Ch 01 Tribes and Legions

Roman Britain

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CHAPTER I: TRIBES AND LEGIONS

SECTION 3: ROMAN BRITAIN 
 
HAVING CONQUERED GAUL IN 55 BC, CAESAR INVADED BRITAIN IN 53 BC, ATTRACTED BY TALES OF PEARLS AND CORN, THOUGH HIS MOTIVES WERE STRATEGIC RATHER THAN ECONOMIC.

BRITISH WARRIORS HAD CROSSED THE CHANNEL TO HELP GAULISH KINSMEN, AND BRITAIN BECAME A REFUGE FOR DEFEATED GAULS.

BUT CAESAR COULD NOT BE ASSURED OF THE CONTINUED ROMAN OCCUPATION OF GAUL.

ROMAN IMPERIALISM WAS BASED ON PREDATORY EXPLOITATION. IT NEEDED A CONSTANT FORWARD MOVEMENT TO PREVENT DECLINE AT THE CENTRE.

IT WAS NOT UNTIL NEARLY A CENTURY LATER THAT ROME WAS READY TO DIGEST BRITAIN. CAESAR’S FIRST TWO INVASIONS WERE LITTLE MORE THAN EXPEDITIONARY WITH SOME 10,000 MEN.

OPPOSITION WAS STRONG, THOUGH THE THAMES WAS CROSSED AND THE MAIN CASSIVELLAUNUS STRONGHOLD STORMED.

CAESAR THEN DEPARTED WITH HOSTAGES AFTER SECURING A PROMISE TO PAY TRIBUTE.

IN THE YEARS BETWEEN THE FIRST INCURSION AND THE INVASION OF AD 43, TRADE BECAME CONSIDERABLE. CORN AND HIDES WERE EXCHANGED FOR POTTERY AND LUXURY ARTICLES.

TRADERS AND COLONISTS SETTLED, AND TOWNS GREW SO CONSIDERABLY THAT ST ALBANS WAS GIVEN CIVIC STATUS AS A ROMAN SELF GOVERNING TOWN. THE WEALTHY BUILT IMITATION ROMAN STONE VILLAS THERE.

BOADICEA LED THE ICENI REVOLT IN AD 60 AND SACKED LONDON, COLCHESTER AND ST ALBANS WITH THE LOSS OF UP TO 70,000 LIVES

BUT THE EASE WITH WHICH BRITAIN WAS CONQUERED WAS MAINLY DUE TO EARLIER ECONOMIC PENETRATION BY THE ROMANS AND THE DISINTEGRATION OF CELTIC TRIBAL ORGANISATION.

ROMAN OCCUPATION LASTED ALMOST 400 YEARS, BUT QUESTIONS REMAIN CONCERNING ROMANISATION AND WHETHER IT LEFT A LASTING LEGACY.

ROMAN BRITAIN DIVIDED ITSELF INTO NORTH AND SOUTH. NETWORKS OF ROADS WERE BUILT WITH MILITARY OUTPOSTS AT YORK, LINCOLN, CHESTER, LEICESTER AND CAERLEON, BUT THERE WERE NO MAJOR TOWNS NORTH OF THESE. 

THE NATIVE POPULATION REVOLTED REGULARLY. THERE IS NO EVIDENCE THAT TRIBAL ORGANISATION WAS SERIOUSLY INTERFERED WITH.

FURTHER SOUTH, THE SITUATION WAS DIFFERENT, WITH LARGE AGRICULTURAL ESTATES AND TRADE BEING WELL DEVELOPED.

THE LATIN LANGUAGE AND ROMAN MODE OF PRODUCTION AFFECTED THE MASS OF THE PEOPLE, WHO BECAME GANGS OF SLAVES OR SEMI-SERVILE ‘COLONI’ WHO WERE ALLOWED TO CULTIVATE PATCHES OF LAND IN RETURN FOR FIXED RENTS AND SERVICES.

DEPOPULATION BECAME A LABOUR PROBLEM, AND THE ROMAN INABILITY TO FIND NEW SOURCES OF SLAVES MAY HAVE HELPED ACCELERATE THEIR DECLINE.

EVEN SO, LARGE AREAS OF WOODLAND AND FOREST WERE CLEARED FOR AGRICULTURE. THE HUGE DEMAND FOR FUEL FOR ELABORATE HEATING SYSTEMS TRANSFORMED WHOLE CIVIC DISTRICTS, INCLUDING POPULATIONS, INTO THE ROMAN PATTERN OF LIFE.

THERE IS NOT THE SLIGHTEST EVIDENCE THAT INHABITANTS THOUGHT OF THEMSELVES AS BRITONS, AS OPPOSED TO ROMAN PROVINCIALS.

HOWEVER, THE PERMANENT EFFECT OF ROMAN OCCUPATION WAS ASTONISHINGLY MEAGRE.

ROADS REMAINED, BUT TOWNS WERE LAID WASTE.

THE FEUDAL MANOR AND ECONOMIC STRUCTURE REMAINED, BUT WHEN CHRISTIANITY, INTRODUCED BY THE LEGIONS, REMAINED AND PENETRATED IRELAND, IT ALSO ACQUIRED A CURIOUSLY TRIBAL CHARACTER AND PLAYED A BIG PART IN MOULDING THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE ANGLIAN KINGDOM OF NORTHUMBRIA.

The Roman Twilight

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CHAPTER I: TRIBES AND LEGIONS

SECTION 4: THE ROMAN TWILIGHT
 
THE DISINTEGRATION OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE WAS INEVITABLE, AND RESULTED FROM A COMBINATION OF INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL CAUSES.
 
ITALY WAS ORIGINALLY A LAND OF SMALL PEASANT CULTIVATORS, HER TOWNS BEING SMALL TRADING CENTRES.
 
IN THE WARS BETWEEN ROME AND CARTHAGE (264-200 BC), THESE PEASANT HOLDINGS WERE DESTROYED AND REPLACED BY HUGE GANGS WHO CONTROLLED EVEN LARGER GANGS OF SLAVES.
 
THE PEASANT WAS DRIVEN FROM THE LAND, JUST AS THE ENGLISH PEASANT WAS IN THE 1500 AND 1600S, BUT WHILE THE DESTRUCTION OF PEASANT AGRICULTURE CONTINUED, THE GROWTH OF CAPITALIST INDUSTRY REPLACED IT.
 
THIS WAS NOT THE CASE IN ITALY, WHERE INDUSTRY REMAINED AT A LOW LEVEL OF DEVELOPMENT.
 
THE RISE OF THE MERCHANT AND USURER’S CAPITAL WITHOUT A CORRESPONDING INDUSTRIAL BASE LED TO A HUGE PARASITICAL PROLETARIAT WITH CITIZENS RIGHTS BUT NO SETTLED MEANS OF LIVELIHOOD.
 
THE SUCCESS OF THE REPUBLIC WAS NOW CORRUPTED. IT INVOLVED A CONTINUOUS FORWARD MOVEMENT TO PROVIDE SLAVES ON WHICH THE ARMY AND THE WHOLE ROMAN ECONOMY DEPENDED.
 
SLAVE PRODUCTION IS ALWAYS WASTEFUL AND FAILS TO REPRODUCE ITSELF, ESPECIALLY IN THE ARMY.
 
THIS FAILURE PRODUCED DEPOPULATION IN PLUNDERED AREAS, AND WHEN IT WAS MILITARILY IMPOSSIBLE TO SUSTAIN TERRITORY HELD OR ASSIMILATE FRESH TERRITORY, DECLINE WAS INEVITABLE.
 
IN ADDITION, THERE WAS INFIGHTING BETWEEN THE GENERALS OF THIS MILITARY DICTATORSHIP.
 
ALL OF THIS ULTIMATELY LEFT BRITAIN AN ISOLATED OUTPOST PROVINCE DRAINED OF HER MANPOWER.
 
MAXIMUS 383 AD and CONSTANTINE 407 AD WERE THE CULPRITS HERE.
 
HOWEVER, THE ROMAN EMPIRE PERSISTED, LARGELY DUE TO THE ABSENCE OF ANY OUTSIDE FORCE POWERFUL ENOUGH TO ATTACK IT.
 
IN THE 4th CENTURY AD, MIGRATORY MOVEMENTS WEST ACROSS  ASIA, AS A RESULT OF CLIMATE CHANGE THAT TURNED GRAZING LAND INTO DESERT, RESULTED IN THE HUN, A MONGOL TRIBE, SETTLING IN EUROPE.
 
AT FIRST, THESE TRIBES WERE ALLOWED AND EVEN ENCOURAGED TO ENTER THE EMPIRE, BUT AS THE CENTRAL HOLD OF ROME DIMINISHED, OUTLYING PROVINCES WERE RELINQUISHED.
 
ONE BY ONE, THEY WERE OVERRUN BY BARBARIAN TRIBES WHO SET UP INDEPENDENT KINGDOMS OF VARYING CHARACTER, SOME LARGELY ROMAN IN CHARACTER, OTHERS WHOLLY BARBARIAN.
 
BRITAIN, REMOTE AND EXPOSED, WAS AMONG THE EARLIEST TO FALL AWAY, AND ATTACK CAME NOT FROM THE GERMAN TRIBES ACROSS THE NORTH SEA, BUT FROM THE GOIDELIC CELTS OF SCOTLAND AND IRELAND.
 
SUCH ATTACKS HAD PREVIOUSLY EASILY BEEN BEATEN OFF, BUT IT WAS A SIGN OF ROMAN DECLINE THAT IN 360 AD VILLAS WERE BURNT AND PILLAGED, RIGHT UP TO THE SOUTHERN WALLED TOWNS AND EVEN LONDON.
 
AFTER THE DEPARTURE OF CONSTANTINE AND THE BULK OF TROOPS STATIONED IN BRITAIN, OTHER TRIBES INVADED BRITAIN FROM GERMANY VIA GAUL.
 
407 AD MARKS THE ROMAN DEPARTURE, BUT THERE WERE NO PLANS TO ABANDON BRITAIN. CONSTANTINE ONLY INTENDED TO ADD NEW PROVINCES TO HIS HAUL, YET BY THIS DATE THE REGULAR ARRIVAL OF GOVERNORS AND OFFICIALS CEASED.
 
IN THE SOUTH AND EAST OF BRITAIN, TRIBES THAT HAD VIRTUALLY BEEN DESTROYED, ALONG WITH NEW CIVILISATIONS THAT HAD BEEN WEAKENED, FACED A NEW ENEMY.
 
THE ANGLIAN AND SAXON TRIBES FROM THE GERMAN COAST APPEARED. THEY FIRST CAME AS DARING RAIDERS, BUT FROM 450 AD AS INVADING CONQUERORS AND SETTLERS. HOWEVER, THEY FOUND MUCH OF THE ROMAN LEGACY ALREADY UNDONE BY THE LOCAL TRIBES.
 
THE RICHEST LANDS WERE LAID WASTE BY LOCAL LANDLORDS OR MAGNATES AT THE HEAD OF ARMED BANDS. THESE FORCES WERE ALMOST AS RUINOUS AS THE ENEMIES FROM WHOM THEY CLAIMED TO BE PROTECTING INHABITANTS.
 
IT WAS LARGELY FOR THIS REASON THERE IS SO LITTLE TRACE OF ROMAN RULE IN BRITAIN

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