Bronze coins of Cunobelin
Cunobeline (or Cunobelin, from Latin Cunobelinus, derived from Greek Kynobellinus) was a king in pre-Roman Britain from the late first century BC until the 40s AD. He is mentioned in passing by the classical historians Suetonius and Dio Cassius, and many coins bearing his inscription have been found. He appears to have controlled a substantial portion of south-eastern Britain, and is called "King of the Britons" (Britannorum rex) by Suetonius.
Cunobeline appears in British legend as Cynfelyn (Welsh), Kymbelinus (medieval Latin) or Cymbeline, as in the play by William Shakespeare. His name is a compound made up of cuno- (hound) and Belenos (the god Belenus).
From numismatic evidence Cunobelinus appears to have taken power around 9 AD, minting coins from both Camulodunum (Colchester, capital of the Trinovantes) and Verlamion (later the Roman town of Verulamium, now modern St Albans), capital of the Catuvellauni. Some of the Verulamium coins name him as the son of Tasciovanus, a previous king of the Catuvellauni; unlike his father's, his coins name no co-rulers. However his earliest issues are from Camulodunum, indicating that he took power there first, and some have a palm or laurel wreath design, a motif borrowed from the Romans indicating a military victory. He may have been emboldened to act against the Trinovantes by the Roman defeat in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in Germania in AD 9. The Trinovantes were a Roman ally whose independence was protected by a treaty made by Julius Caesar in 54 BC, but problems in Germania severely discouraged Augustus's territorial ambitions and ability to defend allies in Britain.
Cunobelinus appears to have maintained quite good relations with the Roman Empire. He used the title Rex (Latin "king") and classical motifs on his coins, and his reign saw an increase in trade with the continent. Archaeology shows an increase in luxury goods imported from the continent, including Italian wine and drinking vessels, olive oil and fish sauces from Hispania, glassware, jewellery and Gallo-Belgic tableware, which from their distribution appear to have entered Britain via the port of Camulodunum. He was probably one of the British kings that Strabo says sent embassies to Augustus. Strabo reports Rome's lucrative trade with Britain: the island's exports included grain, gold, silver, iron, hides, slaves and hunting dogs.
Cunobelinus had three sons, Adminius, Togodumnus and Caratacus, and a brother, Epaticcus, known to history. Epaticcus expanded his influence into the territory of the Atrebates in the early 20s AD, taking the Atrebatan capital Calleva (Silchester) by about 25. He continued to expand his territory until his death in about 35, when Caratacus took over from him and the Atrebates recovered some of their territory.
Adminius, judging by his coins, had control of Kent by this time. Suetonius tells us that in ca. 40 he was banished from Britain by his father and sought refuge with the emperor Caligula; Caligula treated this as if the entire island had submitted to him. Caligula prepared an invasion of Britain, but abandoned it in farcical circumstances, ordering his soldiers to attack the waves and gather seashells as the spoils of victory.
Cunobelinus died some time before 43. The Lexden Tumulus on the outskirts of Colchester has been suggested as his tomb (although the earlier Trinovantian king Addedomarus is another candidate for its occupant). Caratacus completed the conquest of the Atrebates, and their king, Verica, fled to Rome, providing the new emperor, Claudius, with a pretext for the conquest of Britain. Caratacus and Togodumnus led the initial resistance to the invasion. Dio Cassius tells us that the "Bodunni", a tribe who were tributary to the Catuvellauni, changed sides and supported the Romans. This is probably a misspelling of the Dobunni of Gloucestershire, indicating that Cunobelinus's hegemony extended as far as the West Country.