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Juan A. Caballero Prieto
The Fight for Britannia Post Roman Abandonment: A Matter of Religion
“…many modern historians, lost in the fog of academic theory, tend to treat their chosen period as a laboratory in which empiricism will provide a „true‟ and scientific picture of the past. But because the past was created by unpredictable and emotionally driven human beings, there is a danger that answers thrown up by such an approach are, in fact, delusions.” 2
Mapsof.net/uploads/static-maps/roman_britain_410.png Moorhead & Stuttard p.7
The Fight for Britannia Post Roman Abandonment
Juan A. Caballero Prieto
The complexities associated with writing about any period in history are made evident when an attempt is made to interpret ancient texts, few sources, and biased men. Post-Roman-time Britannia sank into an abyss so deep that even the illumination irradiated by men of wisdom and education seemed too dim for the modern men trying to study them. The citation provided in my introductory page continues: “Instead, our intent has been to put people back at the heart of the story, and to acknowledge how their ambitions, aspirations and passions contributed to the development of Britannia (as the Romans called the province). Without these people, no battles would have been fought, no roads constructed, no villas farmed, no towns built, no walls painted, no mosaics laid, no gods worshipped.”3 In the spirit of the work written by Moorhead & Stuttard, I shall focus on the ancient writers that provided us with the brief, and yet rich, story of England we have questioned so endlessly. Nennius, Bede, and Gildas,4 were only three men, but their perspectives provide us with a picture we can choose to dismiss as pure fiction, or acknowledge as the imperfect dreams of men driven by more than historical fact: passion and bias. Dates for this time are notoriously hard to pinpoint, and what we do get is, at best, guesswork. However, I will make an attempt to explain, at the very least, the reasons why it was so. Whether or not England suffered a pandemic decline of Roman culture post-abandonment in 410 CE,5 was ravaged by Saxons, Anglos, Picts, and Scots, and completely forgotten by Rome is a subject endlessly debated in modern times. However, there is evidence that such a catastrophic destruction of the cultural aspects of the Roman Empire did not take place immediately after 410. Furthermore, despite dismissals of Nennius, Bede, and Gildas, these writers show that the conflict with the Saxons was not directly related to land or immigration, but religion. Texts like the aforementioned histories and the Virgilius Romanus vehemently oppose the sudden impact argument presented by many to explain the lack of archeological evidence for this period. In addition, a Rome that did not care would not have sent a
Moorhead & Stuttard p.7 According to Dark b. ca 500- d. 570 (p.36) 5 According to Moorhead and Stuttard Constantine led the remainder of the Roman army off the island in 407; that, along with a successful Briton rebellion in 409 could be considered the end of effective Roman rule on the island
1. no doubt a reference to both the reducing amount of knowledge. Gilda‟s metaphor to the vineyard references of the Bible. perhaps. Fields p.6 in his Historia Brittonum.12. As he continues. and the falling out of the Romano-Briton descendants who yet remained on the island. consider. Britannia. it yet did not disappear. Traditional historians. would argue that once Rome left the Romano-Britons the latter consigned themselves to a painful death. in a beautiful use of metaphor. Cultural Tradition: Nennius The most telling of the works is. introduces us to an England living on the edge of a historical precipice at the end of the eighth or early ninth century. 677 according to Giles on the introduction to the book referenced in my bibliography) predates Nennius. that the plentiful harvest of history has been reduced to a “few remaining ears of corn” which must be preserved for future generations. this paper begs to differ.24) Page 3 . as if they had lost all power and hope. 6 9 Dark p. The political construct of Rome remained. Nennius. both cultural and physical.8 The author further states. as well. Nennius blames lives shortened by war and famine for the lack of historical works that deal with the history of the island from the fall of Rome to the present 6 Bede (b. its people. Nennius is writing to save what is left. though the preface to Nennius‟ work gives the date as 858 CE (I. i. Britannia is the vineyard of the lord. and King Arthur are as much a construct of history as is the factual men who gave them birth. the smallest of them all. up until 577 CE. 796 according to Newell (p.9 Both statements are evidence of the widespread use of Latin as a staple language and the decrease of historical and cultural transmission in the minds of the 8th century. it seems. which has been so corrupted only a few cluster of grapes or heaps of corn can be seen. easily.e. but merely morphed so as to adapt to a future that required the aid of legends and heroes.622). the righteous (I. Caballero Prieto Germanic bishop to England in order to quench a heresy that was damaging the hegemony of the Religious Empire that had formed in place of the Civitas of Rome.The Fight for Britannia Post Roman Abandonment Juan A.7 The historian attributes his own lack of education to the fact he has to write in Latin. as one has to do with the leftovers of corn that are the product of a long and slow decay. Beyond that. I.2) 8 Nen. though the latter‟s account is the most optimal based on the argument for this paper 7 Compiled ca.
at least. Marcus Junius Brutus. in fact. However. while Brutus was the cognomen – an offshoot). Caballero Prieto time. his son could very well by the Brutus which Nennius seems to recall. Nennius‟ constant apologies to those “greater than himself” is further evidence that there was an educated elite versed on the topic he is about to cover.627 15 consul in 77 BCE 16 The same who was paternal uncle to Julius Caesar. I. who was. the king who had murdered the revolutionary‟s father.The Fight for Britannia Post Roman Abandonment Juan A. Other Brutii were Marcus Junius Brutus the 10 11 Nen. resulting in their deaths. Nennius‟ viewpoint. The name is Decimus Junius Brutus Callaicus. at the command of their father. Ye t another Marcus Junius Brutus was a supporter of Gaius Marius. were an ancient Roman family known for their revolutionary zeal. which seems to contrast with those who are wiser than he. Another Marcus Junius Brutus was consul in 178 BCE. the connection seems to be that Rome took over Spain in opposition to the Carthaginians. as the historian claims to use Roman annals for his research that said works were available to. first invader of Brittania (Moorhead & Stuttard p. a feat attributed by history to the Cornelius (Scipio) gens.16 and one more Marcus Junius Brutus the Elder was the founder of the colony of Capua. could be assumed to have made some travels there. a revolutionary-like move. giving the short distance from that area to the shores of England.16).13 who received his appellative due to his conquests in North Western Spain (the area of Gaellicia – modern Galicia) and. L. resulting in the traditional creation of the Roman Republic. who came from southern Italy. 14 Newell p. at least.14 Decimus Junius Brutus15 was a supporter of the dictator Sulla. the connections for Nennius.11 Lucius Junius Brutus rebelled against the kingship of Lucius Tarquinius Superbus. Junius Brutus‟ own sons12 conspired against the newly found Republic. The Junius Brutus (the first being the nomen of the gens. we must notice that Nennius claims Britain was first subdued by a Brutus. the elite.10 It is a safe assumption. is a tantalizing clue into the rationale that is leading him to write. where Spartacus would spring from 100 years later.3 See the author‟s work on the prime ancestor of the Junii in Rome From Monarchy to Republic (578-508) 12 Titus Junius Brutus and Tiberius Junius Brutus 13 Nennius explains that Brutus was consul when he conquered Spain. Hence. versed in basic Roman history through the annals left behind by Rome Page 4 . at least in the mind of the historian.
21 and his calculation for the years of the Republic22 to mark the triumvirate of Caesar.17 and Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus. is ungratefully rebelling. in favor of the grand-turn of events that led to Caesar‟s assassination. and succeed. Nennius is either little concerned with historical fact. The historian is certain that other men are making up stories about Britannia. The author quotes the Aenid.15) 19 All ancient writers quoted in this paper. by then the first century was halfway done. than to deny to God fear.19 However.The Fight for Britannia Post Roman Abandonment Juan A. now against God. 447 years in between. and Crassus in 60 BCE. writes as if Brutus was ancient man descendent from the very beginnings of Rome. a land engulfed in war at the time of his writing. that Rome would make an attempt. and that they are in rebellion against that which is just. to those placed in higher position the hours due to them.18 It was the spirit of rebellion and rebellious causes that led Nennius to believe the story of a Brutus who had been the first to take charge of Britannia. mention of Lucius Junius Brutus by name. who first exercised the consular office. Nennius. the dictatorships of Sulla and the illegalities of Pompey are ignored. It would not be until the emperors Caligula and Claudius. who had first invaded Britannia in 55 BCE. Nennius however. reigned over the Romans” (XVI) 22 By measurement of 447 yrs 23 Measured from 509 to 62. a homage to times past that call upon the Romano-Briton and 17 18 Son of Marcus Junius Brutus the Elder Moorhead and Stuttard p. I. since it was first inhabited. as subduing Britannia. Brutus. that their religion is unjust or heretic. sometimes even against the kings over the sea and their subjects. having read the Aeniad. lies. leader of the Atrebates (p. Caesar‟s had his own problems with local leaders who would swear allegiance and then betray Roman trust. and rebellion.252.23 are all signs of a higher purpose. Any Roman historian would have done the same. without detriment to the faith – than to break faith with divine and human sentiment. at other times against fellow citizens. who states: “[Britannia] of proud neck and mind. can be or be introduced by the recklessness of men. or too ignorant (to put it in his own words) to know any better. and thus. Nennius. Pompey.4 21 “At that period. Caballero Prieto younger. For what deeper baseness. like Gildas is concerned with religion. to worthy fellow citizens love. the factual Brutus is lost in the stuff of legend. proving the correctness of the island‟s name (to follow Nennius‟ logic) is notorious in the person of Commius. it seems. to be governed by one‟s own inventions and lusts?” 20 Nennius. and having cast away fear of heaven and earth. is doing no more than Virgil did for the Romans in tracing their ancestry to the Trojans Page 5 . what greater unrighteousness. Nennius‟ hypothesis seemed to be confirmed by certain reading of Gildas. assassins of Julius Caesar. make allusion to the Roman attempts and eventual conquest of Britannia 20 Gil.
especially in the Northern areas. rather. Caballero Prieto give legitimacy to his claims of historical fact. Though structures began to collapse and expensive buildings decayed. Furthermore.27 Their leaders. after all. find themselves 24 25 Nen.25 the power vacuum was made evident by barbarian invasions from the North. Facts of the Transition Once Emperor Constantine III left Britain to gain control of the Western Roman Empire in 407.The Fight for Britannia Post Roman Abandonment Juan A. were hasty burials of Britons have been uncovered. but the culture of Roman law and Roman understanding remained. that construct dissipated. as Nennius demonstrates.24 What the historian is attempting to convey is that the soul of Britannia was rebellious. bodies showing evidence of raids. the cultural aspects of Romano-Britons had to endure as a separation between them and the Saxons. unable or unwilling to seek aid from Rome.14 27 Moorhead & Stuttard p. the Picts and Scots assail the lands of the Britons. it was all a matter of religion. Anyone who was someone was descendant of people with common Latin-like names. were a prominent factor that led to Britannia slowly falling into Saxon control. now that said power was gone. the inability of the local warlords. Post 409. Constantine III would only reign for four years 26 Moorhead & Stuttard p.241. Archeological evidence shows many areas of Britannia unprepared. Once Constantine III had left. and that one must always place country before personal gain. The reason for this moral establishment is that Nennius did not see the problem in Britannia has having aroused from invasion.30 Page 6 . Gildas I. I. British warlords.17-18 Bede XI. trained in the ways of Rome would apply political dominance by recruiting Germanic tribes in the same way that Romans had done. conformism an impossible solution. Rome had always been a construct of ideas maintained by its centralized power. giving evidence of its inability to render assistance.240. which will be sacked in 410. and how could it be otherwise? They were Roman. Dark p.26 and the Britons would soon learn that to keep the culture of Rome alive they would have to fight for it. who refused to let go of Roman ways.
244) 31 Pelagius. some assistance. The bishop‟s coming may have been 28 According to Gildas. Certainly. p. father of the movement. Caballero Prieto alone. The date. it seems natural that at that time. to make a preliminary assessment in regards to the heresy of the Pelagians. some 150 yrs later. a testimony to how quickly the new religion had spread. as disciples of Pelagius such as Agricola were still teaching his doctrine at that time (Moorhead & Stuttard. to the Pope reigning. there seems to have been a connection between England and the Christian movement fairly early on in Christian history. from the Roman Emperor. Certainly this is the date in which efforts had begun or gained hold. since it was not until the victory of the first Constantine I. Germanicus is. Three times the Picts and Scots come south to devastate the Romano-Britons (I. Germanus was sent to quell. Germanus is named bishop of Auxerre. the Britons had been converted to the Christianity as sometime ca. the Roman Church sent St. that Christianity gained status in Roman eyes 33 II Page 7 . According to Newell. Bede states that England was not actively proselytized until the time of Diocletian (c. could be as early as 418-19 or as late as 429. 244-311) which may have been the window of time during which the Britons developed their particular views on the religion. the heresies had developed. and due to that nature. had travelled to Rome in 394 according to Bede (X). is decreed a heretic and never heard of again after 418.641). These Romano-Briton upstarts would. a disconnection is expected due to Christianity‟s problems within the Roman Empire in the early stages of the religion. passing through the fact that there was not English King. Furthermore.33 in the year 156 CE. the Roman Catholic Church would dispatch an envoy to Britannia in order to uproot the doctrine he initiated.29 After these events took place. after St. more than likely. 176 BCE (Newell p.14-19) 29 Moorhead & Stuttard p. St.31 who contrasted with the Catholic Romans in regards to people‟s freedom of will. The dates all seem incorrect. resulting in the heresy of Pelagius. Prosper places Germanus in Britannia no earlier than 429 (p. which St.638). Germanus to the shores of Britannia bent on religious purgation. Germanus is dispatched after the fact.30 St.32 According to Bede. though unclear. probably by local leaders.638.28 It is likely then. the king of Britannia requested to be converted of Pope Eleutherus.241 30 Considering that Pelagius. Nennius sees a rebellious-by-nature Britannia. and more than likely in reaction to the Pelagian movement and the settling of Kent by non-orthodox Christians.The Fight for Britannia Post Roman Abandonment Juan A. overtime. However. likely with the idea of assessing to which degree the heresy had spread 32 Newell p. and eventually fell into the disgrace of the Roman Christians as of 418 CE. become rulers of upcoming kingdoms. that local leaders organized militias in order to defend from the Picts and the Scots. was given initially.
In this way. there would have been a big part of land unpopulated and liable to be taken by the northern invaders. Caballero Prieto hastened a King Vortigern.”39 In this light. which ads to his lack of validity as timing is concerned. Vortigern. in order to contract their services against Picts and Scots alike. perhaps due to religious significance.36 ruler of the Britons. all manner of wild beasts began to inject with horrid mouth the fatal poison of every form of heresy.The Fight for Britannia Post Roman Abandonment Juan A. Historians writing in the 7th century however. who sacked Rome in 410 CE.38 Vortigern is certainly one of the local leaders that had to pick up the pieces from what was left of the Roman abandonment. 426-3035 Nennius claims the Saxons were given leave by king Vortigern. It seems Eastern Britannia had suffered major casualties from the ensuing chaos of the Roman march. in the eyes of Nennius. Nennius consistently uses the number 447 as a reference. as if a path were made across the sea. Bede XIV. At the time of the references used in this paper. and to 34 35 Ward pp. was a Roman foederati who learned to fight under Roman banners. Bede (XV) dates this even to 449 CE. However. Bede makes the point that Vortigern assigned the easternmost land to the Saxons “that they might thus appear to be fighting for their country. there is another option here: if those who populated the area of Kent were mostly Romans and left with the army.40 As the final nail on the religious coffin of Britannia.31.23. no longer separated from land by water. but an attempt to populate an area with allies in order to keep it safe from invasion. have completely forgotten the concept of the word. and do not understand the political machinations of a Romano-Briton general of the 5th century Page 8 . the isle.34 Ca. Ward (p. and having arisen to the status of leader. as Rome would set up buffer zones between them and their enemies with foederati nations or tribes.655). in England. caused deadly separation between brethren dwelling together. Nennius is using Bede‟s (XIV) spelling 37 A man who. the settling of Kent is not a hostile takeover. 278) makes a convincing argument for the date provided 36 Gildas states this transition occurred due to the Proud Tyrant who is. is the eastern-most point of Kent. Gildas states that the Saxons settling on it were Arians who came “fierce as a snake vomiting forth upon us its foreign poison. I. Alaric I. his name is also written in the similar Wurtigernus or Uurtigerno (Newell p. negotiated possible solutions to the Pict and Scot problem with the only allies he could muster from the mainland. Gil.284-5 Moorhead & Stuttard place the reign of Vortigern between 420-40 BCE. Both were emulating Roman tactics. a tactic used by Byzantine Emperors to keep parts of their dominion intact during the same period. more than likely. should have known better 38 Nen. it was separated from land by some 2000 ft 39 Bede XV 40 Reference. I.37 to settle the island of Thanet. Nennius computes his date (480 BCE) as 447 years after the passion of Christ (estimated at 33 CE by the author).
and that peace being on the land. that Vortigern. Hengist has a plan. However. All of the ancient sources criticize Vortigern heavily for this decision. that the Saxons begin to look for ways to bring the Britons under their control. this was not the time for the British ruler to be concerned with religious matters. for a marriage price. Caballero Prieto inflict the lethal wounds of their teeth…”41 St. It was then that by guise. the ruler of the Britons turn them down in argument that their numbers had grown more than the accorded amount. it seems 41 42 Gil.288 46 Nen. as Nennius writes. The saint returned to Rome in order to report. I. I.37 Page 9 .289 45 Ward p. the Saxons obtained the area of Kent. Vortigern had asked the Saxons.12 Newell p. The assessment of St.46 A transition had been made not of war and conflict. though it seemed that once the conflict had ended. perhaps using St. and with the reinforcements also brings his son and daughter.The Fight for Britannia Post Roman Abandonment Juan A. I. king of the Britons. the Saxons were not given the supplies they had been promised. at least not that of the Saxons and Britons. Germanus‟ possible return as a scare tactic:44 additional troops were to be brought to the island to be used by Vortigern as the situation demanded. was a Pelagian. and only Nennius attempts an explanation for the king‟s supposedly poor political schemes. We will see below.36.655. Germanus had a herculean task to complete. Germanus must have been alarming. and it would be his information that would have him sent back for a battle that would define Britannia for all time. that Vortigern was looking to prevent possible Roman armies form retaking control of the island. It is here. their contract was void. at the least. Plagians and Arian Christians seemed to rule and have united to fight pagan Picts and Scots. Vortigern falls in love with the daughter of the Saxon ruler. the ruler of Britain paid the eastern most southern part of Britannia. Some defend 45 however. Bede XV 44 Ward p. Bede XV 43 Nen. When the Saxons asked for their payment.42 to participate in war against the Picts and Scots.43 Hengist countered with a new deal. During a banquet to celebrate the new arrangement and the arrival of the reinforcements. led by Hengist and Horsa. known as Centland to the Saxons.
Germanus. I. not because of his fear of them. Vortigern is forced to go west. the latter birthed my miraculous means and fated to save the island from the impious Saxons. as Ward‟s arguments seem valid enough.287) argues that a Roman-vested Vortigern (a Vicarius Britanniae) would have had the power to remove a representative in Kent without any problems. Nennius confirms. Nennius states that the ruler of Kent was unaware of the transference of power.50 for the latter was only “execrated” once he failed to hear the Orthodox Roman Christian call “to turn to the true God.30-1 for details of the Martinian monastic movement initiated in Romano-Gallic territories 51 Nen. Ambrosius will again come up later in this paper. where else could Vortigern go but to the area which saw Pelagian thought emerge? It is likely this location was in the southern part of the province. may confirm Vortigern‟s rule over the area 48 Ward p. that is.646 Page 10 . Western Britannia was also no longer in control of Vortigern. though Nennius has St.49 We must take into consideration that St. his story is. I. However. and the Western Romano-Briton Ambrosius. Germanus was there to stamp out Pelagian thought. I have combined Nennius‟ narrative to make to events one. the murdering of 300 Romano-Britons of the elite by Saxons.53 A Romano-Briton of Orthodox belief.”51 The Romano-Briton ruler is adhering to heretic beliefs.The Fight for Britannia Post Roman Abandonment Juan A. I. Germanus‟ problem with Vortigern was purely religious. in my opinion. arguably. this makes Ambrosius not only a defender of RomanoBriton values. to the old Roman province of Britannia Secunda. as far away from the Saxons as possible. were a western Romano-Briton like Ambrosius could attack without fearing running into Picts or Scots.47 Sometime in 429-43048 however. as the sources suggest.52 where he attempted the building of a castle that was never completed. Pelagius had been born there. and provided St. I shall mention that later on 49 Nen. Vortigern was accused of committing incest with his daughter by a returned St. The fact that this man simply seems to disappear from the record. though the Saxons certainly saw no problems from the western Britons.40-42. in the area of modern Wales in 350 BCE (Moorhead & Stuttard.243).47 52 See map at the beginning of this paper. p. that the ruler of Kent is not given any notice. Germanus perform two different miracles at two different times.281. this. Vortigern was driven by the saint to other lands to the West Britannia. the Romano-Britons do not want to see the exiled king and the Saxons together again 50 See Dark pp. due to the upstart Ambrosius in 438. 47 Ward (p. through his statement. but because of his alliance. Germanicus. the beginning of the Arthurian legends 54 Nen.285). Newell p. and thus a conflict may have arisen. but also of Orthodox Christianity. Caballero Prieto rather an alliance struck by leaders with mutually inclusive objectives and religious understanding. and having a son by her. However.39. it falls that the ruler was a Pelagian. In the end. there is one event not mentioned by the historian. Britain had been saved by the upright St. It is likely that Vortigern moved further north 53 Ward makes a full conflict of this in the year 438 (p. Ward defends that the saint left the island and later returned.54 In the eyes of Nennius.
The Fight for Britannia Post Roman Abandonment Juan A. though the religious argument of this paper does not necessitate the dates 59 Nen. Vortimer. during which the latter counsels with his “wise men. four great engagements58 recalled by the author. I. Germanicus and those of Vortinger‟s exile.23) 57 Consider the stories of the miracles performed by St. as he was Arian. Based on this information. I. as his acceptance of auguries.59 As we will see below. righteous Britons. seems to be in agreement with Vortimer and St.657) At best.57 Hengist.” who seek the blood of children to sanctify lands and are always proven wrong by said children. upon the death of his crusading son. fact which may provide us insight into the problems of the time. At any rate. who will come up below. resumed his diplomatic goals with the Saxons. this history of England does date the battles to 455.62 55 56 Also named Worthemir and Guorthemir (Newell p. and his son. ruler of the Saxons. is of Roman Catholic sympathies. and plotted to have them killed. cited by Newell. Vortigern himself was ransomed by payment of the more provinces to the Saxons. Vortigern. reason by which the Saxons ultimately took over S. Vortimer. 465. Caballero Prieto The expulsion of Vortimer in such a religiously-driven transition of power allowed for Vortigern‟s son. if not an adherent to pagan Saxon beliefs. and their Romanization was evident. Archeological evidence shows that Saxons remained on Britannia proper.55 to end the presence of the Saxons in Britannia proper and continue the fight against Pelagian thought. making him an Orthodox Christian.56 while his son. though the latter did not trust the court that had served Vortimer. During a banquet. Germanicus. I. The religious men of our story are Roman Catholics (Orthodox Christians) very much against their Pelagian-thinking counterparts. Unfortunately for Nennius. 457. in order to always protect it.E. Vortimer is certainly favored of Nennius and St. Vortimer fought until his death. may have had the same problem. but his friends did not honor the request. As the key phrase was given61 300 of Vortigern‟s elite were murdered upon the table of cordial negotiation. it is easily assumed that Vortigern is of Pelagian belief. Germanus.46-47 Page 11 . I. pushing them back to the island of Thanet. and 473. sons of Romans (see Nennius 32-42) 58 According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Draw your knives) 62 Nen. England 60 Nen.60 who brought more emigrants to English shores. divination and consecration against evils via human sacrifice attests attest (Gil.45 61 “Nimed eure Saxes” (lit. 300 Saxons hiding the infamous knife for which they are named (the Sax) sat next to nobles of Vortigern‟s elite. against the ever-pressing Saxons.44. legend states that Vortimer requested to be buried where the Saxons had first landed into mainland England.
Alban. It seems it is from the establishment of the Saxons in the East. and the Britons. Due to a miraculous showdown. and run away. echoing through the mountains. Germanus wins the day by having his men sing the “Alleluiah” which. took to war against the Saxons. The clergyman himself. burned. not the Christians.255. now seemingly invested with military command. after St. in St.65 the Britons came together. where Scottish Pelagians resided Page 12 . along with Hengist‟s daughter. led by St. as the religious leader of the community. modern London 66 In Scottish ruled northern England (Ward p. St. At any rate. In a battle as miraculous as it was fortuitous. The accounts only speak of Saxons in this battle.63 Vortigern found himself once more running away from the church. had to find a way to coalesce. the Orthodox Christians win the day. There seemed to have been men of both Pelagian and Orthodox Christian beliefs. that the remaining supporters of the line of Vortigern are confined to the mountains. Germanus had accomplished 63 64 Moorehead & Stuttard p.The Fight for Britannia Post Roman Abandonment Juan A.64 Bede (XV) confirms the fact that many had to go into hiding. the immediate chase-down of Vortigern suggests he was present.27 More than likely the area of Britannia Secunda where Pelagian though ruled 65 25 mi. as his army deserted him.66 Whether or not Vortigern participated in the battle is unclear. Dark p. as the two sides debated. The barbarians were driven off. Germanus. fought in the northern area of Wales. St. which further added to the blurring of the historical record. If he the RomanoBriton managed to rally his hardcore supporters and make an alliance with the Scots and Saxons.285). which seems to corroborate the accounts we have. Germanus. After three days. Nennius is clear. In a conference called by St. Caballero Prieto At this time. The conflictive information makes one thing clear: Vortigern lost power. his army would have been much greater than that of the Orthodox Christians. who vastly outnumbered them. and St. and Vortigern is chased down at his new castle in the kingdom of Demetae. utterly routed the enemy. though he states that it is due to the Saxons. the castle miraculously caught fire. northwest of Londinium. Germanus. Furthermore. 446. began to fast and pray. Germanus. and Vortigern. not allowed to enter the castle where Vortigern was hiding. divided by religious belief. and the upcoming of the Ambrosius in the West. Germanus leads a coalition that is to fight the Saxons. allowed the Pelagians to speak first.
is allowed to settle Kent without any problems. as he “returned to his own country. it is safe to assume. which Nennius and Gildas would have both provided accounts of 70 Bede XX 71 See above Page 13 . making promises beyond his scope. but rather a process of conquest (p. that is.655) 69 Nen.69 Once more. 46-7 Or Oisc. Caballero Prieto his actual mission.50.654). It is highly unlikely that every Saxon male was a hired soldier for Vortigern. Certainly. the story introduces the real reason for the power struggles that assaulted post Roman England: religion. I. there seems to be no plausible explanation for Octa. The ruler from the West. and who may have fought on their side. Nennius admits the Saxons seemed to prosper in Kent and established themselves further. Newell states that this transition was not peaceful. who had so prominently prevented Vortigern from settling the West. half claim. to have been allowed to remain. This statement from Nennius is evidence that there was a particular element of the Saxons that the Britons were not able to get along with. Ambrosius71 (surnamed Aurelianus) took up the righteous cause of the Roman Christians. Germanus‟ exploits to convert Britannia back to Roman Orthodox Christianity. those Saxons who sided with St. that as Vortigern and the Saxons that supported him were sought out and fought against.68 son of Hengist. were allowed to remain in Kent. Otherwise. and fought only to defend the territories that they though already theirs. During this time. the song of Hengist. Vortigern. vs. they did not invade. another element that seemed friendly to the Western Britons and the Catholic Romans. Germanus and Vortimer. and that the former sought only to be mercenaries as Octa. according to Newell (p. historical account. the Saxons negotiated or murdered their way into the provinces they held. unmolested. Germanus had left.70 Once St. 67 68 Nen. if one would prefer.”67 Whether these events are legend or. having eradicated the heresy of Pelagian thought from the mind of the people and destroyed its foremost promoter. this does not explain the lack of battles seen in these areas. half agreement.The Fight for Britannia Post Roman Abandonment Juan A. Saxon incursions in South Western England are justified by a heretic king. Bede remains silent on the matter as he focuses on St. fighting the last great battle of a generation sometime in the late 5 th or early 6th centuries. in Britannia proper.
pronouncing the religiosity of the narrative. this son of the 72 73 Gil. and justice.50. its representative still attempted to hold the Pax Romana. yet further evidence of Romanization being an enduring part of Brittanic traditions 75 Yet another show of religious significance.25 Gil.75 Amongst the eleven battles named by Nennius. oratory. Considering that Gildas was wrote that the event took place 44 years from his birth. as in the legend of King Arthur. had grown to be a man of strength. I. I.72 The figure coalesces with that of Nennius and his Arthur in the sense that the final battle which quieted the Saxons for a generation was fought on “Mons Badonicus. as I grew up reading the Gestas of Rodrigo Díaz de Viviar. Legend would make another spin. Only a hero could rescue the fallen Romano-Britons from their downfall. Cid Campeador). who in his youth had opposed the pagan king Vortigern. Though its production is late 12th. Cid Campeador (Deeds of Rodrigo Diaz of Vivar. I. when Arthur slays nine hundred and forty of his enemies on his own. with no parents. as later some would state that next to Ambrosius fought a man born under the dragon banner of the Romans. people still alive who remembered the wars were few and far between (I. A youthful Ambrosius. characteristics from which the story of King Arthur suffers chronically 77 Both Dark (p. El Cantar de Mio Cid is a perfect example of early historical novels. The writer himself states that Arthur was not even one of the most important men in Britannia. Caballero Prieto now came out of that region against the Saxons. The internal squabbles for power seem to be prevalent. the religious tone of the narrative is very familiar to me. El Cid could wage battles against innumerable hosts. being the tribal leader that took over form the crusade-like battle waged by Vortimer and St. as well as those of Nennius. and defeat them after three days combat. at least from external conflict.The Fight for Britannia Post Roman Abandonment Juan A. but he was none the less chosen74 the British commander twelve times. It is this man who seems to give birth to the Arthurian legends. and sought to build a world of reason based on the Roman standards of law.26). and that during his own lifetime. the 11th is the most telling. is fought in “the hill of Badon. all telltale signs of religious contamination of the historical events. a hundred years after the abandonment of Rome.”73 Arthur (the king Arthur of legend) is almost a footnote on Nennius‟ narrative.”76 Gildas states that from that final battle. as the number 12 is sacred to Catholic Christians 76 Nen. As the sixth century dawned. which was in 500 BCE. I have drawn my own conclusion Page 14 . who seeks to unite the Britons under a single ruler.77 there is peace in the land.25 74 Roman practices dictated a commander be chosen from amongst the ranks of the important members of society. In Gildas‟ eyes. sometime after 454 CE.35) and Moorhead state that this could have been as late as 490. and a Western Romano-Briton. the peace struck with the Saxons by the corrupted Vortigern was an atrocious contract that would doom all souls on earth to hell. Germanus. early 13th century.
”79 will inspire many versions of this story driven by the duality of Arthurian characters and their application for almost any time of rebellion. The legend of Arthur would be for the benefit of many a revolution. Nennius‟ argument against the influences of his time by using the “wholesome draught of truth from the humble vessel. one can only feel pity for the writer. The stronghold burst… Snapped rooftrees.” rather “than poison mixed with honey from a golden goblet. so convinced of the truth of his claims 80 Dark p. towers fallen. by 577.78 These and other stories are evidence of the need by later Englishmen to define themselves as rebels. I.The Fight for Britannia Post Roman Abandonment Juan A. the stonesmiths.250 Nen.28 Page 15 . but only seeking to keep their rights to religion and freedom alive. more towns are given ip to the Saxons. father of the future King Arthur. On the year 597. Mouldereth Rime scoureth gatetowers Rime on mortar Shattered the showershields. Historically.1. however. Age under-ate them. Ausgutine‟s visit.80 Another 200 years after St. 78 79 Moorhead & Stuttard p. Rome had still drawn breath for nearly 200 years in Western Britannia. roofs ruined. The work of the Giants. Caballero Prieto dragon was said to be Uther Pendragon. an anonymous poem was composed by an author unable to believe that men were the builders of the great ruins of the Roman Empire: Well-wrought this wall: Weirds broke it. a final blow to the clinging Romano-Briton power. Fast in gravegrasp while fifty fathers And sons have passed. after the defeat of the Britons at Dyrham. And the wielders and wrights? Earthgrip holds them – gone. considering the many problems we have found in the narrative. St. long gone. commonly found heretics in the eyes of others. Augustine will be the nearest thing to a Roman on the island.
and attempt to draw a final conclusion.83 if we are to take a depiction of life in Britannia as shown. Furthermore. or it was a depiction of a naturalist style that replicated actual life on the island.wikipedia. It is an illustrated manuscript with 19 pictures81 in color.The Fight for Britannia Post Roman Abandonment Cultural Evidence: A Case for West and East Britannia Juan A. According to Dark.gif (seen on this page) 84 P.84 Furthermore. as the style is the same as it is found all over Britannia at the time 82 Dark p. then the evidence of Roman-like life may need to be revised to the late 6th century and beyond. and Arian Christianity. The attempt of the Roman Church to bring these heresies under control had more of an effect in the warring state of Britannia than any invasion. the manuscript was either produced at a time in which Roman lifestyle was breaking down.org/wiki/File:VergiliusRomanusFolio44v. one must look at the archeological evidence along the cultural one.82 In folio 44v.37 Page 16 . as well as Paganism. Pelagian. the creation of a mythological line of ancestors from Britons to the Aeneid in the 81 According to Dark they are the best evidence of its origin. which could have allowed for a possible peaceful settlement of the area of Kent. History and legend shows the division of Britannia in groups of people who believed in Orthodox.36 83 http://en. the argument of a conflict of religion rather than a premeditated invasion by the Saxons has been brought forth. the relative early accounts of Nennius show fathers and sons who did not share religious belief. The manuscript may come from the same area and time as Gildas. while the island of Thanet and its coast was hotly contested as a religious battleground. The Virgilius Romanus is further evidence of the continuation of the Roman way of life in Western Britannia. as we have seen above. making it further evidence of Romano-Briton culture in the late 6th century. In order to draw a full picture of the situation in early 5th to late 6th century Britannia. Caballero Prieto Up to this point.
” that spread to Ireland. and the widespread use of said Latin.86 The spelling on these stones indicates that Latin was a “living language. those people who remained after Constantine III left in 407 BCE and had experienced a loss of identity due to the changes in cultural understanding introduced by the Saxons. We do not know if Nennius thought the Aeneid true to the letter of history. and applied its concept to his own genealogical work in order to establish a foothold in Ancient History for the RomanoBritons. in his mind. It seems obvious that Nennius was addressing a loss of culture. particularly an area eventually dominated by the Anglo-Saxons. being far more influential than many historians would have us believe.85 Stone dating is another method of corroboration. Furthermore.37-38 Dark p. Caballero Prieto part of Nennius shows his understanding of Virgil‟s work and its constructs. seeking to preserve what was left of Roman Britannia for future generations. Stones in which Latin scripts are found tend to date from the late 6th century. 85 86 P. It seems certain to me that the hand who produced the Virgilius Romanus was that of a Roman Orthodox monk. by the Romano-Britons of the east. there was also evidence found by David Dumbville in the form of a dedication inscription in Wales for the commission of a copy of the work of Pelagius. though they could be of a later date. areas in which the cultural construct of Rome seems to have lasted much longer than in the East. These changes. Dark further stresses that hints of survival of documents and culture are only the “tip of the iceberg” of what could have really remained after Rome abandoned Britannia altogether. This may show a far more conservative Christianity in England.40 Page 17 . The writer cites three main pieces of evidence: advanced literacy in secular contexts. seemed to have taken on a life on their own in Western Britannia. made relevant because the Briton had been declared a heretic by the Roman Catholic Church in 415-18.The Fight for Britannia Post Roman Abandonment Juan A. but he certainly understood its purpose. who were freely intermingling with the Saxons.87 All of these findings are mostly in the West. made by men seeking a new sense of identity due to the coalescing political and religious arenas of the eastern part of the island. the emergence of a distinctive Latin script within Britain during the fifth and sixth centuries.38 87 Dark p.
However. this was a difference province. Vortigern and his Pelagian ideas were removed from the people‟s mind. and all other Roman Catholic representatives.88 The spread of the heretic religious views may have been the product of peaceful interaction with the Saxons of Kent or of their direct expansion. Caballero Prieto despite the efforts of St. little changed by Romano-Briton practices. the arguments have all been made against the Saxons. with its own history and fall. it is easily attained that other aspects of Saxon culture may have been placed aside for those of the Late Roman citizens who received them. the historian seeking truth. Ambrosius. of Vortigern. It seemed that Romanization of the Saxons was directly related to their 88 89 Dark p. From burials to fortresses. his history is evidence of current problems with Pelagian thoughts and the admiration. most likely that of the Anglos. there is evidence that Saxons in the inland area of Kent adopted Roman practices and. by the time that Nennius writes. as to the cultural grandeur of one or other side is made more evident when contrasted with archeological evidence.The Fight for Britannia Post Roman Abandonment Juan A. If the manner of dress had been changed. and nonRoman Christianity. does so for the benefit of the Britons of his time. The division heretofore seen is evidence of Romano-Britons seeking voluntary coexistence with the Saxons. 58. while others seemed to oppose them vehemently. Considering that Nennius is writing in or around Wales. Especially in the area south of the Thames and lower midlands evidence has been unearthed that points to elite burials with individuals who wore brooches and buckles similar to those of late Roman make. rebellious Saxons.90 corroborating the argument that Saxon and Romano-Briton elements were divided into cooperative and non-cooperative bodies defined by religious belief and age. and the cooperative elements of the cooperative Romano-Britons of the East almost eradicated. that at least those eastern Britons. mostly due to religious purposes. now lost Page 18 . planting seeds of revolution via mythological connections to grandiose revolutionaries such as the Junius Brutus‟ of Rome. as he says. The changes made in cultural aspects due to religion. Vortimer. Further North. at least by some of the populous.42 See map in the first page of this paper for reference 90 Dark p. reciprocated with assimilations of their own in order to please the new residents. Germanus. and the clear competition.89 there is evidence of a Germanic culture. Nennius. at least in the eyes of the Western Britons.
Britons had a tendency to overthrow said power in righteous rebellion. that Arthur was seen as a Roman Catholic Briton bent on preserving the true legacy of the Roman Empire and its religion against the heresies of the Pelagians and the “saxes” of the invading Saxons. bent on traditional Germanic religion. Nennius saw the irony implanted in the name Britannia: whatever the established power. In this light Hengist. Caballero Prieto separation from other Germanic tribes. but rather the product of religious animosity between Romano-Britons of East and West. would have found it difficult to assimilate into a culture. and the latter to abolish said elements to remain as culturally Romanesque as possible. clad in Roman armor. Thus. a legendary man seeking to keep alive the values of centralized power held by an empire long lost. It is no wonder that the legends of King Arthur became staple in a country that would initiate modern democratic thought with the Magna Carta signed by King John in 1215. or that in 1689 the Glorious Page 19 . These stories will provide a structure on which future Englishmen could make arguments for rebellion or compliance. Arthur will develop to have twelve nights in a round table representative of their equal claim to the Kingdom of God. bent on Christian Orthodoxy. To endorse this viewpoint would not be incorrect. historical accounts show that the struggle against the Saxons was not warfare-induced. at least from Nennius‟ account. as the former conscripted barbarian tribes to aid in their quest to become the moral leaders of a nation. such as that of the Western Romano-Britons. the religion of men seeking freedom of expression. these legends. were spurred on by the factual legacy of the Roman Empire. and yet. made medieval by the later men who depicted him. freedom or slavery. and which protected the liberties of free men. written 400 years after the events described took place. and thus Hengist and Vortigern seemed to have enjoyed a fruitful friendship made heretic by religious extremist who saw the Hand of God in everything that occurred to them. Arian and Pelagian thought were not mutually exclusive. and the tenacity of an upstart religion in the eradication of heresy.The Fight for Britannia Post Roman Abandonment Juan A. It is this religious zeal that makes dating irrelevant to the ancient historian and our efforts all the more grandiose. justice or injustice. as we have come to understand through this paper. Conclusion We can gather.
However.The Fight for Britannia Post Roman Abandonment Juan A. from the ambition of men. “because the past was created by unpredictable and emotionally driven human beings. in fact. however violent. Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum. Britain. how could anyone resist the drive of these Western-dwelling men who sought to keep the learning of their fathers alive for future generations? It was sheer need to keep the legacy of Rome alive or. We could easily make the argument that the Britons won in the end. furthermore. especially that after the Romans. to inspire the men of their time to rise against the enemies of said culture. rather. Scots and anyone else who ventured upon the island. Saxons. Romano-Britons became simply Britons. Picts.” We must look to the past understanding that its complexities are made evident in the very words of the men Page 20 . In the end however. Writings such as Historia Britannica. at the very least. As time went on. in a more base level. we find the lives of men all too human. after all. To assume men are only seeking historical fact and do not deviate for emotions or feelings is dooming ourselves to failure. did not destroy the culture of Rome. setting an example for the American and French revolutions of 1776 and 1789. is not so confusing if we attempt to understand its connection before and after the immediate period studied. [thus] there is a danger that answers thrown up by such an approach are. and stories of people seeking to understand. for whatever purposes. Caballero Prieto Revolution would have taken place. was not the victim of a violent conquest by barbarian tribes from the mainland. particularly Eastern Britain. they rather assimilated into the existing contrast of the island as they came in from the East and became part of its people. the value of a Roman education which once meant to be of a better class. that drove the political aspect of Britannia and culminated in the battles heretofore spoken of. act. actions. delusions. made up of Anglos. The Saxons. and the abandonment of the government that had kept it all together. the thoughts. and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle compiled from the 9th to the 12th century are further evidence of the need found by Western Romano-Britons to increase the cultural knowledge that had fallen into decay so long ago and. and inspire others to do that which they would have never done. it suffered from a war of religious thought. that led the Romano-Britons in their quest to preserve the wisdom of the ancients. The story of England. it was the ambitions of particular men at particular times. De Excidio Britanniae.
but by the belief that tolerance only applies to those who see the world in the same light as one does. Saxons weren‟t overly warlike. and understand the biases of the one telling it. our tolerance becomes our translating tool. and the times in which they lived. Caballero Prieto we tend to ignore because of their seemingly biased opinion. Tensions brought up by beliefs and daily problems were made evident by the catalyst of religion. and Britons not saintly peaceful. Finally. Caballero Prieto Page 21 . and gives us a true understanding of the men we seek to study. Juan A. Britannia wasn‟t reduced by the sword.The Fight for Britannia Post Roman Abandonment Juan A. We must learn to look at history as a belief. so that in the end.
pp. A. Arthur's Battles Arthuriana. 10. (Translator) (1903) The Ecclesiastical History and The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle Wittaker et Socios Gildas. 3-32 Scriptorium Press Newell. (Translator) (2008) History of the Britons Published by Standard Publications. pp. pp. 622-672 Published by Modern Language Association Thompson. 277-289 Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies Page 22 . 3. Vol. E. 3 (1972). Derek Brewer (2008). Giles. Incorporated Modern Sources Books Dark. William Wells (1905) Doubts concerning the British History Attributed to Nennius PMLA. J. John H. 4.. In Memoriam: Elisabeth Brewer. David (2012) The Romans Who Shaped Britain Published by Thames & Hudson. P. Brimscombe Port Stroud.C. No. Giles. or. The Ruin of Britain Published by Dodo Press Nennius. 203-226. Gloucestershire Moorhead. 18. Vol. Vortigern and the End of Roman Britain Britannia. Vol. Hugh (Translator) (1899) De Excidio Britanniae. pp. J. (1979) Gildas and the History of Britain Britannia. New York Articles Field. Vol.The Fight for Britannia Post Roman Abandonment Bibliography Ancient Sources Juan A. No. Caballero Prieto Bede. Williams. Sam & Stuttard. Inc.J. Society for the Promotion of Roman Ward. 20. A. Ken (2010) Britain and the end of the Roman Empire Published by The Mill. A.
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