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Britannia


Britannia was the Greek and Roman term for the geographical region of Great Britain or Great Britain and Ireland which was inhabited by the Britons, Belgae and Picts and is the name given to the female personification of the island. It is a term still used to refer to the island today. The name is Latin, and derives from the Greek form Prettanike or Brettaniai, which originally designated a collection of islands with individual names, including Albion or Great Britain; however, by the 1st century BC, Britannia came to be used for Great Britain specifically.

In AD 43 the Roman Empire began its conquest of the island, establishing a province they called Britannia, which came to encompass the parts of the island south of Caledonia (roughly Scotland). In the 2nd century, Roman Britannia came to be personified as a goddess, armed with a trident and shield and wearing a Corinthian helmet.

The name Britannia long survived the end of Roman rule in Britain in the 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's annual music awards.



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  • H. Peacham, Minerva Britannia, or, A garden of heroical devises (1612)
  • J. Thomson, Britannia: a poem (1729)
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  • H. A. Atherton, Political prints in the age of Hogarth. A study of the ideographic representation of politics (1974)
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Wikipedia

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