Book 2, Chapter 1, 449 AD to 597 AD – The Saxons – Continued
It need not be supposed that these northern barbarians invariably broke through or climbed over the Roman wall, in order to attack the country and the story told by Gildas of their pulling the Britons down with iron hooks from the top of the wall, is only worthy of being treated with ridicule as a fable. They probably sailed in their coracles, and landed at different parts of the coast both on its eastern and western shores. And their attacks were probably often successful owing to the divided state of the southern tribes, for being opposed only by the inhabitants of each locality. It was often easy to inflict much damage and to carry away much spoil in their sudden and rapid descents. Some parts of the country, and especially its northern districts, suffered most from these ravages, but at the same time the southern shores were exposed to the inroads of continental tribes, for at that time, when the Roman power was crumbling to decay, Europe was one vast plunder field, over which bands of pirates roamed at will, with no settled home, but bent only upon fighting and plunder.
This is most likely the true explanation of the state of affairs, and it will serve as a key where with to open up somewhat the mystery of subsequent events. There was no central power in Britain, no dominant minds, to whom other men generally gave heed, but the people were divided in their allegiance, and the chiefs were jealous of an intriguing against one another. Yet in the midst of the confusion arising from the partial statements, the misrepresentations, and the idle dreams of those who, hundreds of years after, proposed to write the history of that time, it is possible to make out some things which prove that the old spirit of sturdy independence yet survived, and that in this their transition state, the British showed something of the character which was afterwards to assume distinctness for as will speedily be seen, upwards of one hundred years had to elapse were they were subdued by the Saxons, and even then it was more of an amalgamation than a conquest. It is on this darkened theatre that some old writers have introduced those characters and actions which have afforded such ample matter to poets and so much perplexity to historians. This is the fabulous and heroic age of our nation.
Chapter 1, The Saxons
Divided State of British Tribes
Chapter 1, The Saxon Kingdoms
Chapter 1, Introduction of Christianity
Categories: Book 2