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A king of the Silures in Britain, a people occupying what is now southern Wales. After withstanding, for the space of seven years (A.D. 43-50) the Roman arms, he was defeated in a pitched battle by Ostorius Scapula, and his forces put to the rout. Taking refuge, upon this, with Cartismandua, queen of the Brigantes, he was betrayed by her into the hands of the Romans, and led to Rome. Great importance was attached to his capture. Claudius, who was emperor at the time, augmented the territories of Cartismandua, and triumphal honours were decreed to Ostorius. This exploit was compared to the capture of Syphax by Scipio, and that of Perseus by Aemilius Paulus. The manly and independent bearing, however, of the British prince, when brought into the presence of the Roman emperor, excited so much admiration that his fetters were removed, and freedom was granted him, together with his wife and children, who had shared his captivity. There is no evidence that Caractacus ever returned to Britain, and he is believed to have been in Rome at the time of his death (Tac. Ann. xii. 33 foll.).

Tradition says that the Claudia mentioned by St. Paul (2 Tim. iv. 21) was his daughter and introduced Christianity into Britain, but there is no historical evidence to support this legend. Caractacus is believed to have died in A.D. 54.

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  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • New Testament, 2 Timothy, 4.21
    • Tacitus, Annales, 12.33
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