What Made the Anglo-Saxons Capable of Conquering the Britons?

Nov 2008
1,421
England
I am not suggesting that Gildas' Jutish mercenaries did anything other than protect their client Britons from raiding by other germanics until the Revolt.

I think we have to ask ourselves why would these mercenaries be hired (in Kent) and given the extensive reports of Saxon and Frankish raiding for several centuries, it is surely reasonable to believe it was to ward off such attacks.
The traditional explanation for Jutes in Kent is that the region was ceded to Hengest and his followers by Vortigern a British leader as payment. In my opinion this may be correct simply because by the early fifth century Kent was virtually "waste", at least as far as unban life was concerned and so would not have been a lucrative area for Saxon pirates to raid. Urban life in Canterbury, Dover and Rochester had all ceased to function quite early at the turn of the fifth century or quite soon afterwards. If Hengest and his Jutes had been awarded territory in Kent, it would have been the eastern region because that is where the Jutish archaeological evidence is to be found. In western Kent we find Saxon evidence.
 
Nov 2008
1,421
England
Pretty much all the garrison troops in the ND are attested by inscriptions. A couple of the field army units are also listed in the army of Gaul, so unlikely to have left with Constantine. They could have been sent for a short time after the defeat of Constantine.
The ASC alludes to them leaving in 418
The ASC actually records that "Here the Romans assembled all the gold-hoards which were in Britain and his some in the earth so that no one afterwards could find them, and took some with them into Gaul. The chronicles does not actually state the Romans mentioned were military, but of course it is possible. In fact some gold-hoards dating from this period have been found. I find it interesting that the West Saxon chronicles writing during the time of Alfred the Great knew about the information which is so early and accurate.
 

authun

Ad Honorem
Aug 2011
5,219
I find it interesting that the West Saxon chronicles writing during the time of Alfred the Great knew about the information which is so early and accurate.
Nothing endures like tales of lost treasure! Leahy suspects that a tales of staffordshire hoard may have been woven into the Beowulf poem by the poet, to help make it seem more real, 'yes, I have heard of that'. I suspect the anglo saxons also ploughed up some of deposits which were not buried deep enough.
 
Nov 2008
1,421
England
Nothing endures like tales of lost treasure! Leahy suspects that a tales of staffordshire hoard may have been woven into the Beowulf poem by the poet, to help make it seem more real, 'yes, I have heard of that'. I suspect the anglo saxons also ploughed up some of deposits which were not buried deep enough.
The Anglo-Saxons were not loath to digging up barrows and burial mounds to seek the treasure supposedly buried within. St Guthlac when a religious recluse in the fens built his home in a robbed out barrow.
 

authun

Ad Honorem
Aug 2011
5,219
The Anglo-Saxons were not loath to digging up barrows and burial mounds to seek the treasure supposedly buried within. St Guthlac when a religious recluse in the fens built his home in a robbed out barrow.
Yes grave robbing occured throughout europe and in many periods. Carter was still doing in the the 20th century in Egypt and the reason why the reputed burial howe of Beowulf at Skalunda is flat topped is because grave robbers started to dig it. Even the neolithic Maes Howe in Orkney was entered by the norse, who wrote runic graffiti on the interior walls. However, roman estate owners/managers didn't bury their wealth in howes. They were far too obvious places.

Skalunda Howe, Vastragötaland:



Maes Howe, Orkney:

 

Peter Graham

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
2,659
Westmorland
Did not have time to reply before going on holiday and I stitched my earlier comments together too quickly:
I hope you had a good break.

So to clarify, the point was making rather ineptly was that raiding was geared to the agricultural season. This has nothing to do with the Revolt that Gildas describes. However, I think that teh two went together loss of mercenary protection in such a vital area as Kent, opens up the possibilty of more successful raiding from other germanic groups.
But if we are accepting Gildas' account as correct, wasn't it the case that loss of mercenary protection in Kent was the direct result of the federate rebellion? And wasn't the direct consequence of the rebellion that Kent fell under direct Saxon rule? If so, are we saying that the new tough-nut Germanic warlords of Kent were happy to let other Germanic raiders despoil their newly-acquired lands and their newly-acquired tenants?
 
Mar 2015
1,460
Yorkshire
I hope you had a good break.



But if we are accepting Gildas' account as correct, wasn't it the case that loss of mercenary protection in Kent was the direct result of the federate rebellion? And wasn't the direct consequence of the rebellion that Kent fell under direct Saxon rule? If so, are we saying that the new tough-nut Germanic warlords of Kent were happy to let other Germanic raiders despoil their newly-acquired lands and their newly-acquired tenants?
I am currently reading Charles Edwards - Wales and the Britons 350-1064 and he has a very different chronology and view to my current one (so I am trying to understand his thought process and may change my tune).

I believe we all appreciate the limitations of Gildas. Clearly there are many points were he is demonstrably incorrect. Yet his open letter to Britons and their leaders to mend their ways and expel the Heathen Saxon can't be a complete fabrication either - so its a matter of trying to tease out a sensible narrative of the sequence of events by taking all the written sources and all the archaeology, IMO. So asking me to to accept or otherwise GIldas is pointless.

Aelfwine is quite correct that the Jutish presence is limited to East Kent. This is the strategic entry point into Britain and failure to hold it in friendly hands opens up Romano-Britain to A-S migration.

Thanet.JPG

The HB tells us that the Jutes were given Thanet (and despite any reservations about this source, it sounds pretty likely). I am sure you appreciate just however important this is and in particular the Wantsum Channel with its forts at Reculver and Richborough. This Channel is now slitted up and since 1500AD Thanet has been part of the mainland. However in Roman and A-S times the protection afforded by this Channel from the North Sea, short route to London and the Thames highway into the Interior made it the favoured route for trade and invasion - small wonder that both Claudius and (probably) Caesar used it.

If I were a local British Warlord sitting in London, I would want to employ some hardnut battle-hardened, sea-going warriors to protect this vital seaboard. Employing a Saxon tribe would be pretty risky but a Jutish band, small in number and 100s of sea miles from home would seem as ideal as I could expect.

Now when they revolt because there is a failure to meet the contracted food and monthly allowance (or they demand more), who attacks whom is irrelevant. There is war which the Jutes could easily lose.

As they need numbers, they are not going to be too particular who joins them. We know that although we glibly talk of Angle or Saxon or Jute kingdoms, these are composed of many different Germanic tribes and its the dominant one which identifies the group.

Thus, I don't think its a matter of our Hengist and Horsa (whoever they were) willingly sharing their spoils with other groups - they were in a serious fight, were small in number and any diversionary attacks in other areas by different germanics would help their military situation.
 
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Peter Graham

Ad Honorem
Jan 2014
2,659
Westmorland
I am currently reading Charles Edwards - Wales and the Britons 350-1064 and he has a very different chronology and view to my current one (so I am trying to understand his thought process and may change my tune).
It's a great book - I hope you are enjoying it.

I believe we all appreciate the limitations of Gildas. Clearly there are many points were he is demonstrably incorrect. Yet his open letter to Britons and their leaders to mend their ways and expel the Heathen Saxon can't be a complete fabrication either - so its a matter of trying to tease out a sensible narrative of the sequence of events by taking all the written sources and all the archaeology, IMO. So asking me to to accept or otherwise GIldas is pointless.
It isn't pointless. You are quite right about the limitations of Gildas, but nonetheless, you'll know as well as me that many people both on Historum and elsewhere talk of Gildas' 'testimony', as though he were setting out to write a sober narrative history of the fifth-century events. He wasn't, although he is a first class witness for certain aspects of the socio-political situation in the mid sixth-century. That, I think, is what we can accept him for.

I'd take issue with your contention that his book is a call to arms to rout the Saxons. I don't think it is. I see it as a moralising sermon which aims to warn the Britons that their persistent sinning is going to lead them into disaster, both in this world and the next. The focus of his work is not the handful of passages about the history of Britain, but about the shortcomings of the clergy and, to a lesser extent, the venality of kings. It's a plea for the elites to show appropriately Christian moral leadership and it's hedged about with previous examples of what happens when the Britons turn away from God. Gildas' account of the adventus is just one of these examples. To Gildas, the Britons are inherently weak and lacking in backbone. They require leading by the nose in order to stay on the path of righteousness. If they can do that, God can take care of everything else for them. The problem is that the people who are supposed to be providing the leadership are a bunch of hypocritical, murderous and hedonistic ne'er do wells.

Aelfwine is quite correct that the Jutish presence is limited to East Kent. This is the strategic entry point into Britain and failure to hold it in friendly hands opens up Romano-Britain to A-S migration.
It's one entry point into Britain, but not the only one. I don't think we could argue that all AS migration came through Kent. Differing archaeological styles and funerary practices show migration taking place along huge swathes of the east coast.

Now when they revolt because there is a failure to meet the contracted food and monthly allowance (or they demand more), who attacks whom is irrelevant.
OK, but doesn't this bring us back to Gildas? The story about the Saxon rebellion following unsatisfied demands for ever more tribute derives from De Excidio.

Thus, I don't think its a matter of our Hengist and Horsa (whoever they were) willingly sharing their spoils with other groups - they were in a serious fight, were small in number and any diversionary attacks in other areas by different germanics would help their military situation.

Aren't you cherry picking a bit? You accept Gildas for the fact of the rebellion, but then reject him for what he says the consequences of that was. He makes no mention of a weak band of Jutes needing to arrange diversionary attacks. He talk about a seizure of land followed by a massive rad which burns Britain from shore to shore.