The Romans Leave Britain

Book 1, Chapter 5, 296 AD to 410 AD – The Romans Leave Britain – Continued

The immediate circumstances attendant upon the withdrawal of the Romans from Britain in A.D. 410, form a debateable ground among historians. Some allege, following the earlier chroniclers, who wrote from two to five centuries later, that the Roman troops were ordered away to oppose the Goths in Gaul and Italy, and that as soon as they had left the Picts and Scots broke through the Wall of Hadrian and overran the northern and midland parts of Britain, indiscriminately slaying, burning, and destroying, that the Britons, being unable to resist these fierce enemies, implored aid from the Prefect of Gaul who sent them a legion of troops, by whose aid the ravagers were driven back, that as soon as the legion returned to Gaul, being urgently required there, another irruption of Picts and Scots took place, with like results to the former one, that again aid was afforded by the Romans, who rescued the country from its adversaries, but that at length the emperor decided to leave the Britons to their fate, being unable to respond to the abject pleas for help, sent over by their ambassadors, one of which the chroniclers have preserved under the title of “The Groans of the Britons.”

On this, it is said that the country was soon overrun by its northern tribes, who slaughtered the inhabitants like sheep, and in order to account in some measure for their defenceless and spiritless condition, it is further alleged that the flower of their youth and manhood had for many years been drafted away into the Roman armies, and notably so during the revolt of Maximus and his battles in Gaul, and so the country was left without adequate protection. It is also stated that the people had, for the most part, became enervated from their aping of Roman civilization, and hence were no match for the hardy warriors of the north.

Roman General
Roman General

These statements need not be supposed to be all false, but neither can they be accepted as all true. Omitting the work of Gildas (of the authenticity of which some scholars are doubtful), a very long interval elapsed between the evacuation of the country by the Romans, and the record being written of the events alleged to have occurred at the time, and even admitting Gildas to have lived and  written at the time claimed for him by some, there was a lapse of nearly two hundred years, during which there were successive inroads by the Saxons, and during which, doubt less  the inventive and magnifying faculties of tradition were largely exercised. Moreover, it is needful to remember that the early chroniclers were themselves Saxons, and their national pride might have led them to represent the Roman Britons as a poor, mean, abject race. Hence the account left by Zosimus, who was nearly a contemporary, is more likely to be correct, that the Britons, remembering their ancient independence, again declared their country to be free, deposed the magistrates whom the Romans had appointed, armed themselves and drove the Picts and Scots back once and again, on which emperor Honorius wrote letters to the different tribes, exhorting them to protect themselves.

Roman Arms and Ensign
Roman Arms and Ensign

 Thus, four hundred and sixty-five years after the first landing of Julius Caesar, and three hundred and sixty seven years after the invasion in the time of the emperor Claudius, the Romans left Britain and at that point their connection with the national history terminates. Some account has been given of their manufactures, arts, and worship and the accompanying illustrations of their arms and ensigns will complete the delineation of Roman Britain.

Chapter 5, Christianity in Britain

The Diocletian Persecution

Christianity in Britain

Remains of Roman Worship

Altars and Their Inscriptions

Chapter 5, Decline of the Roman Power

Decline of the Roman Power

Incursions of Northern Barbarians

Effect Upon Britain

Chapter 5, The Romans Leave Britain

The Romans Leave Britain

Condition of the Country and People When the Romans Left


Categories: Book 1

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