Sunday, March 15, 2009

Britain after the Departure of the Roman

410—449?—After the departure of the Romans, the Picts from the north and the Scots from Ireland continued their ravages, but though they caused terrible misery by slaughtering or dragging into slavery the inhabitants of many parts of the country, they did not succeed in making any permanent conquests. The Britons were not without a government and an armed force; and their later history shows that they were capable of carrying on war for a long time against enemies more formidable than the Picts and Scots. Their rulers were known by the British title Gwledig, and probably held power in different parts of the island as the successors of the Roman Duke of the Britains and of the Roman Count of the Saxon Shore. Their power of resistance to the Picts and the Scots was, however, weakened by the impossibility of turning their undivided attention to these marauders, as at the same time that they had, to defend the Roman Wall and the western coast against the Picts and Scots, they were exposed on the eastern coast to the attacks of the Saxon pirates.

In their misery the thoughts of the Britons turned to those Roman legions who had defended their fathers so well. In 446 they appealed to Aëtius, the commander of the Roman armies, to deliver them from their destroyers. "The groans of the Britons" was the title which they gave to their appeal to him. "The barbarians," they wrote, "drive us to the sea; the sea drives us back to the barbarians; between them we are exposed to two sorts of death: we are either slain or drowned." Aëtius had no men to spare, and he sent no help to the Britons. Before long the whole of Western Europe was overrun by barbarian tribes, the title of Emperor being retained only by the Roman Emperor who ruled from Constantinople over the East, his authority over the barbarians of the West being no more than nominal.

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