The Speech of King Caratacus : A proud British king, taken to Rome as a trophy of Empire, refused to plead for his life.
The Speech of King Caratacus

From the ‘Annals’ of Cornelius Tacitus, translated by Church and Brodribb. Slightly emended.

Caratacus, King of the Catuvellauni, led the British resistance to Roman invasion in the AD 40s, but he was betrayed and taken to Rome. The Emperor Claudius asked him why his life should be spared, and this was the King’s reply.

“HAD my moderation in prosperity been equal to my noble birth and fortune, I should have entered this city as your friend rather than as your captive; and you would not have disdained to receive, under a treaty of peace, a king descended from illustrious ancestors and ruling many nations.*

“My present lot is as glorious to you as it is degrading to me. I had men and horses, arms and wealth. What wonder if I parted with them reluctantly? If you Romans choose to lord it over the world, does it follow that the world is to accept slavery?

“Were I to have been at once delivered up as a prisoner, neither my fall nor your triumph would have become famous. My punishment would be followed by oblivion, whereas, if you save my life, I shall be an everlasting memorial of your clemency.”

* The king’s name appears in Tacitus both as Caratacus and Caractacus; Cassius Dio calls him both Καράτακος and Καρτάκης (Karátakos and Kartákis). The ancient Welsh form of the name is Caradog. In keeping with the consensus of modern scholarship, Caratacus has been used on this site.

From the ‘Annals’ of Cornelius Tacitus, translated by Church and Brodribb. Slightly emended.

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