CeLts an Anglo Saxons

End of Roman OradeR

Kale Fortress

Below: Pevensey Castle was originally a Late Roman fortification: one of the forts of the "Saxon Shore."

Home never completely conquered the British Isles, a failure that in later years came to haunt the governors of the province. Scotland, Ireland, and, to a lesser extent, Wales lay outside Roman control, and by the late fourth century their barbarian inhabitants were successfully raiding Britannia. Coin hoards in Wales testify' to the plunder the raiding parties looted. The defense of the prov ince now fell to locally raised and trained legionaries, often under the command of locally trained officers. The few "true" Romans left were, themselves, unlikely to have ever been near Rome. Some, indeed, were former barbarians. It was becoming harder to control the situation, especially when many of the legionaries had automatic sympathies with their Celtic "barbarian" cousins.

North of Hadrian's Wall the Picts and the Scots were kept at bay until 367 when an uneasy alliance with the local Romano-British fell apart,

During the last decadcs of the third century AD, Roman civilization in Britain came under increasing pressure from raids by Scots, Picts, and Saxons. Roman troops were at a premium because a scries of power struggles within the Kmpire created a demand for seasoned troops. As Roman garrisons left Britain for (iaul, the local Romano-British were forced to organize their own defenses against the new barbarian invaders.

resulting in some Roman troops defecting and allowing these northern Celts to penetrate Britannia. The disaster of 367 is significant, since it was an alliance not only of the Irish, the Scots, and the Rets, but also non-Roman frontier troops who defected. Two years later, after much raiding south deep into the heartland of civilized Britain, Roman rule was restored. Stronger relations were established with the Votadani, a buffer tribe between the Picts and the wall.

Just as serious were the raids against the south and east coasts by the Saxons. During the late third century AI) a chain of Saxon Forts was established along the coasts, to protect what had become known as the Saxon Shore.

Britannia was further weakened in 383 when Magnus Maximus took many of his garrison troops from Britannia across to Gaul. The Roman general had his eye on the imperial crown, but the gamble did not pay off. Maximus was defeated and it is unlikely that his troops ever returned to Britain. Those who had

Rome Sazon Shore

not followed the foolhardy general worked with local administrators to defend the borders of Roman Britain.

Vandalizing Britain

Not long after Maximus's attempt on Rome, the emperor appointed the former Vandal Stilicho to command of the Roman legions and made him responsible for the defense of the Western Roman Empire. Although Stilicho led Roman expeditions against the Picts and the Saxons, in 401 he withdrew even more troops from Britain to help defend Italy from mass Vandal invasion from the east. In 406 the Vandals crossed the Rhine into Gaul, and in 410 the last Roman troops were withdrawn to help restore the situation in Gaul. Britannia was now defenseless, and from that point on it effectively ceased to lie part of the collapsing Roman world. Instead, the province became independent, ruled by a series of Romano-British chieftains.

Little is known about the first decades of post-Roman Britain, as Roman writers no longer commented on political developments in the island. Bishop St. Germanus of Auxerre left accounts of two visits he made to Britain in 428/9 and 445/6. During his first visit, life seemed to have continued much as it did during Roman times. The region was ruled by a high-king (superbus tyrannus) named Vortigern, which means "overlord." The bishop participated in the repulsion of a large Saxon raiding force, and his mass afterward gave the battle its name of the Alleluia victory. To St. Germanus, the battle was a clear struggle between Christians and pagans.

When the bishop returned for his second visit, Vortigern was barely in control. In the intervening 16 years the province had come under increasing pressure from Saxon, Rctish, and Irish raiders. An appeal to the Western Empire for help went unanswered, and around 450 Vortigern's Jute mercenaries mutinied. The Jutes devastated parts of southeast Britain, and Vortigern was forced to appeal to I lengist of the Saxons for help. In return for military aid, they would be granted control of a region in Kent, on the Saxon shore. Although the Jutes were defeated, the Saxons had been let in by the back door. In later Celtic annals, Vortigern was seen as a traitor who made a deal with the enemy. If the facts arc examined, he may not have had anv choice.

Above: A local fortification at the junction of two major Roman roads, Viroconium grew into a major British Roman city by ad 200.

Gariannum (Burgh Castle)

(Walton Castle)

Combretovium

(Baylham House) (ImorUi) Camulodnum iCoichester)

Othona

(Bradweli)

Regulium

(Reculver)

Rutupiae

(Richborough)

Portus Dubris

(Dover)

Portus Lemanis

(Lymphe)

Anderitum

(Pevensey)

(Brancaster)

The first line of defense against sea raiders from across the North Sea was a chain of "Saxon

Roman fort of the Saxon Shore

• Roman civic center area affected by first Saxon raids

Gariannum (Burgh Castle)

(Walton Castle)

Combretovium

(Baylham House) (ImorUi) Camulodnum iCoichester)

Othona

(Bradweli)

Regulium

(Reculver)

Rutupiae

(Richborough)

Portus Dubris

(Dover)

Portus Lemanis

(Lymphe)

Anderitum

(Pevensey)

(Brancaster)

Chapter 9 — CELTS AND ANGLO-SAXONS

The Sub-Roman CeLts

After the withdrawal of the Romans from Britain, the former province disintegrated into a patchwork of kingdoms stretching from Pietland to the Channel, ruled by loeal Romanized chiefs. From a combination of documentary and archaeological evidence we can reconstruct some of this fragile political framework. These late Celtic kingdoms were to bear the brunt of the Anglo-Saxon invasions of the sixth century.

Below: Dumbarton Rock (Alcluyd), capital of the Celtic kingdom of Strathclyde.

ittle is known about the structure of post-Roman Britain before the mid-sixth century. We do know that in northern Britain, beyond the ruins of Hadrian's Wall, the Picts were coming under pressure from the Scots (or Irish) colony of Dal Riada (see pages 76-77). Prom the mid-fifth century the Saxons were established in Kent, while the Jutes occupied the coast of parts of Essex. The Irish had also established another colony, this time in Gwynedd in Wales. In the rest of southern Britain, the political organization established by the Romans had been taken over by the Romano-British, referred to as the sub-Roman British from 410 onwards by modern historians. Although we cannot be certain, it appears that their territorial divisions followed the Roman diocese of the Christian Church, which in turn were probably based on older tribal div isions.

From the monk Gildas and his De excidio et conquestu Britanniae written in 560, we know that the British of this time were organized into 11 kingdoms, including that of the Picts. The kingdom of Dumnonia was situated in southwest Britain, centered on the modern county of Dorset. The kingdom has been linked to the pre-Roman tribe of the Durotriges.

Strathclycle

Gwent suWtoman British

Dumnoni

Divisions of sub-Roman Britain after ad 450.

Picttena

Meath

Leinster plSH SEA Gwynedd/" Elmet

NO R TH SE4

Isle of Wight

Culture Celtique

Although the sub-Roman Britons were united under the leadership of Vortigern as high-king from c.425-55, after his reign the Celtic kingdoms could not agree on an overlord. For brief periods, a number of the kingdoms united under a war leader, and the Celtic kingdoms survived, at least for a time. Given their lack of unity, one of their greatest allies was a similar lack of coordination among the kings and rulers of Anglo-Saxon England. Nevertheless, this patchwork of Celtic kingdoms would eventually succumb to the pressures exerted by Anglo-Saxon expansion.

Above: Tribal capital and fortress of the Celtic Votadani. the hillfort of Traprain Law became a bastion for the Gododdin.

Below: Edinburgh Castle was built on the volcanic plug that once housed the Celtic stronghold of Dun Eidyn. seat of the kings of Gododdin.

Certainly old Celtic hillforts were reoccupied and turned into bastions against the advance of the Saxons.

Further to the west, Kernow (Cornwall) retained its independence from the rest of sub-Roman Britain. Another small kingdom was Gwent, the traditional home of the Silures of the Severn valley. Dyfed was the old Celtic tribal home of the Demetae, and the names have the same root. Gildas referred to King Vortepor of Dyfed as "the tyrant of the Demataeans." Further to the north the kingdom of Powys was a mountain stronghold covering central Wales, the last bastion of the pre-Roman Welsh Cornovii tribe. Ruled by King Cuneglas, the kingdom had a reputation for its military prowess. The kingdom of Gwynedd was originally an Irish colony, whose settlers dominated the indigenous population there. Gildas records that the kingdom was ruled by King Maelgwyn.

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