_BRITANNIA_ was a Roman-Britain province inhabited by the
Picts , encompassing parts of the island south of Caledonia
Scotland ) of the geographical region of
Great Britain and is
the name given to the female personification of the island. It is a
term still used to refer to the island. The name is
Latin , and
derives from the Greek form _Prettanike_ or _Brettaniai_, which
originally designated a collection of islands with individual names,
Albion _ or Great Britain. By the
1st century BC ,
_Britannia_ came to be used for
Great Britain specifically. The Romans
had initially called the entire provincial island "Britain" and it was
only when the island was split into four provinces that two were given
the name "Britannia". Although Britain had been designated part of
Roman Empire in 43 AD during the conquest of emperor
wasn't until the end of the
2nd century that
Britannia had been
pacified and fully adopted Roman practices.
In the 2nd century, Roman
Britannia came to be personified as a
goddess, armed with a trident and shield and wearing a Corinthian
The name _Britannia_ long survived the end of Roman rule in Britain
5th century and yielded the name for the island in most
European and various other languages, including the English Britain
and the modern Welsh _
Prydain _. After centuries of declining use, the
Latin form was revived during the
English Renaissance as a rhetorical
evocation of a British national identity. Especially following the
Acts of Union in 1707, which joined the Kingdoms of England and
Scotland , the personification of the martial
Britannia was used as an
emblem of British imperial power and unity. A British cultural icon ,
she was featured on all modern British coinage series until the
redesign in 2008, and still appears annually on the gold and silver
Britannia " bullion coin series. In 2015 a new definitive £2 coin
was issued, with a new image of Britannia. She is also depicted in the
Brit Awards statuette, the
British Phonographic Industry
British Phonographic Industry 's annual
* 1 Greek and Roman periods
* 2 British revival
* 2.1 Medieval use
* 2.2 Renaissance and
* 2.3 Modern associations
* 2.4 Depiction on British currency and postage stamps
* 2.4.1 Coinage
* 2.4.2 Banknotes
* 2.4.3 Postage stamps
Britannia watermark in paper
* 3 Namesakes
* 4 See also
* 5 References
* 6 Notes
* 7 External links
GREEK AND ROMAN PERIODS
Roman Britain and
The first writer to use a form of the name was the Greek explorer and
Pytheas in the 4th century BC.
Pytheas referred to
_Prettanike_ or _Brettaniai_, a group of islands off the coast of
North-Western Europe. In the 1st century BC,
Diodorus Siculus referred
to _Pretannia_, a rendering of the indigenous name for the _
people whom the Greeks believed to inhabit the
British Isles .
Following the Greek usage, the Romans referred to the _Insulae
Britannicae_ in the plural, consisting of _
Albion _ (Great Britain),
Hibernia _ (Ireland), _
Thule _ (possibly
Orkney ) and many
smaller islands. Over time,
Albion specifically came to be known as
_Britannia_, and the name for the group was subsequently dropped.
Claudius is commonly attributed with the creation
and unification of the province of
Britannia in 43 AD, Julius Caesar
had already established Roman authority over the Southern and Eastern
Britain dynasties during his two expeditions to the island in 55 and
54 BC. Just as Caeser himself had been an obside in Bithynia as a
youth, he also had taken thr King's sons as _obsides_ or hostages,
back to Rome, partially to be educated.
The Roman conquest of the island began in AD 43, leading to the
establishment of the
Roman province known in
Latin as _
The Romans never successfully conquered the whole island, building
Hadrian\'s Wall as a boundary with _
Caledonia _, which covered roughly
the territory of modern
Scotland , although the whole of the boundary
Hadrian's Wall lies within modern-day
Northern England . A
southern part of what is now
Scotland was occupied by the Romans for
about 20 years in the mid-
2nd century AD, keeping in place the Picts
to the north of the
Antonine Wall . People living in the Roman
Britannia were called _Britanni_, or
Britons . Ireland,
inhabited by the
Scoti , was never invaded and was called
Thule , an island "six days' sail north of Britain, and near the
frozen sea", possibly
Iceland , was also never invaded by the Romans.
An As coin from the reign of
Antoninus Pius struck in 154 AD
Britannia on the reverse
Claudius paid a visit while Britain was being conquered
and was honoured with the agnomen _Britannicus_ as if he were the
conqueror; a frieze discovered at
Aphrodisias in 1980 shows a bare
breasted and helmeted female warrior labelled BRITANNIA, writhing in
agony under the heel of the emperor. She appeared on coins issued
Hadrian , as a more regal-looking female figure.
soon personified as a goddess, looking fairly similar to the goddess
Minerva . Early portraits of the goddess depict
Britannia as a
beautiful young woman, wearing the helmet of a centurion , and wrapped
in a white garment with her right breast exposed. She is usually shown
seated on a rock, holding a spear, and with a spiked shield propped
beside her. Sometimes she holds a standard and leans on the shield. On
another range of coinage, she is seated on a globe above waves:
Britain at the edge of the (known) world. Similar coin types were also
Antoninus Pius .
James Gillray 's
Britannia between Scylla and Charybdis _
Britannia is shown without the weapons which would invariably
characterise her in the 19th century
After the Roman withdrawal , the term "Britannia" remained in use in
Britain and abroad.
Latin was ubiquitous amongst native Brythonic
writers and the term continued in the Welsh tradition that developed
from it. Writing with variations on the term _Britannia_ (or _Prydein
_ in the native language) appeared in many Welsh works such as the
Historia Britonum _, _Armes
Prydein _ and the 12th-century _Historia
Regum Britanniae _, which gained unprecedented popularity throughout
western Europe during the
High Middle Ages .
Following the migration of Brythonic Celts, The term _Britannia_ also
came to refer to the Armorican peninsula (at least from the 6th
century). ) The modern English, French, Breton and Gallo names for the
area, all derive from a literal use of _Britannia_ meaning "land of
the Britons". The two "Britannias" gave rise to the term _Grande
Bretagne_ (Great Britain) to distinguish the island of Britain from
the continental peninsula.
Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain
Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain , the term '"Briton"
only referred to the native British , Celtic-speaking inhabitants of
the province; this remained the case until the modern era. The use of
the term as an inhabitant of the island of
Great Britain or the UK is
RENAISSANCE AND BRITISH EMPIRE
It was during the reign of Elizabeth I that "Britannia" came to be
viewed as a personification of Britain. In his 1576 _General and rare
memorials pertayning to the Perfect Arte of Navigation_,
John Dee used
a frontispiece figure of
Britannia kneeling by the shore beseeching
Elizabeth I, to protect her empire by strengthening her navy.
With the death of Elizabeth in 1603 came the succession of her
Scottish cousin, James VI, King of Scots, to the English throne. He
became James I of England, and so brought under his personal rule the
Kingdoms of England (and the dominion of Wales), Ireland and Scotland
. On 20 October 1604,
James VI and I
James VI and I proclaimed himself as "King of
Great Brittaine, France and Ireland", a title that continued to be
used by many of his successors. When James came to the English
throne, some elaborate pageants were staged. One pageant performed on
the streets of London in 1605 was described in
Anthony Munday 's
_Triumphs of Reunited Britannia_:
On a mount triangular, as the island of Britain itself is described
to be, we seat in the supreme place, under the shape of a fair and
During the reign of Charles II ,
Britannia made her first appearance
on English coins on a farthing of 1672 (see _Depiction on British
coinage and postage stamps_ below). With the constitutional
unification of England with
Scotland in 1707 and then with Ireland in
Britannia became an increasingly important symbol and a strong
rallying point among Britons. _ A later Gillray cartoon, on the
Peace of Amiens , features a fat and non-martial Britannia
kissing "Citizen François"
Britannia Triumphant_, poster
Battle of Trafalgar
Battle of Trafalgar .
British power, which depended on a liberal political system and the
supremacy of the navy , lent these attributes to the image of
Britannia. By the time of
Queen Victoria ,
Britannia had been renewed.
Still depicted as a young woman with brown or golden hair, she kept
Corinthian helmet and her white robes, but now she held
Poseidon\'s trident and often sat or stood before the ocean and
tall-masted ships representing British naval power. She also usually
held or stood beside a Greek hoplite shield, which sported the British
Union Flag : also at her feet was often the British Lion, an animal
found on the arms of England,
Scotland and the Prince of Wales.
Neptune is shown symbolically passing his trident to
Britannia in the
1847 fresco "Neptune Resigning to
Britannia the Empire of the Sea" by
William Dyce , a painting Victoria commissioned for her Osborne House
Isle of Wight
Isle of Wight .
New Zealanders adopted a similar personification of their country in
Zealandia , Britannia's daughter, who appeared on postage stamps at
the turn of the 20th century and still features in the New Zealand
Coat of Arms . 1914 Russian poster depicting the Triple Entente
Britannia (right) and
Marianne (left) in the company of Mother
Russia . In this depiction, Britannia's association with the sea is
provided by her holding an anchor , an attribute usually represented
by Poseidon's Trident.
Perhaps the best analogy is that
Britannia is to the United Kingdom
British Empire what
Marianne is to France or perhaps what
Columbia is to the United States.
Britannia became a very potent and
more common figure in times of war, and represented British liberties
During the 1990s the term _
Cool Britannia _ (drawn from a humorous
version by the
Bonzo Dog Band of the song "Rule
Britannia ", with
words by James Thomson , which is often used as an unofficial national
anthem ), was used to describe the contemporary United Kingdom. The
phrase referred to the fashionable scenes of the era, with a new
generation of pop groups and style magazines, successful young fashion
designers, and a surge of new restaurants and hotels. Cool Britannia
represented late-1990s Britain as a fashionable place to be.
DEPICTION ON BRITISH CURRENCY AND POSTAGE STAMPS
Britannia depicted on a halfpenny of 1936
Although the archetypical image of
Britannia seated with a shield
first appeared on Roman bronze coins of the 1st century AD struck
Hadrian , Britannia's first appearance on British coinage was on
the farthing in 1672, though earlier pattern versions had appeared in
1665, followed by the halfpenny later the same year. The figure of
Britannia was said by
Samuel Pepys to have been modelled on Frances
Teresa Stuart, the future Duchess of Richmond , who was famous at the
time for refusing to become the mistress of Charles II, despite the
King's strong infatuation with her.
Britannia then appeared on the
British halfpenny coin throughout the rest of the 17th century and
thereafter until 1936. The halfpennies issued during the reign of
Queen Anne have
Britannia closely resembling the queen herself. When
Bank of England
Bank of England was granted a charter in 1694, the directors
decided within days that the device for their official seal should
represent 'Brittannia sitting on looking on a Bank of Mony' (sic).
Britannia also appeared on the penny coin between 1797 and 1970 ,
occasional issues such as the fourpence under William IV between 1836
and 1837, and on the 50 pence coin between 1969 and 2008. See
"External Links" below for examples of all these coins and others.
In the spring of 2008, the
Royal Mint unveiled new coin designs
"reflecting a more modern twenty-first century Britain" which do not
feature the image of Britannia. This decision courted some
controversy, with tabloid press campaigns, in particular that of the
_Daily Mail_, launched to "save Britannia". The government has pointed
out, however, that earlier-design 50p coins will remain in circulation
for the foreseeable future. Also
Britannia still appeared on the gold
and silver "
Britannia " bullion coins issued annually by the Royal
A new definitive £2 coin was issued in 2015, with a new image of
Britannia. In late 2015, a limited edition (100000 run) £50 coin was
produced, bearing the image of
Britannia on one side and Queen
Elizabeth II on the obverse.
Bank of England
Bank of England five pound note or "white fiver" showing
Britannia in the top left corner. Main article:
Bank of England
Bank of England note
A figure of
Britannia appeared on the "white fiver" (a five pound
note printed in black and white) from 1855 for more than a century,
From 1928 "
Britannia Series A" ten shilling and one pound notes were
printed with a seated
Britannia bearing both a spear and an olive
The 25 cents fractional paper currency of the Dominion of Canada
(1870, 1900 and 1923 respectively) all depict Britannia. The notes are
no longer produced and usually not used as currency anymore, although
they are still legal tender.
King George V Seahorses postage stamp, featuring
Britannia with an
Irish Free State
Irish Free State overprint.
Britannia also featured on the high value
Great Britain definitive
postage stamps issued during the reign of
George V (known as
'seahorses ') and is depicted on the £10 stamp first issued in 1993.
BRITANNIA WATERMARK IN PAPER
Britannia watermark has been widely used in papermaking, usually
showing her seated. An example can be found at papermoulds.typepad.com
Britannia is depicted in the
Brit Award statuette, the British
Phonographic Industry 's annual music awards. The statuette of
Britannia is regularly redesigned by some of the best known British
designers, stylists and artists, including
Vivienne Westwood , Damien
Tracey Emin , Sir Peter Blake and the late
Zaha Hadid .
Britannia Airways featured the name and image of Britannia.
The name "Britannia", symbolising Britain and British patriotism, has
been adopted for various purposes such as:
* K1 _Britannia_ , a 1994 replica (refit in 2012) of King George V's
famed racing yacht
Britannia which was scuttled in 1936.
Britannia silver , a high-grade alloy of silver introduced in
Britain in 1697.
Britannia coins , a series of British gold bullion coins issued
since 1987, which have nominal values of 100, 50, 25, and 10 pounds .
* HMS _Britannia_ , any of eight vessels of the
Royal Navy .
Britannia Royal Naval College , the Royal Navy's officer training
* The former Royal Yacht _Britannia_ , the Royal Family's personal
yacht, recently retired in
Leith , Edinburgh Scotland.
* RMS _Britannia_ , the first steam ocean liner owned by Samuel
Cunard in 1840.
* SS _Britannia_ , a 1925 British liner, sunk by the German
auxiliary cruiser _Thor_ in 1941 with the loss of 122 crew and 127
* MV _Britannia_ , the flagship of the P there were 82 English
public houses with this name in 2011.
Britannia Building Society traded for over a century before
deciding to merge with
The Co-operative Bank and now trades as
_Britannia_. They are the official sponsors of
Stoke City F.C. and so
their logo appears on the team's shirts and the
Britannia Stadium is
named after the company.
Britannia is a community South of the town of Bacup, in
Lancashire, UK. The "home" of the
Britannia Coco-nut Dancers .
Hibernia (personification) , a personification of Ireland
Kathleen Ni Houlihan , a personification of Ireland
Prydain , Welsh name for
Great Britain in both ancient and modern
William Camden , author of _Britannia_, author of topographical
and historical survey of all of
Great Britain and Ireland, first
published in 1586.
* ^ John, Creighton (2006). _Britannia: The Creation of a Roman
Province_. New York: Routledge. p. 2. ISBN 9781134318407 .
* ^ Watts, Dorothy (2005). _Boudicca\'s Heirs: Women in Early
Britain_. New York: Routledge. p. 1. ISBN 0415280680 .
* ^ _A_ _B_ Snyder , p. 12.
* ^ Allen , p. 174.
* ^ Davies , p. 47.
* ^ Creighton, John (2006-01-31). _Britannia: The Creation of a
Roman Province_. Routledge. p. 3. ISBN 9781134318407 . CS1 maint: Date
and year (link )
* ^ obsides is Latin, meaning hostage
* ^ _Roman Britain_ By Timothy W. Potter and Catherine Johns,
University of California Press, 1992 p.40
* ^ _A_ _B_ "
Britannia on British Coins". Chard. Retrieved 25 June
* ^ Fleuriot, Léon (1980). _Les Origines de la Bretagne:
l'émigration_ (in French). Paris: Payot. pp. 52–53. ISBN
* ^ "Britishness". _Oxford English Dictionary Online_. September
2008. Retrieved 14 September 2010.
* ^ Virginia Hewitt, '
Britannia (fl. 1st–21st cent.)', Oxford
Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004
* ^ Proclamation styling James I King of
Great Britain on 20
* ^ 1901 Penny Universal, Stamps NZ. Retrieved 25 January 2010.
* ^ National Coat of Arms of New Zealand, Heraldry of the World.
Retrieved 25 January 2010.
* ^ J. Ayto, _Movers and Shakers: a Chronology of Words that Shaped
our Age_ (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), ISBN 0-19-861452-7 ,
* ^ "Cool Britannia". BBC News. Retrieved 9 November 2016
* ^ "3 – The Halfpenny". _Coins of the UK_. Tony Clayton.
* ^ Morris, Steven (28 January 2008). "Brown blamed as Britannia
gets the boot". _The Guardian_. London. Retrieved 28 January 2008.
* ^ "2008 Emblems of Britain Silver Proof Collection". The Royal
Mint. Archived from the original on 14 October 2008.
* ^ "
Royal Mint unveils coin designs". BBC News. 2 April 2008.
* ^ "
Britannia 2015 UK £50 Fine Silver Coin". Royal Mint.
* ^ "£5 note, Bank of England". British Museum. Retrieved 24
* ^ Sharples, BS (17 June 2009). "A Short History of English
Banknotes". Retrieved 24 January 2013.
* ^ _A_ _B_ "Dame Zaha Hadid\'s
Brit Awards statuette design
unveiled". BBC. 1 December 2016.
* ^ _A_ _B_ "Damien Hirst\'s 2013
Brit Award statue unveiled". BBC.
1 December 2016.
* ^ Wrecksite: SS
* ^ Daily Mail 14 April 2011: "A thousand rather popular pubs..."
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Warrior_. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-948-7 .
* Collingwood, Robin George (1998). _
Roman Britain and the English
Settlements_. Biblo & Tannen Publishers. ISBN 0-8196-1160-3 .
* Davies, Norman (2000). _The Isles a History_. Macmillan. ISBN
* Hewitt, Virginia. "
Britannia (fl. 1st–21st cent.)", _Oxford
Dictionary of National Biography,_ online edition 2007, accessed 28
* Snyder, Christopher (2003). _The Britons_. Blackwell Publishing.
ISBN 0-631-22260-X .
* M. Dresser (ed.), 'Britannia', Patriotism: the making and unmaking
of British national identity, vol. 3
* R. Samuel, National fictions (1989), pp. 26–49
Britannia depicta: quality, value and security, National Postal
* H. Mattingly, Nerva to Hadrian, reprint (1976), vol. 3 of Coins of
the Roman empire in the British Museum
* J. M. C. Toynbee, The Hadrianic school: a chapter in the history
of Greek art (1974)
* M. Henig, 'Britannia', _Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae
Classicae _, 3/1 (1983), pp. 167–69
* K. T. Erim, 'A new relief showing
Aphrodisias', Britannia, 13 (1982), pp. 277–81
* H. Peacham,
Minerva Britannia, or, A garden of heroical devises
* J. Thomson, Britannia: a poem (1729)
* R. Strong, Gloriana, the portraits of Queen Elizabeth I (1987)