“By the shore stood an opposing battle-line, thick with men and weapons, woman running between them, like the Furies in their funereal clothes, their hair flowing, carrying torches; and Druids among them, pouring out frightful curses with their hands raised high to the heavens, our soldiers being so scared by the unfamiliar sight that their limbs were paralysed, and they stood motionless and exposed to be wounded.” Tacitus (read a more detailed translation) Take a look at Channel 4’s TIME TEAM’s representation of Tacitus’ account.
Thus it was that the Romans braced themselves in AD 60 for the battle that was to take Anglesey or Mona Insulis as it was known. Anglesey had not been conquered, and was the last stronghold of the Druid Religion which the Romans saw as a threat to their total control of the area.
In those days Anglesey was covered in forest and within the forest were oak groves sacred to the Druids. These were the Iron Age priests that practiced a religion that included human sacrifice mainly in the form of the ‘triple death’, or a sacrifice to three gods in the Celtic pantheon. The proselyte first received a blow to the head thus satisfying Taranos the god of thunder , secondly he was hanged to appease Tutates, and finally he was drowned so Esus the god of the waters would smile on the people. Lindow man, now in the British Museum, discovered in Lindow Moss (Llyn Du) in Cheshire, is possibly an example of a triple death. Tollund Man, found in a bog in Denmark, had the noose, with which they hanged him, around his neck.
Local legend has it that the Romans crossed the Menai Straits by Porth y Sgraffiau (sgraffiau being a flat-bottomed boat, said to be similar to those used by the Romans) near the old church of Llanidan. They overcame the Celtic army, who’s tactics usually meant a fierce, initial charge, after which they were unable to regroup properly. If the charge failed in its first assay, then they usually lost the battle.
In 1939 when a runway was being extended in RAF Valley, in a particulary muddy area known as Llyn Cerrig Bach, a find that was to turn out to be of the utmost importance to the history of Anglesey was unearthed. Workers found what appeared to be an old chain, and, thinking nothing of it, they tossed it to one side, and went on with their work. Later a lorry became lodged in the sticky mud of the wetlands. Remembering the chain, workers used this to tow the lorry free. One man, however, suspicious that the find might be more than was at first realised, contacted the relevant authorities, and an archaeological investigation was started. The finds at Llyn Cerrig Bach are possibly the most important finds of the Romano-British Period not only in Anglesey, but in the whole of Britain. The finds included a Celtic chariot, and religious adornments that were almost certainly a sacrifice made immediately before the invasion of Anglesey, when the Druids learned of the advance of the invading Roman forces. Some researchers have linked the offering with the sacrifice of Lindow Man in Cheshire.
Apart from Tacitus’ account there is no written evidence of Roman occupation of Anglesey certainly nothing contemporary. There is probably a lighthouse or Pharos on Mynydd y Twr near Holyhead, and there is the remains of a small coastal fort in the town. Apart from that the only evidence of their activity seems to be the existence of copper cakes from Mynydd Parys. Copper is easy to trace to its origin.
Roman roads are not in evidence, but there are long stretches of straight roads where one would expect to find them. Not enough study has been made of this subject.