The Roman period
In the first four centuries of our era Britain was a part of the Roman Empire. The Celts had a developed economical and cultural life, but they didn’t create states, they hadn’t any political system. The first kind of state in Britain was created by the Romans
The first Roman invasion of Britain took place in 55 BC. The Romans were led by Julius Caesar. He wanted to punish the British Celts for their supporting of the continental Celts in their struggle against the Romans. The British Celts supplied them with grain and hid their leaders. Julius Caesar was also attracted by the information that Britain had not only tin, but also gold. The Romans met a strong resistance, so the expedition didn’t lead to any practical result for the Romans. It was only a probing
But that moment is interesting from the historical point of view.
1 – Just from that period the word “Britons” has appeared. The Romans gave this name to the Celts of the Southern part of the British Isles
2 – A poetic name of Britain might have appeared then.
Do you know how is England often called in poetry?
The legend connects its origin with Caesar’s expedition. It says that the boats with Caesar’s solders were approaching the English coast. And the solders saw the white cliffs of Dover. «Albus!» — exclaimed one of them.
What does «albus» mean in Latin?
White, the word «album» is from the same root. So the legend says that «Albion» derives from the Latin «white».
The first Roman invasion of Britain took place in 55 BC. The R were led by Caesar. The name of Albion probably appeared then
About a hundred years later in 43 A D Emperor Claudius sent a big army to subdue Britain. But it took the Romans about 40 years to subdue only the Southern Britain. They remained there for nearly 400 years.
An episode of the Celtic struggle against the invasion was the revolt of Queen Boadicea, who led the Iceni tribe. The Iceni suffered from the cruel treatment of Roman officials. After the death of her husband Boadicea became the queen and inspired her people for the struggle with the Romans. She herself commanded in battles. The Romans had to send additional troops from Italy. Iceni were defeated. Boadicea didn’t want to become a Roman captive. She poisoned both daughters and took poison herself. Now the stature of the queen on horseback adorns the place near Westminster bridge in London.
In 20 years after the Revolt of Boadicea the southern and central part of Britain was subdued and Romanized. The local Celts got the status of Roman citizens.
In the I AD the Southern Britain was subdued. The Celtic queen Boadicea raised a revolt. She was defeated and poisoned herself not to become a Roman captive
The highlands and moorlands of the northern and western regions, present-day Scotland and Wales, were not subdued. Romans didn’t wish to settle in these agriculturally poor, harsh landscapes. The local Celts called themselves Picts and Scots and led against the Romans the constant guerilla war. The Romans considered them to be wild Celts or the barbarians and wrote about their ferocity.
The Romans called the Southern subdued territory Britannia and the Northern not subdued territory Caledonia. It is modern Scotland. To protect the Southern territory from the possible raids of Picts and Scots they set three legions at the frontier. Two walls were built by the Romans to protect the South — the Hadrian and Antonine walls, named after the Roman emperors. The walls crossed the Island from sea to sea, from west to east. The Hadrian wall was located and built so well, that Romans stayed there, the Antonine wall was abandoned. Since then the Hadrian wall determined the border between England and Scotland.
Two walls were built from sea to sea to protect the South from Picts and Scots. The Hadrian wall determined the border between England and Scotland
Different cities at this period played the role of the capitals. Among them Winchester, Colchester and Gloucester.
What is common between them?
They are ended with «-chester» or «-caster«. If so, the city was founded by the Romans. The names of these cities derive from the Latin «castrum» — «military camp».
In what is now England, people livedin villas and towns. Villas were the centers of farms. The villas were adorned with mosaics and baths. They were possessed by the Romans and the noble Celts, who adopted the Roman customs. The land was cultivated by the Celtic peasants and slaves. Britain was a breadbasket of Roman Empire and supplied Rome with grain.
The cities had Roman design. The centers of them were bathes (termes). They were not only for bathing. A person could spend there all day long having business and political talks.
One of the greatest achievements of the Roman Empire was its system of roads, in Britain no less than elsewhere. The first task of legions was to build a system of links between forts control the country. The roads became important for trade, and the roman roads have been used in the country till nowadays.
Britain supplied Rome with grain. The R founded many cities. Their names end with “– chaster”.
In the end of the VI th century The Romans began to leave Britain on their interior reasons. They had to protect their main frontiers and couldn’t keep force in Britain. In 410 AD the Emperor Honorius told the cities of Britain to defense themselves with their own force. The Roman period had finished.
- was extremely important for the country. It divided the country in three cultural parts. The Lowland that had been subdued and romanized became England. The Highlands became Scotland and Wales.
The Dark Ages and The Anglo-Saxon period
In British history the period from the V till VIII the century is known and The Dark Ages and The Anglo-Saxon period.
The Dark Ages (V-VI) is from the time that the Romans left Britain, the Celtic life revived and the newcomers started their permeation to Britain. They were the Germans, known in British history as the Anglo-Saxons.
The Anglo-Saxon period (VII -VIII) is the time when the newcomers created their states.
Written evidence concerning the period is scanty. The two centuries after the Roman escape are the worst recorded times in British history, the most obscure. This is the reason of numerous discussions concerning the period.
The controversial questions are
1 – Why did the newcomers invade Britain?
2 – Did they bring calamity or prosperity?
3 – Were they in majority or in minority?
4 – How did they influence the British life?
There are few written sources (evidence) on the period. This is the reason ofmany controversial questions, for exavple
- Why did the newcomers invade Britain?
- Did they bring calamity or prosperity?
There are two main written sources, that tell of the Anglo-Saxon permiation of Britain
- — The first one is «The Loss of Britain» by Gildas. It was written in the VI in Latin. Gildas was a monk, a son of the Celtic king. He was the only contemporary who described the period. He was an educated man and knew Latin. It was a unique case, the majority of the Celts were illiterate then and couldn’t write anything. For some unknown reasons Gildas had to leave Britain. He lived on the continent and wrote there. He was a contemporary. It was the strong aspect of his work. But he couldn’t observe British life. It was a weak point. Gildas tells that the Celtic kings invited the newcomers themselves as their military hirelings. The newcomers killed a lot of people in Britain. So the Celtic kings are to blame for the situation. And Gildas is full of scorn to the kings of Britain.