Sub-Roman Britain II/81c: 442AD- 539AD

DBA list:
1x 3Kn or 3Cv(General): Arthur, King of the Britons
2x 3Cv
1x 4Sp or 2LH
7x 4Sp
1x 2Ps

"Sub-Roman Britain" is a label applied by specialists to Britannia in the fifth and sixth centuries AD. Geographically, Britannia is that territory south of the Forth-Clyde line that was part of the Roman Empire from AD 43 to 410. Gaining their independence from Rome, the sub-Roman Britons created a culture that was a unique hybrid of Roman, native "Celtic," and Christian elements. These first two centuries of the Early Middle Ages also gave birth to medieval kingdoms that would become England, Scotland, and Wales. The period of sub-Roman Britain traditionally covers the history of Britain from the end of Roman imperial rule, in the very early fifth century, to the arrival of St Augustine in AD 597.

Unstability was made worse by the withdrawal of troops from Britain by Magnus Maximus in 383 and Stilicho in 402, due to political and military turmoil on the Continent. The Roman civil and military administration in Britain took matters in its own hands, electing three successive "tyrants"--Marcus, Gratian, and Constantine--in 406, a traumatic year which ended with barbarians (Alans, Sueves, and Vandals) swarming across the frozen Rhine. The last of these British usurpers took the title Constantine III, and crossed to Gaul with an army to secure the western frontiers and make good his imperial claims. This Constantine's story is ultimately one of betrayal and defeat, ending with his capture at Arles in 411 and subsequent execution (Orosius, Adversum Paganos 7.42.1-4).

Emperor Honorius, in 410, sent letters to the cities of Britain giving them "permission" to fend for themselves (Zosimus 6.10.2). After 410, Rome was no longer able to assert control over Britain (Procopius, Bellum Vandalicum 3.2.38), and the island came to be ruled by a multitude of Romano-British "tyrants" (Jerome, Epistola 133.9,14) as well as by the Saxon newcomers (Gallic Chronicle of 511).

Traditionally, the first Germanic warband arrived in Britain in the mid fifth century to serve as mercenary troops at the invitation of the British sub-Roman government. When the government failed in their agreement to supply them, these troops revolted. This revolt touched a significant part of the country. Then, the first settlers invited their relatives from overseas to join them. At the beginning of the sixth century, the Germanic peoples rapid spread through the country was checked for a time by the British, but by the mid sixth century they started to expand again. By the time of Augustine's arrival, they controlled much of the lowlands and were expanding to the north and west.

The Celtic people used the name "Saxon" generically to describe all of the Germanic people they met. While this likely indicates a heavy proportion of Saxons in the early raids and settlement, many other tribes were involved. Significantly, Britain came to be called England after the Angles rather than Saxony.

The historicity of the Arthur of legend has long been debated by scholars. One school of thought believes that Arthur had no historical existence. The converse view holds that Arthur was an authentically historical personage, a Romano-British leader fighting against the invading Anglo-Saxons sometime in the late fifth to early sixth century.A number of identifiable historical figures have been suggested as the historical basis for Arthur, ranging from Lucius Artorius Castus, a Roman officer who served in Britain in the 2nd century; Roman usurper emperors like Magnus Maximus; and sub-Roman British rulers like Riothamus, Ambrosius Aurelianus, Owain Ddantgwyn and Athrwys ap Meurig.

The Historia Brittonum (written c.829-830AD)records that “Arthur fought against them [the Anglo-Saxon invaders] in those days, together with the kings of the Britons, but he was the leader in battles [dux bellorum].” In the most basic and popular form of this theory the above sentence is treated as a literal statement that the historical Arthur was a great warrior and war-leader (with an implication, it is often suggested, that Arthur was not a king himself), who led the fight against the Anglo-Saxon invaders.the most that can be inferred from this source with any degree of confidence is that Arthur was a late 5th-/early 6th-century war-leader, famed for leading the fight against the Anglo-Saxon invaders and winning a great victory at the Battle of Badon.


Arthur, Once and Future King

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