The British (2012) s01e01 Episode Script

Treasure Islands

Over 2,000 years they will forge a nation.
Dominate the globe and invent the modern world.
This is the story of how a small group of islands becomes a superpower.
The British.
This is our story.
AD 58.
A foraging party of Romans advance through the British woodland.
After 15 years of struggle, the world's most powerful army is bogged down on the border of modern day Wales.
A war with no sign of an end.
The Romans have stirred up a ferocious foe Our ancestors.
(YELLS IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE) The Romans consider Britain the land of barbarians.
I think there's a great deal of savagery in the British character.
There is an undercurrent, I think, of great potential for violence.
Their's is one of many invasions that will shape who we are.
If you look at the history of Britain, it's been infused with other influences and cultures from very, very early on in its history.
We British are mongrels.
We're Celtic and Saxon and Viking and Norman.
The island nature is terribly important.
The questing beyond the ocean has given us a wonderful reputation for discovery.
There's this island that is tiny in geographic terms, and punches, and has punched, and still punches, way above its weight.
There's something riotous in our spirit.
There's something antiauthoritarian.
The British are proud, tenacious people.
2,000 years of history and struggle, begins here, in the mud, fighting the mighty Roman army.
After nearly two decades of resistance Rome's patience finally snaps.
In AD 58 one of Rome's most feared generals lands on British soil.
General Suetonius Paulinus.
A man with a reputation for crushing insurgency.
(WAR CRY) Rome controls much of south-eastern Britain.
But the north and west remain beyond its grasp.
This is a land worth conquering.
Some of the most geologically rich islands in the world.
Cornish tin has been traded across Europe for centuries.
Iron in Kent and Sussex will make Roman weapons.
And one day arm the world's most powerful naval force.
Reserves of copper, silver and even gold.
A fertile land, kept warm and wet by the Gulf Stream.
And transformed into one of the most productive lands in Europe.
An ancient society wealthy enough to build Europe's most sophisticated stone-age monument.
Stonehenge is as ancient as Egypt's pyramids.
160 vast, sacred stones, many somehow hauled 125 miles from the Preseli Hills of Wales.
Aligned to the sun, renowned across Europe.
But now, in AD 60, Britons are fighting for their lives.
In north Wales, on the island of Anglesey, Celtic resistance thrives.
The island is a stronghold of the Druids, the religious leaders of Celtic society.
Druids are said to train for 20 years to become judges, advisors and priests.
For them, Anglesey is one of the most sacred corners of Britain.
The Romans take a darker view.
The Romans certainly view the main centre of Druidism in Britain, on the island of Anglesey, as effectively a kind of terrorist training camp for military operations.
The number one enemy the Romans faced, of course, were the Druids.
And the Romans were fully aware of how powerful the Druids were.
Their influence was the only really unifying feature in Britain.
The Druids foment resistance to the Roman invasion.
Now, 10,000 Roman soldiers march hundreds of miles across Britain to Anglesey.
In charge, General Paulinus.
Paulinus has made his name as a mountain warfare expert, perfectly equipped for the fight across north Wales.
But his reputation for brutality will provoke complaints from senators back in Rome.
The Roman historian Tacitus writes, "He proceeds against the vanquished even after "they have surrendered with excessive vigour.
" In Anglesey, Celtic fighters are preparing.
The Romans have learned to respect the warrior Britons.
Across Europe, Celtic warriors have a reputation as skilled horsemen and head hunters.
The decapitated heads of their enemies are prized war trophies, cut off and displayed after battle.
Britain is known for its warrior queens and the freedoms of its women.
Evidence suggests they could inherit both power and land.
The warrior woman, Mother Courage if you like, I think has always been a part of being a woman, the fierceness, the extreme passion or anger or fear that would make you defend your house and home and family.
The Celts wait for their final stand - a fight that will shape the future of the British Isles.
Paulinus' troops arrive in north Wales.
Each legionary carries a gladius - a short sword for close quarters stabbing, a metal-edged shield that also serves as a weapon and a javelin, designed to pierce through a Celtic shield.
The Roman army was the finest army the world has ever seen.
A fully paid, professional force.
Trained to perfection, tremendous morale, huge amount of combat experience, soldiers serving for 25 years, others even longer.
On the whole it was almost impossible to defeat, because even when you did defeat it, it just came back for more.
It defeated all comers.
An enemy that perhaps only the supernatural can help defeat.
Nearly 2,000 years later, a gruesome relic will be found in a Cheshire peat bog Lindow Man.
The way he died, killed three times over clubbed, strangled, and his throat cut, suggests he may have been a ritual sacrifice.
Carbon dating puts his death in the first century, the time of the Roman invasion.
Evidence, some believe, of a last-ditch appeal to the gods to halt the Roman advance.
In summer AD 60, the Roman army arrives in Anglesey.
It makes me incredibly proud as a son of Wales to think of that final moment when you're standing there with the Roman legions against you.
Of course you've got the terrain of Wales on your side, and yet nevertheless you're up against the most formidable military foe arguably in history.
The writer Tacitus describes their first sight of the Britons: "Women were seen running through the ranks in wild disorder.
"Their hair loose to the wind, "their whole appearance resembling the frantic rage of the Furies.
" It's a fantastic notion, isn't it? The thought of those women standing there, confronting their invaders.
And prepared to die in defence of their land.
Tacitus continues: "The Druids were ranged in order, "with hands uplifted, invoking the gods "and pouring forth horrible curses.
"The novelty of the sight paralysed the Romans with awe and terror.
" I think one of the great characteristics of the British, which we don't like to recognise very much, is we are incredibly fierce, incredibly combative.
(PEOPLE JEERING) Paulinus' strategy is simple: fire and sword.
Kill every Druid destroy their culture.
(BRITISH ARMY BATLLE CRY) The Britons' tactic is to smash the enemy's ordered lines apart and engage in single combat.
Welsh people, we have this thing called the hwyl right.
It's that thing that unifies us as much.
We will fight until the end for a cause that we truly believe in.
(SWORDS CLANGING) (SHOUTING) The Romans cut down all before them.
No-one records how long the battle lasts.
The sacred isle is desecrated.
The massacre of the Druids is one of the great turning points in the story of Britain.
Their political power is broken, their ancient religion driven underground.
Some will find sanctuary in Scotland and across the sea in Ireland, where the religion will survive for over 500 years.
The butchery of the Druids in Anglesey is an absolute sign that the Romans are serious.
That they're here to stay and that our religious leaders, people we would have looked up to, are expendable.
Despite his success, Paulinus is soon recalled to Rome by Emperor Nero for being too brutal, even for him.
But due to his influence, life in Britain will never be the same again.
Britain is transformed.
New roads are built by advancing Roman legions.
In the next 300 years, the Romans construct over 10,000 miles of roads - four times the length of our modern motorway system.
For the first time, the lands of Wales and England are bound together.
Many of these roads still exist under our feet.
The A1, originally Ermine Street, and now the Great North Road.
And the A5, that links London to Wales.
Straight lines to link garrison towns and Roman settlements that will one day become our cities.
Lincoln, York, Chester, Gloucester, Bath, London.
Many Britons continue their traditional ways, living in settlements of wattle and daub roundhouses.
But others decide to embrace Roman culture and move into new towns, built for the first time from bricks and mortar.
Garrison towns like Colchester begin to take a form we know today.
Streets and business districts are planned.
New buildings such as bath houses and temples, constructed in the same style as Rome.
Roman civilisation comes to Britain.
Theatres, giant open air buildings for actors, comedians and orators to entertain.
And in important cities, the arena.
Little more than 100 years after the invasion, Britain is a Roman colony with Roman tastes and Roman distractions.
(CROWD CHEERS) And with evidence of gladiatorial games.
Although 80% of the population still remained out there in the dung-covered fields.
A small minority, perhaps 15%, would have been introduced to the supreme achievement of Roman life - life in the city.
One gladiator story will be recorded forever.
His name is Memnon, a champion.
Winner of eight previous clashes, though he has not chosen to take part in any.
A vase commemorating Memnon's fight is dug up in Colchester nearly 2,000 years later, suggesting it may have taken place in a British arena.
Slaves like Memnon are forced to fight in every corner of the Roman Empire - North Africa, the Middle East, Europe.
Memnon's name suggests he is Greek.
Gladiatorial games introduce their own exotic habits.
Slaves use bronze strigils to scrape the body clean of oil and sweat.
There's even a market for it.
These are men who command a loyal following.
Gladiators like Memnon are celebrity sportsmen.
They are like the David Beckhams or our own age.
The curious thing about the situation, of course, is that they are also men who, every time they go into the arena, risk death.
So this is a kind of celebrity of the damned.
Memnon knows that, despite his victories, one day he could step into the arena and die.
Today, Memnon faces Valentinus.
A champion prize fighter owned by Rome's 30th Legion.
To be a gladiator, walking out in front of an audience of people that want to see blood, I would say you feel a little bit scared.
You feel strong.
And I think you work off of the crowd, as well.
When the crowd cheers you realise, OK, you're doing something right.
Roman women bid for the sweat and oil scraped from the gladiator's skin, which they use as an aphrodisiac.
But this is deadly entertainment.
An audience watches two champion gladiators fighting it out to the death.
(CROWD CHEERS) Entertainment for locals is sometimes subsidised by wealthy Romano-Brits who profited from the Roman occupation.
They're using their own wealth to pay for these expensive games and to make them available free to their fellow citizens.
They're doing it because they're involved in a competition with the other members of the elite - for rank, for status, for high office, for honour.
For those things, they need the support of their fellow citizens.
For the Roman soldiers and urbanised Celts, over a dozen amphitheatres have been built across Britain.
The English have always been very pugnacious people.
We come from rough stock.
Maybe that's why we embraced gladiatorial combat.
Around the arena are souvenir sellers.
The Romans have introduced new foods.
Apples and pears are cultivated in Britain for the first time.
We just had to look at modern prime time television.
There is a need for the overwhelming majority of us be diverted, to not think about our lot and to lose ourselves in entertainment.
I think the Romans were very clever.
I think they understood entertainment was an important part of making people quiet and live their lives according to how the masters wanted them to live.
Urbanised Britons begin dressing and behaving like Romans.
Tacitus writes, "They coveted Rome's eloquence.
"A liking sprang up for our style of dress, "and the toga became fashionable.
" In the early years of the arena games, most gladiators were spared so they could fight again.
But now, when the slave Memnon and Valentinus fight, their thirst for blood means someone will die.
The only chance Valentinus has of survival is to raise his finger to beg for mercy.
His fate lies in the hands of the man who paid for the fight.
A raised thumb will mean death.
The vase found in Colchester shows Valentinus' surrender.
In 2004, 80 skeletons are found in a Roman graveyard in York, many with gouges in the bones.
One has a hip bone punctured by a wild animal, Seen as evidence they were gladiators.
No-one knows Valentinus' fate, but in Rome, a gladiator's death sentence is carried out by a blade to the throat.
In York most of the skeletons are beheaded.
A mysterious echo of the Celtic tradition of decapitation.
In the next 200 years, Britain is transformed into a bread basket for the Northern Empire.
Britain's slow-moving, navigable rivers transport a vast surplus of food from the country and overseas.
And the profits from the farming boom are blown on a building spree that will not be surpassed for a thousand years.
Elaborate Roman villas, built with Britain's first central heating system, able to keep rooms warm, even in the British winter.
And like the villas in Rome, the richest are adorned with fine mosaics.
Even bathrooms with proper sewers and hand basins.
A golden age of Roman Britain.
But to the north lie an unconquered people.
The Romans call them Pict or painted people.
They're hardy and fearsome and their bodies are covered in elaborate tattoos.
They've been sealed off from the rest of Roman Britain by a feat of engineering 75 miles long.
A symbol of imperial might, in places six metres high.
From coast to coast with a fort every mile.
Hadrian's Wall.
367 AD.
The border is under the command of the Roman General Fullofaudes.
But an event on his watch is about to signal the end of Roman Britain.
For 300 years the people of today's Scotland have remained free.
As the legendary Chief Calgacus is said to have boasted, "We, the most distant dwellers upon the earth, "the last of the free have been shielded by our remoteness "and by the obscurity that has shrouded our name.
"Beyond us lies no nation, nothing but waves and rocks.
" The Scots were an incredible, ferocious fighting force, you know, going back to the Picts.
We have a history of being very proud and ferocious and defending our country.
The Picts are resolutely unwilling to sacrifice their independence and sense of self and buy into the Roman experiment.
They want to maintain their own culture and their own values.
They don't want to take on Roman ways.
Hadrian's Wall is constantly fought over in the final few decades of Roman Britain.
But the Scottish lands will never lose their independence.
It's a slow death, but Roman authority in Britain is collapsing.
An event that marks a change for Roman rule.
Across the Empire, Rome's authority has started to be challenged The entire Roman Empire is under attack, from what is now Germany, the Visigoths storm Rome.
For the first time in eight hundred years, the city falls.
Britain too is in chaos.
Industries like ceramics grind to a halt.
From 406 AD, no new coins are sent to Britain.
The effects send shock waves across Roman Britain.
Forts across the country are abandoned and left to ruin.
In 410 AD, the Emperor Honorius tells the British that Rome can no longer police the country.
With the withdrawal of the Roman Army, and the break-up of the Roman administration.
We get local war lords setting themselves up in control of chunks of territory.
Hadrian's Wall, the great barrier, protecting Rome's northern border, is abandoned.
As the Romans withdraw, a rich Romano-Briton decides to protect his future.
There are no banks, no vaults to protect his wealth, just a discrete hole on some Suffolk farmland.
Over fifteen thousand gold and silver coins are buried, along with jewellery and fine silver bowls decorated with Christian symbols.
Inscriptions on the silverware suggest he's called Aurelius Urscinus.
He plans to recover his treasures when the army returns to Britain.
But that will never happen.
The Roman Empire is dying.
Sixteen hundred years later, in November 1992, the hoard is found near the village of Hoxne.
By a farmer with a metal detector looking for a lost hammer.
The richest cache of Roman treasure ever found on our shores.
A symbol of the death of Romano-Britain.
Mid 5th Century Britain - absolute disaster.
The lights have gone out, civilisation has fled, the country has imploded.
Everything is closing down.
This is, you know, the end of the world as they know it.
But one legacy of Roman rule will survive.
70 years before the fall of Rome, the Emperor Constantine falls ill.
His dying wish - to be baptized.
Christianity was once a mere cult and its followers hunted down.
Constantine's conversion turns Rome into a Christian Empire As the Romans withdraw, the Christianity they introduced to these shores survives in small pockets across the country - especially among the Romanised elite.
Living just outside a small west coast town is a family of these Romanised Britons.
Head of the family - Calpurnius.
His son Patrick is about to change the religious landscape of Britain and Ireland for ever.
But first his life will be torn apart.
The Roman withdrawal leaves Britain with few defences.
Irish pirates start making raiding trips, not for gold or silver but for the Britons themselves They are slave hunters.
Patrick is taken hostage.
Anarchy rules.
Britain is an Island of warring factions.
Dragged to Ireland, Patrick will survive his ordeal.
And it only strengthens his Christian faith.
A faith shaped by his Celtic roots.
When he eventually escapes from slavery, he embarks on a mission.
Preaching in the local language rather than Roman Latin, he begins to spread Christianity beyond the elite to normal Irish Celts.
Patrick's approach to the conversion is to embrace the existing Celtic culture of the people.
So he is packaging the Christian message in a way that makes it highly accessible to the ordinary people of Ireland, and in a way that a top Roman cleric couldn't possibly have done.
In Ireland, Patrick's Christian teachings embrace the traditions of a pagan world.
One that has survived the Roman conquest of England and Wales.
He will become known as Saint Patrick.
I think there are two reasons why Saint Patrick succeeds in establishing religion where the Romans failed.
One, because he's a Brit, and two because these early Christians were incredibly brave.
And I think that struck a particular chord in the Celts and the Britons generally, that this religion was something to be taken seriously, that there was something in it.
The symbol of their religion - the Celtic Cross.
Around its heart, a circle - the Celtic symbol of the sun.
An amalgamation of two cultures.
The Roman Christian and the ancient Celtic.
Patrick and his followers spread the faith across Scotland and the North of England During the so-called Dark Ages, Britain is in the forefront of learning, of philosophy, of religion, and it really makes a fantastic contribution to the intellectual wealth of the world.
The monks of Ireland kept Christian culture, Christian writing, alive during the Dark Ages in Europe.
Irish Christianity played a major role and, I suppose, we owe it all to Saint Patrick.
Through a network of monasteries, this new Celtic Christianity - humble and accessible to all - begins to define the British isles.
In the next thousand years, it will play a crucial part in shaping Britain's destiny.
But in the next millennium, another invasion will change the course of our history.
A series of epic catastrophes will transform the land and its people.
Yet these struggles will lay the foundations of the nation we know today.