoner camp he was joyously reunited with his wife and daughter. Weeping, they held each other. Caradoc tried his best to comfort them, and to encourage all his fellow prisoners. He implored them all to weather their captivity with bravery and courage, and to be strong men and women.

After his victory the Roman general returned to his country with Caradoc and the other prisoners. A voyage of what seemed like an eternity landed them in the strange and unknown shores of the Roman empire. Soon they marched into Rome as triumphant conquerors. The general paraded Caradoc and his other prisoners behind him as war prizes. Crowds of Romans cheered. The people were delighted that the wild island of Britain has at last been conquered. They shouted demeaning jeers at the captured Britons. Caradoc marched proudly, with his head held high. Unashamed of who he was and what he had done.

Some noticed him staring up into the clear blue sky and they asked him, "What are you thinking of?" He said, "I wonder, how a people such as you can possible envy my mud cottage and small fields so far away from this land in Northern Britain." The people of Rome began to feel ashamed that such a brave man as he should be put to death, as was the custom of the Roman empire.

Hearing this, the emperor whished to meet this great leader of the Britons. Caradoc and his wife were brought before emperor Claudius, who was adorned in purple and gold garments, and sat upon an ivory throne. Caradoc looked at the emperor with strong, brave, blue eyes, and did not appear dismayed. Claudius instantly thought of this as a truly great man. He asked him, "What do you think of Rome?" "I think it is a great and beautiful city," Caradoc replied, "and that its people are a great people."

"Do you know what this great people do to those who have been bold enough to resist their will?" asked the emperor.

"Yes," replied Caradoc simply "I am told that you put their leaders to death when you have captured them. And I wonder that a wise and great people like the Romans should have such a custom. After having defeated a man, what greater glory is to be won by putting him to death? It seems to me that it would be more worthy of the Roman people to spare him in order to show that they are generous as well as brave."

Claudius was so pleased with this wise and fearless response that he set Caradoc and his family free.

Originally published
Updated June 2020

  The Valiant Welshman by - 1615

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Caradoc - Hero of Ancient Britain

  • Keep on writing, great job!
  • Wake
    Thanks so much! I plan to keep on writing for years. My goal is to write at least one article per month.
  • Congratulations. Agrees with the Welsh versions I was taught at school in the 1930s and 40s and what I read and gathered afterwards. I am now interested in finding out how much effect would 350 year of Roman rule have had on the Britons and why was it that the Romano Britons were so complacent and lax to be overtaken by the pagan immigrant settlers from Saxony in c400B.C.
  • Gordon
    "The island nation currently known as England?!"
    That's funny; I live here, and we call it Great Britain.

  • Wake
    Thanks Gordon. I should have read my own title, where it was named Britain.
  • JD

    "every forrest and hillside" (forest)
    "the furry of battle" (fury)
    "He employed them all to weather their captivity with bravery and courage, and to be strong men and women" (implored? impelled?)
    "an ivory thrown" (throne)

  • Wake
    Thanks JD. This is one of the first articles I wrote for this website and I really need to rewrite it.
  • Mel
    This story does, at least, acknowledge that the tale of Julius Caesar conquering Britain is not true! JC was ejected more than once. It was Cartimandua who betrayed Caradoc.. in the time of Claudius. BTW… No celts in Britain which was named for Brutus, grandson of Anaeas of Troy. Anaeas also features in the story of the founding of Rome. I.e., the peoples were related. The Cymry were not ‘primitive’!
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