Early Britain—Roman Britain eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 242 pages of information about Early Britain—Roman Britain.
and that he (when a final appeal for Roman aid proved vain)[366] may have taken into his pay (as Carausius did) the crews of certain pirate “keels” [chiulae],[367] and settled them in Thanet.  The very names of their English captains, “Hengist and Horsa,” may not be so mythical as critics commonly assume.[368] And the tale of the victory at Stamford, when the spears of the Scottish invaders were cut to pieces by the swords of the English mercenaries,[369] has a very true ring about it.  So has also the sequel, which tells how, when the inevitable quarrel arose between employers and employed, the Saxon leader gave the signal for the fray by suddenly shouting to his men, Nimed eure saxes[370] (i.e. “Draw your knives!"), and massacred the hapless Britons of Kent almost without resistance.

D. 3.—­The date of this first English settlement is doubtful.  Bede fixes it as 449, which agrees with the order of events in Gildas, and with the notice in Nennius that it was forty years after the end of Roman rule in Britain [transacto Romanorum in Britannia imperio].  But Nennius also declares that this was in the fourth year of Vortigern, and that his accession coincided with that of the nephew and successor of Honorius, Valentinian III., son of Galla Placidia, which would bring in the Saxons 428.  It may perhaps be some very slight confirmation of the later date, that Valentinian is the last Emperor whose coins have been found in Britain.[371]

D. 4.—­Anyhow, the arrival of the successive swarms of Anglo-Saxons from the mouth of the Elbe, and their hard-won conquest of Eastern Britain during the 5th century, is certain.  The western half of the island, from Clydesdale southwards, resisted much longer, and, in spite of its long and straggling frontier, held together for more than a century.  Not till the decisive victory of the Northumbrians at Chester (A.D. 607), and that of the West Saxons at Beandune (A.D. 614) was this Cymrian federation finally broken into three fragments, each destined shortly to disintegrate into an ever-shifting medley of petty principalities.  Yet in each the ideal of national and racial unity embodied in the word Cymry[372] long survived; and titles borne to this day by our Royal House, “Duke of Cornwall,” “Prince of Wales,” “Duke of Albany,” are the far-off echoes, lingering in each, of the Roman “Comes Britanniae” and “Dux Britanniarum.”  The three feathers of the Principality may in like manner be traced to the tufa, or plume, borne before the supreme authority amongst the Romans of old, as the like are borne before the Supreme Head of the Roman Church to this day.  And age after age the Cymric harpers sang of the days when British armies had marched in triumph to Rome, and the Empire had been won by British princes, till the exploits of their mystical “Arthur"[373] became the nucleus of a whole cycle of mediaeval romance, and even, for a while, a real force in practical politics.[374]

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