Book Review “Roman Britain’s Pirate King” by Simon Elliot



Non Fiction

Length : 208 pages

Publisher : Pen and Sword Military


In the mid-3rd century AD Roman Britain’s regional fleet, the Classis Britannica, disappeared. It was never to return. Soon the North Sea and English Channel were over-run by Germanic pirates preying upon the east and south coast of Britain, and the continental coast up to the Rhine Delta. The western augustus (senior emperor) Maximian turned to a seasoned naval leader called Marcus Aurelius Mausaeus Valerius Carausius to restore order. He was so successful that Maximian accused him of pocketing the plunder he’d recaptured, ordering his execution. The canny Carausius moved first and in 286 usurped imperial authority, creating a North Sea empire in northern Gaul and Britain which lasted until 296. Dubbed the pirate king, he initially thrived, seeing off early attempts by Maximian to defeat him. However, in the early 290s Maximian appointed his new caesar (junior emperor), Constantius Chlorus (the father of Constantine the Great), to defeat Carausius. A seasoned commander, Constantius Chlorus soon brought northern Gaul back into the imperial fold, leaving Carausius controlling only Britain. Carausius was then assassinated and replaced by Allectus, his treasurer. Allectus was in turn defeated by Constantius Chlorus in AD 296 in the fourth Roman invasion of Britain, the caesar arriving just in time to prevent London being sacked by Allectus’ Frankish mercenaries. Once more Britain was part of the Roman Empire.


There is much more to Roman History than the Rise and Fall that we have heard about in one way or another. Simon Elliot is the master of this era and Roman Britain’s Pirate King is not only highly researched and informative it is also exceptionally entertaining. I began reading with the hope it wouldn’t be a dry and dull read as some History books can be, but no this is a fabulous read that not only tells us about the eventual fourth invasion and British occupation it also tells us about the whole way of life from weapons to wealth and just how the Romans structured their invasions and who the Commanders were and why.

I find Simon Elliot’s writing style really easy to wrap my head around. He tells it how it is without over complicating the wealth of information that he shares. If you love Roman History and really want to learn about it in depth with brilliant photographic evidence including Gold coins, weapons, Busts and ruins then this is absolutely the book for you.



Dr Simon Elliott is an historian, archaeologist, broadcaster and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Kent where he studied for his PhD in Classics and Archaeology on the subject of the Roman military in Britain. He also has an MA in War Studies from KCL and an MA in Archaeology from UCL. For a day job he runs his own PR company, and is a former defence and aerospace journalist at titles including Jane’s Defence Weekly and Flight International. He frequently appears on broadcast media as a presenter and expert, gives talks on Roman themes, Guide Lectures for Andante Travels and is co-Director at a Roman villa excavation. He is also a Trustee of the Council for British Archaeology. His website can be viewed at: (where you can also view his professional broadcast show reel)

With Thanks for the Advance Copy to ….

Pen and Sword

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