From icWales:

Our interest in ancient Rome shows no sign of abating, as a major new programme starring Michael Sheen as the Emperor Nero begins tonight. Here Duncan Higgitt looks back at the Romans' influence in Wales - and how this country played a large part in bringing their wrath down upon the Britons

IT was 42AD and a tribesman who would soon become a Welsh hero was sitting uncomfortably in the thoughts of the Roman emperor.

Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, better known just as Claudius, was stuttering and spluttering his way through his indignation, the disabled administrator - whom many had underestimated to their cost - apoplectic with rage, an anger directed at the head of relatively unremarkable Essex tribe dwellers known as the Catuvellaunis.

Their chieftain, Caratacus, whom some have since said most closely resembles legendary Welsh warrior Caradog in history, had set his face against Roman rule. His campaigning in southern England had forced the Roman vassal Verica to flee to Rome, and had thrown the British Isles into anarchy.

To Claudius, who was succeeded by his adoptive son Nero, there was only one answer to this upstart: invasion. He dispatched four battle-hardened legions - II Augusta, IX Hispana, XIV Gemina and XX Valeria Victrix - totalling some 20,000 men, to bring the rebellious isle back under boot.

The legions, who included commanders such as future emperor Vespasian, landed in 43AD, probably in Kent, and won a memorable victory near Rochester, pursuing the remnants of the British army to the Thames and the Essex marches, where it was destroyed. Claudius subsequently took the surrender of 11 British tribal chiefs.

Vespasian pushed west into England, and the task of capturing Caratacus and subduing Wales was handed to the new governor of Britain, Ostorius Scapula, who began his campaign in 47AD.

Despite the relative ease with which successive invaders have pushed into Wales, owing to the direction in which rivers flow, with the exception of the Severn, the Romans found stiff opposition in the Marches.

At the time, there were five tribal groupings in Wales, all of them speaking Brythonic, which would later develop into Welsh. There were the Ordovices in the north-west, the Demetians in the south-west, the Silurians in the south-east, the Cornovii in the central borderlands, and the Deceangli in the north-east.

It was the Deceangli that would meet them first. In a successful attempt to divide the mountains of Wales from the highlands of England, the first Roman set foot in Wales after crossing the River Dee. It did not take the legionnaires long to win the submission of the Deceangli.

The following year, they attempted the same in the south, dividing the Silurians, whom Caratacus had joined with, from tribes in south western England, by establishing a major fortress in Gloucester. But it wasn't plain sailing. The South Walians' hit-and-run tactics caused immense problems for the Romans and led to the defeat of a legion in 52AD.

It was already all over for Caratacus. In AD50, at a place near the Severn which historians now believe is the Iron Age fort of British Camp, at Herefordshire Beacon in the Malvern Hills, he was defeated handing all of southern Britain to the invaders.

Caratacus fled to the Brigantes in the Pennines. Their queen, Cartimandua, already had a truce with the Romans and handed him over in chains (this action would later lead to a revolt against her rule by her own tribesmen).

Caratacus was sent to Rome, with plans that he would be executed. However, he was allowed to address the Roman senate. Senators were so impressed that they pardoned him.

Ostorius died in 52AD, and his successor Aulus Gallus eventually subdued the Welsh borders. He made no further move into Wales because, it is thought, the country was not considered to be a prize worthy of the effort of taking it.

However, that all changed in AD54 when Nero succeeded Claudius. He appointed Quintus Veranius, a man with experience in subjugating the warlike hill tribes of Asia Minor. He was dead within a year, but both he and his successor Gaius Suetonius Paulinus mounted a new campaign against the Silurians and their Welsh allies, using, it is claimed, up to 30,000 troops.

Legionnaires infamously destroyed the renowned druidic centre at Mona on Anglesey. But they were unable to conquer the Silurians until 76AD, more than 30 years after landing on British soil. This is partly because the legions were called away to deal with Boudica and her rebellion.

New governor Sextus Julius Frontinus was credited with the successful campaign, and it was he who established Isca Silurum beside the River Usk at Caerleon, near Newport, for Legio II Augusta.

Caerleon was one of three major garrisons, each capable of housing a legion of 6,000 men. The others were situated at York and Chester.

Outposts included sites at Abergavenny, Usk and Monmouth in Monmouthshire, Loughor in Glamorgan, and Castle Collen near Llandrindod Wells.

It did not take long for the Silurians to get used to Roman rule, and many of the forts based around South Wales were soon unnecessary. The Silurians were rewarded with Venta Silurum now known as Caerwent, a provincial capital close to Caerleon and the first ever town in Wales.

But the Romans never settled in North Wales. The spirited Ordovices put up such a fight that, if you visit the Forum in Rome today, the vast mosaic map of the Roman Empire there does not show what is now Gwynedd as part of the territories.

Tiring of attacks and the disruption of supplies, the Romans built Segontium fort in Caernarfon in AD78, and it would remain in use until 410AD.

The Romans also built a tribal capital for the Demetae at Maridunum, or Carmarthen. In fact, it had more in common with the fortifications at Segontium than the country villas around Caerwent, as well as those found at Llantwit Major and Ely, in Cardiff.

Despite over a dozen villas across Wales, there were far more forts here, at places like Llandovery and Y Gaer, near Brecon. The Romans also exploited the country's gold reserves such as those at Dolau Cothi Gold Mine near Pumsaint in Carmarthenshire.

The Romans also had a go at persuading the Welsh to follow their gods instead of the Celtic deities. But they had much more success in converting heathens here after Christianity was adopted as the official religion of the empire in the 4th century.

Rome's grip on Britain began to dissolve as early as 192 when, following the death of the tyrant Commodus, a civil war ensued. British governor Clodius Albinus became a front runner for the purple and his rival Septimius Severus offered to support him if he helped him deal with a third claimant, Pescennius Niger. However, once Niger was out of the way, Severus reneged on the deal and won a battle over Albinus in Gaul in 196, leading to the latter's suicide.

A number of militarily-skilled governors tried and failed to bring order to the isles, with one, Lucius Alfenus Senecio, reporting in 207 that barbarians were "rebelling, over-running the land, taking booty and creating destruction".

Severus led an imperial expedition, but his presence ultimately led to the loss of Scotland. However, his dividing of the rest of the country into Upper and Lower Britain led to a century of what was called the Long Peace.

But by 250, the entire empire was being picked apart by barbarian invasions, rebellions and breakaway countries that Britannia, on the edge, could not fail to become caught up in.

It was briefly part of the Gallic Empire, and was invaded by Vandals and Burgundians on the orders of the emperor Probus after half-Brythonic usurper named Bononus led a rebellion here.

Then a naval commander called Carausius established himself as emperor in Britain and northern Gaul, and remained in power until he was murdered.

There was a further imperial mission here in 306, again aimed at the north. A successful campaign would put Constantine I on the throne in Rome, but the country faced increasing attacks from the Saxons and the Irish. It led to the building of large defence walls around Caerwent.

Another usurper, Magnus Maximus, began his revolt in Segontium in 383, and took much of the western empire. But he drew troops away from Britain, which allowed the Irish to settle in North Wales.

Some 30 years later, and the Britons were fighting by themselves against the Saxons, as much of the higher levels of government within the empire had disappeared. Saxons took an invitation from Brython chieftain Vortigern to help him fight the Picts and Irish as an excuse to revolt once they arrived, establishing a firm foothold once and for all. And, while many leaders may have once been loyal to Roman rule, there were no longer any legions capable of throwing out the North Germans. It was the beginning of modern Britain.

I join David Parsons in wondering about the spin on this one, but it does remind me of (what turned out to be) an old joke, told to us in John Yardley's Latin class (I believe it was Wheelock) ... Yardley, of course, is of Welsh extraction ... in any event, here's the version of the joke I found told in Aussie land (change the nations involved):

A bunch of GIs were drinking in a bar in far north Queensland.
A tired and emotional Aussie Digger (soldier to you pomms) climbed up on the bar and started to shout. "You Septic Tanks (Yanks) are useless, one Aussie can beat the c__p out of any five Yanks!"
He keep it up increasing the odds to 10 Yanks.
The US Colonel in the bar said to a Corporal: "Take four men and quietly put him oner the top of that hill to sleep it off."
Away they went, but after half an hour they had not returned.
A little jumpy the Colonel lined up a platoon of thirty, go and bring back their mates.
A hour went past and they did not return either.
The Colonel was about to send the whole rifle company out when a lone GI came staggering down the hill.
His face was bloodied, his gear torn and his weapons gone.
"Son," the Colonel shouted. "What's going on?"
The soldier flapped his arms at them. "Go back." he screamed.
"Go back - it's a trap - there's two of them!"