To condense a book I might right into a post here, after about 250 AD the Roman Empire found it hard to retain control of the provinces in Britain.
In 260 Posthumus made himself Emperor in Gaul, Britain, and Hispania. The "Gallic Empire", as historians call it, was reconquered by Emperor Aurelian in 274.
In 286 Carausius, who commanded the fleet in the English Channel, proclaimed himself Emperor in Britain and northern Gaul. Allectus killed Carusius and made himself Emperor in 293. The western Augustus Maximian (Caesar Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maximianus Augustus
) and his Caesar Constantius (Caesar Gaius Flavius Valerius Constantius Augustus
reconquered the "Brittannic empire", as historians call it, in 296.
Roman names beginning in "Max" or resembling Constantine would become important in later British legends, and are found among the earliernames in the genalogies of some British dynasties.
Constantius, now the western Augustus, died in Eboracum
, modern York in Britain, in 306. Galerius, Augustus in the east, promoted Severus, the Caesar in the west, to Augustus in the west. But meanwhile the army in Britain, led by Chrocus, King of the Alemmani, proclaimed Constantius's son Constantine I (Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinius Augustus
) Augustus of the West. Constantine eventually conquered the rest of the Roman Empire in bloody civil wars, granted toleration and imperial favor to the previously outlawed Christian religion, and built Constantinople as the new capital - examples of the revolutionary changes a usurping emperor from Britain might introduce.
Magnentius (Flavius Magnus Magnentius Augustus
) proclaimed himself emperor in 350, killed Constans, Augustus of the west, and ruled Britannia, Gaul and Hispania, Italy and Africa, until being defeated by Constantius II, Augustus of the east, in 351 and 353.
Then came the "Great Conspiracy" of 367-368. Attacotti, Picts from Scotland, Scots from Ireland, Saxons, and other barbarian groups attacked Britain, possibly in a prearranged "Barbarian Conspiracy", defeated much of the army, and raided and looted. Deserting soldiers and escaped slaves also roamed and looted.
Theodosius the Elder was sent to Britain with reinforcements including his son the future emperor Theodosius - and probably Magnus Maximus - and restored order.
In 383 the military commander in Britain, Magnus Maximus (Flavius Magnus Maximus Augustus
) - whose name is very easy to confuse with Flavius Magnus Magnentius Augustus
- revolted, proclaimed himself emperor, and led many troops to Gaul. Magnus Maximus killed Gratian, Augustus of the west, and ruled Britain, Gaul, Spain, and Africa, until he was defeated by Theodosius, Augustus of the east, in 388.
Legend claims that a large part of the centuries long British migration to Armorica (modern Brittany) was Maximus settling his British troops in that region.
Eventually the Roman government restored its control over the Britains, as the provinces were called. Flavius Stilicho, the general who ruled the western empire as regent for the young Emperor Honorius, seems to have fought a war in Britain against Picts and/or Saxons about 398.
Some time in 406 the army in Britain proclaimed a soldier named Marcus emperor. Many groups of Germanic barbarians crossed the Rhine on December 31, 406, and invaded Gaul. They wandered and looted Gaul for years and then crossed into Spain.
Sometime in 407 Marcus was assassinated and replaced by Gratian (who had the same name as the Emperor Gratian killed by Magnus Maximus). Gratianus was supposedly a native Briton and a member of the urban aristocracy. After reigning for four months, Gratian was assassinated later in 407 (and possibly someone with a name similar to Magnus Maximus was involved). Gratian was replaced by Constantine III (Flavius Claudius Constantinius
), allegedly a common soldier with some ability, whose name may have seem very hopeful to his followers and very ominous to Emperor Honorius at Ravenna.
Constantine and most of the army in Britain invaded Gaul - possibly to fight the barbarian invaders and possibly to seize the mints in Gaul in order to pay the soldiers. In 407 the province of Armorica (Brittany) also revolted against Honorius - whether led by Britons or Gallo-Romans is unknown.
In 408 Constantine III took his eldest son Constans from a monastery and made him Caesar. He sent Constans and his general Gerontius to invade Spain. Honoriu's general Stilicho was executed, the Roman army mutinied, and the Visigoths under Alaric wandered through Italy and besieged Rome several times, capturing it in 410. Desperate, Honorius recognized Constantine III as a legitimate co emperor in 409, ruling Britain, Gaul, and Spain.
The Vandals, Alans, Sueves and Burgundian who had been looting Gaul crossed into Spain and seized a lot of territory there. Gerontius revolted against Constantine and proclaimed Maximus Emperor in 409. Honorius's general Constantius (Flavius Constantius
), who later became co emperor Constantius III, defeated Constantine III and Gerontius in 1411. In 409 Saxon pirates may have raided Britain, and the [I]Historia Nova /I] of Zosimus (written c. 500) says that Britain and/or Brittany revolted against Constantne III for failing to protect them, drivng his officials out.
Zosimus claimed that the cities of Roman Britain wrote to Honorius asking for military help but were turned down in 410. Zosimus claimed that Honorisu told the cities to defend themselves in the Rescript of Honorius in 411.
There is a theory that Roman soldiers garrisoned part of Britain from about 417 to 425 AD but it is accepted by few historians.
Saint Germanus (c. 378-c.437 or 445/446/447/448), a former Roman general and Bishop of Auxerre from 418, was said in the Vita Germani
by Constantius of Lyons about 480, to have visited Britain about 429 on a mission to combat the Pelagrian heresy, and again in the 430s or 440s. The Historia Brittonum
written centuries later claims that Germanus also fought king Vortigern during one of those visits.
Gildas in The Ruin of Britain
, probably written sometime in the sixth century, mentions a British appeal to a Roman leader, "The Groans of the Britons", which is supposed to have been sent during the third consulship of Flavius Aetius (thus 446-454).
And a Gallic chronicle reported that Saxons took control over Britain in 442. But that may mean no more than they asked Aetius or Attila the Hun for lands to settle and were told they could go conquer Britain if they could.
A British leader Riothamus "King of the Britons" lead Britons from Armorica, then being settled by Britons, and/or Great Britain itself in battle against the Goths during a confusing struggle in Gaul about 468 to 472. Some have suggested that Riothamus was King Arthur or Ambrosius Aurelianus.
After the Roman conquest of most of Britain beginning in 43 AD the surviving noble and royal families of the various British tribes became more and more Romanized. One stage in the process of Romanization would be adopting Roman names in the form of a praenomen
or personal name, a nomen
or clan name, and a cognomen
or nickname that often became hereditary in a branch of a clan or family. An agnomen
was a special type of cognomen
to honor someone for achievement or make that he was adopted from one family into another.
And as the British aristocrats adopted Roman customs and Roman names and became Roman citizens, they would have lived more and more by Roman laws instead of British laws. By Celtic laws a leader of a tribe, clan, or family had little choice about ho to leave his real estate and the leadership of the group to; his heir as predetermined by la. But by Roman law someone had far greater freedom to chose his heir. He could adopt someone from another family to be his heir, and he could bequeath some or most of his property to any relative or relatives he chose from either his mother's or father's side or from among in laws, or even to non relatives. Often Romans were left money in wills with the provision that the they add the testators's full name to their own name.
And Roman aristocrats in the imperial era would often add names from their relatives and ancestors in both male and female lines to their own to produce long strings of names. The consul in 169 AD had 38 names from 14 sets of names.
Some British tribes probably continued to function as tribal societies and governments in remote parts of Roman Britain, possibly including Cornwall, Wales, and between the two Roman walls in the north. The kings and nobles of those tribes continued to live like Celts when at home, but no doubt sometimes visited friends and relatives among the Romanized aristocrats of Roman Britain and sometimes intermarried with them. Thus sometimes a landed aristocrat in Roman Britain would leave money, estates, and mansions in his will to a king of a tribe on the fringes of Roman Britain.
Thus over time more and more of the tribal kings would have double lives, sometimes living in their tribal lands as Celtic kings and sometimes living deep in the rich lands of southern Britain as cultured Roman aristocrats in their villas.
Most of the western Roman Empire, except for imperial property, colonies of Roman citizens, military bases, and other special lands, was organized into civitates
city states usually based on earlier cities or tribes, with local elected councils and magistrates. Civitates
were grouped into provinces ruled by governors with various titles. Roman Britain had at least a dozen civitates
and some sources list about 28 cities in Roman Britain including London, colonies, capitals of civitates
and other towns.
By 400 the province of Britain had been divided and subdivided into five provinces whose borders and locations are controversial. The five governors were under the Vicar of the Britains, who as a subordinate of the Praetorian Prefect of the Gauls, ruling Britain, Gaul, Spain, and western North Africa under the western emperor. The soldiers in Britain would have been commanded by the Count of the Saxon Shore and the Duke of Britain under the Count of Britain. The Count of Britain would have been under the magister militum
of Gaul or the magister utiusquae militae
or commander in chief of the western Roman empire.
By 400 AD most of the western Roman army consisted of barbarians recruited into existing units or enlisted as groups under their chiefs or kings. Thus it was possible for the same group of people to be both a Roman military unit and their dependents and a tribal kingdom. Several usurpers had taken Roman soldiers from Britain to invade the continent, and it is often assumed that they were not completely replaced each time, thus gradually reducing the Roman army in Britain to impotence.
It is believed that the missing soldiers were partially replaced by barbarian warriors in groups under their own chiefs and kings. British tribes in Cornwall, Wales, and north of Hadrian's wall could have been enlisted to defend their own areas or been moved to defend other areas without troops. Picts from Scotland and Scots from Ireland, who certainly sometimes raided Roman Britain and perhaps sometimes settled there, could have been hired as garrisons in some areas of Roman Britain. Barbarian groups from the continent, such as Germans, Alans, and Huns, could have been brought to Britain as garrison units.
And if barbarian warriors stayed in Britain long enough their kings and commanders could have become more or less assimilated into British society.
The economy of Roman Britain changed over time. In later Roman times the economies of the cities seemed to decline for decades before the end of Roman Britain, while the villas seemed to grow more prosperous.
The salaries of Roman soldiers and officials pumped the economy of Roman Britain. The soldiers were paid in gold and silver coins and exchanged most of them with money changers for bronze and copper coins for everyday transactions. Traders, artisans, and city dwellers used bronze and copper coins for everyday transactions and when they had to pay their taxes they exchanged them with money changers for gold and silver coins and paid them in taxes to the imperial government.
As the number of soldiers in Roman Britain declined and they were replaced with barbarians not expecting pay the number of coins sent to Roman Britain declined. With coins wearing out and being lost the money supply in Britain dwindled and more and more transactions reverted to the old system of barter.
With the collapse of the monetary economy the industries in Britain collapsed. The manufacture of pottery, bricks, and roof tiles ceased. Buildings had to be build or repaired with wood and plaster walls and thatched roofs. Lost of skilled artisans left the cities for the countryside or moved to northern Gaul.
The physical fabric of Roman Britain may have been collapsing about 410 AD but the Roman roads remained in fairly good shape for decades and centuries to come. Invading or defending armies could and sometimes did travel rapidly along them for centuries. And the Britons could have sent messengers along the Roman roads to coordinate their activities.
It is unknown if there post Roman Britain had any government higher than the Civitates
. The Civitates
no doubt continued as republics with elected councils and magistrates for a time, but it is possible that the examples of any tribal kingdoms that had existed continuously through the Roman period influenced more and more of the Civitates
to become monarchies - there is very little information about the government of most of Britain in this era. rich aristocratic landowners, perhaps descended from nobles and kings of pre Roman Britain, may have made themselves the kings of most city states in Britain.
Kings of tribal kingdoms in Cornwall, Wales and north of Hadrian's Wall may have used their loyal warriors to add neighboring lands to their kingdoms. Chiefs and kings of barbarian warriors stationed in Britain may have used their warriors to take over nearby Civitates
And if some of the kings of tribal kingdoms had inherited landed estates in the wealthier Civitates
they could use their wealth (and their warriors from their tribal kingdoms) to become kings in those wealthy lowland city sates and use some of their wealth from the lowlands to reward their warrior followers and attract more warriors to their cause.
Thus the most important rulers in post roman Britain were likely to be kings of at least two kingdoms each, including at least one highland warrior Celtic kingdom and at least one lowland Romanized wealthy kingdom. And if there were any higher political officers in post Roman Britain, those men would like have them.
I think it is quite likely that post Roman Britain did sometimes or always have some sort of central government. And we can imagine that as a combination of Celtic society and Roman society each government position had both a Celtic title and a Roman title, and may have functioned in a more or less mixed or combined combined way.
In medieval Ireland, there were about fifty two hundred Tuaths
or tribes each ruled by a ri
or king. there were a small number of kings with over lordship over the ri
s, and above them were the kings, varying from four to about six, of the "fifths" of Ireland, and above them the high king of Ireland. Thus the Celtic society of Medieval Ireland had four levels of kingship.
Each of the ten to thirty civitates
in post Roman Britain was probably divided into districts called pagi
, and each pagus
was probably ruled by someone called both by a low ranking Roman title and a title of sub king. Each civitates
may have been ruled by someone ho as both a magistrate and a king. Each of the five provinces of Roman Britain may have been ruled by someone who was both a governor and a king using some type of royal title, who might be considered a king to the second power or a king of kings. And the ruler of post Roman Britain may have been both the Vicar of the Britains and a king to the third power or a king of kings of kings, whatever actual royal title he may have used.
And the Britons in Armorica or Brittany may have had a similar hierarchy of kings with corresponding Roman titles. And the king of all Brittany might have claimed to be the Vicar of the Gauls, who ruled the part of Gaul that included Brittany. Whenever Britain and Brittany had the same ruler, he might have called himself both some type of king, being what might be called a king to the fourth power or a king of kings of kings of kings kings,and also Emperor. Or perhaps a monarch corresponding to the Praetorian Prefect of the Gauls would be in place above the rulers of Brittany and Britain, which would make the emperor above him equal to a king to the fifth power, a king of kings of kings of kings of kings.
So not counting sub kings there were likely to be three to five levels of kings in Post Roman Britain if they had a central government. And probably kings from all levels of kingship would be called plain rex
"king" in inscriptions. Inf act, it was common in the later roman Empire to refer to an emperor as a rex
There is an inscription from post Roman North Africa referring to a king of the Romans and because in those times king was sometimes used to mean emperor it is hard to tell if he was claiming to be a king over a tribe of Romans or a Roman Emperor.
Aegidius was the last Roman magister militum
in Gaul, dying about 464/465. His son Syagrius continued to rule a Roman realm in northern Gaul while the last western emperors were deposed in 476 and 480, but it was conquered by Clovis the Frankish king in 486/487. Gregory of Tours, writing about a century later, said that Syagrius used the title King of the Romans. There is no way to tell if Gregory is correct or if Syagrius was claiming to be king of a group of Romans or to be Roman Emperor.
The enemies of Roman Britain; the Picts from Scotland, the Scots from Ireland, and the Saxons (various groups from northern Germany and from Scandinavia) continued to raid post Roman Britain. And the separate British kingdoms and/or the central government of all post Roman Britain defended against those attacks as well as they could, using armed forces recruited perhaps from ordinary Romano Britons, perhaps from the wilder Celtic warriors from Cornwall, Wales, and north of Hadrian's Wall, perhaps from Picts and Scots and Saxons hired as mercenaries, perhaps from a mix of all of them.
Gildas, who died about 570 according to the Annales Cambriae
wrote in The Ruin of Britain
that the Britons finally managed to put an end to Pictish raids sometime after the end of Roman Rule, which he describes as the departure of Magnus Maximus. The end of Pictish raids may coincide with a change in the Pictish king list. There is a difference between the more legendary names of kings before and the more realistic names of kings after the change. This may be related to a change in dynasty during the fifth century and/or the end of raiding into post Roman Britain.
After a time, when kings (or possibly emperors) in Britain were rapidly replaced (posssibly referring to he events in 406-407), the Britons feared a new Pictish invasion, and the council and "the Proud Tyrant" (usually thought to be Vortigern) invited Saxon mercenaries to defend against the Picts. This as successful, until after a while quarrels arose between the Britons and this group of Saxons.
This group of Saxon mercenaries, and possibly many other discontented Germanic, British, and barbarian people, suddenly rose up in revolt and began massacring every Briton they could catch and burning everything. The Britons fled in panic. It is possible that most of the Britons in what is now England left their homes and fled from the Saxon uprising.
And if a large proportion of the total British population left their homes and fled in panic to face exposure, and lack of food and water, many of them would probably die on the road from exposure, malnutrition, thirst and disease. It is probable that many more Britons died in the flight than the Saxons could have killed if they had just waited for the Saxons to come and kill them.
It is probable that Gildas greatly exaggerated the various disasters that happened to the Britons. But it still seems possible that a significant percentage, perhaps more than half, of the Britons could have died on the road in that flight. And perhaps writing from generations later Gildas combined several such instances of mass flight into one, and the Britons suffered an even greater loss of life.
The Saxons returned to their homes in the east, perhaps thinking the Britons would never oppose them again. Some of the Britons sailed overseas, and some of the Britons rallied around Ambrosius Aurelianus, probably the Aurelius Ambrosius of the Historia Brittonum
. Under his leadership the Britons attacked the Saxons. Gildas does not specify whether the British army was entirely composed of Britons, or whether it included Pictish, Scottish, and even loyal Saxon warriors.
The war or series of wars had victories for either side, until the Battle of Badon which may have been a victory for the Britons since it was a slaughter of the Saxons, almost the last. Gildas wrote that the peace with the Saxons had lasted for at lest a generation up to his time, since a new generation of leaders took power who did not remember the long war. In a very complicated sentence Gildas mentioned a time interval of 44 years without saying clearly which events it was between.
In the Historia Brittonum
probably written about 820, the story of the Saxon invasion is told very differently. it is possible that it tells the story of an earlier or later outbreak of war with a different group of Saxon mercenaries than Gildas describes. Anyway, Vortigern invited Hengist and Horsa to settle in Kent, and the Saxons later fought the Britons under Vortimer, son of Vortigern. Some time after that, probably sometime in the period 450 to 550 AD, the Historia Brittonum
says that Arthur fought the Saxons.
The Historia Brittonum
says that Arthur and the Kings of the Britons fought the Saxons in 12 battles and Arthur was the Dux Bellorum
or battle leader in every one of the 12 battles, and defeated the Saxons every time. It does not say what rank or title Arthur had, merely that he commanded in the 12 battles. So nobody knows if the Arthur of the Historia Brittonum
was a king, though I get the impression that anyone who was important in British society in that era was a sub king or higher. Nor does it say that Arthur was a Briton. He could have been a native Briton or possibly a leader of some type of foreign mercenaries.
The name of Arthur could contain the British world arth
"bear". And it could be a Roman name since the name Artorius
would become Arthur
in medieval Welsh.
If the Battle of Badon in the Historia Brittonum
and the Battle of Badon in The Ruin of Britain
are the same battle, it should be noted that the more contemporary Gildas wrote that his Battle of Badon was right before peace with the Saxons lasing over a generation until he wrote, while the Historia Brittonum
says that every time the Saxons were defeated they invited more Saxon warriors and kings from Germany to invade Britain, and this continued until the reign of Ida in Northumbria (about 547 AD), which may have been decades after Arthur fought.
Some modern historians claim that the account of Arthur's battles in the Historia Brittonum
was written to encourage the Welsh to fight against the English by making up stories about the glorious victories of Arthur against the Saxons. If so the writer neglected to make Arthur's victory at Baden even as glorious as was suggested in a source that he may have access to, let alone exaggerate the glory of Arthur's victory over what his possible source said. Nor did the writer bother to add to the fame of any Welsh dynasty that he might have supported by suggesting any connection between Arthur and the kings of the Britons who fought alongside him and any contemporary Welsh dynasty.
The Annales Cambriae
written about 975 based on earlier sources state that in the year corresponding to 516/517/518 AD Arthur and the Britons defeated their unnamed enemies at the Battle of Badon, presumed to be the same as the Badons of Gildas and the Historia Brittonum
. And in the year corresponding to 537/538/539 there is a great mortality in Britain (a plague or famine?) and "the strife of Camlann in which Arthur and Medraut fell".
It doesn't say if Arthur and Medraut were on the same side or enemies. In later stories
Medraut became Arthur's nephew and enemy, and later incestous son, Mordred.
Arthur in the Historia Brittonum
and the Annales Cambriae
is what can be called the Arthur of history. Even though they were written probably about 300 to 450 years after Arthur's time, they could have accurately reported what had been written during Arthur's era, since the example of Gildas shows that elite sixth century Britons could be very literate and many other Britons could have been sufficiently literate.
One possible interpretation of the Battle of Badon is that it was a total victory for the Britons. The hostile Germanic tribesmen who I call "old Saxons" (whether they were Angles, Saxons, Jutes, or whatever) may have been totally defeated by the Britons and their army which may have contained loyal Germanic mercenaries who I call "Loyal Saxons".
The "Old Saxons" may then have been forced to reside in "Saxon reservations" near the southern and eastern shores of Britain, while the "Loyal Saxon" mercenaries may have been settled or garrisoned in various other parts of Britain, thus giving archaeologist the impression that the Saxons controlled much more of Britain than they really died.
But Arthur or whoever controlled the British policy may have had worse things in store for the "Old Saxons" confined by treaty to their "reservations". The British government may have invited other Germanic tribes to come to Britain (and perhaps provided the ships to bring them) and attack and conquer the "Old Saxons" who may have been largely disarmed by the peace treaty. The invaders who I call "New Saxons" defeated the kings of the "Old Saxons" and established new kingdoms in their lands.
The "New Saxons" were required by the British government to enslave the "Old Saxons" And send an annual tribute of "Old Saxon" slaves to the British government. Some of the "Old Saxon" slaves would be sold on the continent and some were be used to work on large farms and plantations in the war-depopulated areas of Britain. There they grew crops that were sold or traded in Frankish Gaul for goods needed in Britain.
And the British built a boundry between British lands and the Saxon "reservations" that it was death for any unauthorized Saxon to cross. Procopius wrote about 560 in History of the Wars
Now in this island of Britain the men of ancient times built a long wall, cutting off a large part of it; and the climate and the soil and everything else is not alike on the two sides of it. For to the east of the wall there is a salubrious air, changing with the seasons, being moderately warm in summer and cool in winter. But on the west side everything is the reverse of this, so that it is actually impossible for a man to survive there even a half-hour, but countless snakes and serpents and every other kind of wild creature occupy this area as their own. And, strangest of all, the inhabitants say that if a man crosses the wall and goes to the other side, he dies straightway. They say, then, that the souls of men who die are always conveyed to this place.
I think that Procopius was combining stories he heard about Hadrian's wall and stories he heard about the border of the Saxon "reservations" from Saxons who came to Constantinople as part of a Frankish emissary in 553 AD. The Saxons may have repeated stories they mothers told them as children that any Saxon who crossed the border would magically be killed.
The border may have been earthen dykes in some sections, wooden palisades in other sections, and hedges in other sections, and it may have had parallel sections. I imagine it was similar to the Great Hedge of India, but probably stronger, The Great Hedge was an internal customs barrier for the collection of salt tax first begun in 1803 and extended to a length of 2,500 miles until it was abandoned in 1879 - the author of a book about it had to make three trips to India to finally identify a remnant of it.
And then some time about the 570s, probably during a British civil war, there was a great revolt of "Old Saxons" and "New Saxons" and possibly some of the "Loyal Saxon" mercenaries. The "Old Saxons" and "New Saxons" would have broken out of their "Reservations" and the "Old Saxon" slaves in the British plantations would have started slave revolts, massacring all the Britons they could find. Britons would have fled in hordes to southwest England and on to Brittany. Tens or hundreds of thousands of Britons would have been massacred, or enslaved, or fled from Britain forever.
After the conflict was over the English or Saxons would have ruled most of southern England, the richest part of Britain, and the Britons left in that area were mostly slaves toiling in the same plantations that Saxon slaves had previously toiled in. In the seventh century the Angles and Saxons in northern England began to conquer the British kingdoms one by one. Cadwallon, King of Gwynedd and King of the Britons, fought a great war against the northern Angle kingdom of Northumbria in 633 to 634 but was finally defeated. By 700 AD, the only lands still ruled by the Britons were Strathcylde in the north that was annexed to Scotland centuries later, Cornwall and Devon that were eventually conquered by England, and Wales that fought against the English on and off for five more centuries until the final conquest in 1282/83.
So this account shows why it is sort of unfitting for the present Royal family of the United Kingdom, who are sort of the heirs of the invading Angles and Saxons and Jutes that Arthur fought against, to name some of their children Arthur as if they are members of the same ethnic Group that Arthur was a member of,instead of members of the ethnic group that Arthur fought against.