• Roman artefacts found dated decades older than accepted arrival in UK
• History records invasion of 40,000 Roman soldiers at Kent in AD 43
• Archaeologists believe Roman emperor may have exaggerated invasion
"It is like discovering that the Second World War started in 1938" - Dr David Rudkin, Roman expert
Story in full BRITAIN was home to Roman citizens some 50 years before the AD43 "invasion" date that generations of schoolchildren have been taught, new research has revealed.
The previously accepted version of the Roman invasion has its origins in the work of ancient spin-doctors trying to boost the reputation of the Emperor Claudius.
Archaeologists believe that a series of military artefacts unearthed in Chichester, Sussex, and dated decades before the AD43 date will turn conventional Roman history on its head.
The experts also believe that when the Romans arrived in Chichester they were welcomed as liberators by ancient Britons who were delighted when the "invaders" overthrew a series of brutal tribal kings guilty of terrorising southern England.
The conventional story of the landing, at Richborough, Kent, in AD43, of 40,000 Roman soldiers who then marched through the English countryside conquering all before them, is being questioned by Dr David Rudkin, a Roman expert, who led the research.
"It is like discovering that the Second World War started in 1938," said Dr Rudkin.
The team's discoveries in Sussex will be revealed on Saturday on a live two-hour special edition of Time Team, the Channel 4 history programme, examining the Roman invasion.
Tony Robinson, the show's presenter said: "One of the frustrating things with history is that things become set in stone. We all believe it to be true. It is great to challenge some of the most commonly accepted pieces of our history."
The work of Roman spin doctors in history is obvious, according to Dr Miles Russell, a senior archaeologist at Bournemouth University, who said it was in the interests of Emperor Claudius to "spin" the AD43 invasion as a great military achievement against strong opposition.
Claudius had become emperor two years earlier following the death of Caligula, but his position was insecure. A bold military victory would consolidate his hold on Rome and establish his reputation as a great military leader.
"Every period of history has its own spin doctors, and Claudius spun the invasion to look strong. But Britain was Roman before Claudius got there," said Dr Russell.
The Romans had made earlier forays into Britain, some more successful than others.
Julius Caesar first tried to conquer Britain in 55BC but was defeated by stormy weather while crossing from Dover. A year later five legions marching to London defeated King Cassivellaunus of Catuvellauni in Hertfordshire but news of an impending rebellion in Gaul caused Caesar to retreat.
Britain at this time consisted of around 25 tribes - often at war with each other.