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Roman Ruled Britannia(翻译作业)
来源: 作者:本站编辑 [日期:2011-9-9] 浏览:

When the Romans arrived, they changed the course of British history. The Romans brought order and law and the Britons learned to live peacefully in the Roman world. But Roman rule stopped at Hadrian’s Wall, and the Roman legions never crossed the sea to Ireland. While the people of southern Britain lived the Roman way, with roads and cities, the people of the north rejected Rome and all she stood for.

 

The Romans left and the people of Britain and Ireland had to face the Angles and the Saxons who came over the sea, first to raid and then to settle. These people were followed by the Vikings, who also raided and settled. Britain became a land of many kingdoms, but William of Normandy had his heart set on the English crown. In 1066 William arrived off the south coast with an army and brought the Anglo-Saxon world to a bloody end.

 

Chapter 4

Ruled Britannia

In This Chapter

Figuring out what led to the Roman invasion of Britain

Fighting the good fight: Britons who resisted

Understanding what the Romans did, and didn’t do, for us

Heading back home: Why the Romans eventually left Britain

 

For a nation that prides itself on having resisted invasion attempts so successfully, the British are surprisingly warm towards the Romans who conquered them two thousand years ago. The Romans were the first to call the main island Britain, or Britannia, and the British never forgot it: They dug the term out again when they were feeling pretty strong themselves and ready to take on the world eighteen centuries later (see Chapter 15 for details on that). The Romans hadn’t been intending to conquer Britain at all, and it was by no means all plain sailing when they did, but once they got settled, things went very well. Britain became totally integrated into the Roman world; it even produced some emperors. But a Roman Britain couldn’t last. Soon Saxon raiding ships appeared off the east coast, and the Romans pulled out and left the Britons to cope as best they could. Which wasn’t very well.

 

A Far-Away Land of Which We Know Virtually Nothing

 

Before Julius Caesar appeared on the scene, most Romans knew only two things about Britain: One was metals, especially Cornish tin, which sold very well all over the Roman world and even beyond; the other was Druids. Britain was the centre of the strange religion of the Celts, just as Rome herself would one day be the centre of the Catholic Church. Basically, most Romans thought, Britain was a long way away and not doing Rome any harm. The best thing to do was to leave it alone? Right? Wrong.

 

Julius Caesar landed in Britain in 55 BC, but he left the job unfinished, and it was left to the Emperor Claudius, who conquered most of Britain in AD 43. So what made the Romans change their minds?

 

The Gallic Wars

 

Ancient Rome was meant to be a republic: The Romans got rid of their kings years before, and they didn’t want them back. But an ambitious and ruthless general called Gaius Julius Caesar had other ideas (for more on the Roman republic and empire, check out The Romans For Dummies, by Guy de la Bédoyère). To seize the power he wanted, he needed political support, and the best way to get that was to win a nice little military victory followed by a great triumphal procession. All he needed was a war.

 

Taking on one Gallic tribe at a time

 

Caesar got a really plum posting in charge of the Roman army on the French Riviera, and right on cue, an entire tribe called the Helvetii, who lived up in the Alps, decided to go on a massive migration through Roman territory to find somewhere else in Gaul to live. Caesar seized his chance. ‘Migration my foot!’ he said (or, more likely, migratio meus pedus!); ‘This is an invasion. Sound the trumpets!’ And so began Caesar’s famous Gallic Wars.

 

Caesar got his men together, took on the Helvetii, and beat them. Along the way, however, he alarmed some of the other Gallic tribes and before he knew it, Caesar found himself fighting just about every tribe in Gaul. Luckily for him, they didn’t all band together at once, or that would have been the end of Caesar and his grand ambition. Instead they came at him tribe by tribe. First he beat one tribe, then another, and another, until, almost without realising it, he was conquering Gaul. Very handy.

 

Gallant little Belgae

 

But not all of Caesar’s campaigns went smoothly. He ran into stiff resistance when he turned north and took on the Belgae. In those days, the Belgae were tough customers: They hadn’t yet descended to putting mayonnaise on chips.

 

Gradually, Caesar figured out that the Belgae resistance was so successful because the Belgae had been getting help. Some of the prisoners Caesar’s army captured spoke in strange accents and, when interrogated, finished each sentence with ‘Don’t you know?’ They wore socks with sandals and apologised when people trod on their feet – leaving no doubt that they were British.

 

British warriors were bad enough, but British Druids seemed to be coming over as well, and that meant bad trouble (for information on the Druids, refer to Chapter 3). The Gauls would fight a lot harder with Druids egging them on. Caesar decided the time had come to teach the Britons a lesson they wouldn’t forget.

 

Welcome to England!

 

When Caesar turned up off the coast of England in 55 BC, the shore was full of Britons, armed to the teeth and painted with woad, shouting and screaming at the Romans to come and fight if they thought they were hard enough.

 

According to Caesar, quite a sharp battle occurred on the beach, but once enough Romans were able to get ashore and into formation, they forced the Britons back and got a foothold. They then moved inland, had a look round, crushed a few tribes, and went back home to Gaul.

 

The next year (54 BC), Caesar came back with a much bigger force. Was he intending to stay? Probably not, but the Britons couldn’t be certain. The British tribes did manage to get together under one high king, Cassivelaunus (well, that’s what the Romans called him), but Cassivelaunus couldn’t beat Caesar’s men, and in any case, not all the Britons were on his side: Some signed alliances with the Romans.

 

I came, I saw, I decided it wasn’t worth conquering

 

People often think Julius Caesar conquered Britain. He didn’t. He invaded Britain twice, in 55 BC and then again, in greater strength, in 54 BC, but he returned home to Gaul each time. Of course, he did more than enough to show that he could have conquered Britain if he’d wanted to, but really there was no need – the British kings agreed to pay tribute to Rome (tribute is a posh word for protection money) and to leave pro-Roman tribes, like the Trinovantes in East Anglia, alone (to find out about the Trinovantes, refer to Chapter 3). Then Caesar sailed away, back to Gaul and to Rome, where in the end they knifed him before he could make himself emperor. ‘Infamy! Infamy!’ as he says in Carry on Cleo, ‘They’ve all got it in for me!’

 

We’ll invade them, we’ll invade them not: Roman dithering

 

But what about Britain? The Romans dithered between a ‘who’s going to be the one to finish off what Julius started?’ attitude and one of ‘Caesar went there and didn’t think it was worth bothering about, so why should we?’

 

In any case, Britain was no threat: Quite the reverse. Most of the southern part, which was the bit that mattered to the Romans, was ruled by a king called Cunobelinus (Shakespeare’s ‘Cymbeline’). Cunobelinus got control of the Trinovantes tribe, who were Roman allies, and he made southern Britain a Roman-friendly zone. So no need for a full-blown Roman invasion of Britain existed. Yet.

 

They’re Back – with Elephants!

 

Claudius is the Roman emperor who stammered and limped and whom every-one thought was a fool. Ah, but we know better, don’t we? Because we’ve seen Derek Jacobi in I, Claudius. Great TV series, rotten history. Claudius wasn’t the wise old sage I, Claudius makes him out to be; Roman historians like Tacitus and Suetonius reckoned he was just as bloodthirsty as any of the Julio-Claudian emperors. But one thing Claudius didn’t have was any military street cred, and that bothered him. So when a British chieftain turned up in Rome complaining that he’d lost his kingdom, Claudius was very interested. Very interested indeed.

 

In Britain, Rome-friendly King Cunobelinus had died, and his two sons, Caratacus and Togodumnus, began taking over neighbouring tribes. One of these neighbouring tribes was the Atrebates, and it was their king (or ex-king), Verica, who was now in Rome bending Claudius’s ear. The Atrebates were also Roman allies: Did this mean that Caratacus and Togodumnus weren’t going to continue their dad’s pro-Roman policy? Claudius decided that it was time to remind the Britons of what happened to people who got on the wrong side of the Romans.

 

Caratacus fights the Romans

 

Claudius had learnt a few lessons from Julius Caesar’s time in Britain. He made sure he had enough men to conquer the place and to stay. On this excursion, the Romans didn’t hang around at the beach: They swept ashore and moved inland. Togodumnus, Caratacus’s brother, was killed early on, so it was down to Caratacus to try to put up some resistance. He did, but the Romans were just too strong for him.

 

When the Romans moved in on Caratacus’s capital, Camulodunum (Colchester), Claudius decided to come and see Caratacus’s defeat for himself, and he brought some elephants with him, which scared the life out of the Britons. Camulodunum fell, but Caratacus escaped and led the Romans a merry dance, hiding out in the Welsh hills and, up in the north, launching guerrilla attacks just when the Romans were least expecting it. The Romans took ages to catch Caratacus, and even then, they only managed it by treachery.

 

The Romans finally defeated Caratacus’s men in open battle, but Caratacus and his family got away and took shelter with the Brigantes of Yorkshire. But Queen Cartimandua of the Brigantes, a Roman stooge if ever there was one, had him put in chains and handed him over to the Romans, who led him through the streets of Rome. But everyone was so impressed by how dignified Caratacus was and how he hurled defiance at the emperor and the crowds, that Claudius let him go on the condition that he stay in Rome. As for Cartimandua, she got lots of money and favours from the Romans, as you would expect. But if the Romans thought that with Caratacus safely out of the way everything was safe in Britain, they were in for a very nasty shock.

 

One angry lady – Boudica

 

In AD 58, the Emperor Nero appointed a new governor in Britain, Suetonius Paulinus. Suetonius decided to head west and deal with the Druids once and for all, so he led a big army into Wales and on to the Isle of Anglesey. The Druids gathered on the hills, screaming curses down on Suetonius and his men. The curses didn’t save the Druids, but one of them may have hit home, because while Suetonius Paulinus was away in Wales disaster struck back.

 

That ain’t no way to treat a lady

 

The trouble began with the Iceni, who lived in modern-day Norfolk. Although the Iceni had fought against the Romans during the invasion, they seemed to have settled down since then. The Romans didn’t actually control them directly: The Iceni king, Prasutagus, was what the Romans called a client-king (if you were going to be unkind you could call him a puppet-king). But when Prasutagus died in AD 60, everything suddenly began to go wrong.

 

As a good Roman client-king, Prasutagus left half of his estate to his wife, Queen Boudica, and half to the Roman emperor. An incredibly stupid Roman tax-collector called Catus Decianus then made his way to the Iceni capital at Norwich to claim Rome’s share and to tell the Iceni that all the money the late Emperor Claudius had given them was not a gift but a loan and was to be paid back now. With interest.

 

Demanding money was never going to make for an easy meeting, but some-thing obviously went horribly wrong when Catus Decianus and his men got to Norwich. According to Roman accounts (yes, Roman accounts), Roman soldiers flogged Boudica, and then raped her two daughters. How on earth a taxcollecting expedition ended up like that – and whether these actions were done on Catus Decianus’s orders – no one really knows. Catus Decianus and his men were lucky to get out alive. A lot of other Romans weren’t going to be so lucky.

 

Hell hath no fury

 

All hell broke loose after the attack on Boudica. The Iceni went on the ram-page, attacking anything Roman they could find. Even more worrying for the Romans, their old allies the Trinovantes joined the Iceni. The Roman legions went to pieces. The Ninth Legion got pushed back, the commander of the Second Legion refused to move. Everyone else was with Suetonius Paulinus in Wales killing Druids. Boudica led her tribe to Camulodunum (modern-day Colchester), the great town the Romans had built up as their capital with an enormous temple dedicated to the Emperor Claudius (they’d made him a god for conquering Britain). All the Romans fled to the temple because it had a big walled compound, but it wasn’t enough to keep Boudica’s people out. They broke in, burned the temple to the ground, and killed everyone they could find. Then they headed for London.

 

London wasn’t the capital, but it was an up-and-coming port, and a lot of Romans and Romanised Britons lived there. Suetonius Paulinus couldn’t get troops to London in time, so he gave the order for everyone to get out. Boudica burned London to the ground. Then she headed to Verulamium, modern St Albans, and destroyed that.

 

In a matter of months Boudica had run rings round the Roman army and totally destroyed all three of the major Roman towns in Britain. The destruction was so devastating that you can still see the blackened layer of burnt and charred remains in the ground today.

 

No Roman emperor could allow a whole province to fall out of control like that. Suetonius Paulinus raced back from Wales and lured Boudica into open battle near Mancetter, in the West Midlands. The Romans won – well, they were bound to – but they didn’t catch Boudica. According to legend, which may well be true, she and her daughters poisoned themselves. And according to the popular version, Boudica is buried underneath one of the platforms at King’s Cross Station.

 

Roman in the Gloamin’ – Agricola

 

The Romans in Scotland? You’re probably thinking the Romans didn’t conquer Scotland. Think again. The Roman governor Agricola led an army through the Lowlands and on into the Highlands. Agricola conquered the Lowlands without too much trouble. Some tribes made peace quickly, and he soon dealt with the ones that didn’t. The whole area became a Roman province, with a big Roman camp called Trimontium at modern-day Newstead. Agricola carried on building forts as he moved north to take on the Caledonians of the Highlands. An almighty battle occurred between the Romans and the Caledonians at Mons Graupius in AD 84, and the Caledonians lost. Heavily. But to Agricola’s surprise, the Caledonians didn’t come and surrender. They burned everything and took to the hills. Agricola knew he couldn’t follow them, so he and his men turned back.

 

Still, most of Caledonia was in Roman hands, which meant the Romans had conquered modern-day England, Wales, and most of Scotland. A few years ago, archaeologists even found the remains of what looked at first like a Roman fort in Ireland, but we now think the spot’s more likely to have been a trading post. At any rate, Agricola could feel pretty pleased with himself: Britannia was firmly in Roman hands. Then he got recalled to Rome.

 

Agricola’s recall was politics, of course: The Emperor Domitian was intensely jealous of him. And thanks to Agricola, fewer troops seemed to be needed in Britain, so the legions began to be pulled out and sent elsewhere. With the departure of Agricola and many Roman legions, the Caledonians saw their chance. They began to attack the forts Agricola had built, and without enough men to defend them, the remaining Romans had to pull out of Scotland. Soon, not much was left of the Roman occupation of Scotland.

 

And What Have the Romans Ever Given Us in Return?’

 

The Romans weren’t great ones for original thinking: They built on other people’s ideas and inventions, especially the Greeks’. In Britain, they even borrowed’ the local gods: They built Roman temples to British gods, and named Aquae Sulis (Bath) after Sul, a local British river god.

 

Iron Age people were more sophisticated and advanced than we tend to give them credit for, but the Romans were in another class altogether. The Britons’ first introduction to Roman technology was in battle, when they probably didn’t have much time to admire the Romans’ craftmanship or their grasp of mathematics and angles of projection. Roman siege artillery could hurl huge rocks through the air, smashing the Britons’ wooden palisades into pieces, and a Roman ballista catapult could fire metal darts so rapidly, with such deadly accuracy, that it was almost like having a machine gun. The following sections, however, examine how Roman technology affected the Britons once the fighting was over.

 

Sorry, no aqueducts

 

Despite Monty Python, apart from a bit of raised piping and a pump system in Lincoln, we haven’t actually found any Roman aqueducts in Britain. Shame. We know that they set up a proper waterworks system: A beautifully preserved network of baths exists in Bath to prove it, not to mention smaller bath houses up and down the country. But instead of sending the water over long distances by aqueduct, the Romans seem to have made more use of local pipes and lead pipes underground.

 

The Latin for lead is plumbum – hence ‘plumb line’ and Pb, the chemical term for lead – which is why someone who deals with your water pipes is called a plumber. But if the Romans didn’t actually bring the aqueduct to Britain, they brought plenty of other goodies.

 

Another brick in the wall

 

Probably the most famous thing the Romans built in Britain was Hadrian’s great wall, which extends from the River Tyne over to the Solway Firth (which is roughly Newcastle to Carlisle). The wall doesn’t, and never did, mark the boundary between England and Scotland.

 

No one knows exactly why Hadrian built the wall. It may have been for defence, or to stop the troublesome Brigantes (from the North Country) from ganging up with the Caledonians (from Scotland), or the wall may just have been to get his name into the Guinness Book of Records. What we do know is that he took the project seriously, because he came over in person to help plan the thing. The job was massive: All along the wall’s length were forts and milecastles, and a huge military ditch and rampart ran parallel to it. Hadrian’s Wall still looks impressive today, as it snakes its way across countryside, but it was a lot higher in Roman times. Its construction was a tremendous feat of engineering.

 

A few years later, however, the Romans moved north again. This time, the emperor was Antoninus Pius, and he ordered a second wall to be built much further north. Called the Antonine Wall, after Antoninus Pius, this wall went across Scotland, more or less from Edinburgh to Glasgow. The Antonine wall made a lot more sense than Hadrian’s Wall because it protected the peaceful tribes of the south from the wild Caledonians of the north. And the southern tribes needed protecting, too, because the Caledonian attacks were so fierce that the Romans had to abandon the Antonine Wall and head back to Hadrian’s Wall. And after all that work!

 

Urban sprawl

 

Look at a map of Roman Britain (shown in Figure 4-1), and the first thing that hits you is the sheer number of towns. The place was covered with them, all linked by those famous straight roads. Some of these towns started off as big tribal centres before the Romans arrived, like Camulodunum (Colchester), which had been Cunobelinus’s capital, or Verulamium (later St Albans), which had been the capital of the Catuvellauni. When the Romans arrived, they took these large centres and built them up in the Roman style, which was sensible in two ways:

 

Taking advantage of a good thing: Usually, if a town already exists somewhere it’s there for a good reason – good water supply or easy access to the river, or whatever.

Romanising the population: Making the Britons’ towns Roman helped to give the Britons a sense that they were now part of the Roman Empire whether they liked it or not.

 

The Romans also set up coloniae: Settlements for soldiers who had left the army and were looking to settle down. The first big colonia was at Colchester, but others followed at places like Gloucester, Lincoln, Wroxeter, and York.

 

Get your kicks on Route LXVI

 

What the Romans lacked in aqueducts they made up for in roads (take a look at Figure 4-1 to see where the main ones were built). At some point, two of the three big roads got rather homely English names: Watling Street (London to Wroxeter in Wales) and Ermine Street (London to Hadrian’s Wall). Only the Fosse Way, which goes from Exeter in Devon across country to Lincoln, has a Roman ring to it. And yes, these roads are straight.

 

You can drive along stretches of Roman roads today because later road builders followed the same routes. You can virtually go onto autopilot, except that they’re so straight that they’re full of hidden dips.

 

You can see why they’re so straight – consider that ‘The shortest way between two points is a straight line’ stuff you did at school – but the Romans might have been a bit more sensible. A straight line may be the shortest way up a hill, but it sure ain’t the easiest. Still, you’ve got to hand it to the Romans: They knew their business. They used the old three-sticks-in-a-line technique to keep the roads straight: Simple, but very effective. They knew about drainage. They knew all about laying good foundations and having a layer of small stones to keep the big top stones in place. And they knew all about cutting the trees back so they couldn’t be taken by surprise in an ambush.

 

All that foreign food

 

The Romans probably started the international custom of moaning about British cuisine. Not that the British ate badly; just that their range was very limited: Lots of meat and bread, followed by bread with meat, with meat (or bread) as a bedtime snack. The Romans brought some better agricultural techniques over with them, along with the latest in ploughs (cutting edge technology!) and showed the Britons how to grow things like cabbages and carrots. A few copies of Roman recipes still exist and they’re surprisingly good. Lots of fruit – the Romans introduced that as well – and things like fish paste and honey.

 

The Roman way of life

 

How Roman were the Britons? We know that the leading Britons took to the Roman way of life. They stopped talking about ‘chiefs’ and called themselves kings’ – much more posh. One king, Cogidubnus, who was a good friend of the Emperor Vespasian, probably had the big Roman-style villa at Fishbourne in West Sussex built for him. Anyone who lived in a town – and a lot of people did – was in effect living the Roman way. The Emperor Caracalla even made all Britons citizens of Rome, but he was doing the same throughout the Roman Empire, so perhaps we shouldn’t read too much into that.

 

Nevertheless, most Britons still lived in their villages, doing things pretty much as they’d always done them. Despite some changes – new crops, new tools, new roads, no woad – if their Iron Age ancestors had been able to visit, they wouldn’t have found things all that different.

 

Saints alive! Christianity arrives!

 

We don’t know exactly who first brought Christianity into Britain (except that we can be pretty sure it wasn’t Joseph of Arimathea, which is what they liked to claim in the Middle Ages). But Christianity only became widespread when the Romans started to worship as Christians.

 

The town of Verulamium got called St Albans after Britain’s first ever Christian martyr, a Roman soldier called Alban, who was put to death in Verulamium for sheltering a Christian priest. This event may have happened in AD 304 or AD 209 (no one said ancient history is an exact science), and it shows that Christianity did indeed reach Roman Britain.

 

Early British Christians had to keep their heads down, or they’d end up like poor old Alban. After the Emperor Constantine gave Christianity the thumbs up in AD 312 (and he became emperor at York – a local lad, by Jove!) and the Emperor Theodosius made it the official religion in AD 380, the Christians could come out of hiding and worship in the open.

 

To judge by the number of Roman churches and chapels that cropped up, that’s just what they did. These early Christians must have started appointing bishops, too, because three of them set off from Britain for a big church conference at Arles in Gaul in AD 314.

 

In addition, a monk called Ninian – later St Ninian – took the religion north of Hadrian’s Wall to the warlike Picts (find out more about the Picts in Chapter 3). Quite a scary thing to do, but Ninian seems to have got away with it, and he founded a big monastery up there called Candida Casa, which means the White House. (No, archaeologists haven’t uncovered anything the right shape to be the oval office, but they’re looking.)

 

Time to Decline and Fall . . . and Go

 

By the fourth century AD the Roman Empire was no longer the mighty edifice it had been in Caesar’s day. It was divided into two halves, and continual power struggles occurred, which often ended up with Roman armies fighting each other, or commanders in one part of the Empire declaring war on other parts. As if that in-fighting wasn’t enough, Rome’s neighbours started moving in for the kill. The tribes of Germany and Hungary, as well as migrating tribes from Asia, started attacking the Empire, penetrating far beyond the frontier. Try as they might, the Romans couldn’t recover the discipline and organisation that had once made them seem invincible. They were well into decline, and about to fall. Roman Britain was no exception. If you want to find out more about how the Romans declined and fell, and about the tribes that helped them do so, take a look at European History For Dummies (Wiley).

 

Trouble up North

 

Cue the Brigantes: The northern tribe who handed Caratacus over to the Romans (explained in the section ‘Caratacus fights the Romans’). Well, maybe they wanted to make up for their past treachery, because just when you thought Britain was nicely Romanised and everything was settled, the Brigantes started raising merry hell.

 

The Brigantes had caused Hadrian to come to Britain for a look – and he probably built his wall specifically to keep the Brigantes apart from the Caledonians, who were always causing trouble as well. But it took more than a wall to keep the Brigantes down, and they spent most of the second century (the 100s AD) in revolt against the Romans, until in the end the Romans divided Britain into two: Britannia Prima, which was the South, where it was peaceful and prosperous, and Britannia Secunda, which was the north, where all the trouble was. This ancient division was a bit like the north–south divide still evident in Britain today.

 

Roman emperors, made in Britain

 

Britain was also caught up in an endless and deadly struggle for power between the Roman emperors and their military commanders. Here are a few British highlights in this long, drawn-out death march:

AD 186: Huge mutiny in the Roman army in Britain, put down by Governor Pertinax. Pertinax then heads off to Rome and becomes emperor but only lasts a few months before being bumped off.

AD 208: Emperor Septimius Severus arrives in Britain to sort out the Caledonians. He does, for a while, but then dies at York – the first Roman emperor to do so.

AD 259: Would-be Emperor Postumus declares a break-away Roman Empire of Gaul, Spain, and Britain. It gets put down in the end.

AD 286: Carausius, Admiral of the Roman fleet in Britain, declares a Roman British Empire all on his own. His self-declared empire lasts about ten years until Caesar Constantius comes over and wins Britain back for the proper Roman Empire. Constantius goes on to become emperor and has another go at the Caledonians.

AD 306 and onwards: In 306, Emperor Constantius dies. At York. After that, Roman emperors steer clear of York.

Constantius’s death at York explains how his son Constantine came to be declared emperor (also at York). Constantine is the one who built the great city of Constantinople as a ‘New Rome’ in the east. While Constantine was busy building cities on the Bosphorus, things were going badly wrong back  in Britain.

 

Gothic revival

 

The Picts, now joined by their pals the Scots, were launching more and more raids over Hadrian’s Wall. They ran rampage and stole anything they could carry or, in the case of cattle, drive. The problem just wouldn’t go away: No matter how many times the Romans beat them, those Picts and Scots kept coming back. These troublesome events combined with an even more worrying development. Boatloads of raiders had started landing all along the east coast of Britain. These raiders weren’t Picts or Scots: They were Saxons, and they came from Germany.

 

Germany was the big area along the frontier of the Roman Empire that the Romans were never able to conquer. Not only had the Romans not been able to conquer the Saxons, but the Saxons kept leading incursions into Roman territory. By the time of the Saxon landing parties in Britain, various German tribes – Vandals, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, all with black eye liner and white faces of course! – were attacking Rome, charging into the Roman Empire and heading down towards Italy. The Romans were in deep trouble, so when Saxons started landing in Britain, they took special precautions.

 

Exit Romans, stage left

 

The Romans appointed a special officer to keep the Saxons at bay. The whole of the east coast of Britain became known as the Saxon Shore, so the officer was called the Count of the Saxon Shore. The Romans built a string of forts along the shore, with lookout posts and early warning signals. These forts worked well until AD 367 when everything went wrong.

 

The Picts, the Scots, and another lot called the Attacotti, got together and planned a simultaneous attack. Simultaneously, the Saxons stepped up their raids. The Romans were caught completely on the hop and the Count of the Saxon Shore was killed. It looked like the end for Roman Britain. But no! A new Count, Theodosius, zoomed in, beat the Picts, scotched the Scots, sent the Saxons packing, and rebuilt Hadrian’s Wall. Then he stopped for lunch. He even found time to put the Roman governor to death for treason (well, the governor had tried to pull out of the Empire, and who can blame him?).

 

Frankly, Theodosius needn’t have bothered with saving Roman Britain from the wild tribes and the Saxons. In AD 407, Emperor Constantine III started withdrawing troops from Britain to deal with a crisis along the Rhine. He may not have meant this action to be a permanent withdrawal, but it became one. By AD 409 the Romans had all gone.

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