Sub-Roman Britain

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Britain in 540 AD

Sub-Roman Britain is the name given to Britain from the withdrawal of the Roman legions in 410 AD to the beginning of the seventh century.

History[change | change source]

After four centuries of rule, Roman legions withdrew from Roman Britain at the beginning of the fifth century. However Roman culture and probably a vernacular Latin language survived for another two centuries with a gradual invasion the Anglo-Saxons from northern Germany and the Jutland peninsula.

The invasion was initially halted by the Romano-British. The Anglo-Saxons obtained control of eastern England at the end of the 5th century. In the mid-6th century they started expanding again into the English Midlands. Then in the 7th century they expanded again into the south-west and the north of England. The unconquered parts of southern Britain, notably Wales and surrounding areas of western Britain, retained their Romano-British culture, in particular Christianity.

Some Anglo-Saxon histories (in context) refer to the Romano-British people by the term "Welsh", which is an Old English word meaning 'foreigner', referring to the old inhabitants of southern Britain.[1] Historically, Wales and the south-western peninsula were known respectively as North Wales and West Wales.[2]

Recent discoveries have helped document the continuing urban occupation of some Romano-British towns near Watling Street such as Viriconium (Wroxeter) and Venta (Caerwent), in those two centuries.[3]

One of the last Sub-Roman cities to be conquered by the Anglo-Saxons was Deva Victrix (Chester), where Roman "amphoras" were used until 616 AD.[4] The Romano-British may have survived partly because of the Chester city walls; the city had been defended by walls since the foundation of the Deva Victrix fort on the site in 79 AD.

Notes[change | change source]

  1. World Wide Words
  2. http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A10686710
  3. Roger White and Philip Barker, Wroxeter: Life and Death of a Roman City, (Stroud: Tempus, 1998)
  4. P. Carrington, Eng. Heritage Bk. of Chester, 53; cf. S. Ward and others, Excavations at Chester: Saxon Occupation within Roman Fortress, 32-5; V.C.H. Ches. i. 238.

Bibliography[change | change source]

  • Mann, J. C. Spoken Latin in Britain as evidenced by the Inscriptions, in Britannia 2 (1971)
  • Morris, John. The Age of Arthur: A History of the British Isles from 350 to 650. Barnes & Noble Books, New York, 1996. ISBN 1842124773
  • Pearsall, Derek. Arthurian Romance: a short introduction. Blackwell. Oxford, 2005
  • Smith, C. Vulgar Latin in Roman Britain: Epigraphic and other Evidence, in Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt 2.29.2 (1983), pp. 893 – 948
  • Snyder, Christopher A. Sub-Roman Britain (AD 400-600): A Gazetteer of Sites. British Archaeological Reports (BAR) British Series No. 247. Oxford, 1996: Tempvs Reparatvm.

Related pages[change | change source]