England: The Britons

The Britons, who were one of the ancient Celtic races that inhabited medieval England, were subject to Roman invasions since the 1st century BC, when Julius Caesar sent expeditions to the island. Under Claudius, in 43 AD, the Romans invaded England once again and established the Roman province of Britannia. The Romans occupied England for approximately four centuries. They used the Britons in their military enterprises abroad and most of those who remained in Britain were reduced to slavery.

The Roman Decline

However, from about the mid- 4th century, the prosperity and power of the Roman Empire declined significantly. Due to the raids of the Picts and the Scots, the Romans found it increasingly difficult to maintain their presence in Britain, particularly after Hadrian's Wall was overwhelmed in 367. The Roman legions left England in the early 5th century and barbarian invaders began to pour over the frontiers.

The Decline of the Britons

The Saxon and Angle tribes that migrated to Britain pushed the ancient Britons to the frontiers of the island. The Saxons were a Teutonic tribe of people originally from Germany. They began to settle in southeastern England in about the year 400 AD. The Angles, another Teutonic tribe, occupied the east coast, north of the Saxons. The Angle and Saxon cultures blended together as they came to dominate the country. Although the Anglo-Saxons were predominantly made up of Angles and Saxons, there were other tribes such as the Jutes and Frisians who made up the medley of tribes in England.

In the conflicts between these invaders and the native peoples of England, the cities of Britain were devastated, industry and systems of transport decayed, and Roman Christianity was replaced by German paganism. Nevertheless, by the time the Anglo-Saxons arrived in Britain, the Roman way of life was already disintegrating. The Anglo-Saxons spoke their own language, believed in their own gods, and maintained their own traditions. However, this culture was influenced by Rome in a more subtle way. During the 7th century, the Anglo-Saxons converted to Christianity and consequently, their contact with France and Italy increased and Roman style education, learning and craftsmanship was revived.

See Also


  1. ^ Swyrich, Archive materials