THE DEFENCE OF BRITAIN                    TO 737 CE/AD

 

ROMAN AND POST-ROMAN FRONTIER POLICY

TO C 500 CE/AD

Summary – Rome’s last policy on Britain’s frontiers was a forward one based upon indigenous forces and was extended by the post-Roman British diocese to cover all the northern and western regions. It was markedly successful in recovering lands from the Scotti and deterring Scotti aggression. It lasted successfully for about 200 years, although some frontier regions were divided at the end of the period, either for military or dynastic reasons, something that did not bode well for the future. Post-Roman Britain’s policy in the east and south was in contrast a failure, based upon foreign troops it could not control, and although it succeeded in neutralizing the Pictish threat, it resulted in the loss of much of the east and the isolation of Britain from the continent in the 5th Century.

 

Why did Rome station three legions in Britain for over 300 years?  The legion at Eburacum / York can be explained by the need for a regular formation to deal with large incursions from Caledonia, but, given the elaborate, in-depth arrangements and large garrison of the northern frontier, there is unlikely to have been a need for two legions permanently stationed further south for this purpose.  The legions stationed at Deva / Chester and Isva Augusta / Caerleon must have been intended to control north wales and the northwest, and south wales and the southwest, respectively. This implies that the Empire saw the need to garrison both areas to ensure control. The threat may have been from Hibernia, but the size of that threat seems disproportionately small; it may, however, have been part of the rationale for such a large garrison. The other, and more likely reason, was the need to ensure the peaceful behaviour of the tribes in north Wales, northwest England, south Wales and southwest England.  Throughout the existence of Roman Britain, it seems that these areas were not seen as fully incorporated parts of the Empire, and were left to varying degrees to their own tribal rule, with always the danger that their loyalty was suspect.  It is noteworthy that after the end of Roman Britain, Gwynedd in Chester and Gwent in Caerleon continued to play pivotal roles in the defence arrangements of Britannia.

270-280s - The Litus Saxonicum (Saxon Shore) forts built. There is no record of Saxon raids then. Forts were probably depots for the supply for the Rhine army and under military control, perhaps garrisoned by Saxon laeti and served by ships manned by Saxon sailors.  The walled enclosures are big enough for storage leaving no traces of buildings and also space for livestock to be kept in transit.  

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At some point, Rome builds Carr’s Dyke in Lindsey, filling the gap in defences between the Wash and the Humber and starting a trend in earthen defensive fortifications that would persist until Offa’s Dyke.

276-282 - Probus brings Burgundians and Vandals to Britain, the first recorded use of German troops in the province 133 years before the end.  Provincials would have found nothing strange in this by 409, rather would have regarded it as the norm. This would have begun the links of troops in Britain with their Germanic homelands and some transit between the two, for families, recruitment, trade and remittance of cash.   It perhaps links with the building of the Saxon Shore forts; their garrison?

C 300 - The Dux Britanniarum given command in north by Diocletian.  The British north included Votadini and Alt Clut / Strathclyde north of the wall; Roman Britain was to do so too. Line of the wall was only a colonial frontier cutting across ethnic & linguistic areas.  British regarded both north and south of the wall as part of Brythonic speaking Britannia. 

368-369 - Areani / Arcani disbanded, Valentia a province, Praefecti Gentium to command tribes in: Alt Clut; Manau Gotodin; and the southern Votadini.  The new Forward Policy does not require scouts now that direct command of frontier tribes in the new province is established.  The Votadini are divided as again later in 420 & 490.  Compare NW Frontier of India’s fluctuating forward and backward policies.  Forward policies involve commitment of funds to administer frontier provinces. Backward policies are cheaper but surrender military control and lose reliable forward intelligence. 

 

380 - Magnus Maximus appoints Constantine / Custennin Fawr / the Great ‘King of North Wales’.  This is the first attempt to deal with the Scotti problem in north Wales and is an extension of the border scheme.   Constantine was likely a Roman officer appointed to rule locally on the border, as was done elsewhere in the western Empire. The Forward Policy again. 

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Later British dynasties traced their origins to the usurping Emperor Magnus Maximus, who was the subject of stories central to the British view of their own history and whose family and deeds were interwoven in British consciousness as no other Roman Emperor’s had been.  He was seen as a partially British figure, a defender of Britain.  Detail of him and his family is given separately.

382 - Magnus Maximus establishes protectors with Alt Clut at Dumbarton, in Cumbria and in Demetia. This is part of the Forward Policy, a clear attempt to manage the whole British area in this fashion, and a repetition / extension of the policy started in 368-369. The office of protector carried on until C 6. As control weakens, Roman officers establish their own lines of succession and eventually, after 409, dynasties. 

C 407 - A protector appointed in Cernyw and Venta Silurum. This is filling in the frontier gap in south Wales, concomitant with the Forward Policy. Did the 2nd Augusta Legion ever leave?  Detachments of 2nd Augusta Legion remain at Cardiff, Isca and Rutupiae.  Regular troops need pay.  After end of coin import, regular army is impossible to pay provincially.  Were these detachments supported locally?  This seems evidence of the desire of the final Roman administration to hold the frontiers with reduced resources after Constantine III’s removal of forces to campaign in Gaul. 

C 410-420 - Was Coel Hen Dux Britanniarum?  The Dux would not have been removed with the field army by Constantine III, so would have remained in post. If overthrown by provincials when Roman officials removed, the Dux would have been replaced, for some defence of the northern frontier both was needed and continued in actuality; Rome was certainly intending to re-establish control of Britannia in the future.  If Coel Hen was not, there was an unnamed other. 

420 - At Coel's death, north Britain controlled by the Dux is divided into two: Eboracum and the South Votadini territory (Valentia?).  Is this a relinquishment of the areas north of Hadrian’s Wall to local control, so the reversal of the Forward Policy?  Lack of resources means coordination of defences from Eboracum now much more difficult and the tendency would be to revert to local support, supply and so local control.  Does this policy link with the move of Cunedda to north Wales?  Was independence north of the Wall given for assistance with the move south?  The split is an arrangement that lasts 30 years till 450.  The Votadini had been divided into two earlier 368-369. 

C 420-430- Coordinated settlement of Saxon laeti around Venta Belgarum / Caer Gwinntguic / Winchester; and of Saxon and Scotti laeti around Calleva Atrebatum / Caer Celemion / Silchester.  Saebald / Sibald becomes leader of the Anglian laeti in Deywr / Deira / Derenrice /Dere settled in lands of the Parisii around Eboracum / Ebrauc / York.  Anglian laeti settled in Brigante territory of Elmet / West Yorkshire and in Coritani territory of Ratae Coritanorum / Caer Lerion / Leicester; Jutish laeti settle in the lands of Regnenses / Rhegin around Noviomagus / Chichester and Anderita / Anderida / Pevensey. These deployments are not connected with Pictish or Scottish threats but all the major cities threatened from the east and south are now covered by Germanic mercenaries, who are therefore in place to revolt later, initially with no local opposition.  Is there, perhaps, a thought of defence against invasion from Gaul?

421 - Desi take over Demetia, the last Roman protector replaced by a Desi prince in that rank. Replacement of appointed Roman official by descendant or local in same position occurring in all the frontier areas.  Is the Diocese losing control of its military periphery or recognising the change of circumstances by adapting to local control? 

 424 - Cunedda moves from Manau Gododdin to north and west Wales.  Constantine / Custennin Fawr / the Great ‘King of North Wales’ in 380 has not succeeded in keeping the Scotti out and needs replacing or succeeding.  This is the second attempt to manage north Wales. Were the Votadini the only major source of fighting men left in Brythonic speaking Britannia? They were culturally acceptable to the British in the west, who had not had Saxon garrisons in the past.  The transfer implies provincial administration is making deliberate arrangements for the frontiers and is able to enforce them. Cunedda succeeds completely. This  founds the kingdom of Gwynnedd and commences Gwynnedd’s connections with the Men of the North.

 C 425- Vortimer commands what army is left in Britain, so there is there still some small central force.  As son of Vortigern, it would have been natural for him to be appointed, as, for instance, Constantine III had appointed his son Constans.  Where was it stationed?  Perhaps at Deva / Chester or at Isca Augusta / Caerleon?

428- Jutes Hengist / Hengest and Horsa / Hors sons of Wihtgils, exiled from their homeland, arrive with three keels at Ebba’s Creek / Ebbsfleet and are given by Vortigern the island of Ruoichin / Ruithin / Ruoihm / Tanet / Thanet / Fire Island as foederati under Roman billeting laws.  Elsewhere laeti are settled west of Southampton Water, on Vectis / Isle of Wight and in Meonware / East Hampshire in lands of the Belgae. Reinforcements follow and are settled most numerously around Venta Icenorum / Caistor-by-Norwich, Durocobrivis / Dunstable / Luton and the oppidum at Abingdon.  Also on the road Eboracum / Ebrauc / York to Stamford / Great Casterton; on the Lindsey coast; in northeast Kent; at Camulodunum / Colchester and in the Thames estuary; at Cambridge / Castle Hill; at Dorcic / Dorchester-on-Thames; at Sandy / Caesar’s Camp; at Kempston by Bedford securing the Icknield Way; and at Portus Adurni / Portchester / Portsmouth Harbour.  These are detachments protecting the approaches to cities.  Hengist and Horsa are a small part of this settlement, perhaps later singled out for memory due to their agency in initiating the revolt.   The scope for destruction of the major cities of the province by a mutiny is province-wide.  What Hengist and Horsa offer, perhaps, is what the British may no longer have, which is a navy, or a navy in the North Sea and eastern Channel. 

430 - Vortimer is given lands in Gwent, which is split from Glywysing, bolstering defences in south Wales in an area not hitherto covered (because 2nd was until recently at Isca Augusta / Caerleon?).  With Germanic mercenaries in the east and south, and Brythonic forces in the north, and both north and south Wales, all the island’s frontiers are covered.  

430 - Anglians settled in northeast. Hengist and Horsa raid Picts as far as Shetland. Vortigern’s offensive and defensive policy ends the Pictish menace by use of Saxon ships. 

432 - Saxons raid Hibernia and Vortigern’s daughter marries a Scotti King.  Vortigern’s stick and carrot ends the Scotti threat to Britain by the use of Saxon ships and diplomacy of the old tribal sort.  

 

430s and 460s - Cornovii migrate to Dumnonia.  Cornubia / Corniu / Cerniw / Cornwall founded as sub-region of Dumnonia ruled by Merchion ab Custennyn / Marcianus, younger brother of Urban / Erbin ab Custennyn, ruler of Dumnnonia. Was the emigration to deal with the Scotti settling there? If so, this indicates the comprehensiveness of the provincial scheme to deal with threats to its shores. 

C 450 - Division of the Eboracum command / kingdom into Rheged and Eboracum.  This is either a division of military areas and responsibilities and/or the start of deterioration of British power in the north.  This situation lasts only 25 years till 475 when Rheged splits again.  The north will be largely unaffected by the Saxon revolt, perhaps due to the fact that it was not so dependent on Germanic mercenaries and had local forces and/or the remains of the Dux’s command at Eboracum.

By 470 - Einion Yrth / Erth, second ruler of Gwynedd, subdues the Scotti and expels Serigi / Serach, son-in-law of the King of Leinster from Mona / Anglesey. 

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Renaming of the territory of Cernyw as Glywysing / Glamorgan with capital at Cardiff / Caerdydd by its first ruler Claudius / Glywysus / Glywys / Glwys son of Solor, the brother of Protector Marius / Mor.  This shows continued strengthening of control of the western borders during period of chaos and struggle in the east. It also indicates the steady change of provincial to tribal authority although with the continued use of the protector title.  Eugenius Protector of Cernyw had been killed C 440, so Claudius / Glywysus / Glywys / Glwys son of Solor, the brother of Protector Marius / Mor is not the first but the fourth ruler of the area, although perhaps the first of the new dynasty. If the arrangement in Cernyw was a provincial affair, it was the last indication of a provincial frontier policy.  It had been remarkably successful in regaining control in the west and holding the north, and the arrangements it set in place lasted for centuries.  In the east, the use of Germanic mercenaries gave a completely different outcome and resulted in the destruction of the Diocese’s urban civilisation and the loss of the eastern lowlands.

C 474- Honorius / Ynyr Gwent, ruler of Gwerthefyriwg / Gwent ? loses or delegates territory of Ercing / Ergyng to Gwrfoddw Hen ap Meurig of Gwent, who becomes first ruler of Ariconium / Aricon / Arcing / Ergyng / Ercing / Archenfield with capital at Ariconium / Weston under Penyard. 

475 - Gwrast / Gwrwst Lledlwm ruler of Rheged dies leaving son Meirchion / Merchiaun Gul (The Lean) Marcianus as ruler of Rheged and son Masgwld / Masaid as ruler of Elmet.  

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Mor ruler of Northern Britain at Eboracum dies, succeeded by three sons: Einion ap Mor the first ruler of Eboracum / Ebrauc / York; Arthwys ap Mor the first ruler of the Pennines; and Dynod / Dingad ap Einion, first ruler of Dunoting / Dunoding. 

480 - Claudius / Glewisus / Glwys Cernyw dies dividing territory of Glywyssing into four: Saint Gundleus / Gwynlliw / Gwynllyw / Farfog / Woolos becoming Over-ruler with capital of sub-region of Gwynllwg at Caerfule / Castrum Buleum in the area of Newport; Pawl becomes sub-ruler of Penychen; Mad Marcianus / Merchwyn / Mechwyn Vesanus becomes sub-ruler of Grofynedd. Edelig becomes sub-ruler of Edeligion but at his death the territory is reabsorbed. These four dynastic splits and military delegations, typical of Celtic kingdoms, eventually weaken the power of the British in south Wales and the north.  However, splitting commands under a central authority may have made sense in light of local defence as they reduced the size of areas of local control and enabled rulers to concentrate on local self-defence, enabling them to survive until the arrival of mobile relief or reinforcement. But when commands evolve into kingdoms small sizes lead to a weakened structure as each is rival to the next and can be picked off individually.

490 - Bran Hen (The Old) divides lands of the Votadini (Bryneich / Bernaccia) with ruler Cuncar / Cyngar and takes the northern part near Guotodin, becoming Protector of Guotodin.  This division of the Votadini had occurred twice since the 4th Century.  After 500 it will be again reversed when Morgan Bulc / Thunderbolt son of Cuncar reunites the Votadini. 

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Elnaw ap Dogfael was made ruler of the Dumnonian sub-region of Glastenning in that year, indicating perhaps some central authority still operating.   

THE SCOTTI IN BRITANNIA

 

Summary - Scotti settled in northwest and southwest Wales during Roman times, perhaps as gentiles or laeti, part of the defences of the west and maybe including naval service. Scotti raids became serious in the latter half of the 4th century and continued into the 5th, when Scotti settlements occurred in Demetia, Llyn, Anglesey, Man, Brycheiniog and areas of Dumnonia, and for a time in Viroconium / Wroxeter.  However, in post-Roman Britain they are driven out of all but Demetia and Brycheiniog.  The Scotti in south Wales cause considerable confusion in the early C 5 and for a time even become the paramount power in the region.  Prince Brychan Brycheiniog and his son overrun much of the area and succeeed in marrying their female relatives into surrounding dynasties. Brychan also endows a school to further evangelization across Britain. The threat from Hibernia is neutralized before the Saxon revolt by a combination of naval attack, dynastic diplomacy and Christian mission.  The British fight back after Cunedda’s move to Gwynedd culminates in the re-occupation of all lands in the north and west of Wales.  This occurs before the defeat of the Saxons in the east, perhaps indicating that priority was given to securing the west.  The power of the Scotti in Brycheiniog and Dyfed is reduced by the British by the end of C 5.

 

 C2 - Irish Gangani already settled in Llyn/Lleyn Peninsula.  Pliny’s Geography places them in southwestern Ireland and the Lleyn Peninsula – ‘the promontory of the Gangani’, a fort in Britain owned by the sons of Liathain, the Ui Liathain (the sons of Lethan).  There is fluid movement of peoples and cultures around the Irish Sea and the western seaboard as a whole. This implies a Roman settlement of, or tolerance of an earlier settlement of, a barbarian tribe inside the Empire.

 

C 254-266/380 - Cormac Mac Art, son of Art the Solitary, son of Conn of a Hundred Battles, High King of Ireland, expels the Desi / Déisi / Deisi / Déssi Muman tribe of County Waterford / Bregia in Meath. Led by Eochaid Almuir / Ewein Mac Artchorp / Art Corb, they settle in Demed / Demetia / Dyfed. This settlement is under Roman arrangements at this point.  

 

254-277/270 - Was the arrival of the Desi in Demetia connected with Diocletian’s naval? successes in Britain in 285? 

 

342/343 - Settlement of Scotti in Britain by the Roman authorities. Where?  

 

C 350 - Settlement from Leinster in Mona / Anglesey.  Expanding earlier settlement in the Lleyn Peninsula?  This settlement is made at the same time as that of Saxons in the east and is perhaps evidence of a policy protecting both coasts.  

 

C 350, 358, 360, 364 - Scotti raid Britain.  They are more of a threat than the Saxons in C 4.

 

367 - The Great Conspiracy; Scotti ally with Saxons ?and High King Crimthan marries a Saxon.  The first evidence of any joint attacks coordinated by sea.

 

385-386 - Magnus Maximus campaigns against Scotti.  Likely to have been in north Wales and / or the northwest.

 

395 - Niall of the Nine Hostages raids Deva and Isca Augusta.  Prompted by the withdrawal of XXth Legion from Deva?  The Irish now raiding as far as the Bristol Channel.

 

396-398- Stilicho fights Scotti, who settle (are settled?) in the Isle of Man.

 

405? - Scotti raid south Wales? / ?Cumbria / ?Lancashire and seize Saint Patrick. 

 

408 and 411- Scotti raid Britain north of Clyde.  Attacking the British and / or the Picts of Alba?

 

C 420 - Scotti kill ? Dux Coel Hen at Coylton.  Continued Irish attempt to expand in Alba and north of the Wall.

 

C 421 – Scotti / Desi dynasty takes control of Demetia / Dyfed; Aed Brosc becomes king.  The genealogy of Dyfed rulers is considerably confused in  C 5 and shows conflict and confusion in the principality.

 

432 - Saxons raid Hibernia.  ? Vortigern’s daughter marries Scotti King.  Vortigern’s stick then carrot policy ends the Scotti threat to Britain. It coincides with the beginning of the British Christian mission to Hibernia, which cannot be coincidental.  At the very least, peace is required for missionary work, and it in itself reinforces peace.

 

440s - Scotti capture Viroconium / Caer Guricon / Wroxeter of the Pagenses / Powys and Irish chief Banadl / Banall / Benlli installs himself. Cadell Ddyrnllwg / Cadell of the Gleaming Hilt, son of Cadeyrn Fentigaid, ruler of Powys, submits to Benlli.  
 

440-450 - Scotti presence at Caer Draithou / Dunster Castle, Somerset.  

C 450 - Ui Liathain establish region of Brycheiniog / Brecknock, marrying Anlach to Marchel, heiress of Garthmadrun / Garth Madrun / Garth Madryn at Talgarth.  Opportunistic raids and settlement launched from Demetia or elsewhere on removal of Vortimer and the troops to fight the Saxons in the east?

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Prince Brychan Brycheiniog given as hostage to Benlli by father and begins to sire children.  After Benlli's fall, he succeeds father Anlach as prince Brychan / Broccan Brycheiniog / Saint Brychen Brycheiniog.  He establishes the principality of Brycheiniog and makes it a power in south Wales, with his son Rhain (who succeeded C 495) overrunning many surrounding areas.  He establishes or endows an ecclesiastical school where Saint Cadog studies and which sends out many missionaries (his 'children'?) across Britain, so achieving sainthood. He marries his many ‘daughters’ into princely houses:

 

   1. Nyfain ferch Brychan, wife of Cynfarch Oer ap Meirchion, a prince of the North, and mother of Urien Rheged.

 

   2. Gwrygon Goddeu ferch Brychan, wife of Cadrawd Calchfynedd ap Cynwyd Cynwydion. 

 

   3. Gwawr ferch Brychan, wife of Elidr Lydanwyn and mother of Llywarch Hen.

 

   4. Gwladus ferch Brychan first wife of Saint Gwynllyw Farchog, King of Gwynllwg, mother of Saint Cadog.

 

   5.  Ceingair ferch Brychan, second wife of Saint Gwynllyw Farchog, King of Gwynllwg, mother of Saint Cynidr. 

 

   6. Saint Tudlwystl ferch Brychan, first wife of Saint Cyngen Glodrydd, King of Powys, mother of Kings Pasgen ap Cyngen and Brochwel Ysgithrog ap

       Cyngen of Powys.

 

   7. Saint Gwenddydd ferch Brychan, second wife of Saint Cyngen Glodrydd, King of Powys.

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460-480 - Ossory was partitioned and many Irish fled to Cornubia then. 

By  470 - Einion Yrth / Erth, second ruler of Gwynedd, subdues Scotti on Mona / Anglesey.

490-510 - Serigi the Irishman, ?Serach, son-in-law of King of Leinster, expelled from Anglesey. 

C 493 - Demetian Scotti attack Brecon and Cardiff areas.

 

495-510 - Scotti attacks on Britain. 

 

495-512 - King Illan mac Dunlaing of Leinster [ruled from C 495, d. 506/511/527] fights 8 or 9 campaigns in Britannia.   

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Leinster fought Ui Nell of Ulster all through this period and many Scotti settled in west Cornubia as a result.  

THE BRITISH STRUGGLE TO MAINTAIN BRITAIN

402-C 501 CE/AD

 

Summary – the collapse of Romanised life in the lowlands occurred for economic reasons before the Saxon revolt of the 440s, which it perhaps caused.  Initially, Germanic troops were interested in loot, not political control, but the inability of the Diocese to resist led to the permanent loss of territory in Kent and the destruction of British control in East Anglia, the eastern midlands and Sussex.  After the 470s, the British fought back and developed a centralised system of defence in fortified strongholds around which mobile forces could operate, and gradually pushed the barbarians back until at Badon in C 500 their power was destroyed and the British re-established control over almost all the country save for Kent and some areas settled by the invaders in the east.  This success created a peace under British control that lasted for two generations.

 

402 - last coins enter Britain.

 

407 - Constantine III takes remaining field army to Gaul.  He presumably takes much of the remaining coinage to pay his troops.  His actions may have been in part motivated by the loss of pay that the absence of coinage would have made to his soldiers.

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What was the situation when Constantine III left Britain? When he took his troops to Gaul, Constantine III could not have believed that his departure was in any way the end of the Empire in Britain.  He may well have considered that he would not be coming back in person, but he marched to restore Gaul and in particular the Rhine frontier, as others had done before him.  He thus intended to hold power in the western Empire, and that included the Diocese of Britannia, so his actions would have been posited upon a long term strategy not upon a last desperate throw of the dice.  He would have made arrangements for the administration and defence of Britain (which he, as a Roman officer, may not have seen as his base, perhaps just as a part of the Empire he was restoring). Left behind him would have been:

 

   1.  Diocese with Vicar and staff.

 

   2. Five provinces with Governors and staff.

 

   3. Diocesan financial apparatus.

 

   4. The civitates with ruling decurions.

 

   5. The frontier tribes with their rulers and/or Roman appointed officers.

 

   6. The Dux Britanniarum at York with frontier troops.

 

   7. The Comes Britanniarum at ? Deva with the remaining forces, including all or part of 2nd Augusta Legion.

   8. The Comes Litoris Saxonici? at Rutupiae with the Classis Britanni and Saxon laeti.

409 ? - At his defeat, the British overthrow Constantine III’s officials and restore allegiance to Honorius, so a replacement of at least some of the diocesan and provincial officials and the key military officers would have occurred, but in 410 Honorius tells British to look to their own defences and sends neither troops nor officials.  So the British overthrow the officials loyal to Honorius and set up their own administration, perhaps restoring some of Constantine III's officials ?

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What happened when Constantine III died?  Office holders under Constantine III would have faced a purge by any restored Roman authority. If there had been such a purge, it would have had to be carried out by officials re-appointed by or for Emperor Honorius, but this does not seem to have occurred and is unlikely, as the legitimate Empire’s military power did not stretch to Britain again. So Constantine III’s officials are likely to have stayed in post, or to have been replaced by provincials.

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The usual practice at the death of an emperor was for the troops to elevate another. There is no record of one. Perhaps the Vicar transferred allegiance to Honorius and was supported by the remnant of the army in Britannia.

Officials with an imperial career and not tainted by treason (the junior ones) are likely to have left Britain to attempt to resume their careers elsewhere.  They would have had to be replaced by locals. Whatever the political outcome, a diocesan administration would still have existed. 

However, perhaps the need for provincial administration evaporated early. The multiplication of offices and functions would swiftly have become too expensive in a period of a rapid decline in the economy.  Infrastructure functions (roads, bridges, way stations etc) would have become impossible to perform without resources, and the reasons for the existence of so many provinces, and the division of military power from them, was an imperial policy imposed for imperial reasons, not a local one.  Remaining administrative functions may have been deliberately centralized on the Diocese, returning, perhaps, Britannia to a single province as it had begun.

 

What happened to the military?  Some Roman officers posted to Britain (those not tainted by treason) would have left to return to imperial service.  Others would have stayed, including those senior men in post under Constantine III and perhaps some holding posts in frontier tribes. Germanic officers probably stayed. Any locally recruited officers would have remained in post.  Most troops are likely to have remained where they were. In their case, they were still part of an imperial garrison and could not just up sticks and go anywhere else. Many, especially the frontier troops, were embedded in local communities.  

When the economy collapsed and pay ended, professional soldiers would have had three choices: to try to rejoin imperial forces in Gaul, which would not have been easy for individuals to do; to become mercenaries, pirates or brigands, which does not seem to have happened in Britain, so would have meant them also crossing to the continent; or to stay put and serve whoever was in power.  The latter is likely to have happened in many cases.

The survival of units and military customs and regalia would follow on from the need to stay put. Soldiers’ units are their families, comrades mean more to them than outsiders and their profession is their life. The impetus to retain what structure their lives had had would have been strong.  Sticking together would have been safe in periods of uncertainty and would have given leverage over those in power. One might expect old military structures to survive as long as the soldiers did. If recruitment began locally, for instance in frontier areas, they would have been perpetuated.  The process of the disappearance of units would have been gradual, and might have lasted for decades or longer. Units would have ended because of:

 

   1. Loss of means of subsistence.

 

   2. Absorption by other units.

 

   3. Loss of means of recruitment.

 

   4. Mutiny and/or desertion.

   5. Destruction in battle.

There were ships enough in the Classis Britannicato transport Constantine III’s army to Gaul, but without maintenance or replacement these wooden ships would not have lasted much beyond a decade.

 

What happened to the wielders of power and their underpinning bureaucracy when the economic and military structures that supported them ebbed away?  The period before the assumption of power by Vortigern must have seen the slow withering of the diocesan administration as the economy broke down and money evaporated. There was no cash to pay bureaucrats or run an administration along old lines. Military forces would have had to be supported locally and central control would thus have been lost.

The imperial custom (since the end of the Republic) was always to elevate one man to power, not to run affairs by a council, so when the power of the last diocesan Vicar(s) slowly disappeared, it would have been expected that he/they would have been replaced by whomsoever had the greatest military strength and support, perhaps even a figure elevated, as had Constantine III, been to imperator.  This would have quite likely been a leading tribal chief, an expected outcome as such a man could claim a British legitimacy and would have held some of the only surviving military power. The point at which a tribal leader replaced the last Vicar would have been a watershed, a marker of the recognition that Britain was independent and on its own.

Locally, powerful families would have moved to secure their own positions in the five provinces and cities. 

Vortigern (about whom see separately)  seems to have been chief of the Cornovii based in the region of Pagenses, what became Powys under the dynasty he founded, so his assumption of power indicates the end of control by any urbanized Roman elite and the beginning of an era when power was held by indigenous chiefs.  Here is perhaps the origin of the conflict with Ambrosius, who may have been the last of the old, urbanized Roman elite to hold power. If this is so, it is interesting that Ambrosius (about whom see separately) managed to pull off a reversal of fortunes; perhaps the tribal chiefs were not united in support of Vortigern; perhaps Vortigern’s policy of relying on Saxon troops, one which had brought on the devastation of the Diocese, would badly discredited him. 

 -

What happened to property rights when political ties and communications broke?  The imperial estate is likely at first to have been taken over by the Diocesan Vicars and then whoever replaced them. 

Private Roman absentee landlords would have been cut off from their agents and the remittance of funds from Britain to the continent would have swiftly dried up. There may have been an attempt by whatever central authorities were left to regulate or allocate such property, but it is likely that powerful local figures, even agents, would have been able to seize estates, perhaps in semi-legal fashion. There is likely to have been travel and correspondence between Britain and the continent in the early years of the split to sort these issues out.  Local property holders would have retained their property.

Slave and peasant revolts are not recorded in Britain though took place in Gaul, Armorica and Hispania. All were always put down. The authorities in Britain seem to have had enough control to either prevent or to suppress revolts by the lower orders.

 

How was Britannia’s secession from the Western Empire viewed by it and in Britannia?  Britannia was unique in being a diocese that split off from the Empire and went its own way. Other areas either remained under imperial control or were gradually lost to barbarian rule. Britannia maintained an independence in some form for over 150 years. Its relationship with the Empire must have caused unique local adjustments.

The Empire would have viewed the secession, certainly initially and probably until the final end of the Empire in the west, as illegitimate. It would have been tolerated only because it had to be, along the lines of areas earlier lost to usurpers and later recovered.  It must have been thought that imperial control would be restored when Roman power resurged in the west.  Imperial bureaucrats must therefore have treated procedures and appointments to Britain as merely in abeyance. They may have attempted to send replacements for Constantine III’s officials after his fall. They may have attempted to maintain the posting of minor officers to the Diocese. They would also have sought to retain sources of information and influence inside Britain.  Emissaries may have visited, perhaps in the form of neutral churchmen. Roman fleets or ships still operating from Gaul may well have visited. Some form of aid may have been sent (in monetary form or in the form of armaments, equipment or consultation) to whichever faction or authority the Prefecture of Gaul would have wished to see prevail in Britannia.  Contact is likely to have been retained until the final elimination of Syagrius in northern Gaul. 

The British are likely also to have viewed the secession initially as temporary, so would also have sought to maintain contacts, perhaps informally or secretly, with the Roman authorities in Gaul. Ships continued to cross the Channel. They certainly sought Roman help on at least one occasion. However, fear of political revenge would probably have prevented acceptance of any Roman officials posted to Britain after the death of Constantine III.  Recognition of the Empire being likely, the form of government adopted in Britain until perhaps 550 would therefore have been:

 

1. Continued local appointment of a diocesan Vicar and his officials with retention and local replacement of military officers.  This must have been the case from 409 and perhaps was so until the collapse of the economy unravelled the old administration.  Ambrosius Aurelianus would fit into a revived form of this milieu.

 

 2. Elevation of a local ‘regent’, a dictator or tyrant of some sort who ruled but recognized in principle the imperial authority, This might have been the sort of figure represented by Vortigern.

 

3. The elevation of a usurper as Emperor.  Ths would have been typical of the Empire but is nowhere mentioned. Perhaps the remaining troops were too few or weak to have imposed such a figure, who would most likely have had to be a soldier.

 

4. Rule by council consisting of the chief power brokers of the Diocese. Perhaps this would have occurred as any central diocesan Vicar or tyrant became too weak to exercise sole authority and tribal leaders’ power and independence increased, especially after the Saxon revolt.  A council would have needed a war leader, perhaps a non-royal soldier (and the British seem to have appointed such in later coalitions; there is mention of one at Chester and another fighting Bernicia), Vortimer was one, and such a figure would fit Arthur. The dissolution of any central council would have easily followed the end of the threat which kept it together and would have led to the independence of the seats of power that had formed it.

 

410-442 - Famine.  The end of the monetary economy disrupts agriculture and transport.  The end of the supply from Britain to the Rhine garrison initially threw up a huge surplus but when the estates providing it went out of business, a dearth would have ensued. The result would have been famine in towns and among classes that had no source of food supply. Starvation would have resulted and there would have been a need for much of the urban population and many ex-state employees to return to agriculture to survive.  This would have gravely weakened the independent British state. However, this took place over a long period of about 30 years, over a generation.

 

411- Picts and Scotti under High King Nath-I take advantage of the weakness in Britain to assault the north to the Wall and ravage the Clyde.  Saxons raid in the Channel. The British recover and drive off the raiders; this implies that the defences and maybe some ships of the classis Britannica are still operating. 

 

418 ? - Roman expedition to southern Britain removes the remaining treasury or re-establishes short-lived control in the south?  The Visigoths have been settled in Aquitaine, the remainder of Gaul seems relatively quiet, so there would have been time for a Roman expedition, but it is unlikely that the British would have had funds in a treasury to steal by then, and the removal of the treasury is an unlikely story. Any window of opportunity closes for the Empire with fighting against barbarians in Hispania and the western Mediterranean in 418-425.

 

420-430 - end of a monetary economy.  Why did the British not mint their own coinage?  Lack of ore or skills?  The old economy was based around the army in Britain and the Rhine. Local taxes would pay for government and armies in Britain but there was a need for import of coin as a top up to pay: the great estates for the supply of food, animals and equipment for the Rhine army (much of this money would have been exported as profit to latifundia owners in Italy etc); replacement of coinage remitted by laeti to home regions; sums paid to peoples beyond the frontiers as part of frontier defence; import of Roman goods (wine, oil, pottery, food stuffs, luxury items).  Losses would have been accentuated by hoarding during times of uncertainty and looting. Once the import of coinage and payment to estates ended, they would not have been economically feasible and would have collapsed. There would have been a simultaneous collapse in the agricultural economy that supported the latifundia and the local towns that served them. Villas could no longer be kept up, second (town?) houses would have been abandoned, tradesmen and craftsmen were no longer needed, transport systems would have seized up. The supply of food to the local British population and especially in towns would have been disrupted. Taxes could no longer be paid, so the government would have had no money to pay for administration or troops.  A central army and the Classis Britannica would have withered away.  The Saxon Shore forts were no longer needed for their original purpose.  Only where troops could survive locally by farming, etc, as in the forts of the north, could the old military system survive.

 

440-441- The Saxon revolt.   All the major cities and settlements looted.  Destruction of British towns. Durovernum / Caer Caint / Canterbury deteriorates.  Venta Icenorum / Caistor-by-Norwich sacked and not reoccupied. Camulodunum / Colchester and Lindum / Lincoln gates burned but repaired. Aquae Sulis sacked.   East Anglia and south Lindsey perhaps lost from control since sack of Venta Icenorum and Caistor in Lindsey, latter abandoned, leading to spread of Saxon war bands to its west and north west? Deira separated by revolt from Eboracum / Ebrauc / York?  Rising suppressed in the North and settlements restricted there.  Populations flee.  Economy destroyed, rural areas unsafe.  Ceramic industry ceases.  All this has taken 30 years - a generation – to develop after Britain first ruled itself. There is no coinage left to pay troops in any central army, nor the Saxon laeti and foederati. The revolt is looting not settlement.  The destruction is caused largely by the foederati previously settled to defend these places in the 4th Century and in the 430s by Vortigern. The effect would have been a catastrophic breach of trust, murder of key British officers and families in those areas, cf the Indian Mutiny.  There would have been no one to defend these places against these uprisings or after they had passed.  But Saxon troops operated as war bands, not organised armies. The outbreak may have been planned but the result was not greatly coordinated, although, due to the lack of any opposition, it was very effective.

 

442 - Cantia / Kent slips out of control after the Battle of the Darent.  

 

C 445- after the Battle of Aylesford the first mention of Kingdom of Kent.  Jutish foederati in Kent setting out to emulate their continental counterparts?

 

C 450/460 - Anglian control possibly established in Ratae Coritanorum / Caer Lerion / Leicester in Coritani lands.  

C 450 - Scotti Ui Liathain from Demetia establish region of Brycheiniog / Brecknock, taking advantage of the turmoil during the Saxon revolt.

C 452 - Death of Vortimer after the Battle of Rutupiae leads to a massacre of British leaders and the independence of Jutish Kent. 

455? - ? Hengist and Oisc attack out of Kent.  A period of armed equilibrium seems to have replaced the chaos of the revolt.

What happened to the British elites and population in the east of the Diocese?  It is possible that the civitatesin the east, mostly Belgic, were speakers of a Germanic language related to Frisian and the origin of English.  If such were the case, it would be possible to support the suggestion that what occurred in the Diocese of Britain in the 5th and 6th Centuries was a continuation of a Belgic-Brittonic struggle that had been interrupted by the Romans. However, this suggestion is unable to account for several issues:

 

1. The elites of the eastern tribes seem to have disappeared. There are no extant genealogies and when ruling lines of the English kingdoms which were heirs of these civitates emerged in the 6th Century, they claimed German ancestry.

 

2. Re-fortified hillforts with elite sites do not occur in the east.

3. There is hardly any trace of Christianity in the eastern regions and the ruling lines that emerged there were all pagan, and pagans worshipping the gods of German regions and not those of any earlier Belgic tribe.  The subsequent worship of any earlier Belgic pantheon seems undetectable.  Although it is very likely that the country population of the east were still pagan at the end of Roman administration, this is unlikely to have been the case of their elites, which would have been at least in part Christian. Any Christian elites there vanished. 

 

4. The names of the pre-Roman Belgic elite vanished to be replaced by German names by the time the new elites emerge in the 6thCentury.

 

Explanations for this seem to be only:

 

1. The entire population of the eastern civitates was replaced; this is highly unlikely; genetics disproves.

2. The rural population remained pagan but either continued to worship old pagan gods in an undetectable manner or adopted the Germanic pagan pantheon worshipped by the elite.

 

3. The elite abandoned its Christianity and names and adopted a Germanic pantheon and German custom.

 

4. The elite was replaced by the Germanic military serving in the east which was pagan and used German names.  This military revolted and replaced the former rulers and then evolved an elite or accepted rulers from Germany who brought their religion and names with them.

 

471 - Saxon attack on Hibernia indicates the absence of a British fleet in the west and that the British did not contain or reverse the Saxon spread for some two decades of confusion. The length of the confusion is also an indication of the paucity of the Germanic invaders who are unable to establish any real  polities or take cities.  The British begin policy of renewing defences of towns, building dykes and in rebuilding defences of old hill forts to provide local places of refuge and resistance to await arrival of rescue forces.  This implies central control and the mobilization of the population to fight and provide supplies.  This gradually overcomes the uncoordinated activities of Saxon war bands that as yet did not have a large population to fall back on or bases from which to operate. The splitting of frontier territories takes place during this period and was perhaps designed to facilitate this. 

 

474-490 - British counter attacks, holding Londinium, Novio Magus etc. 

475-495 - Angle foederati settle around Venta Icenorum / Caer Went / Caistor in Iceni lands.  Are these conquerors, or new defenders of a re-established British authority?

 

476 -  End of the line of western Emperors. The remaining British central administration is likely to have tried to maintain at least some relations with the Empire, although the late 5th Century seems to have seen an isolation of Britain from the continent, so there may have been no allegiance left to transfer to the East, and perhaps not even news of the end of the western Empire reached Britain at first. 

 

477 - Aelle, first ruler of the South Saxons, etc lands at Cymenes Ora / Cymen’s Shore / The Owers/ Owers Bank, Selsey and defeats Britons of Rhegin / Regnenses who flee into the Weald.  

C 480 - Constantius of Lyon’s Life of Saint Germanus calls Britain ‘prosperous’.  

?C 480-527 - Icel ruler of the Iclingas / Mercians moves west out of East Anglia and founds small kingdom in east Midlands; the origins of Mercia; perhaps connected with the Anglians settled around Venta Icenorum after 475?

485 - Aelle defeats Britons of Regnenses / Rhegin / Sussex at Mearcraedes Burnan / Mearc Redes Burna [Glynde Bourne/River Glein? with hill fort at Mount Caburn nearby].  Is this the first battle in Nennius’s list?  Rhegin / Sussex seems a side show and outside the events in the midlands and east where the British are fighting back, at least at first.

 

486 - Syagrius loses the final Roman area in Gaul, meaning the end of hope of any immediate Roman revival in the west.  Britain is clearly on its own permanently. 

491 - Aelle and Cissa besiege and take Andredes Cester / Anderitum / Anderida / Pevensey in Regenses / Rhegin / Sussex and massacre occupants, the only occasion when the taking of a fortified place is mentioned.  Sussex, like Kent, is forming a prototype kingdom.

495- Cerdic / Caratacus son of Elesa (Elasius? Elafius?) with son / grandson Cynric, son of Creoda, ?lands at Cerdices Ora / Cerdicesora / Cerdic’s Shore near Totton, Southampton with 5 ships and fights Britons.  Cerdic and his son’s names are Britonic.  Was the founder of the Wessex line a prince of the Belgae? The landing is not linked with the later early territory of Wessex in the Thames Valley.  Is this merely a Wessex founding myth?   

495-512 - King Illan of Leinster fights 8 or 9 campaigns in Britain. It is unclear for whom. He is either taking advantage of the warfare to raid (there is no evidence of settlement) or perhaps  working as a mercenary or ally of the British.  

C 495-525 - The gates of Venta Belgarum / Winchester are blocked.  Is this linked with Cerdic’s arrival?  But Venta is still functioning and defended.

496 - King Aelle attacks Britons and defeats them – where​?

 

By 500 - Deganwwy has been fortified as ruler of Gwynedd’s court and Dinas Emrys in Gwynedd also fortified.  Garn Boduan on Llyn fortified inside Iron Age hill fort.  Carreg-y-llam on Lyn and Dinorben in Denbighshire fortified. Dinas Powys fortified in Glywysing. Glastonbury Tor occupied by local ruler [Melwas, chief of the Aestivio Regio / Summer Region?].  Cadbury Castle Somerset fortified by lord with a hall and 1,000 or so men.  Castle Dore fortified as ruler of Dumnonia’s stronghold / court / llys.  Other hill forts occupied are Cadbury-Congresbury, Dumbarton, Mote of Mark, Tintagel [including a palace] and Coygan Camp in Dyfed. 

-

Roman cities surviving include Verulamium / St Albans, Viroconium / Wroxeter, Calleva Atrebatum / Silchester (which added a series of defensive dykes), Deva / Chester, Glevum / Gloucester (where a new gate is built), Aquae Sulis / Bath, Corinium / Cirencester, Londinium / London, Seguntiacum / Caernarvon, Lindum / Lincoln, Lindinis / Ilchester, Isca Dumnorum / Exeter, Novio Magus / Chichester, Luguvalium / Caer Luel / Cathair Luail / Carlisle, Isurium Brigantum / Aldborough, Eboracum / York. 

-

Forts re-occupied at Cataractonum / Catraeth, Camboglanna / Castlesteads and Vinovium / Castellum Guinnion, plus 10 others in the north. 

 Signs of settlements of Anglian foederati eg in Elmet and around Venta Icenorum. 

-

Some villa sites remained, including Star Villa and Butcombe in Somerset. 

-

This is the sign of a recovery due to deliberate policy and planning, the basis of the British resurgence.  The effect of fortification providing strong points and refuges for the population would have been to deter attack, delay attacks when launched and provide pivots for mobile (cavalry?) operations.  There is record of only one successful assault by Saxons on a fortified place, which is Anderida in 491, though perhaps also at Portum Adurni in 496, both old Saxon shore forts, places perhaps where the local population had taken refuge.   The British continue the Roman custom of using earthen dykes to defend stretches of countryside, and use them to bottle up whatever group had taken over, e.g. Iceni lands in Norfolk and Suffolk, as well as to defend areas in Rhegin / Sussex. Against war bands, fortifications are highly effective (cf Saxon burghs versus the Danes), but such a system needs central control, mobile forces and communications to ensure that relief and reinforcement are brought in time.  There had to be a system to recruit, train and supply the mobile forces, which required taxation, at least in kind.  

-

British migration to Armorica / Brittany and Gallaecia / Galicia largely ended. British emigration is replaced by Saxon emigration to the continent. 

C 500- Battle of Badon (Bellum Badonis/ Siege of Badon; Obsessio Montis Badonici/ the Battle of Badon Hill / Mount Badon; Bellum in Monte Badonis/ Mynydd Baddon); at Little Solsbury Hill fort near Caer Baddan / Aquae Sulis / Bath?  or Liddington Castle, Badbury? ?Arthur defeats ?King Aelle of South Saxons / ?Oesc / Aesc of Kent.  ?Cerdic of West Saxons also killed / involved? The culmination of the struggle of 60 years and the basis of the peace that lasts for the next two generations. It must have been followed by some agreement, tacit or formal, to respect territories of both and stop raiding, perhaps even the acceptance of overlordship.   Perhaps a no man’s land was left between the two in eastern Midlands, Surrey, Essex and Sussex.

 

C 501- Port and sons Bieda and Maegla of the South Saxons kill British noble at Porter Mutha / Portum Adurni / Portchester in Regenses / Rhegin (the name Port seems connected with the place).  Is this the temporary eclipse of Rhegin or just a local struggle? Aelle is called the first Bretenanwealda / Bretwalda / Lord of Britain by Bede. Is the title equivalent to the High Kings of Ireland, Britain and Brittany and is it copied from the British?  At this stage, it seems a highly inappropriate title as Aelle’s power is confined to Sussex; Bede's Anglian pride?.  The British fight back is going on elsewhere; this may be making much of a local success to hide overall defeats. After Badon, this seems an unlikely occurrence; maybe a raid or just a local counter attack?

 

 

GERMANIC SETTLEMENTS IN BRITANNIA

 

Summary – Germanic settlement in Britain was part of the barbarian settlements arranged by the Empire for over 200 years in the west, so its continuance by the British was not a new policy.  There must have been old and considerable links across the North Sea that continued after the end of the Empire in Britain.  Initially in coastal areas, settlement later spread to the major urban centres of central, southern and eastern Britain, but notably not in the west.  Some of this was connected with Britain’s need for naval forces.  This settlement was effective in dealing with both the Scotti and Pictish naval threats but was fatal when monetary collapse made Britain vulnerable, for there were probably no indigenous forces left in the lowlands of the east to prevent or cope with the Saxon revolt.

 

210-220 - Regulbium / Reculver fortified.  

 

270-280s - Litus  Saxonicum (Saxon Shore) forts built.  There is no record of raids.  These forts seem to have been supply depots for the Rhine army, depots for grain, animals, hides, materials for export, garrisoned and operated by the military.  Military supply chains attract piracy and looting, so the depots and transport would have needed guarding throughout.  They served perhaps for both export for the Rhine and import for the British garrison.

 

285-286 - Carausius destroys Frankish and Saxon pirates in the North Sea who had been raiding Armorica and Belgica.  There is no mention of Britain being raided.

 

296-299- Saxon settlement as gentiles (barbarian individuals with a service obligation) in east Britannia from Constantius Chlorus’s restoration.  Starts 150 years of settlement before the Saxon revolt.  Some may be garrisons of the Litus Saxonicum forts, others serving in the naval forces, some as personal guards.  

 

From C 299 - Saxon/lower Elbe pottery types are found in garrisons in Britain in eastern areas, near Saxon Shore forts and country houses.  

-

Saxon troops would have kept links with home, remitted cash and goods, called for reinforcements and maybe even families.  Links across the North Sea would have been frequent.

 

337 - Saxons on continent threaten Rhine frontier.

 

343- Constans brings Saxon laeti (barbarians granted land in return for military service) to Britannia. 

 

350s - Saxons on continent threaten Rhine frontier.

350-353- Saxons settled in Gaul by Magnentius; this is a policy affecting the western Empire, not just Britain. 

 

364 - Ammianus Marcellinus mentions Saxons.

 

367 - The Great Conspiracy: the garrison of Hadrian’s Wall rebels and lets Picts from Alba [Dicalydones and Verturiones], Attacotti and Scotti break through the Wall. Saxons land from Germania.  The Irish High King Crimthann, who has authority over Scotti as far as the Channel, marries a Saxon wife, mother of Niall of the Nine Hostages.  Nectaridus, the Comes Maritime Tractus/ Count of the Maritime Area, killed.  The conspiracy requires organization across the North and Irish Seas. 

 

370 - Valentinian I disperses Saxons around lower Rhine.  

 

395, 396-398 - Stilicho defeats Saxons; Claudian celebrates Stilicho’s victories.  

 

397 Saxon raid on Britain? 

 

C 399 - Notitia Dignitatum has Comes Litoris Saxonici Per Britanniam commanding the forts of the Saxon Shore from Rutupiae / Richborough, where part of the 2nd Augusta Legion is now stationed.

 

C 400 Claudius Claudianus’s In Eutropium: ‘The Saxon is conquered, the sea tranquil – Britain is safe.’  

 

408, 410 & 411- Saxons raid Britannia in the Channel.  Piracy and raiding may be a result of the end of the cross Channel export trade from Britain to the Rhine army and import for the British garrison.  The ships and crew would have been laid off, leading to a surplus of both needing support.  Also, earlier payments to Saxon laeti that would have been in part remitted back home would have ceased, causing a removal in the support for the Saxon economy and a need to seek other sources of income.

 

410-420 - Jutish laeti settled around Durovernum Cantiacorum and Anglian laeti around Eboracum.  These must have been recruited either directly from across the North Sea or through earlier Saxon settlers.  They probably were recruited to replace part of the British garrison taken to Gaul by Constantine III.  Such settlement was a continuance of imperial policies and not probably worthy of remark, untoward or strange. At this stage, anyway, the Empire’s authority will have been seen as about to return.

 

420-430- Settlement of Saxon laeti around Venta Belgarum and Calleva Atrebatum; of Anglian laeti around Ratae Coritanorum and in Elmet.  This indicates a spread of protection to important urban centres and is an expansion of the old policy.  These were probably town guards and escorts of officials. Any Saxon raiding (none is mentioned) was in the channel but not inland.  Pictish raiders are also not mentioned and would not have reached these inland, southern areas. 

 

C 425-426 - The British settle Saxons in east Britain: Jutish laeti are settled around Noviomagus and Anderidus. 

 

428 - Jutes Hengist and Horsa arrive at Ebbsfleet and are given Thanet, now newly as foederati (internally settled allies).  

 

429  Saint Germanus is said to have fended off a Saxon attack; there is no attack then and, if this did happen, it did so on the later occasion.

C 430 - Vortigern gives Anglian laeti lands in northeast and sends Hengist & Horsa to harry the Picts, both countering Pictish threats and giving Hengist & Horsa plunder as pay. Others are given lands on Vectis, on the coast east and west of there, and at Portus Adurni.  Others are settled around Venta Icenorum, Durocobrivis, around Eboracum, on the Lindsey coast, around Camulodunum, Cambridge, Dorcic, and in Bedfordshire.  This seems intended to protect the coasts against Saxon and Pictish raiders and may have been naval service; in the case of Hengist and Horsa, these are clearly naval mercenaries whose value is their ships.  Or is this protection against a return of Roman forces from the continent? 

 

432- Saxons raid Hibernia, ending the Scotti threat to Britannia. More naval work for Hengist & Horsa?

 

C 437/438- The British Council refuse / are unable to supply Saxon foederati and try to send them home.  Saxon foederati seek reinforcements from home.  This is only a decade from their hiring, but they have dealt with the Pictish and Scotti threats they were hired for and can no longer be recompensed.  Monetary economy is at an end, coins and perhaps specie are by now becoming rare so the British are running out of useful currency to pay.  Plunder from Pictish and Scotti raids is insufficient and ends. Land at Thanet and elsewhere is a pittance from the point of view of mercenaries who have by now seen the whole of Britannia and its vulnerability. There would have been no future for them in returning home as Rome’s employment also ending. The entire auxiliary way of life supported by the Roman garrisons of Britannia and the Rhine is ending. Mercenaries need to look to the future. They have seen the weakness in Britannia and the chaos in Gaul as well as the opportunities from settling.

 

440-441- Saxon revolt, 30 years (a generation) after the end of Roman rule.  The money to pay them has by now run out.  Foederati need employment.  British weakness is enhanced by the civil war, which weakens residual British forces, so giving a real opportunity.

 

440-496 - Middel Seaxe are settled north of London, Sutherge are settled south of London.  Are these laeti protecting the city or settlers taking advantage of the loss of British power in the southeast? Probably the former at this stage.

 

C 450-455 - Jutish foederati settled around Noviomagus / Chichester in lands of Regnenses / Rhegin / Sussex.

 

468–469 - Odovacer and the Saxons / Frisians led by Corsoldus take Juliomagus / Angers, settling on islands in the Loire, but Frankish King Childeric I and Comes Paul retake the city. Childeric follows a Saxon war band to the islands on the Atlantic mouth of the Loire and massacres them there.  Saxons are on the move across northwestern Empire as it weakens. 

 

471- Second Saxon raid on Hibernia.  British counter attack in its early stages does not prevent Saxon activities elsewhere and implies that the Saxons are free to use the seas.  It is unlikely that this attack was prompted by the British at this stage, given also the beginnings of the evangelization of Ireland that had started 40 years before.

 

475-495 - Angles settle around Venta Icenorum / Caer Went / Caistor in Iceni lands. Are these conquerors, settlers seeing an opportunity or protectors of a British authority? Vortigern is said to have ceded Sussex and Essex to Saxons and to have been blamed for continuing the foederati policy. The policy seems to have continued despite the Saxon revolt; perhaps some remained loyal or were hired by the British.

478 - Namatius, Roman admiral for Euric, King of the Goths, patrols west coast of Gaul from Burdigala / Bordeaux deterring Saxon raiders.  Saxons are still raiding and some elements of the imperial naval defences still exist.

 

C 530 - Saxons from Britain arrive at the mouth of the Elbe.  The British counter attack has driven many Germanic settlers to seek their fortune back on the continent.  

 

C 530-550 - Saxon migrations to Europe continue.  

 

Post 533 - Angli from Britain land at Haduloha / Cuxhaven and are recruited for the war by Theuderich, King of the Franks, who settles them north of the River Unstrut to fight against the Thuringians; he settles them in Thuringia.  

 

Pre 547 or 551 - King Theudebert / Theudeberht of the Franks sends an embassy to the Emperor Justinian with Angle members, claiming that Angeloi, Frissones and Britons of Britain had emigrated to his dominions and were now his subjects, allowing him to claim overlordship of Britain.   He claims they are also émigrés from his lands.  Pope Gregory I had written to Kings Theuderic and Theudeberht referring to the Kentings as ‘your subjects’.  The Franks perhaps exercise some control over Kent due to its weakness.

 

THE 6TH CENTURY PEACE

501-551

 

Summary – the peace established by Badon lasts for half a century, with Germanic migration from Britain to the continent and a cessation of British emigration to Armorica reversing the trends of the 5th Century.  But by 550 any central authority has been weakened politically and by plague, and power has devolved to regional kingdoms.  The Saxons begin to take advantage of this and resume aggression, with Kent seizing Camulodunum to found Essex.

Post 505- Dyfnwal / Domgal / Dumnagual Hen ruler of Alt Clut takes lands of southern Votadini. 

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King Meirchion/Merchion Gul (The Lean) of Rheged dies, succeeded by sons Cynfarch ruler of North Rheged, Elidyr the Stout ruler of South Rheged.

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Einion ap Mor ruler of Eboracum / Ebrauc / York and Caer-Guendoleu / Salway dies, succeeded by his two sons: Eliffer / Eleuther / Eleutherius of the Great Army becomes ruler of Eboracum / Ebrauc / York; Ceidio becomes ruler of Caer-Guendoleu, the Segovae lands in Salway / Solway, ‘King North of the Salway’.  Further military delegation or dynastic division?  The nickname ‘Of the Great Army’ referring to the remnants of the Dux Britanniarum command? Earlier reunited Votadini now half conquered by Alt Clut.  Inter-British fighting and division has started almost immediately the peace has been won. 

 

508 - Gewisse / West Saxons Cerdic / Caratacus and Cynric kill British ruler Natan / Natanleod / Nazaleod and 5,000 men; the land to Cerdices ford / Charford was called Netley Marsh after him; perhaps in Hampshire or Cerdeslai / Clearsley and Notley on the Thames in Buckinghamshire.  Is this a myth or a local event unrelated to the foundation of Wessex? Was Wessex a descendant of the Belgae?  This event seems a duplicate of the events recorded at 519 and 527, as is the mention in 514 of a duplicate to the 495 landing at Cerdices Ora.  It is unlikely that the Saxons would be making inroads so soon after Badon.  

530 - Kings Cerdic and Cynric of the Gewisse / West Saxons invade the Isle of Wight and fight at Wihtgar’s stronghold / Wihtgaraesbyrg / Carisbrooke (making both another 35 years older from 495, which is unlikely for a father and son pair). Were the activities of Cerdic and Cynric part of the British recovery, rather than opposed to it?  The Vectis events lend credence to Cerdic’s operations on the south coast rather than in Buckinghamshire.  It is impossible to interpret these Wessex entries. 

 

511- Gallic Chronicle has ‘Britannia, lost to the Romans, yields to the power of the Saxons’, a date that seems misplaced.

 

530 - Saxons from Britain arrive at the mouth of the Elbe and in 531 both Saxons and Britons are enlisted in the army of King Theudrich / Theuderic of the Franks against the Thuringians; he settles them there as they have been displaced from Britain. Saxon migrations to Europe continue to 550. 

 

534- Procopius meets Angles in Frankish delegation to Constantinople.  He describes Britain as inhabited by Britons, Angles and Friesians. 

 

537- Battle of Camlann; Arthur and Medraut fall.  British internal strife?  What central power is left in Britain now devolves to tribal chiefs and the independent dynasties established by earlier rulers / military officers.  Rulers begin to become royal.  Britannia begins to split into two regions: Dumnonia and the three south Wales kingdoms form a unit on the western seaway linking Armorica with Hibernia.  Gwynedd and the kingdoms of the north act mostly separately and have very little interest in Armorica, although Hibernia provides a link. 

 

538 - Cairill King of Ulster defeats Gabhran King of Dal Riada / Riata with British (presumably from Alt Clut) help at Dun Baetan in Ulster.  This is the first British interference in Hibernia against their Dal Riata enemy.

 

540 - Stone erected at Penmacho, Gwynedd ‘In the time of Justinus Consul’.  Continued British belief in relevance of the Empire but the last sign. 

 

540-544 - Gildas writes De Excidio.  Britain remains largely at peace.  

 

Post 540-544 - Vortipor / Gwyrthefyr Protector of Demetae / Dyfed dies. End of the protector title indicating conversion to independent kingdoms.

 

540-555- Kings of the Cantware take Camulodunum / Caer Colun / Caer Colonia / Colchester. Kingdom of East Saxons forms.  The region is now again contested. Londoninium survives but is surrounded.  Last British appointment of a Bishop of London 545?  Kent sees an opportunity to regain ground; some visible slackening of the British central defence or reduction in forces?  This was probably connected with the 543-545/7 plague, ‘The first death’ (Maelgwn of Gwynedd dies of the Yellow Plague 547). This would have affected denser, urban populations worse than rural, scattered settlements. Brought from Byzantium by ship to the southwest? It would have affected the British worse as they had still retained some towns and fortified hill forts.  The disruption caused by deaths in large numbers would have wakened or disrupted any central adninistration and forces, made defence of fortified strongholds impossible due to a reduction in numbers to man them, and disrupted the supply system needed for any central force. The Saxons were less concentrated and their war band system would have continued to operate. The tables are turned back to the situation of 440-460.  These effects would have taken some time to work through and be recognized but would have become evident to Britain’s enemies.

 

C 550 - [TMC] start of import of D ware from Burdigala / Bordeaux and the Loire and E ware carrying dyes etc from Aquitania Burdigala / Bordeaux to western Britain, peaking in the early C 7 but extending to the C 8.

 

551- King Theudeberht of the Franks informs Emperor of Byzantium that the Germanic peoples of Britain are his subjects as they are émigrés from his lands; Pope Gregory I had written to Kings Theuderic and Theudeberht referring to the Kentings as ‘your subjects’.  Frankish kings are accepted as overlords in Kent, or enforce such during Kentish weakness.

 

 

 ECONOMICS: IMPORT, EXPORT AND SLAVERY

 

The British economy was largely cashless from the end of Roman government, meaning that imports had to be paid for by exchange.

 

Imports were luxury items, including cloth, but also wine and oil.  Iron for weapons and tools would also have needed to be imported.

British export products had traditionally been tin, cloth and hunting dogs. It is likely that this trade continued (and explains the importance of the southwest where tin was found).  Livestock and crops are unlikely to have been exported. 

 

Probably the most lucrative trade was in slaves, for which the Mediterranean had an inexhaustible demand.  They were easily transported and acquired from the lands around Britain, both Germanic, Irish and probably Pictish.  Slaves could also be traded to Pictland and Hibernia.  

 

Evidence for the slave trade comes from both ends:

 

  1. Saint Patrick was taken twice as a slave to Hibernia in the first half  of C 5.

 

2. Around 471, Saint Patrick wrote to Coroticus, ruler of Alt Clut, excommunicating him and his soldiers who had killed some of Patrick’s Hibernian male converts and sold their women into slavery with ‘apostate’ Picts.

 

3. Between 585 and 588, Pope Gregory I sees Anglian slaves in the market at Rome, subjects of Deira before their capture.

 

There are implications for a society in which the slave trade is an important part of its economy.  There will be a need for continual conflict; raids, attacks, conquest will be necessary to generate captives.  Neighbouring areas, and especially the weak, will view the slave trading nation as aggressive and highly hostile.    There are perhaps explanations here for the endemic warfare that seems to have been a feature of British culture and for the racial hostility between them and the Germanic peoples of the island.  A society that is using others as a source of slaves will be one that is unlikely to attempt to evangelise or Romanise them.

 

THE START OF THE BRITISH COLLAPSE

547-571 CE/AD

 

Residual British central authority seems to have evaporated.  British tribal territories are now kingdoms and weaken themselves by internal war and by splitting inheritances.  Germanic kingdoms begin to form in the vacuum in Bernicia, Deira, Wessex and East Anglia. 

547 - Outigirn fights the Saxons; Din Guaroy / Bamburgh of the Southern Votadini seized by Angles under Ida, who depose Morgan Bulc, who flees to Goutodin / Gododdin.  Alt Clut had seized this area post 505 and must have been ejected again at some stage prior to this.  Ida forms the Kingdom of Bryneich / Bernaccia / Bernicia.  Bamburgh is lost during the outbreak of plague.  For the first 30 years Bernicia has little effect and what power it has is north of the Wall.  Nevertheless, this is an indication that the defence of the north is at last crumbling.

548/551- Mortalitas magna, in qua isti pausant. The Great Plague of Egypt strikes Britain.  The second round of plague, weakening the British still further.

549 - Elidyr Mwynfawr  /Elidyr / Morken Mwynfawr / Wealthy King of Alt Clut / Strathclyde, married to Princess Eurgain of Gwynedd, so son-in-law of Maelgwn Hir / Maglocunus / Maelgwn / Mailcunus Magnus the Tall, ravages Gwynedd but is defeated in two battles and killed in battle on the Cadnant Brook in Gwynedd and his own lands are ravaged by the fifth King of Gwynedd, Rhun Hir / Rhun the Tall. The royal house of Gwynedd’s links are still with the Men of the North, but the effect of Malgwn’s death of plague is to weaken the two most powerful British kingdoms of the north at a time when the Angles have seized Bamburgh and evicted Morgan Bulc.  While Alt Clut invades Gwynedd the Angles attack Gododdin.  Further turbulence in the north occurs that year or the next when the kindom of Galwyddel of Sennylt ap Dingat, is annexed by Rheged, although it appears to have shaken off the invasion later.

C 550 - Cyndrwyn Glas / the Blue ap Einaw ruler of Dogfeilion migrates from Letocetum / Caer Luit Coyt / Lichfield to become sub-King of Glastenning / Somerset in Dumnonia. The first planting of a Dogfeilion royal to Glastenning in Dumnonia had taken place C 500.  There seems to have been a link between eastern Gwynedd and Dumnonia, and this may be an indication that Gwynedd was at that point the most powerful kingdom.

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Sennylt ap Dingat, ruler of Galwyddel, loses kingdom to Rheged and is exiled to Ynys Manau.

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A war breaks out in Armorica between Damnonia and Bro Erech (perhaps putting Dumnonia and Gwent at enmity) and any possible British suzerainty over Brittany is lost when in 557-58 King Childebert of the Franks takes overlordship of Armorica and appoints Cunomorus of Damnonia his Prefect.

552 - Cynric King of the West Saxons takes Sorbiodunum / Searo byrg /Searobyrg /Salisbury ? and destroys Amesbury abbey.  

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C 552 Calleva Atrebatum / Caer Celemion / Silchester continues, its basilica taken over for an iron foundry.  

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Venta Belgarum / Winchester possibly taken by West Saxons. 

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Saxon hostilities commence in the south five years after Ida’s attack on the north and during the establishment of Essex.  It is noteworthy that in the sources there is no mention of the capture of any major city save the three after Dyrham in 577.  Venta’s fall is not recorded and maybe never happened. Perhaps Wessex originated there?  

 

556 - Cynric continues Wessex expansion; he and son Ceawlin fight British at Beran byrg / Bera’s Stronghold / Barbury Castle.  These seem like attacks on British fortified points working south to north.  

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The Picts elect Bridei, son of Maelgwn, brother of King Rhun of Gwynedd, their king.  Rhun’s drive to the north through Alt Clut has established Gwynedd’s pre-eminence . This is the farthest reach north of any British power. 

 

559 -Aelle / Aelli first king of Deywr / Deira, breaks away from the control of the Kingdom of Eboracum / Ebrauc / York.  This is 12 years after the Bernician Angles take Bamburgh and shows a gradual deterioration of the main centre of the British defences in the north.

 

C 560 - Further division of British territory and so a reduction of power occurs when Keidyaw / ? Cadwalla King of the Wall and the Northern Pennines / Caer-Guendoleu / Salway dies, succeeded by two sons; Gwendoleu ruling the west of the Wall and north of Carlisle and Pabo Pillar of Britain the Northern Pennines.  

 

568 - King Ceawlin of West Saxons and brother/son Cutha / Cuthwulf fight King Aethelberht of Kent and drive him into Kent, killing two ealdormen Oslaf and Cnebba at Wibbandun / Wibbandune / Wimbledon, Wineblead’s tun/fort. Surrey falls under Wessex sway.  Calleva Atrebatum / Caer Celemion / Silchester is perhaps destroyed by Ceawlin of the West Saxons.  What British power had been left in southern central Britain seems to have evaporated. Kent, however, is confined within its own boundaries.

 

570- Morgan ap Pasgen King of Pagenses / Powys dies, splitting his kingdom into two, Powys in the west, Pengwern in the east including Caer Guricon / Wroxeter.  He is succeeded as King of Powys by Cynan Garwyn / Carwin ap Brochfael /White Shanks / White Thigh / Of the White Chariot; the main British power in the Midlands has been split in two and Germanic kingdoms begin to form in the east.  

 

Pre 571 - Wehha becomes first King of East Angles. 

The rise of powerful British kingdoms, especially Gwynedd, is at the expense of the united British defence that had won at Badon and secured a lasting peace.  It seems to lead to a lack of attention to resurgent Germanic powers in Bernicia, Deira and Wessex, which are allowed to make progress in establishing a first step on the way to becoming powers.

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The British begin a long process of internecine conflict coupled with a disastrous division by inheritance of their kingdoms. The success won at Badon has led to complacency and decay.

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Plague is a factor weakening British strength. Their Germanic enemies are not yet living in towns or fortified hill forts where numbers make transmission easier.

 

British attempts to contain the new Germanic areas included a wide continuance of the earlier earthen dyke defences in the Chilterns and Thames Valley against the Gewisse; Yorkshire against Deira; Northumberland against Bernicia.  Many of these are now called Grim’s Dyke or Ditch, a name that seems connected in some way with a military purpose. 

 

 

THE BRITISH COLLAPSE GATHERS PACE

571-614 CE/AD

Summary – Wessex breaks out to destroy British control in the Chilterns and to the Severn, but is then held in place by Gwent and Dumnonia. In the north, a major British alliance almost destroys Bernicia, but discord splinters it and the Bernicians recover, to destroy the British hold on the Pennines, weaken Alt Clut then go on to take Deira and expand west of the Pennines. The Picts take over Alt Clut.  Elmet is isolated.

 

571- Battle of Bedcanford / Biedcanford / Bedford - Cuthwulf of West Saxons takes Limbury, Aylesbury, Eynsham and Benson / Bensington from Cynwidion / Calchvynydd. West Saxons, based in the upper Thames Valley, push northeast from the Dorchester area along the valley of the Thame, isolating the Chilterns and Verulamium.

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Londinium has disappeared from view and only Verulamium survives now in the east.  

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King Catocus / Saint Cadwg Ddoeth / the Wise / Cadog / Cadoc King of Gwynligt and Penychen / Glywyssing / Glevissig is killed by the English in Calchwynedd, showing that Glywyssing forces are fighting far to the east, indicating that there is at least some form of continued coordinated resistance.

 

C 573- Rheged, Alt Clut, Dunoting and Eboracum / Ebrauc / York fight Caer-Guendoleu / Salway at Armterid over the stronghold of Caerlaverock / Fort of the Lark near Dumfries. Caer-Guendoleu / Salway is absorbed by Rheged.  Continued intra-British strife and a second, this time successful, absorption of Salway by Rheged.

576-577- Smallpox, which would have had a similar effect to the plague and would have caused more losses on the British side due to remaining urbanization.

 577- At the Battle of Deorham / Dyrham, Cuthwulf of the West Saxons and son Cuthwine conquer Aquae Sulis / Caer Badon / Bath, Glevum / Caer Gloul / Gloucester and Corinium / Caer Ceri / Cirencester.  This is the territory of the Dobunni, later the Hwicce, perhaps an area earlier important for the centralized defence of Britannia. It is the only time that Saxons are credited with taking important cities.  Wessex for the first time moves northwest out of the Thames valley into the Avon valley and the Cotswolds, although it will soon lose this area to Mercia.  This splits Britannia in two, as, for at least a time, Wessex reaches the Severn valley.  However, the seaways continue to connect Dumnonia with Wales.  Dumnonia builds the Wansdyke against Wessex?

C 579 - King Theodric / Deoric Fflamddwyn / Firestealer of Bernicia, killed by Owain King of Rheged, is succeeded by Frithuwald / Frithewlf / Friduuald.  Rheged is now the pre-eminent British power in the north and fights off a Bernician attack. 

 

C 580- Pabo Pillar of Britain King of the Pennines dies succeeded by two sons: Donatus / Dunawt / Dent in northern Yorkshire; and Samuel in southern Pennines.

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Joint Kings Gurci / Gwrgi and Peredur, sons of King Eleuther / Eleutherius / Eliffer of the Great Army of Eboracum / Ebrauc / York, are defeated at Caer Greu and killed by ? Frithuwald of the Bernicians?.

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Eboracum / Ebrauc / York falls to King Aelle of Deira, who makes it his capital.  Ruler of Eboracum Peredur’s son Gwgaun never recovers his kingdom. This is the true moment of the shift of the balance of power in the north. British states continue to divide whilst the main power base at York is lost as Deira takes advantage of Bernicia’s power.  The Bernician drive to the south (the first of many later) is only stopped by Elmet after C 580. This is the equivalent to the events of 577in the south. This is unlikely to be a coincidence. 

584 - Bruide / Brude mac Maelcon / Maelchon, British King of the Picts is killed by southern Pictish rebels succeeded by Gartnait, son of Aedan mac Gabhrain King of Dal Riada.  British power in Pictland was established by Gwynedd in 556.  Bruide’s death means the defeat of British interest, the waning power of Gwynedd and the rising Scottish power of Dal Riata.  It is simultaneous with the decline of British fortunes in the north with the rise of Bernicia and the loss of Eboracum.  

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The Mercians found Tamworth; British fortunes are also failing in the Midlands.

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West Saxons sack Viroconium / Caer Goricon / Wroxeter in Pagenses / Powys and ravage the border regions of Ergyng and Gwent, pressing home the advantage they won after 577 to drive northwest. King Ceawlin of West Saxons and Cutha are beaten by British at Fethan Leaf / Fethanleag / Battle Wood (near Stoke Lyne, Oxfordshire), where Cuthwine is killed.  The British are led by Mouric / Meurig King of Gwent, whose father, Saint Theodoric, comes out of the monastery to die at Pont y Saeson / Rhyd Tintern / Tintern Ford by Brockwier on the Wye of wounds after a skirmish with Saxons. Gwent is allied with Gwrfoddw of Ergyng and Meurig unites Glywysing and Gwent to push back the Wessex attack.  Gwent is now the predominant power in the south.  Whilst the British hold on the north continues to detriorate, Meurig’s defence stabilizes the Severn Valley area.

585 - King Morcant / Morgan Bulc of southern Votadini / Bryneich almost single-handedly destroys any hope the Britons of The Old North had of resisting the Anglian invaders. He is part of a British alliance of King Urien of Rheged, King Rhydderch Hael of Alt Clut, King Gwallawc Marchawc Trin / Gwallog ap Llaennog of Elmet, King Aedan of Dal Riada and the Ulaid of Ireland. They are initially extremely successful in driving back the Angles from Bryneich territory, forcing them to vacate Din Guardi / Bamburgh, the capital, and besieging them on Ynys Metcaut / Lindisfarne.  This is the first full counter attack against Bernician aggression and is a coordinated assault.  At the moment of success, Morcant has Urien assassinated by Llofan / Lovan / Llaf Difo at Aber Leu / estuary of the River Low and the alliance of the Britons of the North collapses. The Angles break out from their containment and retake most of the lands they had held before the war.  King Gwallawc Marchawc Trin / Gwallog ap Llaennog of Elmet is killed, succeeded by Certic / Ceretic / Ceredig ap Gwallog, who fortifies his seat at Barwick-in-Elmet with ditches to the north.  King Urien of Rheged is succeeded by Owain / Owein mab Urien who is immediately beset by his British neighbours, Elmet and Dunaut Bwr / Dunawt / Dynod / Donatus son of Pabo / Dunod ap Pabo / Dunaunt King of Donotry; the former attacking Owein's brother Elffin whilst Owein and Pasgen, another brother, fight Dunaut. The failed attempt by a unique northern alliance to win back lands from Bernicia starts well and leads to the death of the Bernician King Frithuwald but ends in internecine strife and disaster; Urien of Rheged and Gwallawc of Elmet are killed; the British divide fatally against Rheged.  Bernicia is left to grow stronger.

592 - Battle of Wodnesbeorg / Woden’s Barrow / Adam’s Grave, Alton Priors, Wiltshire overlooking the Vale of Pewsey; King Ceawlin of the West Saxons is driven out with great slaughter and perishes with Cwichelm and Crida / Creoda / Cretta.  He is buried at East Hendred near Wantage, and is succeeded by Ceol / Ceolric.   The battle site is very close to, or on, the Wansdyke.  Wessex is pushing south against Dumnonia. Wessex had just been blocked in the northwest by Gwent and is now blocked in the southwest. Surrey falls under Kentish influence.  Wessex has overreached itself and is confined.

Post 592 - King Pybba of the Mercian Iclingas extends Mercian control into the west Midlands, uniting the small kingdoms of North Engle (Nottinghamshire), South Engle (Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire) and Pecsaetna (the Peak), pushing against Elmet in the north and Cynwidion in the south.  He later expands against Wessex. This is the first emergence of the Mercian state and seems to have elicited no coordinated British response.

595 - Donotry and the Pennines fall to the Bernicians, King Dunaut Bwr / Dynod son of Pabo / Dunod ap Pabo / Dunaunt is killed.  Anglians seize the opportunity of the death of Owain of Rheged and Morcant Bulc of Bryneich to finish the attack on the Pennines left off in 585.  Elmet is now isolated from the north.

597/600 - Mynydawc and Cynan of the Kingdom of Goddodin attack King Aethelfrith of Bernicia at Catraeth / Catterick and are defeated.  Gerren / Gereint rac Dehau / For the South, King of Dumnonia / Dyfeint fights in the battle.  This is the second coordinated British counter attack against Bernicia and is a thrust to Scotch Corner to retake the Pennines and reopen a link with Elmet. It fails.  Dumnonia’s participation shows continued, but rare and ineffectual, coordinated defence.

598 - Domangart and Bran, sons of Aedan mac Gabhrain King of Dal Riada, are assassinated by Bernicians, who are increasingly aggressive.

600 - Lindisfaras form kingdom in Lindsey.  Had Lindsey earlier been under Elmet?

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Mercia absorbs Cynwidion in the Midlands.  Verulamium / St Albans survives isolated in the south of Cynwidion as Caer Mincip; the last British kingdom in the east has now survived for C 190 years since the end of the Empire in Britain but, like Elmet, is isolated.

 

603- King Aethelfrith of Bernicia defeats and kills King Aedan of Dalriada, who has invaded Bernicia, at Degsastan / Degsa’s Stone. Aedan’s attack as perhaps an attempt at revenge for the 598 assassination of Aedan’s sons.  Aedan has Ulster allies? Bernicia has now beaten all the northern kingdoms. 

 

604- King Aethelfrith of Bernicia takes Deira and kills King Aethelric; King Edwin flees to Gwynedd.  Bernicia conquers the remains of the Votadini. Bernicia now stands unopposed in the north.

 

607 - Wessex fights the South Saxons; south is the only way left to Wessex to expand. 

 

C 610 - Erb ap Meurig King of Gwent dies and hives off Ergyng for his second son Pebiaw Gladrog.

 

610-630 – Verulamium / Caer Mincip falls to Mercia. The last British power in the East falls 200-220 years (8 to 9 generations) after independence from Rome.

 

613 / C 613 - Ribchester / Caer Robais and South Rheged fall to the Bernicians. Bernician power has now extended to the west of the Pennines and cut land links between Gwynedd and the north. 

 

614 - Nechtan, King of the Picts, is enthroned in the British Kingdom of Alt Clut.  This is a complete reversal of Gwynnedd’s success 60 years before and indicates the continued diminution of British power in the north.

 

The British awake too late to the danger posed by Wessex, Mercia and Bernicia, whose growing power is now irrepressible.  These Germanic states reach the western sea and split Britannia into three.  Bernicia is now a state intent on dominating and absorbing its neighbours, whether they be British, Pictish or Germanic.   Mercia’s growth in central Britannia seems to have been more incremental, and goes largely unnoticed in the sources, but was equally momentous. The British kingdoms fight back, always in fluid coalitions of forces, but fail in two counter attacks aimed at Bernicia.

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British disunity gravely weakens the struggle. Further divisions of inheritance occur in the face of mortal danger and internecine strife saves Bernicia from extinction.  The Germanic enemy is now organized into fledgling states.  These do not seem to cooperate, although they take advantage of what is weakening their British enemies elsewhere to strike.  Unlike the British, who seem to view themselves as one nation, although divided, the Germanic kingdoms fight both British and other Germanic kingdoms and some ally themselves with the British at tim

The reasons for the Germanic success include, perhaps, some or all of:

 

1. British divisions of territory and feuding.

 

2. Operating on short interior lines making supply and communications easier, whilst their enemies were operating at greater distances with the reverse effect.

 

3. Disease, which may have hit the British harder.

4. Leadership; impossible at this distance to assess, but the Germanic leaders now seem determined on conquest.

 

5. Numbers; perhaps the peace had allowed further immigration from Germania and also the growth of a settler population which gave a greater basis for armed forces than had been available in the late 5thand early 6thCenturies.

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British defence measures continue to include earthen dyke building, the major being the Wandsyke, others including the dykes protecting Calleva / Silchester and Venta / Winchester.

 

 

THE FINAL COLLAPSE OF BRITISH POWER IN THE EAST AND SOUTH

615-725 CE/AD

 

Summary – A unified Northumbria crushes a great alliance of the British at Chester.  Gwynedd tries to recover the north for the British by allying with Mercia and extirpating Northumbria’s royal line, and nearly succeeds, but Cadwallon is killed and Northumbria bounces back.   Northumbria completes the conquest of the north and establishes its dominance over Gwynedd, Powys, Mercia and Wessex. Mercia, allied with Gwynedd, fights, but is not yet able to overcome, Northumbrian dominance.  However, its and East Anglia’s struggles against Northumbrian hegemony allow Gwynedd and the British of Wales to recover sufficiently so that the principalities in Wales remain independent.  Never again, however, will British forces campaign inside the lands lost in the north. All British kingdoms in the north except for Alt Clut disappear. Wessex largely destroys Dumnonia and is dominant in Sussex.  The outlines of the heptarchy are now fixed.

 

615-616 - Elmet / Silva Elmete in Loidis falls to the Northumbrians, who expel its King Certic / Ceretic / Ceredig ap Gwallog.

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King Aethelfrith of Bernicia defeats the British led by Scrocmail / Scrocmagil / Brocmail at Caer Legion / Carlegion / Chester. He kills 1,200 / 2000 priests / monks of Bangor–is-y-Coed / Bancornaburg / Bangor-on-Dee monastery, ruled by Abbot Dinoot, which is destroyed.  The British Kings are led by King Selyf ap Cynan Garwyn / of the White Car / White Shanks ap Brochfael Ysgthrog / of the Tusks King of Powys who is killed and is succeeded by Selyf Sarffgadau / Battle Serpent / Selim / Solomon who is killed later and succeeded by infant Manwgan ap Selyf.  Manwgan ap Selyf is only briefly King of Powys before being usurped by Elfan / Eiludd ap Glas / Eiludd Powys King of Dogfeilion, so Powys independence is lost. British at the battle of Chester include Cyndrwyn Fawr / the Great / the Stubborn King of Pengwern / Viroconium / Caer Guricon and Bledric ap Custennin, King of Dumnonia, who dies ?at the Battle of Bangor-is-Coed shortly after the Battle of Chester (are there two battles or one?).  King Iago of Gwynedd dies in his sleep, or by an axe, or goes to a monastery, succeeded by his son, Catamanus / Cadvan / Cadfan ap Iago, ?High King, ?claimant to Elmet and Deira. The British remain allied with King Cearl of Mercia.  Gwynedd loses Chester / Caerleon and its area to Bernicians. Gwynedd’s capital moves from Chester to Deganwy.  This is a disastrous battle for the British, for it destroys Gwynnedd and Powys and confirms the loss of the north.  The British alliance is one of the most extensive recorded but is an utter failure. Aethelric has broken out of the north and the combined forces of the British and the Angles of Mercia have failed to stop him. He has decapitated three dynasties.

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Cynegils and Cwichelm of Wessex defeat King Clemen of Dumnonia / Dyfneint at Beandun / Bea’s Mount (Bindon near Axmouth?), putting Wessex in control of the Roman port of Axmouth.  The death of the old King of Dumnonia in the north has left an unprepared and weak successor enabling Wessex to swoop. 

617- King Raedwald of the East Angles kills King Aethelfrith of Northumbria at the River Idle, Nottingham. Raedwald assists Edwin / Edguin son of Aelle King of Deira to take the Northumbrian throne.  This is East Anglia’s sole moment in the sun.  Bernician hegemony in the north is ended, temporarily, not by the British but by East Anglia.  Aethelfrith’s sons flee to Pictish and Irish lands; Prince Oswald, brother Oswiu and sister Aebbe take refuge in Iona and they are baptized. Oswald later fights with Dal Riadans in Ireland for Ulster King Congall Caech against Domnall Mac Aedh of the Ui Neill. 

 

625 - King Edwin of Northumbria invades Lindsey.

 

627- Edwin incorporates Elmet into Northumbria. He then conquers Gwynnedd.  Prince Belyn of Gwynnedd resists King Edwin of Northumbria in the Llyn Peninsula and is killed.  Edwin has Gwynedd at his feet.  This is poor return for the hospitality given him by the court of Gwynedd when he was in exile.

 

629 - King Edwin of Northumbria besieges King Cadwallon of Gwynedd on Glanauc / Priestholm / Puffin Island or Ynys Seiriol / Island of Saint Seiriol off Anglesey and Cadwallon escapes to Ireland.  Edwin goes on to take Anglesey and the Isle of Man.  

 

630 - A major English raid on Gwent.  This is likely to have been carried out by Penda of Mercia who then moved further south as far as Dumnonia. If it had not already occurred, this would have been the point at which the Hwicce passed into Mercian control.

 

632 - Dumnonia defends Exeter against King Penda of Mercia, rescued by the exiled King Cadwallon ap Cadfan of Gwynedd who has come via Guernsey (ie Brittany).  This is the only record of Mercia extending so far southwest.

 

633- Cadwallon retakes his kingdom and, with Penda of Mercia, attacks and kills King Edwin of Northumbria and his son Osfrith and Penda King of Mercia at Hatfield Chase / Gwaith Meigen / Meicen near Doncaster. Edwin’s second son Eadfrith is captured and killed by Penda.  Cadwallon is seeking revenge and the extirpation of Northumbria.  He sacks York and lays waste Northumbria.  Queen Aethelburgh and Saint Paulinus flee to Kent. Eanfrith son of Ethelfrith returns to succeed to the throne of Bernicia but is killed by Cadwallon when he goes to him to make peace. Gwynedd is performing for the last time its role as leader of Men of the North.  Cadwallon is bent on eradicating the Anglian royal line, not just on setting up the son of the previous victor of Chester.

 

634 - King Osric of Deira is killed after besieging King Cadwallon of Gwynedd. Oswald returns to take the Bernician throne and succeeds as King of Northumbria.  He defeats King Cadwallon in battle near Hadrian’s Wall at the Battle of Hefenfelth / Heavenfield / Bellum Cantscaul / Cad-y-gual / Battle of the Wall near Hexham; Cadwallon dies at Deniseburn / Denis’s Brook. Oswald had a vision of Colmcille at the battle. Cadafael, new King of Gwynedd, remains in alliance with Penda King of Mercia but Penda seems to have abandoned Cadwallon who was unable unaided to permanently destroy Northumbria. Oswald, battle hardened from his time in Ireland, has returned to destroy the Men of the North. 

 

C 635- King Oswald of Northumbria marches south unopposed by either Gwynedd or Mercia, killing Idris Gawr King of Meirionydd on the Severn and in 636 defeating Cynegils of Wessex in battle.  He marries Cynegils’s daughter Cynegburga, making it a condition he accept Christianity. Oswald has hegemony, a remarkable come back inside two years.

 

638 - Domnall Brecc, King of Dal Riata, is defeated by the Picts.  

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Votadini / Gododdin / Lothian, North Rheged and Carlisle / Caer Ligualid fall to the Bernicians.  

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King Oswald of Northumbria fights Alt Clut at the Battle of Glenn Muiresan and Domnall Brecc, King of Dalriata besieges Eten / Din Eidyn / Edinburgh.  Domnall is defeated at Glenn Mureston, near Eitin / Edinburgh and Eitin besieged.  Oswald is at the peak of his power and destroys the Men of the North. This is the end of Rheged and Carlisle.  Strathclyde and Dal Riada counter attack but fail and are weakened.  Gododdin is retained by Bernicia.

 

640- King Penda of Mercia attacks East Anglia and slays King Ecgric and ex-King Sigeberht.  The growth of Mercian power and the eclipse of East Anglia.

 

642- Domnall Brecc / Domnall mac Echdach King of Dal Riada is killed by Owen / Eugein map Beli, King of Alt Clut / Strathclyde at the Battle of Strathcarron / Upper Carron Stirlingshire.  Alt Clut is recovering.  

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King Saint Oswald of Northumbria is killed by King Penda of Mercia with King Cynddylan ap Cyndrwyn of Pengwern at Maserfeld / Maes Cogwy at Oswaldes-treow / Oswald’s Tree / Oswestry. King Eiludd ap Glas / Eiludd Powys of Powys and Dogfeilin is killed in this battle.  The British are allied with Penda to overthrow the supremacy of Northumbria and for a second time succeed.

 

645 - King Penda of Mercia drives out King Cenwalh of the West Saxons who is a pagan and had driven out his wife, Penda’s sister, after 643. This is the height of Penda’s power in all directions.  Wessex had been absorbed into the Northumbrian orbit under Oswald but is now detached by Mercia.

 

648- King Coenwalh of West Saxons is restored to his kingdom and builds the Minster of Saint Peter at Winchester. This is the first mention of Winchester in Wessex; perhaps it had always been part of the kingdom?  An area of Dumnonia holds out in Wiltshire and Hampshire, the old Durotriges lands.  

 

656- King Oswy of Northumbria re-establishes Northumbrian power, destroys Pengwern and Dogfeilin and kills Peada of Mercia; a further defeat of the Mercian-British alliance.

 

658- King Cenwalh of the West Saxons fights at Peonnum / Penselwood or Pinhoe defeating King Culmin / Cwlfyn ap Petroc of Dumnonia, maybe at or in the Selwood Forest, and drives British to the Parret in Somerset, taking the sub-kingdom of Glastenning / east Somerset.  Morgan Glas / the Blue King of Glastenning loses Glastenning.  Wessex’s first major expansion westwards since Dyrham in 577 81 years before.  Wessex is freed to expand by the defeat in 656 of Peada by Oswy.

 

661 - King Cenwalh of West Saxons fights at Posentes byrg / Posentesburh / Posent’s stronghold / Posbury? and (perhaps shortly or much later) Wessex absorbs Isca / Exeter, continuing the push southwest started in 658.  

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King Wulfhere of Mercia, having thrown off Northumbrian overlordship, recovers Mercian dominance in the south and raids as far as Ashdown and Wight, where he organises Eoppa’s mission to convert and which he gives to Aethelwald King of the South Saxons, his godson.

 

665- 2nd Battle of Badon / Bedanheafod in which Morgan / Morcant King of Morgannwg / Morgan ap Athrwys, Over-King of Gwent, Glywyssing and Ergyng dies.  This is a counter attack from Gwent to recover Dumnonia’s losses after 658 butfails.

 

671 - King Ecgfrith of Northumbria re-commences the absorption of Rheged, pushing British from Dent in West Riding of Yorkshire and Ribble Valley in Lancashire.

 

672- King Ecgfrith of Northumbria attacks the Picts, massacring many, expelling Drust, ? at Land-Abae, where he is assisted by sub-king Beornhaeth.  The Southern Picts are now subject to Northumbrian rule. Northumbria again expansionist.

682- King Centwine of the West Saxons puts Britons to flight as far as the sea, defeating King Ifr ap Cadwalladr of Gwynedd and the local British.  This is a follow up to the failed British counter attack of 665 and also fails. For once Gwynedd forces are involved in the south.  Dungarth ap Culmin becomes King of Dumnonia, and later loses Durotriges land to West Saxons by 705 when Sherborne diocese founded.

 

684- Northumbrian forces raid Hibernia and seize 60 hostages; the height of Northumbrian power.

 

685 - Southern Picts kill King Ecgfrith of Northumbria and regain independence.  British from Goddodin sack Northumbrian Abercorn monastery near Edinburgh, regaining their freedom from Northumbria for the last time, but are later reabsorbed.  This is the last burst of Gododdin existence, linked to the resurgence of the Picts.

 

710- King Ine of Wessex and King Northelm / Nunna / Nonna of the South Saxons defeat and kill Geraint / Gerontius / Geruntius / Gerren ap Dungarth King of Dumnonia / Dyfeint / Defnas.  The British lose much of what remains of Dumnonia.  The South Saxon King is not an ally but subordinate to Ine.

 

722 - Wessex is defeated in three battles by Dumnonia and King Rhodri Molwynog of Gwynedd near Camel at Hehil; at Garth Maelog; and at Pencon in Cornwall.  The British succeed in holding Cornubia.  Gwynedd is again involved in the south, at last successfully, in this final effort to retain a foothold in the southwest.

 

725 - King Gwylog ap Beli of Powys dies, succeeded by Elisedd ap Gwylog, who struggles with success with Mercia for control of Powys’s eastern lands.

The most remarkable feature of this period is the power of the Northumbrian state.  Despite facing alone a steady series of allied enemies, Northumbria comes back from three major defeats and two occupations of its territory to destroy the British Old North, dominate the Picts and Dal Riada, ravage Gwynedd and the principalities of central Wales, and establish hegemony over Mercia and Wessex. What strength of organization, population and leadership this entailed is not clear.

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Mercia has to fight hard against Northumbria in this period but is powerful enough to reach out as far as south Wales and Dumnonia, and to dominate Wessex and Sussex, when Northumbrian power wanes. Unlike Northumbria, Mercia is content to ally itself with the British.

 

Wessex is a weak state in this period and dominated at times by Northumbria and Mercia. It is able to expand only against the British and in Sussex.  British defences include dykes built across the south west as far as Bokerly Dyke. However, by the end of the period, it has absorbed most of Dumnonia.

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By the end of the period, the future division of Britain between Celt and Saxon has been laid down.

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To the end of the period, the British continue to regard themselves as cymry/ citizens, sometimes as Romans, successors to the Roman Empire, and the Germanic peoples of the island as barbarians.  They cling to elements of Romanitas.  In 540, the last year that Roman Consuls gave their names to a year, a stone was erected at Penmacho in Gwynnedd using that last Consular date.  Some princely houses continue to use names with Roman origin till C 8 and perhaps to name princes after Emperors during C 5 (Honorius, Marcian) and until C 7 (Constantine).  Roman titles granted to princely houses linger until C 6 (protector).  However, with the refusal of the British church to adopt Roman rites after 664, the British finally placed themselves in the camp of barbarian outsider, something that had been a perception amongst the Romanised Gauls and Franks who inhabited lands prey to Breton depradations since C 5.   

ARMORICA - BRITTANY

 

Summary – Armorica began to be settled by the British at the end of the Roman period as part of Magnus Maximus’s scheme to secure the western seaboard from Galicia through Armorica to the west of Britannia.  The post-Roman British state may have controlled Armorica in the 5th Century, but if such control existed it was lost in the 6thCentury.  Led originally from Dumnonia, which seems to have possessed the requisite sea power, settlement was later directed from Cernyw and Gwent, both of which states disputed control of Armorica. However, after many decades of struggle, the original ruling Dumnonian line prevailed as Kings, then later Counts, of Brittany. After the mid 5th Century, Armorica kept more contact with Demetia / Dyfed, Cernyw / Glywyssing and Gwent than with Dumnonia.

 

C 300 - Immigration into Brittany goes on for over 120 years after the end of Roman authority but had commenced as early as C 300.  Most comes from the southwest. The area of south Wales, southwest Britain, Armorica and the Bay of Biscay operates as a system, the western seaway. Immigration is not only connected with the end of the Empire or security, but must also be due to other causes; maybe economic?  Maybe based on, or including, trading settlements along the western seaway, including Galicia? No evidence of Saxon raids or interest; area poorer than elsewhere; too difficult to attack; defended by Roman garrison and fleet then later by Dumnonian ships.

 

Pre 387 - Conan Meriadoc, tribal chief of Dumnonia, is an equivalent to the local officers appointed by Rome beyond the border as part of its Forward Policy.  He establishes Vannes / Vannetais as his capital in Armorica.  Vannes / Brittany is thereafter ruled by the royal house of Dumnonia, which thus guards the western Channel.  

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C 387 - At Conan's death, the Dumnonian royal family splits; Guoremor and his line continue to rule Dumnonia and Vannetais is ruled separately from that point by Erbin / Urbin and his line.  

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407-409 -  Armorica is governed already from or alongside Dumnonia, so when Britannia relinquishes Roman rule, so does Armorica.

 

Pre 440-441 - Damnonia is named after Dumnonia and Kernev / Kerne / Cornuaille is named after Cernyw.  They are both sub-regions of the High King of Vannetais’s domain of Brittany. Energetic expansion of British settlement in Armorica precedes the Saxon Revolt, perhaps indicating central British policy. 

 

Pre 420 - Guitol, son Gradion third ruler of Vannetais, is given Damnonia by his father to rule as a separate sub-region of Brittany.  

 

 C 430 - Cornuaille is carved out of Brittany by Rioelen Mor Marthou / Great Wonders / Great Horses, the first linkage of Armorica with a south Wales principality. Rivelen / Rioelen Mor Marthou is ProtectorMor/ / ?Mor / ?Nor, ruler of Cernyw C 430-450.  

 

C 450 - Rivelen's son Prince Cyngar / Congar of Cerynw goes to Cornuaille as its 2nd ruler. Cernyw’s (later Glywysing’s) royal family inserts itself in what had been a Dumnonian area.  Does this commence hostility between south Wales kingdoms and Dumnonia?  Is this an attempt by British authorities to weaken Dumnonia’s control of the western approaches? Or is Armorica seen in need of reinforcement? This is before the Saxon revolt.  

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Deroc / Deroch I, ruler of Damnonia, son of Guitol, dies and is usurped by General Marchell, who exiles Deroc’s son Riotham/ Riothamus / Riutimus / Riotimus. Riothamus later returns, kills the usurper and takes back Damnonia. He is the British ruler reported operating near Armorica and in Gaul. Damnonia is now operating as an independent dynasty, albeit of the family of the High Kings of Brittany / Vannetais.  General Marchell may be  Rioelaen Mor Marthou (?Marius Mor / Nor ruler of Cernyw and Cornuaille from C 430/C 440-450), who is styled in accounts ‘a king of Brittany’, and 'the Imperator' and was succeeded by Congar/Cyngar in Cornuaille C 450.  Cernyw is clearly seeking to eject the Dumnonian family line from Damnonia but fails and their power is again restricted to Cornuaille. 

 

C 470 - Macliavus / Maxenri / Meliau ap Budig of Vannes is killed and his son Saint Melor / Melorius / Mylor / Méloir / Melar is mutilated then killed by Macliavus’s brother Riwold ap Budig.  Melor’s adherents settle at Amesbury monastery where he is revered as a saint, its titular.  His relics are kept there.  Armorica is in chaos at the end of C 5.

 

C 490 - Caradog Freichfras / Vraichfras / Strong Arm ap Ynyr, ruler of Gwent, founds Bro Erech / Broerec in Armorica in Condate Riedonum / Civitas Riedonum / Rennes.  He ejects Budig II / Budic / Buddig / Budicius ap Erich, the Emyr Llydaw / Emperor / High King of Brittany / Vannes. Caradog makes Saint Padam / Paternus Bishop of Vannes.  Budig II is exiled to the court of Aircol of Dyfed with his son Hoel I Mawr (but later returns to reclaim his rule).  This is the second attack by a south Wales kingdom on Dumnonian rule in Armorica and by a different  principality, Gwent (the earlier being by Cernyw). The attack is initially successful, leaving Gwent ruling all Armorica, but Bro Erech does not succeed in taking the High Kingship, Damnonia or Cornuaille in the longer term.  The Welsh Triads portray Caradog deputising for the High-King Arthur at court in Caer-Legeion-guar-Uisc (Caerleon); if there is any truth in this (and the dates fit), the foundation of Bro Erech and takeover of Vannes could have been Arthurian strategy to secure Armorica. Was Brittany as a whole initially and until the mid 5th Centuryunder some form of British authority? British and Armorican affairs are clearly connected.

 

By 500 - British migration to Armorica / Brittany is largely ended.  This is the turning point in British campaigns against Anglo-Saxons. British settlement takes over the west of Armorica (Cornuaille, Leon, Poher and Damnonia) but the Gallo-Roman populations survives and predominates around Vannes and in Bro Erech.

 

C 500 – After Daniel Drem Rud, the Cernyw line is replaced in Cornuaille by the Vannes line.

C 520 - Dumnonia establishes sub-ruler at Poher in Armorica.  

C 550 - Dumnonia establishes sub-ruler at Leon in Armorica.   

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Cornubian prince Marc Conomorus invades and expels Iudual, King of Damnonia, who I restored by the Franks 560. 

557-558 - A war breaks out in Armorica between Damnonia and Bro Erech (perhaps putting Dumnonia and Gwent at enmity) and any possible British suzerainty over Brittany is lost when in 557-58 King Childebert of the Franks takes overlordship of Armorica and appoints Cunomorus of Damnonia his Prefect. 

560-570 – Hoel, heir to the throne of Brittany / Vannes, places his son Tewdr Mawr in the care of Macliau of Bro Erech, who siezes the Brittany throne and exiles the boy to Cornubia. This is a continuance of the struggle of the Armorican royal families for the High Kingship.  Tewdr Mawr returns from Cornubia and recovers the throne. 

C 590 - Iahann Reith re-establishes independence of Cornuaille but Alain I of Vannes reabsorbs it a few years later.

607 - Alain I King of Darioritum / Vannes / Vannetais and ruler of Cornuaille is succeeded by Haelog King of Damnonia as Hoel III in Darioritum / Vannes / Vannetais.  Gradion is made sub-ruler in Cornuaille.  This marks the union of the High King and Damnonian lines, probably as Alain I is heirless.

635- Iudicael, High King and ruler of Damnonia’s, who is descended through his mother from Waroch I, inherits Bro Erech, which disappears. 

The Dumnonian royal family line is predominant as King (High King / Emperor?) of Brittany despite two attempts by south Wales royal lines to usurp the throne.  The High Kings eventually become Counts of Brittany. Their family always hold Damnonia but eventually also absorbs Cornuaille (the initial rulers of which were from Cernyw) and finally Bro Erech (the initial rulers of which were from Gwent).  Dumnonia again intervenes in Armorica around 550 when it establishes the briefly independent Poher and Leon and the prince of Cornubia, Marc Conomorus, invades Damnonia and retains it until the Franks restore its King Iudual in 560.   After that, as Wessex pressure intensifies on Dumnonia, their power to intervene declines. There is no sign of attempts by the Brittany kingdoms to aid Dumnonia against Wessex, and only one of a personal intervention to aid Gwent against Wessex. 

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Dyfed seems to have been regarded as a neutral place of refuge for rulers of Brittany.  Maxenri / Méliau ap Budig I of Brittany & his brother flee to Aircol of Dyfed's court C 480.  Hoel I Mawr / Saint Hywel (founder of Llanhowell) is exiled in Dyfed with his father Budig II ruler of Vannetais and Cornuaille and predeceases his father there in 544 having made a failed arrangement with Macliau ruler of Bro Erech to watch over his son Tewdr Mawr.

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One royal Breton exile went to Dumnonia. King Tewdwr / Tewdr / Teudar Mawr / Teuderic Maur / Theodoric / Theodore the Great of Darioritum / Vannes / Vannetais and Cornouaille, who had been sent into exile 560 by Macliau of Bro Erech, became ruler of Penwith in Cornubia then returned in 577 to rule Darioritum / Vannes; but after the victory he retired to a monastery.

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At least two marriages between British and Breton royal families is recorded. Gereint Sub-king of Orcheus in Gwent married the granddaughter of Budig II of Brittany C 540.  Saint Issel of Dyfed’s daughter married the King of Britanny / Vannes Budig II (478-550).

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The sequence of rulers and events is seriously confused and the account offered here may be fundamentally wrong.  The facts that four royal lines (Vannes, Damnonia, Cornuaille and Bro Erech) fought for dominance and produced men of the same or similar name; that dating is absent or only very approximate; and that ancient and modern writers do not distinguish clearly between the principalities involved, makes most facts here unreliable.  In addition, proper study has not been made in recent times of the saints lives which are for the most part the only evidence for what occurred in Armorica.

 

 

THE BRITISH IN GALICIA

Summary – British settlement in Britonia in Galicia starts as civilian/commercial but is expanded in the late Empire to secure the western seaways.  It provides a location for British refugees to settle after the Saxon revolt and until the recovery at Badon. The British in Galicia seem to have merged with the rest of the population after the Seventh Century. There is no record of who governed these settlers. 

 

C 300 - British migration commences to Armorica / Brittany and Gallaecia / Galicia.  

 

C 380s - British settlers move to Galicia via Ireland.  This is the western seaways trading route; these are trading or fishing communities.   

 

383/385-386 - Magnus Maximus settles some British in Armorica and Gallaecia / Galicia to control the western seaways.

 

C 490 – Saints Pabiali ap Brychan, Neffei andPasgen ap Bruchan go to Hispania. This is the only record of any contact between Britannia and Britonia. is 

 

By 500 - British migration to Armorica and Gallaecia / Galicia has largely ended.  

 

527 - British Bishop Mahiloc of Galicia signs acta of second Council of Braga.  

 

567/569 - King Thiudemir/Theodemar of the Suebi’s Council of Lucus Augusti / Lugo in Hispania recognises British settlers in Galicia as a separate part of the Church, the see of Bretona. 

572 - Mailoc Bishop of the Ecclesia Britonensis, now Bretoña, in Galicia.  

C 580 - In Galicia, the Suebian Parochiale includes a list of the principal churches of each diocese in the Metropolitanate of Braga and lists the Ecclesia Britonensis / Bretoña.  

 

633 - The British church in Galicia accepts the Latin rite at fourth Council of Toledo.  Its Bishop is Metopius.

 

646 - The British in Galicia send Bishop Sonna and other representatives to the seventh Council of Toledo.

 

653 - The British in Galicia send Bishop Susa and other representatives to the eighth Council of Toledo. 

 

675 - The British in Galicia send Bishop Bela and other representatives to the third Council of Braga.  

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© 2014 Nigel Collett All Rights Reserved