Early Britain—Roman Britain eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 242 pages of information about Early Britain—Roman Britain.

C. 12.—­But, for all that, the moral effect of Alaric’s capture of Rome was portentous, and shook the very foundations of civilization throughout the world.  To Jerome, in his cell at Bethlehem, the tidings came like the shock of an earthquake.  Augustine, as he penned his ’De Civitate Dei,’ felt the old world ended indeed, and the Kingdom of Heaven indeed at hand.  And in Britain the whole elaborate system of Imperial civil and military government seems to have crumbled to the ground almost at once.  It is noticeable that the rescript of Honorius is addressed simply to “the cities” of Britain, the local municipal officers of each several place.  No higher authority remained.  The Vicar of Britain, with his staff, the Count and Duke of the Britains with their soldiery, the Count of the Saxon Shore with his coastguard,—­all were gone.  It is possible that, as the deserted provincials learnt to combine for defence, the Dictators they chose from time to time to lead the national forces may have derived some of their authority from the remembrance of these old dignities.  “The dragon of the great Pendragonship,"[363] the tufa of Caswallon (633), and the purple of Cunedda[364] may well have been derived (as Professor Rhys suggests) from this source.  But practically the history of Roman Britain ends with a crash at the Fall of Rome.


Beginning of English Conquest—­Vortigern—­Jutes in Thanet—­Battle of Stamford—­Massacre of Britons—­Valentinian III.—­Latest Roman coin found in Britain—­Progress of Conquest—­The Cymry—­Survival of Romano-British titles—­Arturian Romances—­Procopius—­Belisarius—­Roman claims revived by Charlemagne—­The British Empire.

D. 1.—­Little remains to be told, and that little rests upon no contemporary authority known to us.  In Gildas, the nearest, writing in the next century, we find little more than a monotonous threnody over the awful visitation of the English Conquest, the wholesale and utter destruction of cities, the desecration of churches, the massacre of clergy and people.  Nennius (as, for the sake of convenience, modern writers mostly agree to call the unknown author of the ’Historia Britonum’) gives us legends of British incompetence and Saxon treachery which doubtless represent the substantial features of the break-up, and preserve, quite possibly, even some of the details.  Bede and the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ assign actual dates to the various events, but we have no means of testing their accuracy.

D. 2.—­Broadly we know that the unhappy civilians, who were not only without military experience, but had up to this moment been actually forbidden to carry arms, naturally proved unable to face the ferocious enemies who swarmed in upon them.  They could neither hold the Wall against the Picts nor the coast against the Saxons.  It may well be true that they chose a Dux Britannorum,[365] and that his name may have been something like Vortigern,

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Early Britain—Roman Britain from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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