Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

Early Britain--Roman Britain by Edward Conybeare

Part 3 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

chance was in steadiness and disciplined valour; and the legionaries
stood firm under a storm of missiles, withholding their own fire
till the foe came within close range. Then, and not till then, they
delivered a simultaneous discharge of their terrible _pila_[180] on
the British centre. The front gave with the volley, and the Romans, at
once wheeling into wedge-shape formation, charged sword in hand into
the gap, and cut the British line clean in two. Behind it was a laager
of wagons, containing their families and spoil, and there the Britons
made a last attempt to rally. But the furious Romans entered the
enclosure with them, and the fight became a simple massacre. No
fewer than eighty thousand fell, and the very horses and oxen were
slaughtered by the maddened soldiery to swell the heaps of slain.
Boadicea, broken-hearted, died by poison; and (being reinforced by
troops from Germany) Suetonius proceeded "to make a desert and call it

E. 13.--The punishment he dealt out to the revolted districts was
so remorseless that the new Procurator, Julius Classicianus, sent a
formal complaint to Rome on the suicidal impolicy of his superior's
measures. Nero, however, did not mend matters by sending (like
Claudius) a freed-man favourite as Royal Commissioner to supersede
Suetonius. Polycletus was received with derision both by Roman and
Briton, and Suetonius remained acting Governor till the wreck of some
warships afforded an excuse for a peremptory order to "hand over
the command" to Petronius Turpilianus. Fighting now ceased by mutual
consent; and this disgraceful slackness was called by the new Governor
"Peace with Honour" [_honestum pacis nomen segni otio imposuit_].


Civil war--Otho and Vitellius--Army of
Britain--Priscus--Agricola--Vespasian Emperor--Cerealis--Brigantes put
down--Frontinus--Silurians put down--Agricola Pro-praetor--Ordovices
put down--Pacification of South Britain--Roman civilization
introduced--Caledonian campaign--Galgacus--Agricola's
rampart--Domitian--Resignation and death of Agricola.

F. 1.--Disgraceful as the policy of Petronius seemed to Tacitus
(under the inspiration probably of his father-in-law Agricola), it did
actually secure for Britain several years of much-needed peace. Not
till the months of confusion which followed the death of Nero [June
10, A.D. 68] did any native rising take place, and then only in Wales
and the north. The Roman Army of Britain was thus free to take sides
in the contest for the throne between Otho and Vitellius, of which all
that could be predicted was that the victor would be the worse of the
two [_deteriorem fore quisquis vicisset_]. They were, however, so
much ahead of their date that, before accepting this alternative,
they actually thought of setting up an Emperor of their own, after the
fashion so freely followed in later centuries. Fortunately the popular
subaltern [[Greek: hupostrategos]] on whom their choice fell, one
Priscus, had the sense to see that the time was not yet come for such
action, and sarcastically refused the crown. "I am no more fit," he
said, "to be an Emperor [[Greek: autokrator]]than you to be soldiers."
The army now proceeded to "sit on the fence"; some legions, notably
the famous Fourteenth, slightly inclined to Otho, others to Vitellius,
till their hesitation was ended by their own special hero, Vespasian,
fresh from his Judaean victories,[182] coming forward as Pretender.
Agricola, now in command of the Twentieth, at once declared for him,
and the other legions followed suit--the Fourteenth being gratified by
the title "_Victores Britannici_," officially conferred upon them by
the Emperor's new Pro-praetor, Petilius Cerealis.

F. 2.--We now enter upon the last stage of the fifty years' struggle
made by British patriots before they finally bowed to the Roman
yoke. The glory of ending the long conflict is due to Agricola,
whose praises are chronicled by his son-in-law Tacitus, and who does
actually seem to have been a very choice example of Roman virtue and
ability. The Army of Britain had been his training school in
military life, and successive commanders had recognized his merits by
promotion. Now his superiors gave him an almost independent command,
in which he showed himself as modest as he was able. Thanks to him,
Cerealis was able in A.D. 70 to end a Brigantian war (of which the
inevitable Cartismandua was the "_teterrima causa_" now no less than
twenty years earlier), and the next Pro-praetor, Frontinus, to put
down, in 75, the very last effort of the indomitable Silurians. Yet
another year, and he himself was made Military Governor of the island,
and set about the task of permanently consolidating it as a Roman
Province, with an insight all his own.

F. 3.--The only Britons yet in arms south of the Tyne were the
Ordovices of North Wales, who had lately cut to pieces a troop of
Roman cavalry. Agricola marched against them, and, by swimming
his horsemen across the Menai Straits, surprised their stronghold,
Anglesey, thus bringing about the same instant submission of the whole
clan which through the same tactics he had seen won, seventeen years
earlier, by Suetonius.

F. 4.--But Agricola was not, like Suetonius, a mere military
conqueror. He saw that Britons would never unfeignedly submit so
long as they were treated as slaves; and he set himself to remedy the
grievances under which the provincials so long had suffered. Military
licence, therefore, and civil corruption alike, he put down with
a resolute hand, never acting through intermediaries, but himself
investigating every complaint, rewarding merit, and punishing
offences. The vexatious monopolies which previous governors had
granted, he did away with; and, while he firmly dealt with every
symptom of disloyalty, his aim was "not penalty but penitence" [_nom
paena sed saepius paenitentia_]--penitence shown in a frank acceptance
of Roman civilization. Under his influence Roman temples, Roman
forums, Roman dwelling-houses, Roman baths and porticoes, rose all
over the land, and, above all, Roman schools, where the youth of the
upper classes learnt with pride to adopt the tongue[183] and dress of
their conquerors. It is appropriate that the only inscription
relating to him as yet found in Britain should be on two of the lead
water-pipes (discovered in 1899 and 1902) which supplied his new Roman
city (_Deva_) at Chester.[184]

F. 5.--This proved a far more effectual method of conquest than any
yet adopted, and Southern Britain became so quiet and contented that
Agricola could meditate an extension of the Roman sway over the wilder
regions to the north, and even over Ireland.[185] He did not, indeed,
actually accomplish either design, but he extended the Roman frontier
to the Forth, and carried the Roman arms beyond the Tay. The game,
however, proved not worth the candle. The regions penetrated were wild
and barren, the inhabitants ferocious savages, who defended themselves
with such fury that it was not worth while to subdue them.

F. 6.--The final battle [A.D. 84], somewhere near Inverness, is
described in minute and picturesque detail by Tacitus, who was
present. He shows us the slopes of the Grampians alive with the
Highland host, some on foot, some in chariots, armed with claymore,
dirk, and targe as in later ages. He puts into the mouth of the
leader, Galgacus, an eloquent summary of the motives which did really
actuate them, and he reports the exhortation to close the fifty years
of British warfare with a glorious victory which Agricola, no doubt,
actually addressed to his soldiers. He paints for us the wild charge
of the clans, the varying fortunes of the conflict (which at one point
was so doubtful that Agricola dismounted to fight on foot with his
men), and the final hopeless rout of the Caledonian army, with
the slaughter of ten thousand men; the Roman loss being under four
hundred--including one unlucky colonel [_praefectus cohortis_] whose
horse ran away with him into the enemy's ranks.

F. 7.--Agricola had now the prudence to draw his stakes while the game
was still in his favour. He sent his fleet north-about (thus, for the
first time, _proving_ Britain to be an island),[186] and marched his
army across to meet it on the Clyde, whence he had already drawn his
famous rampart to the Forth, henceforward to be the extreme limit of
Roman Britain.[187] His work was now done, and well done. He resigned
his Province, and returned to Rome, in time to avoid dismissal by
Domitian, to whom preeminent merit in any subject was matter for
jealous hatred,[188] and who now made Agricola report himself by
night, and received him without one word of commendation. Had his life
been prolonged he would undoubtedly have perished, like so many of the
best of the Roman aristocracy, by the despot's hands; but just before
the unrestrained outbreak of tyranny, he suddenly died--"_felix
opportunitate mortis_"--to be immortalized by the love and genius
of his daughter's husband. And he left Britain, as it had never been
before, truly within the comity of the Roman Empire.




Pacification of Britain--Roman roads--London their centre--Authority
for names--Watling Street--Ermine Street--Icknield Way.

A. 1.--The work of Agricola inaugurated in Britain that wonderful _Pax
Romana_ which is so unique a phenomenon in the history of the world.
That Peace was not indeed in our island so long continued or so
unbroken as in the Mediterranean lands, where, for centuries on end,
no weapon was used in anger. But even here swords were beaten into
ploughshares and spears into pruning-hooks to an extent never known
before or since in our annals. So profound was the quiet that for a
whole generation Britain vanishes from history altogether. All through
the Golden Age of Rome, the reigns of Nerva and Trajan, no writer
even names her; and not till A.D. 120 do we find so much as a passing
mention of our country. But we may be sure that under such rulers the
good work of Agricola was developing itself upon the lines he had laid
down, and that Roman civilization was getting an ever firmer hold. The
population was recovering from the frightful drain of the Conquest,
the waste cities were rebuilt, and new towns sprang up all over the
land, for the most part probably on old British sites, connected by
a network of roads, no longer the mere trackways of the Britons, but
"streets" elaborately constructed and metalled.

A. 2.--All are familiar with the Roman roads of Britain as they
figure on our maps. Like our present lines of railway, the main routes
radiate in all directions from London, and for a like reason; London
having been, in Roman days as now, the great commercial centre of the
country. The reason for this, that it was the lowest place where the
Thames could be bridged, we have already referred to.[189] We see the
_Watling Street_ roughly corresponding to the North-Western Railway on
one side of the metropolis, and to the South-Eastern on the other; the
_Ermine Street_ corresponding to the Great Northern Railway; while
the Great Western, the South-Western, the Great Eastern, and the
Portsmouth branch of the South Coast system are all represented in
like manner. We notice, perhaps, that, except the Watling Street and
the Ermine Street, all these routes are nameless; though we find four
minor roads with names crossing England from north-east to south-west,
and one from north-west to south-east. The former are the _Fosse
Way_ (from Grimsby on the Humber to Seaton on the Axe), the _Ryknield
Street_ (from Newcastle-on-Tyne to Caerleon-upon-Usk), the _Akeman
Street_ (from Wells on the Wash to Aust on the Severn), and the
_Icknield Way_ (from Norfolk to Dorset). The latter is the _Via
Devana_ (from Chester to Colchester).

A. 3.--It comes as a surprise to most when we learn that all these
names (except the Watling Street, the Fosse, and the Icknield Way
only) are merely affixed to their respective roads by the conjectures
of 17th-century antiquarianism, Gale being their special identifier.
The names themselves (except in the case of the Via Devana) are old,
and three of them, the Ermine Street, the Icknield Street, and the
Fosse Way, figure in the inquisition of 1070 as being, together with
the Watling Street, those of the Four Royal Roads (_quatuor chimini_)
of England, the King's Highways, exempt from local jurisdiction and
under the special guard of the King's Peace. Two are said to cross the
length of the land, two its breadth. But their identification (except
in the case of the main course of Watling Street) has been matter of
antiquarian dispute from the 12th century downwards.[190] The very
first chronicler who mentions them, Geoffrey of Monmouth, makes Ermine
Street run from St. David's to Southampton, Icknield Street from St.
David's to Newcastle, and the Fosse Way from Totnes in Devon to far
Caithness; and his error has misled many succeeding authorities. That
it _is_ an error, at least with regard to the Icknield Way and the
Fosse Way, is sufficiently proved by the various mediaeval charters
which mention these roads in connection with localities along their
course as assigned by our received geography.

As to the main Watling Street there is no dispute. Running right
across the island from the Irish Sea[191] to the Straits of Dover, it
suggested to the minds of our English ancestors the shining track of
the Milky Way from end to end of the heavens. Even so Chaucer, in his
'House of Fame,' sings:

"Lo there!" quod he, "cast up your eye,
Se yonder, lo! the Galaxie,
The whiche men clepe the Milky Way,
For it is white, and some, parfay,
Y-callen han it Watlinge-strete."

At Dover it still retains its name, and so it does in one part of its
course through London (which it enters as the Edgware Road, and leaves
as the Old Kent Road).[192]

A. 4.--This name, like that of the Ermine Street, is most probably
derived from Teutonic mythology; the "Watlings" being the patrons of
handicraft in the Anglo-Saxon Pantheon, and "Irmin" the War-god from
whom "Germany" is called.[193] There is no reason to suppose that
the roads of Britain had any Roman name, like those of Italy. The
designations given them by our English forefathers show how deeply
these mighty works impressed their imagination. The term "street"
which they adopted for them shows, as Professor Freeman has pointed
out, that such engineering ability was something quite new to their
experience.[194] It is the Latin "Via _strata_" Anglicized, and
describes no mere track, but the elaborately constructed Roman
causeway, along which the soft alluvium was first dug away, and
its place taken by layers of graduated road metal, with the surface
frequently an actual pavement.[195]

A. 5.--For the assignment of the name Ermine Street to the Great North
Road there is no ancient authority.[196] All we can say is that this
theory is more probable than that set forth by Geoffrey of Monmouth.
That the road existed in Roman times is certain, as London and York
were the two chief towns in the island; and direct communication
between them must have been of the first importance, both for military
and economical reasons. Indeed it is probably older yet. (See p. 117.)
But, with the exceptions already pointed out, the nomenclature of the
Romano-British roads is almost wholly guess-work. Some archaeological
maps show additional Watling Streets and Ermine Streets branching
in all directions over the land,[197] presumably on the authority of
local tradition. And these traditions may be not wholly unfounded;
for the same motives which made the English immigrants of one district
ascribe the handiwork of by-gone days to mythological powers might
operate to the like end in another.

A. 6.--The origin of the names Ryknield Street and Akeman Street
is beyond discovery;[198] but that of the Icknield Street is almost
undoubtedly due to its connection with the great Icenian tribe, to
whose territory it formed the only outlet.[199] By them, in the days
of their greatness, it was probably driven to the Thames, the more
southerly extension being perhaps later. It was never, as its present
condition abundantly testifies, made into a regular Roman "Street."
The final syllable may possibly, as Guest suggests, be the A.S. _hild_
= war.

A. 7.--Besides these main routes, a whole network of minor roads must
have connected the multitudinous villages and towns of Roman Britain,
a fact which is borne witness to by the very roundabout route often
given in the 'Itinerary' of Antoninus between places which we know
were directly connected.[200] Moreover this network must have been
at least as close as that of our present railways, and probably
approximated to that of our present roads.


Romano-British towns--Ancient lists--Methods of identification--Dense
rural population--Remains in Cam valley--Coins--Thimbles--Horseshoes.

B. 1.--Of these many Romano-British towns we have five contemporary
lists; those of Ptolemy in the 2nd century, of the Antonine
'Itinerary' in the 3rd, of the 'Notitia'[201] in the 5th, and those
of Nennius and of the Ravenna Geographer, composed while the memory of
the Roman occupation was still fresh. Ptolemy and Nennius profess to
give complete catalogues; the 'Itinerary' and 'Notitia' contain only
incidental references; while the Ravenna list, though far the most
copious, is expressly stated to be composed only of selected names. Of
these it has no fewer than 236, while the 'Notitia' gives 118, Ptolemy
60, and Nennius 28 (to which Marcus Anchoreta adds 5 more).

B. 2.--With this mass of material[202] it might seem to be an easy
task to locate every Roman site in Britain; especially as Ptolemy
gives the latitude (and sometimes the longitude[203] also) of every
place he mentions, and the 'Itinerary' the distances between its
stations. Unfortunately it is quite otherwise; and of the whole number
barely fifty can be at all certainly identified, while more than half
cannot even be guessed at with anything like reasonable probability.
To begin with, the text of every one of these authorities is corrupt
to a degree incredible; in Ptolemy we find _Nalkua_, for example,
where the 'Itinerary' and Ravenna lists give _Calleva_; _Simeni_
figures for _Iceni_, _Imensa_ for _Tamesis_. The 'Itinerary' itself
reads indiscriminately _Segeloco_ and _Ageloco_, _Lagecio_ and
_Legeolio_; and examples might be multiplied indefinitely. In Nennius,
particularly, the names are so disguised that, with two or three
exceptions, their identification is the merest guess-work; _Lunden_ is
unmistakable, and _Ebroauc_ is obviously York; but who shall say what
places lie hid under _Meguaid_, _Urnath_, _Guasmoric_, and _Celemon_?
And if this corruption is bad amongst the names, it absolutely runs
riot amongst the numbers, both in Ptolemy and the 'Itinerary,' so that
the degrees of the former and the distances of the latter are alike
grievously untrustworthy guides. Ptolemy, for example, says that the
longest day in London is 18 hours, an obvious mistake for 17, as the
context clearly shows. There is further the actual equation of error
in each authority: Ptolemy, for all his care, has confused
Exeter (_Isca Damnoniorum_) with the more famous _Isca Silurum_
(Caerleon-on-Usk); and there are blunders in his latitude and
longitude which cannot wholly be ascribed to textual corruption. Still
another difficulty is that then, as now, towns quite remote from each
other bore the same name, or names very similar. Not only were two
called _Isca_, but three were _Venta_, two _Calleva_, two _Segontium_,
and no fewer than seven _Magna_; while _Durobrivae_ is only too like
to _Durocobrivae_, _Margiodunum_ to _Moridunum_, _Durnovaria_ to
_Durovernum_, etc. The last name even gets confounded with _Dubris_ by

B. 3.--In all the lists we are struck by the extraordinary
preponderance of northern names. Half the sites given by Ptolemy lie
north of the Humber, and this is also the case with the Ravenna list,
while in the 'Notitia' the proportion is far greater. In the last case
this is due to the fact that the military garrisons, with which the
catalogue is concerned, were mainly quartered in the north, and a like
explanation probably holds good for the earlier and later lists
also. Nennius, as is to be expected, draws most of his names from the
districts which the Saxons had not yet reached; all being given with
the Celtic prefix _Caer_ (=city).

B. 4.--Amid all these snares the most certain identification of a
Roman site is furnished by the discovery of inscriptions relating to
the special troops with which the name is associated in historical
documents. When, for example, we find in the Roman station at
Birdoswald, on the Wall of Hadrian, an inscription recording the
occupation of the spot by a Dacian cohort, and read in the 'Notitia'
that such a cohort was posted at _Amboglanna per lineam Valli_, we
are sure that Amboglanna and Birdoswald are identical. This method,
unfortunately, helps us very little except on the Wall, for the
legionary inscriptions elsewhere are found in many places with which
history does not particularly associate the individual legions thus
commemorated.[204] However, the special number of such traces of the
Second Legion at Caerleon, the Twentieth at Chester, and the Sixth at
York, would alone justify us in certainly determining those places
to be the Isca, Deva, and Eboracum given as their respective
head-quarters in our documentary and historical evidence.

B. 5.--In the case of York another proof is available; for the name,
different as it sounds, can be traced, by a continuous stream of
linguistic development, through the Old English Eorfowic to the Roman
_Eboracum_. In the same way the name of _Dubris_ has unmistakably
survived in Dover, _Lemannae_ in Lympne, _Regulbium_ in Reculver.
_Colonia, Glevum_, _Venta, Corinium, Danum_, and _Mancunium_, with the
suffix "chester,"[205] have become Colchester, Gloucester, Winchester,
Cirencester, Doncaster, and Manchester. Lincoln is _Lindum Colonia_,
Richborough, _Ritupis_; while the phonetic value of the word London
has remained absolutely unaltered from the very first, and varies but
slightly even in its historical orthography.

B. 6.--With names of this class, of which there are about thirty,
for a starting-point, we can next, by the aid of our various lists
(especially Ptolemy's, which gives the tribe in which each town lies,
and the 'Itinerary'), assign, with a very high degree of probability,
some thirty more--similarity of name being still more or less of
a guide. For example, when midway between _Venta_ (Winchester) and
_Sorbiodunum_ (Sarum) the 'Itinerary' places _Brige_, and the name
_Broughton_ now occupies this midway spot, _Brige_ and _Broughton_ may
be safely assumed to be the same. This method shows Leicester to
be the Roman _Ratae_, Carlisle to be _Luguvallum_, Newcastle
_Pons Aelii_, etc., with so much probability that none of these
identifications have been seriously disputed amongst antiquaries;
while few are found to deny that Cambridge represents
_Camboricum_,[206] Huntingdon (or Godmanchester) _Durolipons_,
Silchester _Calleva_, etc. A list of all the sites which may be said
to be fairly certified will be found at the end of this chapter.

B. 7.--Beyond them we come to about as many more names in our ancient
catalogues of which all we can say is that we know the district to
which they belong, and may safely apply them to one or other of the
existing Roman sites in that district; the particular application
being disputed with all the heat of the _odium archaeologicum_. Thus
_Bremetonacum_ was certainly in Lancashire; but whether it is
now Lancaster, or Overborough, or Ribchester, we will not say;
_Caesaromagum_ was certainly in Essex; but was it Burghstead, Widford,
or Chelmsford? And was the original _Camalodunum_ at Colchester,
Lexden, or Maldon?

B. 8.--And, yet further, we find, especially in the Ravenna list,
multitudes of names with nothing whatever to tell us of their
whereabouts; though nearly all have been seized upon by rival
antiquaries, and ascribed to this, that, and the other of the endless
Roman sites which meet us all over the country.[207]

B. 9.--For it must be remembered that there are very few old towns in
England where Roman remains have not been found, often in profusion;
and even amongst the villages such finds are exceedingly common
wherever excavations on any large scale have been undertaken. Thus
in the Cam valley, where the "coprolite" digging[208] resulted in
the systematic turning over of a considerable area, their number
is astounding, proving the existence of a teeming population. Many
thousands of coins were turned up, scarcely ever in hordes, but
scattered singly all over the land, testifying to the amount of petty
traffic which must have gone on generation after generation. For these
coins are very rarely of gold or silver, and amongst them are found
the issues of every Roman Emperor from Augustus to Valentinian III.
And, besides the coins, the soil was found to teem with fragments of
Roman pottery; while the many "ashpits" discovered--as many as thirty
in a single not very large field--have furnished other articles of
domestic use, such as thimbles.[209] Even horseshoes have been found,
though their use only came in with the 5th century of our era.[210]

B. 10.--Now there is no reason for supposing that the Cam valley was
in any way an exceptionally prosperous or populous district in the
Roman period. It contained but one Roman town of even third-class
importance, Cambridge, and very few of the "villas" in which the
great landed proprietors resided. The wealth of remains which it has
furnished is merely a by-product of the "coprolite" digging, and it
is probable that equally systematic digging would have like results in
almost any alluvial district in the island. We may therefore regard
it as fairly established that these districts were as thickly peopled
under the Romans as at any other period of history, and that the
agricultural population of our island has never been larger than in
the 3rd and 4th centuries, till its great development in the 19th.


Fortification of towns late--Chief Roman
centres--London--York--Chester--Bath--Silchester--Remains there
found--Romano-British handicrafts--Pottery--Basket work--Mining--Rural
life--Villas--Forests--Hunting dogs--Husbandry--Britain under the _Pax

C. 1.--The profound peace which reigned in these rural districts is
shown by the fact that Roman weapons are the rarest of all finds, far
less common than the earlier British or the ensuing Saxon.[211] At the
same time it is worthy of note that every Roman town which has been
excavated has been found to be fortified, often on a most formidable
scale. Thus at London there still remains visible a sufficiently large
fragment of the wall to show that it must have been at least thirty
feet high, while that of Silchester was nine feet thick, with a fosse
of no less than thirty yards in width. And at Cirencester the river
Churn or Corin (from which the town took its name _Corinium_) was made
to flow round the ramparts, which consisted first of an outer
facing of stone, then of a core of concrete, and finally an earthen
embankment within, the whole reaching a width of at least four yards.
It is probable, however, that these defences, like those of so many of
the Gallic cities, and like the Aurelian walls of Rome itself; belong
to the decadent period of Roman power, and did not exist (except
in the northern garrisons and the great legionary stations, York,
Chester, and Caerleon) during the golden age of Roman Britain.[212]

C. 2.--Their circuit, where it has been traced, furnishes a rough
gauge of the comparative importance of the Roman towns of Britain.
Far at the head stands London, where the names of Ludgate, Newgate,
Aldersgate, Moorgate, Bishopsgate, and Aldgate still mark the ancient
boundary line, five miles in extent (including the river-front),
nearly twice that of any other town.[213] And abundant traces of the
existence of a flourishing suburb have been discovered on the southern
bank of the river. To London ran nearly all the chief Roman roads, and
the shapeless block now called London Stone was once the _Milliarium_
from which the distances were reckoned along their course throughout
the land.[214]

C. 3.--The many relics of the Roman occupation to be seen in the
Museum at the Guildhall bear further testimony to the commercial
importance of the City in those early days, an importance primarily
due, as we have already seen, to the natural facilities for crossing
the Thames at London Bridge.[215] The greatness of Roman London seems,
however, to have been purely commercial. We do not even know that it
was the seat of government for its own division of Britain. It was
not a Colony, nor (in spite of the exceptional strength of the site,
surrounded, as it was, by natural moats)[216] does it ever appear as
of military importance till the campaign of Theodosius at the very end
of the chapter.[217] In the 'Notitia' it figures as the head-quarters
of the Imperial Treasury, and about the same date we learn that the
name Augusta had been bestowed upon the town, as on Caerleon and on
so many others throughout the Empire, though the older "London" still
remained unforgotten.[218]

C. 4.--But, so far as Britain had a recognized capital at all,
York and not London best deserved that name. For here was the chief
military nerve-centre of the land, the head-quarters of the Army,
where the Commander-in-Chief found himself in ready touch with the
thick array of garrisons holding every strategic point along the
various routes by which any invader who succeeded in forcing the Wall
would penetrate into the land. At York, accordingly, the Emperors who
visited Britain mostly held their court; beginning with Hadrian, who
here established the Sixth Legion which he had brought over with him,
possibly incorporating with it the remains of the Ninth, traces of
which are here found. And here it remained permanently quartered to
the very end of the Roman occupation, as abundant inscriptions,
etc. testify. One of these, found in the excavations for the railway
station, is a brass tablet with a dedication (in Greek) to _The
Gods of the Head Praetorium_ [[Greek: theois tois tou haegemonikou
praitoriou]], bearing witness to the essential militarism of the city.

C. 5.--A Praetorium, moreover, was not merely a military centre. It
was also, as at Jerusalem, a Judgment Hall; and here, probably, the
_Juridicus Britanniae_[219] exercised his functions, which would
seem to have been something resembling those of a Lord Chief Justice.
Precedents laid down by his Court are quoted as still in force even by
the Codex of Justinian (555). One of these incidentally lets us know
that the Romans kept up not only a British Army, but a British Fleet
in being.[220] The latter, probably, as well as the former, had its
head-quarters at York, where the Ouse of old furnished a far more
available waterway than now. Even so late as 1066 the great fleet of
Harold Hardrada could anchor only a few miles off, at Riccall: and
there is good evidence that in the Roman day the river formed an
extensive "broad" under the walls of York itself. As at Portsmouth and
Plymouth to-day, the presence of officers and seamen of the Imperial
Navy must have added to the military bustle in the streets of
Eboracum; while tesselated pavements, unknown in the ruder fortresses
of the Wall, testify to the softer side of social life in a garrison

C. 6.--Chester [Deva] was also a garrison town, the head-quarters
of the Twentieth Legion; so was Caerleon-upon-Usk [Isca], with the
Second. A detachment was almost certainly detailed from one or other
of these to hold Wroxeter [Uriconium], midway between them;[221] thus
securing the line of the Marches between the wild districts of Wales
and the more fertile and settled regions eastward. And the name of
Leicester records the fact (not otherwise known to us) that here too
was a military centre; probably sufficient to police the rest of the

C. 7.--Gloucester, Colchester, and Lincoln, as being Colonies, may
have been also, perhaps, always fortified, and possibly garrisoned.
But in the ordinary Romano-British town, such as London,
Silchester, or Bath,[223] the life was probably wholly civilian.
The fortifications, if the place ever had any, were left to decay
or removed, the soldiery were withdrawn or converted into a mere
_gendarmerie_, and under the shield of the _Pax Romana_, the towns
were as open as now. And as little as now did they look forward to
a time when each would have to become a strongly-held place of arms
girded in by massive ramparts, yet destined to prove all too weak
against the sweep of barbarian invasion.

C. 8.--On most of these sites continuous occupation for many
subsequent ages has blotted out the vestiges of their Roman day. Every
town has a tendency literally to bury its past; and the larger the
town the deeper the burial. Thus at London the Roman pavements, etc.
found are some twenty feet below the present surface, at Lincoln some
six or seven, and so forth. To learn how a Roman town was actually
laid out we must have recourse to those places which for some reason
have not been resettled since their destruction at the Anglo-Saxon
conquest, such as Wroxeter and Silchester, where the remains
accordingly lie only a foot or two below the ground. The former has
been little explored, but the latter has for the last ten years
been systematically excavated under the auspices of the Society of
Antiquaries, the portions unearthed being reburied year by year, after
careful examination and record.[224]

C. 9.--The greater part of the site has thus been already (1903) dealt
with; proving the town to have been laid out on a regular plan, with
straight streets dividing it, like an American city, into rectangular
blocks. Twenty-eight of these have, so far, been excavated. They are
from 100 to 150 yards in length and breadth, arranged, like the blocks
in a modern town, with houses all round, and a central space for
gardens, back-yards, etc. The remains found (including coins from
Caligula to Arcadius) prove that the site was occupied during the
whole of the Roman period. Originally it was, in all probability, one
of the towns built for the Britons by Agricola[225] on the distinctive
Roman pattern, with a central forum, town hall, baths, temples, and an
amphitheatre outside the city limits.

C. 10.--The forum was flanked by a vast basilica, no less than 325
feet in length by 125 in breadth, with apses of 39 feet radius.[226] A
smaller edifice of basilican type is generally supposed to have been
a Christian church. It stands east and west, and consists of a nave 30
feet long by 10 broad, flanked by 5-feet aisles, with a narthex of 7
feet (extending right across the building) at the east end, and at
the west an apse of 10 feet radius, having in the centre a tesselated
pavement 6 feet square, presumably for the Altar.[227]

C. 11.--The main street of Silchester ran east and west, and _may_
have been the main road from London to Bath; while that which crosses
it at the forum was perhaps an extension of the Icknield Way
from Wallingford to Winchester. A third road led straight to Old
Sarum,[228] and there may have been others. Silchester lies about
half-way between Reading and Basingstoke.

C. 12.--The relics of domestic life found indicate a high order of
peaceful civilization. Abundance of domestic pottery (some of it
the glazed ware manufactured at Caistor on the Nen), many bones
of domestic animals (amongst them the cat),[229] finger-rings
with engraved gems, and the like, have been discovered in the old
wells[230] and ashpits. More remarkable was the unearthing (in 1899)
of the plant of a silver refinery,[231] showing that the method
employed was analogous to that in vogue amongst the Japanese to-day,
and that bone-ash was used in the construction of the hearths.[232]
The houses were mainly built of red clay (on a foundation wall of
flint and mortar) filled into a timber frame-work and supported by
lath or wattle. The exterior was stamped with ornamental patterns,
as in modern "parjetting" (which may thus very possibly be an actual
survival from Roman days). This clay has in most cases soaked away
into a mere layer of red mud overlying the pavements; but in 1901
there was unearthed a house in which a fortunate fire had calcined it
into permanent brick, still retaining the parjetting and the impress
of wattle and timber. But the whole site has not provided a single
weapon of any sort or kind, and the construction of the defences
clearly shows that they formed no part of the original plan on which
the place was laid out.[233] They were probably, as we have said,
added at the break up of the Pax Romana.

C. 13.--With the exception of the silver refinery above mentioned,
nothing has appeared to tell us what handicrafts were practised
at Silchester; but such industries formed a noteworthy feature of
Romano-British life. Naturally the largest traces have been left in
connection with that most imperishable of all commodities, pottery.
The kilns where it was made are frequently met with in excavations;
and individual vases, jugs,[234] cups, and amphorae (often of very
large dimensions) constantly appear. Many of these are beautifully
modelled and finished, and not unseldom glazed in various ways. But
there is no evidence that the delicate "Samian" ware[235] was ever
manufactured in Britain, though every house of any pretensions
possessed a certain store of it. The indigenous art of
basket-making[236] also continued as a speciality of Britain under the
Romans, and the indigenous mining for tin, lead, iron, and copper was
developed by them on the largest scale. In every district where these
metals are found, in Cornwall, in Somerset, in Wales, in Derbyshire,
and in Sussex, traces of Roman work are apparent, dating from the very
beginning of the occupation to the very end. The earliest known
Roman inscription found in Britain is one of A.D. 49 (the year before
Ostorius subdued the Iceni) on a pig of lead from the Mendips,[237]
and similar pigs bearing the Labarum, _i.e._ not earlier than
Constantine presumably, have been dredged up in the Thames below
London.[238] Inscriptions also survive to tell us of a few amongst
the many other trades which must have figured in Romano-British
life,--goldsmiths, silversmiths, iron-workers, stone-cutters,
sculptors, architects, eye-doctors, are all thus commemorated.[239]

C. 14.--But then, as always, the life of Britain was mainly rural. The
evidence for this unearthed in the Cam valley has already been spoken
of, and in every part of England the "villas" of the great Roman
landowners are constantly found. Hundreds have already been
discovered, and year by year the list is added to. One of the most
recent of the finds is that at Greenwich in 1901, and the best known,
perhaps, that at Brading in the Isle of Wight. Here, as elsewhere,
the tesselated pavements, the elaborate arrangements for warming (by
hypocausts conveying hot air to every room), the careful laying out of
the apartments, all testify to the luxury in which these old landlords
lived. For the "villa" was the Squire's Hall of the period, and was
provided, like the great country houses of to-day, with all the best
that contemporary life could give.[240] And, like these also, it was
the centre of a large circle of humbler dependencies wherein resided
the peasantry of the estate and the domestics of the mansion.[241] The
existence amongst these of huntsmen (as inscriptions tell) reminds
us that not only was the chase, then as now, popular amongst the
squirearchy, but that there was a far larger scope for its exercise.
Great forests still covered a notable proportion of the soil (the
largest being that which spread over the whole Weald of Sussex)[242],
and were tenanted by numberless deer and wild swine, along with the
wolves, and, perhaps, bears,[243] that fed upon them.

C. 15.--Hence it came about that during the Roman occupation the
British products we find most spoken of by classical authors are the
famous breeds of hunting-dogs produced by our island. Oppian[244]
[A.D. 140] gives a long description of one sort, which he describes
as small [Greek: _baion_], awkward [Greek: _guron_], long-bodied,
rough-haired, not much to look at, but excellent at scenting out their
game and tackling it when found--like our present otter-hounds. The
native name for this strain was Agasseus. Nemesianus[245] [A.D. 280]
sings the swiftness of British hounds; and Claudian[246] refers to a
more, formidable kind, used for larger game, equal indeed to pulling
down a bull. He is commonly supposed to mean some species of mastiff;
but, according to Mr. Elton[247] mastiffs are a comparatively recent
importation from Central Asia, so that a boarhound of some sort is
more probably intended, such as may be seen depicted (along with its
smaller companion) on the fine tesselated pavement preserved in the
Corinium Museum at Cirencester.[248] Whatever the creature was, it is
probably the same as the Scotch "fighting dog," which figures in the
4th century polemics as a huge massive brute of savage temper[249]
and evil odour,[250] to which accordingly controversialists rejoice
in likening their ecclesiastical opponents.[251] Jerome incidentally
tells us that "Alpine" dogs were of this Scotch breed, which thus may
possibly be the original strain now developed into the St. Bernard.

C. 16.--But the existence of such tracts of forest, even when very
extensive, is quite compatible (as the present state of France shows
us) with a highly developed civilization, and a population thick upon
the ground. And that a very large area of our soil came to be under
the plough at least before the Roman occupation ended is proved by the
fact that eight hundred wheat-ships were dispatched from this island
by Julian the Apostate for the support of his garrisons in Gaul. The
terms in which this transaction is recorded suggest that wheat was
habitually exported (on a smaller scale, doubtless) from Britain to
the Continent. At all events enough was produced for home consumption,
and under the shadow of the Pax Romana the wild and warlike
Briton became a quiet cultivator of the ground, a peaceful and not
discontented dependent of the all-conquering Power which ruled the
whole civilized world.

C. 17.--In the country the husbandman ploughed and sowed and reaped
and garnered,[252] sometimes as a freeholder, oftener as a tenant;
the miller was found upon every stream; the fisher baited his hook and
cast his net in fen and mere; the Squire hunted and feasted amid his
retainers (who were usually slaves); his wife and daughters occupied
themselves in the management of the house. The language of Rome
was everywhere spoken, the literature of Rome was read amongst the
educated classes; while amongst the peasantry the old Celtic tongue,
and with it, we may be sure, the old Celtic legends and songs, held
its own. Intercourse was easy between the various districts; for along
every great road a series of posting-stations, each with its stud of
relays, was available for the service of travellers. In the towns were
to be found schools, theatres, and courts of justice, with shops of
every sort and kind, while travelling pedlars supplied the needs of
the rural districts. No one, except actual soldiers, dreamt of bearing
arms, or indeed was allowed to do so,[253] and the general aspect of
the land was as wholly peaceful as now. But every one had to pay a
substantial proportion of his income in taxes, in the collection of
which there was not seldom a notable amount of corruption, as amongst
the publicans of Judaea. In the bad days of the decadence this became
almost intolerable;[254] but so long as the central administration
retained its integrity the amount exacted was no more than left to
every class a fair margin for the needs, and even the enjoyments, of


The unconquered North--Hadrian's Wall--Upper and Lower
Britain--Romano-British coinage--Wall of Antoninus--Britain

D. 1.--The weak point of all this peaceful development was that the
northern regions of the island remained unsubdued. It was all very
well for the Roman Treasury, with true departmental shortsightedness,
to declare (as Appian[255] reports) that North Britain was a worthless
district, which could never be profitable [Greek: [_euphoron_]] to
hold. The cost would have been cheap in the end. All through the Roman
occupation it was from the north that trouble was liable to arise,
and ultimately it was the ferocious independence of the Highland clans
that brought Roman Britain to its doom. The Saxons, as tradition tells
us, would never have been invited into the land but for the ravages
of these Picts; and, in sober history, it may well be doubted whether
they could ever have effected a permanent settlement here had not the
Britons, in defending our shores, been constantly exposed to Pictish
attacks from the rear.

D. 2.--Thus our earliest notice of Britain in this period tells us
that Hadrian (A.D. 120), our first Imperial visitor since Claudius
(A.D. 44), found it needful (after a revolt which cost many lives,
and involved, as it seems, the final destruction of the unlucky Ninth
Legion, which had already fared so badly in Boadicea's rebellion[256])
to supplement Agricola's rampart, between Forth and Clyde, with
another from sea to sea, between Tynemouth and Solway, "dividing the
Romans from the barbarians."[257] This does not mean that the district
thus isolated was definitely abandoned,[258] but that its inhabitants
were so imperfectly Romanized that the temptation to raid the more
civilized lands to the south had better be obviated. The Wall of
Hadrian marked the real limit of Roman Britain: beyond it was a
"march," sometimes strongly, more often feebly, garrisoned, but never
effectually occupied, much less civilized. The inhabitants, indeed,
seem to have rapidly lost what civilization they had. Dion Cassius
describes them, in the next generation, as far below the Caledonians
who opposed Agricola, a mere horde of squalid and ferocious
cannibals,[259] going into battle stark-naked (like their descendants
the Galwegians a thousand years later),[260] having neither chief nor
law, fields nor houses. The name Attacotti, by which they came finally
to be known, probably means _Tributary_, and describes their nominal
status towards Rome.

D. 3.--How hopeless the task of effectually incorporating these
barbarians within the Empire appeared to Hadrian is shown by the
extraordinary massiveness of the Wall which he built[261] to keep them
out from the civilized Provinces[262] to the southwards. "Uniting the
estuaries of Tyne and Solway it chose the strongest line of defence
available. Availing itself of a series of bold heights, which slope
steadily to the south, but are craggy precipices to the north, as if
designed by Nature for this very purpose, it pursued its mighty course
across the isthmus with a pertinacious, undeviating determination
which makes its remains unique in Europe, and one of the most
inspiriting scenes in Britain."[263] Its outer fosse (where the nature
of the ground permits) is from 30 to 40 feet wide and some 20 deep, so
sloped that the whole was exposed to direct fire from the Wall,
from which it is separated by a small glacis [_linea_] 10 or 12 feet
across. Beyond it the upcast earth is so disposed as to form the
glacis proper, for about 50 feet before dipping to the general ground
level. The Wall itself is usually 8 feet thick, the outer and inner
faces formed of large blocks of freestone, with an interior core of
carefully-filled-in rubble. The whole thus formed a defence of the
most formidable character, testifying strongly to the respect in which
the valour of the Borderers against whom it was constructed was held
by Hadrian and his soldiers.[264]

D. 4.--This expedition of Hadrian is cited by his biographer, Aelius
Spartianus, as the most noteworthy example of that invincible activity
which led him to take personal cognizance of every region in his
Empire: "_Ante omnes enitebatur ne quid otiosum vel emeret aliquando
vel pasceret."_ His contempt for slothful self-indulgence finds vent
in his reply to the doggerel verses of Florus, who had written:

_Ego nolo Caesar esse, ["To be Caesar I'd not care,
Ambulare per Britannos, Through the Britons far to fare,
Scythicas pati pruinas_. Scythian frost and cold to bear."]

Hadrian made answer:

_Ego nolo Florus esse, ["To be Florus I'd not care,
Ambulare per tabernas, Through the tavern-bars to fare,
Cimices pati rotundas_. Noxious insect-bites to bear."]

To us its special interest (besides the Wall) is found in the bronze
coins commemorating the occasion, the first struck with special
reference to Britain since those of Claudius. These are of various
types, but all of the year 120 (the third Consulate of Hadrian); and
the reverse mostly represents the figure so familiar on our present
bronze coinage, Britannia, spear in hand, on her island rock, with her
shield beside her.[265] This type was constantly repeated with slight
variations in the coinage of the next hundred years; and thus, when,
after an interval of twelve centuries, the British mint began once
more, in the reign of Charles the Second, to issue copper, this device
was again adopted, and still abides with us. The very large number of
types (approaching a hundred) of the Romano-British coinage, from this
reign to that of Caracalla, shows that Hadrian inaugurated the system
of minting coins not only with reference to Britain, but for special
local use. They were doubtless struck within the island; but we can
only conjecture where the earliest mints were situated.

D. 5.--Twenty years after Hadrian's visit we again find (A.D.
139) some little trouble in the north, owing to a feud between the
Brigantes and Genuini, a clan of whom nothing is known but the name.
The former seem to have been the aggressors, and were punished by the
confiscation of a section of their territory by Lollius Urbicus,
the Legate of Antoninus Pius; who further "shut off the excluded
barbarians by a turf wall" (_muro cespitio submotis[266] barbaris
ducto_). The context connects this operation with the Brigantian
troubles; but it is certain that Lollius repaired and strengthened
Agricola's rampart between Forth and Clyde. His name is found in
inscriptions along that line,[267] and that of Antoninus is frequent.
This work consisted of a _vallum_ some 40 miles in length, from
Carriden to Dumbarton, with fortified posts at frequent intervals.
It is locally known as "Graham's Dyke," and, since 1890, has been
systematically explored by the Glasgow Archaeological Society. It is
in the strictest sense "a turf wall"--no mere grass-grown earthwork,
but regularly built of squared sods in place of stones (sometimes on
a stone base). Roman engineers looked upon such a rampart as being the
hardest of all to construct.


Commodus Britannicus--Ulpius Marcellus--Murder of Perennis--Era of
military turbulence--Pertinax--Albinus--British Army defeated at
Lyons--Severus--Caledonian war--Severus overruns Highlands.

E. 1.--It may very probably be owing to the energy of Lollius that
Britain, "Upper" and "Lower" together as it seems, as inscriptions
tell us, was about this date ranked amongst the Senatorial Provinces
of the Empire, the Pro-consul being C. Valerius Pansa. That it should
have been made a Pro-consulate shows (as is pointed out on p. 142)
that they were now considered amongst the more peaceful governorships.
In fact, though some slight disturbances threatened at the death of
Antoninus (A.D. 161), the country remained quiet till Commodus came to
the throne (A.D. 180). Then, however, we hear of a serious inroad of
the northern barbarians, who burst over the Roman Wall and were not
repulsed without a hard campaign. The Roman commander was Ulpius
Marcellus, a harsh but devoted officer, who fared like a common
soldier, and insisted on the strictest vigilance, being himself "the
most sleepless of generals."[268] The British Army, accordingly, swore
by him, and were minded to proclaim him Emperor,[2] a matter which
all but cost him his life at the hands of Commodus; who, however,
contented himself with assuming, like Claudius, the title of
Britannicus, in virtue of this success.[2] The further precaution was
taken of cashiering not only Ulpius but all the superior officers
of this dangerous army; men of lower rank and less influence being
substituted. The soldiers, however, defeated the design by breaking
out into open mutiny, and tearing to pieces the "enemy of the Army,"
Perennis, Praefect of the Praetorian Guards, who had been sent from
Rome (A.D. 185) to carry out the reform.[269]

E. 2.--This episode shows us how great a solidarity the Army of
Britain had by this time developed. It was always the policy of
Imperial Rome to recruit the forces stationed throughout the Provinces
not from the natives around them, but from those of distant regions.
Inscriptions tell that the British Legions were chiefly composed of
Spaniards, Aquitanians, Gauls, Frisians, Dalmatians, and Dacians;
while from the 'Notitia' we know that, in the 5th century, such
distant countries as Mauretania, Libya, and even Assyria,[270]
furnished contingents. Britons, in turn, served in Gaul, Spain,
Illyria, Egypt, and Armenia, as well as in Rome itself.

E. 3.--The outburst which led to the slaughter of Perennis was but the
dawn of a long era of military turbulence in Britain. First came the
suppression of the revolt A.D. 187 by the new Legate,[271] Pertinax,
who, at the peril of his life, refused the purple offered him by the
mutineers,[272] and drafted fifteen hundred of the ringleaders into
the Italian service of Commodus;[273] then Commodus died (A.D. 192),
and Pertinax became one of the various pretenders to the Imperial
throne; then followed his murder by Julianus, while Albinus succeeded
to his pretensions as well as to his British government; then that of
Julianus by Severus; then the desperate struggle between Albinus and
Severus for the Empire; the crushing defeat (A.D. 197) of the British
Army at Lyons, the death of Albinus,[274] and the final recognition of
Severus[275] as the acknowledged ruler of the whole Roman world.

E. 4.--Of all the Roman Emperors Severus is the most closely connected
with Britain. The long-continued political and military confusion
amongst the conquerors had naturally excited the independent tribes
of the north. In A.D. 201 the Caledonians beyond Agricola's rampart
threatened it so seriously that Vinius Lupus, the Praetor, was fain
to buy off their attack; and, a few years later, they actually joined
hands with the nominally subject Meatae within the Pale, who thereupon
broke out into open rebellion, and, along with them, poured down upon
the civilized districts to the south. So extreme was the danger that
the Prefect of Britain sent urgent dispatches to Rome, invoking the
Emperor's own presence with the whole force of the Empire.

E. 5.--Severus, in spite of age and infirmity,[276] responded to the
call, and, in a marvellously short time, appeared in Britain, bringing
with him his worthless sons, Caracalla[277] and Geta[278]--"my
Antonines," as he fondly called them,[279] though his life was already
embittered by their wickedness,--and Geta's yet more worthless mother,
Julia Domna. Leaving her and her son in charge south of Hadrian's
Wall, Severus and Caracalla undertook a punitive expedition[280]
beyond it, characterized by ferocity so exceptional[281] that the
names both of Caledonians and Meatae henceforward disappear from
history. The Romans on this occasion penetrated further than even
Agricola had gone, and reached Cape Wrath, where Severus made careful
astronomical observations.[282]

E. 6.--But the cost was fearful. Fifty thousand Roman soldiers
perished through the rigour of the climate and the wiles of the
desperate barbarians; and Severus felt the north so untenable that he
devoted all his energies to strengthening Hadrian's Wall,[283] so as
to render it an impregnable barrier beyond which the savages might be
allowed to range as they pleased.[284]

E. 7.--In what, exactly, his additions consisted we do not know, but
they were so extensive that his name is no less indissolubly connected
with the Wall than that of Hadrian. The inscriptions of the latter
found in the "Mile Castles" show that the line was his work, and
that he did not merely, as some have thought, build the series of
"stations" to support the "Vallum." But it is highly probable that
Severus so strengthened the Wall both in height and thickness as to
make it[285] far more formidable than Hadrian had left it. For now it
was intended to be the actual _limes_ of the Empire.


Severus completes Hadrian's Wall--Mile
theories--Evidence--Remains--Coins--Altars--Mithraism--Inscription to
Julia Domna--"Written Rock" on Gelt--Cilurnum aqueduct.

F. 1.--It is to Severus, therefore, that we owe the final development
of this magnificent rampart, the mere remains of which are impressive
so far beyond all that description or drawing can tell. Only those
who have stood upon the heights by Peel Crag and seen the long line of
fortification crowning ridge after ridge in endless succession as
far as the eye can reach, can realize the sense of the vastness and
majesty of Roman Imperialism thus borne in upon the mind. And if this
is so now that the Wall is a ruin scarcely four feet high, and, but
for its greater breadth, indistinguishable from the ordinary local
field-walls, what must it have been when its solid masonry rose to
a height of over twenty feet; with its twenty-three strong
fortresses[286] for the permanent quarters of the garrison, its
great gate-towers[287] at every mile for the accommodation of the
detachments on duty, and its series of watch-turrets which, at every
three or four hundred yards, placed sentinels within sight and call of
each other along the whole line from sea to sea?

F. 2.--Of all this swarming life no trace now remains. So entirely did
it cease to be that the very names of the stations have left no shadow
of memories on their sites. Luguvallum at the one end, and Pons
Aelii at the other, have revived into importance as Carlisle and
Newcastle,[288] but of the rest few indeed remain save as solitary
ruins on the bare Northumbrian fells tenanted only by the flock and
the curlew. But this very solitude in which their names have perished
has preserved to us the means of recovering them. Thanks to it there
is no part of Britain so rich in Roman remains and Roman inscriptions.
At no fewer than twelve of these "stations" such have been already
found relating to troops whom we know from the 'Notitia' to have been
quartered at given spots _per lineam valli_. A Dacian cohort (for
example) has thus left its mark at Birdoswald, and an Asturian
at Chesters, thereby stamping these sites as respectively the
_Amboglanna_ and _Cilurnum_, whose Dacian and Asturian garrisons the
'Notitia' records. The old walls of Cilurnum, moreover, are still
clothed with a pretty little Pyrenaean creeper, _Erinus Hispanicus_,
which these Asturian exiles must have brought with them as a memorial
of their far-off home.

F. 3.--Many such small but vivid touches of the past meet those who
visit the Wall. At "King Arthur's Well," for example, near Thirlwall,
the tiny chives growing in the crevices of the rock are presumably
descendants of those acclimatized there by Roman gastronomy. At
Borcovicus ("House-steads") the wheel-ruts still score the pavement;
at Cilurnum the hypocaust of the bath is still blackened with smoke,
and at various points the decay of Roman prestige is testified to by
the walling up of one half or the other in the wide double gates which
originally facilitated the sorties of the garrisons.

F. 4.--The same decay is probably the key to the problem of the
"Vallum," that standing crux to all archaeological students of the
Wall. Along the whole line this mysterious earthwork keeps company
with the Wall on the south, sometimes in close contact, sometimes
nearly a mile distant. It has been diversely explained as an earlier
British work, as put up by the Romans to cover the fatigue-parties
engaged in building the Wall, and as a later erection intended to
defend the garrison against attacks from the rear. Each of these views
has been keenly debated; the last having the support of the late Dr.
Bruce, the highest of all authorities on the mural antiquities. And
excavations, even the very latest, have produced results which are
claimed by each of the rival theories.[289]

F. 5.--Quite possibly all are in measure true. The "Vallum" as we now
see it is obviously meant for defence against a southern foe. But the
spade has given abundant evidence that the rampart has been altered,
and that, in many places at least, it at one time faced northwards.
Though not an entirely satisfactory solution of the problem, the
following sequence of events would seem, on the whole, best to explain
the phenomena with which we are confronted. Originally a British
earthwork[290] defending the Brigantes against the cattle-lifting
raids of their restless northern neighbours, the "Vallum" was
adapted[291] for like purposes by the Romans, and that more than once.
After being thus utilized, first, perhaps, by Agricola, and afterwards
by Hadrian (for the protection of his working-parties engaged in
quarrying stone for the outer fortifications), it became useless when
the Wall was finally completed,[292] and remained a mere unfortified
mound so long as the Roman power in Southern Britain continued

But when the garrison of the Wall became liable to attacks from
the rear, the "Vallum" was once more repaired, very probably by
Theodosius,[293] and this time with a ditch to the south, to enable
the soldiers to meet, if needful, a simultaneous assault of Picts in
front and Scots[294] or Saxons behind. Weak though it was as compared
to the Wall, it would still take a good deal of storming, if stoutly
held, and would effectually guard against any mere raid both the small
parties marching along the Military Way[295] from post to post, and
the cattle grazing along the rich meadows which frequently lie between
the two lines of fortification.

F.6.--As we have said, the line of country thus occupied teems with
relics of the occupation. Coins by the thousand, ornaments, fragments
of statuary, inscriptions to the Emperors, to the old Roman gods, to
the strange Pantheistic syncretisms of the later Mithraism[296], to
unknown (perhaps local) deities such as Coventina, records of
this, that, and the other body of troops in the garrison, personal
dedications and memorials--all have been found, and are still
constantly being found, in rich abundance. Of the whole number
of Romano-British inscriptions known, nearly half belong to the

F.7.--As an example of these inscriptions we may give one discovered
at Caervoran (the Roman _Magna_), and now in the Newcastle Antiquarian
Museum,[298] the interpretation of which has been a matter of
considerable discussion amongst antiquaries. It is written in letters
of the 3rd century and runs as follows:--



Here we have ten very rough trochaic lines:

Imminet Leoni Virgo caelesti situ Spicifera, justi inventrix,
urbium conditrix; Ex quis muneribus nosse contigit Deos. Ergo
eadem Mater Divum, Pax, Virtus, Ceres, Dea Syria, lance vitam
et jura pensitans. In caelo visum Syria sidus edidit Libyae
colendum: inde cuncti didicimus. Ita intellexit, numine
inductus tuo, Marcus Caecilius Donatianus, militans Tribunus
in Praefecto, dono Principis.

This may be thus rendered:

O'er the Lion hangs the Virgin, in her place in heaven, With
her corn-ear;--justice-finder, city-foundress, she: And in
them that do such office Gods may still be known. She, then,
is the Gods' own Mother, Peace, Strength, Ceres, all; Syria's
Goddess, in her Balance weighing life and Law. Syria sent
this Constellation shining in her sky Forth for Libya's
worship:--thence we all have learnt the lore. Thus hath
come to understanding, by the Godhead led, Marcus Caecilius
Donatianus Serving now as Tribune-Prefect, by the Prince's

F. 8.--These obscure lines Dr. Hodgkin refers to Julia Domna, the wife
of Severus, the one Emperor that Africa gave to the Roman world.
He was an able astrologer, and from early youth considered himself
destined by his horoscope for the throne. He was thus guided by
astrological considerations to take for his second wife a Syrian
virgin, whose nativity he found to forecast queenship. As his Empress
she shared in the aureole of divinity which rested upon all members
of the Imperial family. This theory explains the references in the
inscription to the constellation Virgo, with its chief star Spica,
having Leo on the one hand and Libra on the other, also to the Syrian
origin of Julia and her connection with Libya, the home of Severus.
It may be added that Dr. Hodgkin's view is confirmed by the fact that
this Empress figures, on coins found in Britain, as the Mother of
the Gods, and also as Ceres. The first line may possibly have special
reference to her influence in Britain during the reign of Severus
and her stepson[299] Caracalla (who was also her second husband), Leo
being a noted astrological sign of Britain.[300] The inscription was
evidently put up in recognition of promotion gained by her favour,
though the exact interpretation of _Tribunus in praefecto_ requires a
greater knowledge of Roman military nomenclature than we possess.
Dr. Hodgkin's "Tribune instead of Prefect" seems scarcely admissible

F. 9.--Another inscription which may be mentioned is that referred to
by Tennyson in 'Gareth and Lynette' (l. 172), which

"the vexillary
Hath left crag-carven over the streaming Gelt."[301]

This is one of the many such records in the quarries south of the Wall
telling of the labours of the fatigue-parties sent out by Severus
to hew stones for his mighty work, and cut on rocks overhanging the
river. It sets forth how a _vexillatio_[302] of the Second Legion
was here engaged, under a lieutenant [_optio_] named Agricola, in the
consulship of Aper and Maximus (A.D. 207);[303] perhaps as a guard
over the actual workers, who were probably a _corvee_ of impressed

F. 10.--Yet another inscription worth notice was unearthed in 1897,
and tells how a water supply to Cilurnum was brought from a source
in the neighbourhood through a subterraneous conduit by Asturian
engineers under Ulpius Marcellus (A.D. 160). That this should have
been done brings home to us the magnificent thoroughness with which
Rome did her work. Cilurnum stood on a pure and perennial stream, the
North Tyne, with a massively-fortified bridge, and thus could never be
cut off from water; it was only some six acres in total area; yet in
addition to the river it received a water supply which would now be
thought sufficient for a fair-sized town.[304] Well may Dr. Hodgkin
say that "not even the Coliseum of Vespasian or the Pantheon of
Agrippa impresses the mind with a sense of the majestic strength of
Rome so forcibly" as works like this, merely to secure the passage of
a "little British stream, unknown to the majority even of Englishmen."


Death of Severus--Caracalla and Geta--Roman citizenship--Extended
to veterans--_Tabulae honestae, missionis_--Bestowed on all British

G. 1.--This mighty work kept Severus in Britain for the rest of his
life. He incessantly watched over its progress, and not till it was
completed turned his steps once more (A.D. 211) towards Rome. But he
was not to reach the Imperial city alive. Scarcely had he completed
the first stage of the journey than, at York, omens of fatal import
foretold his speedy death. A negro soldier presented him with a
cypress crown, exclaiming, "_Totum vicisti, totum fuisti. Nunc
Deus esto victor_."[305] When he would fain offer a sacrifice of
thanksgiving, he found himself by mistake at the dark temple of
Bellona; and her black victims were led in his train even to the
very door of his palace, which he never left again. Dark rumours were
circulated that Caracalla, who had already once attempted his father's
life, and was already intriguing with his stepmother, was at the
bottom of all this, and took good care that the auguries should be
fulfilled. Anyhow, Severus never left York till his corpse was carried
forth and sent off for burial at Rome. With his last breath he is said
solemnly to have warned "my Antonines" that upon their own conduct
depended the peace and well-being of the Empire which he had so ably
won for them.[306]

G. 2.--The warning was, as usual, in vain. Caracalla and Julia were
now free to work their will, and, having speedily got rid of her son
Geta, entered upon an incestuous marriage. The very Caledonians, whose
conjugal system was of the loosest,[307] cried shame;[308] but
the garrison of the Wall which kept them off was, as we have seen,
officered by Julia's creatures, and all beyond it was definitely
abandoned,[309] not to be recovered for two centuries.[310] The guilty
pair returned to Rome, and a hundred and thirty years elapsed before
another Augustus visited Britain.[311]

G. 3.--They left behind them no longer a subject race of mere
provincials, but a nation of full Roman citizens. For it was
Caracalla, seemingly, who, by extending it to the whole Roman
world, put the final stroke to the expansion, which had long been in
progress, of this once priceless privilege; with its right of appeal
to Caesar, of exemption from torture, of recognized marriage, and of
eligibility to public office. Originally confined strictly to natives
of Rome and of Roman Colonies, it was early bestowed _ipso facto_
on enfranchised slaves, and sometimes given as a compliment to
distinguished strangers. After the Social War (B.C. 90) it was
extended to all Italians, and Claudius (A.D. 50) allowed Messalina
to make it purchasable ("for a great sum," as both the Acts of the
Apostles and Dion Cassius inform us) by provincials.

G. 4.--And they could also earn it by service in the Imperial armies.
A bronze tablet, found at Cilurnum,[312] sets forth that Antoninus
Pius confers upon the _emeriti_, or time-expired veterans, of the
Gallic, Asturian, Celtiberian, Spanish, and Dacian cohorts in Britain,
who have completed twenty-five years' service with the colours, the
right of Roman citizenship, and legalizes their marriages, whether
existing or future.[313] As there is no reason to suppose that such
discharged soldiers commonly returned to their native land,
this system must have leavened the population of Britain with a
considerable proportion of Roman citizens, even before Caracalla's
edict. Besides its privileges, this freedom brought with it certain
liabilities, pecuniary and other; and it was to extend the area of
these that Caracalla took this apparently liberal step, which had
been at least contemplated by more worthy predecessors[314] on
philanthropic grounds. Any way, Britain was, by now, in the fullest
sense Roman.



Aballaba = Watch-cross
Branodunum = Brancaster
_Braboniacum_ = Ribchester
Brige = Broughton
_Caesaromagum = Chelmsford_
Calcaria = Tadcaster
Calleva = Silchester
Camboricum = Cambridge
Cataractonis = Catterick
_Clausentum = Southampton_
Colonia = Colchester
Concangium = Kendal
_Devonis = Devonport_
Dictis = Ambleside
Durobrivis = Rochester
Durolipons = Godmanchester
Durnovernum = Canterbury
_Etocetum = Uttoxeter_
Gobannium = Abergavenny
Isca Damnoniorum = Exeter
Isurium = Aldborough (York)
_Longovicum = Lancaster_
Lugovallum = Carlisle
Magna = Caervoran
Mancunium = Manchester
_Moridunum = Seaton
Muridunum = Caermarthen
Olikana = Ilkley_
Pons Aelii = Newcastle
Pontes = Staines
_Procolitia = Carrawburgh_
_Regnum = Chichester_
Segedunum = Wall's End
Spinae = Speen (Berks)
Vindoballa = Rutchester
Vindomara = Ebchester
Vindolana = Little Chesters


Alaunus Fl. = Tweed
Belisama Est. = Mouth of Mersey
_Cunio Fl. = Conway_
Setantion Est. = Mouth of Ribble
Seteia Est. = Mouth of Dee
Tava Est. = Firth of Tay
_Tuerobis Fl. = Tavy_
Vedra Fl. = Wear


Epidium Pr. = Mull of Cantire
Herculis Pr. = Hartland Point
Noranton Pr. = Mull of Galloway
Orcas Pr. = Dunnet Head
Taexalum Pr. = Kinnaird Head

N.B.--Many of these names vary notably in our several authorities:
e.g. Manna is also written Mona, Monaoida, Monapia, Mevania.




Era of Pretenders--Probus--Vandlebury--First notice of Saxons--Origin
of name--Count of the Saxon Shore--Carausius--Allectus--Last
Romano-British coinage--Britain Mistress of the Sea--Reforms of
Diocletian--Constantius Chlorus--Re-conquest of Britain--Diocletian
provinces--Diocletian persecution--The last "Divus"--General
scramble for Empire--British Army wins for Constantine--Christianity

A. 1.--After the death of Severus in A.D. 211, Roman historians tell
us nothing more concerning Britain till we come to the rise of the
only other Emperor who died at York, Constantius Chlorus. During the
miserable period which the wickedness of Caracalla brought upon the
Roman world, when Pretender after Pretender flits across the scene,
most to fail, some for a moment to succeed, but all alike to end their
brief course in blood, our island remained fairly quiet. The Army of
Britain made one or two futile pronunciamentos (the least unsuccessful
being those for Postumus in A.D. 258, and Victorinus in A.D. 265), and
in 277 the Emperor Probus, probably to keep it in check, leavened it
with a large force recruited from amongst his Vandal prisoners,[316]
whose name may, perhaps, still survive in Vandlebury Camp, on the
Gog-Magog[317] Hills, near Cambridge. But not till the energy and
genius of Diocletian began to bring back to order the chaos into which
the Roman world had fallen does Britain play any real part in the
higher politics.

A. 2.--Then, however, we suddenly find ourselves confronted with names
destined to exert a supreme influence on the future of our land. The
Saxons from the Elbe, and the Franks from the Rhine had already begun
their pirate raids along the coasts to the westwards.[318] Each tribe
derived its name from its peculiar national weapon (the Franks from
their throwing-axe (_franca_),[319] the Saxons from the _saexes_, long
murderous knives, snouted like a Norwegian knife of the present day,
which they used with such deadly effect);[320] and their appearance
constituted a new and fearful danger to the Roman Empire. Never, since
the Mediterranean pirates were crushed by Pompey (B.C. 66) had it been
exposed to attacks by sea. A special effort was needed to meet this
new situation, and we find, accordingly, a new officer now added to
the Imperial muster,--the Count of the Saxon Shore. His jurisdiction
extended over the northern coast of Gaul and the southern and eastern
shores of Britain, the head-quarters of his fleet being at Boulogne.

A. 3.--The first man to be placed in this position was Carausius,[321]
a Frisian adventurer of low birth, but great military reputation,
to which unfortunately he proved unequal. When his command was not
followed by the looked-for putting-down of the pirate raiders, he was
suspected, probably with truth, of a secret understanding with them.
The Government accordingly sent down orders for his execution, to
which he replied (A.D. 286) by open rebellion, took the pirate fleets
into his pay, and having thus got the undisputed command of the sea,
succeeded in maintaining himself as Emperor in Britain for the rest of
his life.

A. 4.--His reign and that of his successor (and murderer) Allectus
are marked by the last and most extraordinary development of
Romano-British coinage. Since the time of Caracalla no coins which can
be definitely proved to deserve this name are found; but now, in less
than ten years, our mints struck no fewer than five hundred several
issues, all of different types. Nearly all are of bronze, with the
radiated head of the Emperor on the obverse, and on the reverse
devices of every imaginable kind. The British Lion once more figures,
as in the days of Cymbeline; and we have also the Roman Wolf, the
Sea-horse, the Cow (as a symbol of Prosperity), Plenty, Peace,
Victory, Prudence, Health, Safety, Might, Good Luck, Glory, all
symbolized in various ways. But the favourite type of all is the
British warship; for now Britannia, for the first time, ruled the
waves, and was, indeed, so entirely Mistress of the Sea that her fleet
appeared even in Mediterranean waters.[322] The vessels figured are
invariably not Saxon "keels," but classical galleys, with their rams
and outboard rowing galleries, and are always represented as cleared
for action (when the great mainsail and its yard were left on shore).

A. 5.--The usurpation of Carausius, "the pirate," as the Imperial
panegyrists called him,[323] brought Diocletian's great reform of
the Roman administration within the scope of practical politics in
Britain. The old system of Provinces, some Imperial, some Senatorial,
with each Pro-praetor or Pro-consul responsible only and immediately
to the central government at Rome, had obviously become outgrown. And
the Provinces themselves were much too large. Diocletian accordingly
began by dividing the Empire into four "Prefectures," two in the east
and two in the west. Each pair was to be under one of the co-Augusti,
who again was to entrust one of his Prefectures to the "Caesar"[324]
or heir-apparent of his choice. Thus Diocletian held the East,
while Galerius, his "Caesar," took the Prefecture of Illyricum. His
colleague Maximian, as Augustus of the West, ruled in Italy; and the
remaining Prefecture, that of "the Gauls," fell to the Western
Caesar, Constantius Chlorus. Each Prefecture, again, was divided into
"Dioceses" (that of Constantius containing those of Britain, Gaul,
Spain, and Mauretania), each under a "Vicar," and comprising a certain
number of "Provinces" (that of Britain having four). Thus a regular
hierarchy with rank above rank of responsibility was established,
and so firmly that Diocletian's system lasted (so far as provincial
government was concerned) till the very latest days of the Roman

A. 6.--When Constantius thus became Caesar of the West, his first
task was to restore Britain to the Imperial system. He was already, it
seems, connected with the island, and had married a British lady
named Helen.[325] Their son Constantine, a youth of special promise
(according to the panegyrists), had been born at York, about A.D.
274, and now appeared on the scene to aid his father's operations
with supernatural speed, "_quasi divino quodam curriculo_."[326]
Extraordinary celerity, indeed, marked all these operations. Allectus
was on his guard, with one squadron at Boulogne to sweep the coast
of Gaul, and another cruising in the Channel. By a sudden dash
Constantius [in A.D. 296] seized the mouth of Boulogne harbour, threw
a boom across it, "_defixis in aditu trabibus_," and effectually
barred the pirates from access to the sea.[327] Meanwhile the fleet
which he had been building simultaneously in various Gallic ports was
able to rendezvous undisturbed at Havre.

A. 7.--His men were no expert mariners like their adversaries; and,
for this very reason, were ready, with their Caesar at their head,
to put to sea in threatening weather, which made their better-skilled
pilots hesitate. "What can we fear?" was the cry, "Caesar is with us."
Dropping down the Seine with the tide on a wild and rainy morning,
they set sail with a cross wind, probably from the north-east, a rare
thing with ancient ships. As they neared the British coast the breeze
sank to a dead calm, with a heavy mist lying on the waveless sea, in
which the fleet found it impossible to keep together. One division,
with Constantius himself on board, made their land-fall somewhere in
the west, perhaps at Exeter, the other far to the east, possibly at

A. 8.--But the wonderful luck which attended Constantius, and on which
his panegyrists specially dwell, made all turn out for the best. The
mist enabled both his divisions to escape the notice of the British
fleet, which was lying off the Isle of Wight on the watch for him; and
the unexpected landing at two such distant points utterly demoralized
the usurper. Of the large force which had been mustered for land
defence, only the Frankish auxiliaries could be got together in time
to meet Constantius--who, having burnt his ships (for his only hope
now lay in victory), was marching, with his wonted speed, straight on
London. One battle,[328] in which scarcely a single Roman fell on the
British side, was enough; the corpse of Allectus [_ipse vexillarius
latrocinii_] was found, stripped of the Imperial insignia, amongst the
heaps of slain barbarians, and the routed Franks fled to London. Here,
while they were engaged in sacking the city before evacuating it,
they were set upon by the eastern division of the Roman army (under
Asclepiodotus the Praetorian Prefect)[329] and slaughtered almost to
a man. The rescued metropolis eagerly welcomed its deliverers, and the
example was followed by the rest of Britain; the more readily that the
few surviving Franks were distributed throughout the land to perish in
the provincial amphitheatres.

A. 9.--The Diocletian system was now introduced; and, instead of
Hadrian's old divisions of Upper and Lower Britain, the island south
of his Wall was distributed into four Provinces, "Britannia Prima,"
"Britannia Secunda," "Maxima Caesariensis," and "Flavia Caesariensis."
That the Thames, the Severn, and the Humber formed the frontier lines
between these new divisions is probable. But their identification,
in the current maps of Roman Britain, with the later Wessex, Wales,
Northumbria, and Mercia (with East Anglia), respectively, is purely
conjectural.[330] All that we know is that when the district between
Hadrian's Wall and Agricola's Rampart was reconquered in 369, it was
made a fifth British Province under the name Valentia. The Governor
of each Province exercised his functions under the "Vicar" of the
"Diocese," an official of "Respectable" rank--the second in precedence
of the Diocletian hierarchy (exclusive of the Imperial Family).

A. 10.--With the Diocletian administration necessarily came the
Diocletian Persecution--an essential feature of the situation. There
is no reason to imagine that the great reforming Emperor had, like
his colleague Maximian, any personal hatred for Christianity. But
Christianity was not among the _religiones licitae_ of the Empire.
Over and over again it had been pronounced by Imperial Rescript
unlawful. This being so, Diocletian saw in its toleration merely
one of those corruptions of lax government which it was his special
mission to sweep away, and proceeded to deal with it as with any other
abuse,--to be put down with whole-hearted vigour and rigour.

A. 11.--The Faith had by this time everywhere become so widespread
that the good-will of its professors was a political power to be
reckoned with. Few of the passing Pretenders of the Era of Confusion
had dared to despise it, some had even courted it; and thus throughout
the Empire the Christian hierarchy had been established, and Christian
churches been built everywhere; while Christians swarmed in every
department of the Imperial service,--their neglect of the official
worship winked at, while they, in turn, were not vigorous in rebuking
the idolatry of their heathen fellow-servants. Now all was changed.
The sacred edifices were thrown down, or (as in the famous case of St.
Clement's at Rome) made over for heathen worship, the sacred books and
vessels destroyed, and every citizen, however humble, had to produce
a _libellus_,[331] or magisterial certificate, testifying that he had
formally done homage to the Gods of the State, by burning incense at
their shrines, by pouring libations in their name, and by partaking of
the victims sacrificed upon their altars. Torture and death were the
lot of all recusants; and to the noble army of martyrs who now sealed
their testimony with their blood Britain is said (by Gildas) to have
contributed a contingent of no fewer than seventeen thousand, headed
by St. Alban at Verulam.

A. 12.--So thorough-going a persecution the Church had never known.
But it came too late for Diocletian's purpose; and it was probably
the latent consciousness of his failure that impelled him, in 305,
to resign the purple and retire to his cabbage-garden at Dyrrhachium.
Maximian found himself unwillingly obliged to retire likewise; and the
two Caesars, Galerius and Constantius, became, by the operation of the
new constitution, _ipso facto_ Augusti.

A. 13.--But already the mutual jealousy and distrust in which that
constitution was so soon to perish began to manifest themselves.
Galerius, though properly only Emperor of the East, seized on Rome,
and with it on the person of the young Constantine, whom he hoped
to keep as hostage for his father's submission. The youth, however,
contrived to flee, and post down to join Constantius in Gaul,
slaughtering every stud of relays along the entire road to delay his
pursuers. Both father and son at once sailed for Britain, where the
former shortly died, like Severus, at York. With their arrival the
persecution promptly ceased;[332] for Helena, at least, was an ardent
Christian, and her husband well-affected to the Faith. Yet, on his
death, he was, like his predecessors, proclaimed _Divus_; the last
formal bestowal of that title being thus, like the first,[333]
specially connected with Britain. Constantius was buried, according
to Nennius,[334] at Segontium, wherever that may have been; and
Constantine, though not yet even a Caesar, was at once proclaimed by
the soldiers (at his native York) Augustus in his father's room.

A. 14.--This was the signal for a whole outburst of similar
proclamations all over the Roman world, Licinius, Constantine's
brother-in-law, declared himself Emperor at Carnutum, Maxentius,
son of Maximian and son-in-law of Galerius, in Rome, Severus in the
Illyrian provinces, and Maximin (who had been a Caesar) in Syria.
Galerius still reigned, and even Maximian revoked his resignation
and appeared once more as Augustus. But one by one this medley of
Pretenders swept each other away, and the survival of the fittest was
exemplified by the final victory of Constantine over them all. For
a few years he bided his time, and then, at the head of the British
army, marched on Rome. Clear-sighted enough to perceive that events
were irresistibly tending to the triumph of Christianity, he declared
himself the champion of the Faith; and it was not under the Roman
Eagle, but the Banner of Christ,[335] that his soldiers fought and
won. Coins of his found in Britain, bearing the Sacred Monogram which
led his men to the crowning victory of 312 at the Milvian Bridge (the
intertwined letters [Greek: Chi] and [Greek: Rho] between [Greek:
Alpha] and [Greek: Omega], the whole forming the word [Greek: ARChO],
"I reign"), with the motto _Hoc Signo Victor Eris_, testify to the
special part taken by our country in the establishment of our Faith
as the officially recognized religion of Rome,--that is to say, of the
whole civilized world. And henceforward, as long as Britain remained
Roman at all, it was a monarch of British connection who occupied
the Imperial throne. The dynasties of Constantius, Valentinian, and
Theodosius, who between them (with the brief interlude of the reign
of Julian) fill the next 150 years (300-450), were all markedly
associated with our island. So, indeed, was Julian also.


Spread of Gospel--Arianism--Britain orthodox--Last
Imperial visit--Heathen temples stripped--British
Emperors--Magnentius--Gratian--Julian--British corn-trade--First
inroad of Picts and Scots--Valentinian--Saxon raids--Campaign of
Theodosius--Re-conquest of Valentia.

B. 1.--For a whole generation after the triumph of Constantine
tranquillity reigned in Britain. The ruined Christian churches were
everywhere restored, and new ones built; and in Britain, as elsewhere,
the Gospel spread rapidly and widely--the more so that the Church here
was but little troubled[336] by the desperate struggle with Arianism
which was convulsing the East. Britain, as Athanasius tells us, gave
an assenting vote to the decisions of Nicaea [[Greek: sumpsephos
etunchane]], and British Bishops actually sat in the Councils of Arles
(314) and of Ariminum (360).

B. 2.--The old heathen worship still continued side by side with the
new Faith; but signs soon appeared that the Church would tolerate no
such rivalry when once her power was equal to its suppression. Julius
Firmicus (who wrote against "Profane Religions" in 343) implores
the sons of Constantine to continue their good work of stripping the
temples and melting down the images;--in special connection with
a visit paid by them that year to Britain[337] (our last Imperial
visit), when they had actually been permitted to cross the Channel
in winter-time; an irrefragable proof of Heaven's approval of their
iconoclasm. It is highly probable that they pursued here also a course
at once so pious and so profitable, and that the fanes of the ancient
deities but lingered on in poverty and neglect till finally suppressed
by Theodosius (A.D. 390).

B. 3.--And now Britain resumed her _role_ of Emperor-maker.[338]
After the death of Constans, (A.D. 350), Magnentius, an officer in the
Gallic army of British birth, set up as Augustus, and was supported
by Gratian, the leader of the Army of Britain, and by his son
Valentinian. Magnentius himself had his capital at Treves, and
for three years reigned over the whole Prefecture of the Gauls. He
professed a special zeal for orthodoxy, and was the first to introduce
burning, as the appropriate punishment for heresy, into the penal code
of Christendom. Meanwhile his colleague Decentius advanced against
Constantius, and was defeated, at Nursa on the Drave, with such awful
slaughter that the old Roman Legions never recovered from the shock.
Henceforward the name signifies a more or less numerous body, more or
less promiscuously armed, such as we find so many of in the 'Notitia.'
Magnentius, in turn, was slain (A.D. 353), and the supreme command in
Britain passed to the new Caesar of the West, Julian "the Apostate."

B. 4.--Under him we first find our island mentioned as one of the
great corn-growing districts of the Empire, on which Gaul was able to
draw to a very large extent for the supply of her garrisons. No fewer
than eight hundred wheat-ships sailed from our shores on this errand;
a number which shows how large an area of the island must have been
brought under cultivation, and how much the country had prospered
during the sixty years of unbroken internal peace which had followed
on the suppression of Allectus.

B. 5.--That peace was now to be broken up. The northern tribes had
by this recovered from the awful chastisement inflicted upon them by
Severus,[339] and, after an interval of 150 years, once more (A.D.
362) appeared south of Hadrian's Wall. Whether as yet they _burst
through_ it is uncertain; for now we find a new confederacy of
barbarians. It is no longer that of Caledonians and Meatae, but of
Picts and Scots. And these last were seafarers. Their home was not in
Britain at all, but in the north of Ireland. In their "skiffs"[340]
they were able to turn the flank of the Roman defences, and may well
have thus introduced their allies from beyond Solway also. Anyhow,
penetrate the united hordes did into the quiet cornfields of Roman
Britain, repeating their raids ever more frequently and extending them
ever more widely, till their spearmen were cut [Errata: to] pieces in
450 at Stamford by the swords of the newly-arrived English.[341]

B. 6.--For the moment they were driven back without much difficulty,
by Lupicinus, Julian's Legate (the first Legate we hear of in Britain
since Lollius Urbicus), who, when the death of Constantius II. (in
361) had extinguished that royal line, aided his master to become
"_Dominus totius orbis_"--as he is called in an inscription[342]
describing his triumphant campaigns "_ex oceano Britannico_." And
after "the victory of the Galilaean" (363) had ended Julian's brief
and futile attempt to restore the Higher Paganism (to which several
British inscriptions testify),[343] it was again to an Emperor from
Britain that there fell the Lordship of the World--Valentinian, son
of Gratian, whose dynasty lasted out the remaining century of
Romano-British history.

B. 7.--His reign was marked in our land by a life-and-death struggle
with the inrushing barbarians. The Picts and Scots were now joined by
yet another tribe, the cannibal[344] Attacotti[345] of Valentia, and
their invasions were facilitated by the simultaneous raids of the
Saxon pirates (with whom they may perhaps have been actually in
concert) along the coast. The whole land had been wasted, and more
than one Roman general defeated, when Theodosius, father of the Great
Emperor, was sent, in 368, to the rescue. Crossing from Boulogne to
Richborough in a lucky calm,[346] and fixing his head-quarters at
London, or Augusta, as it was now called [_Londinium vetus oppidum,
quod Augustam posteritas apellavit_], he first, by a skilful
combination of flying columns, cut to pieces the scattered hordes of
the savages as they were making off with their booty, and finally
not only drove them back beyond the Wall, which he repaired and
re-garrisoned,[347] but actually recovered the district right up to
Agricola's rampart, which had been barbarian soil ever since the
days of Severus.[348] It was now (369) formed into a fifth British
province, and named Valentia in honour of Valens, the brother and
colleague of the Emperor.

B. 8.--The Twentieth Legion, whose head-quarters had so long been at
Chester, seems to have been moved to guard this new province. Forty
years later Claudian speaks of it as holding the furthest outposts in
Britain, in his well-known description of the dying Pict:

"Venit et extremis legio praetenta Britannis,
Quae Scoto dat frena truci, ferroque notatas
Perlegit exsangues Picto moriente figuras."

["From Britain's bound the outpost legion came,
Which curbs the savage Scot, and fading sees
The steel-wrought figures on the dying Pict."]

The same poet makes Theodosius fight and conquer even in the Orkneys
and in Ireland;

"--maduerunt Saxone fuso
Orcades; incaluit Pictorum sanguine Thule;
Scotorum cumulos flevit glacialis Ierne."[349]

["With Saxon slaughter flowed the Orkney strand,
With Pictish blood cold Thule warmer grew;
And icy Erin wept her Scotchmen slain."]

The relief, however, was but momentary. Five years later (374) another
great Saxon raid is recorded; yet eight years more and the Picts and
Scots have again to be driven from the land; and in the next decade
their attacks became incessant.


Roman evacuation of Britain begun--Maximus--Settlement of
Brittany--Stilicho restores the Wall--Radagaisus invades
Italy--Twentieth Legion leaves Britain--Britain in the
'Notitia'--Final effort of British Army--The last Constantine--Last
Imperial Rescript to Britain--Sack of Rome by Alaric--Collapse of
Roman rule in Britain.

C. 1.--By this time the evacuation of Britain by the Roman soldiery
had fairly begun. Maximus, the last victor over the Scots, the "Pirate
of Richborough," as Ausonius calls him, set up as Emperor (A.D. 383);
and the Army of Britain again marched on Rome, and again, as under
Constantine, brought its leader in triumph to the Capitol (A.D. 387).
But this time it did not return. When Maximus was defeated and slain
(A.D. 388) at Aquileia by the Imperial brothers-in-law Valentinian II.
and Theodosius the Great[350] (sons of the so-named leaders connected
with Britain), his soldiers, as they retreated homewards, straggled
on the march; settling, amid the general confusion, here and there,
mostly in Armorica, which now first began to be called Brittany.[351]
This tale rests only on the authority of Nennius, but it is far from
improbable, especially as his sequel--that a fresh legion dispatched
to Britain by Stilicho (in 396) once more repelled the Picts and
Scots, and re-secured the Wall--is confirmed by Claudian, who makes
Britain (in a sea-coloured cloak and bearskin head-gear) hail Stilicho
as her deliverer:

Inde Caledonio velata Britannia monstro, Ferro picta genas,
cujus vestigia verrit Coerulus, Oceanique aestum mentitur,
amictus: "Me quoque vicinis percuntem gentibus," inquit,
"Munivit Stilichon, totam quum Scotus Iernen Movit, et infesto
spumavit remige Tethys. Illius effectum curis, ne tela timerem
Scotica, ne Pictum tremerem, ne litore toto Prospicerem dubiis
venturum Saxona ventis."[352]

[Then next, with Caledonian bearskin cowled, Her cheek
steel-tinctured, and her trailing robe Of green-shot blue,
like her own Ocean's tide, Britannia spake: "Me too," she
cried, "in act To perish 'mid the shock of neighbouring
hordes, Did Stilicho defend, when the wild Scot All Erin
raised against me, and the wave Foamed 'neath the stroke of
many a foeman's oar. So wrought his pains that now I fear no
more Those Scottish darts, nor tremble at the Pict, Nor mark,
where'er to sea mine eyes I turn, The Saxon coming on each
shifting wind."]

C. 2.--Which legion it was which Stilicho sent to Britain is much more
questionable. The Roman legions were seldom moved from province to
province, and it is perhaps more probable that he filled up the three
quartered in the island to something like their proper strength. But
a crisis was now at hand which broke down all ordinary rules. Rome was
threatened with such a danger as she had not known since Marius, five
hundred years before, had destroyed the Cimbri and Teutones (B.C.
101). A like horde of Teutonic invaders, nearly half a million
strong, came pouring over the Alps, under "Radagaisus the Goth," as
contemporary historians call him, though his claim, to Gothic lineage
is not undisputed. And these were not, like Alaric and his Visigoths,
who were to reap the fruits of this effort, semi-civilized Christians,
but heathen savages of the most ferocious type. Every nerve had to be
strained to crush them; and Stilicho did crush them. But it was at a
fearful cost. Every Roman soldier within reach had to be swept to the
rescue, and thus the Rhine frontier was left defenceless against the
barbarian hordes pressing upon it. Vandals, Sueves, Alans, Franks,
Burgundians, rushed tumultuously over the peaceful and fertile fields
of Gaul, never to be driven forth again.

C. 3.--Of the three British legions one only seems to have been thus
withdrawn,--the Twentieth, whose head-quarters had been so long at
Chester, and whose more recent duty had been to garrison the outlying
province of Valentia, which may now perhaps have been again abandoned.
It seems to have been actually on the march towards Italy[353] when
there was drawn up that wonderful document which gives us our last and
completest glimpse of Roman Britain--the _Notitia Dignitatum Utriusque

C. 4.--This invaluable work sets forth in detail the whole machinery
of the Imperial Government, its official hierarchy, both civil
and military, in every land, and a summary of the forces under the
authority of each commander. A reference in Claudian would seem
to show that it was compiled by the industry of Celerinus, the
_Primicerius Notariorum_ or Head Clerk of the Treasury. The poet tells
us how this indefatigable statistician--

"Cunctorum tabulas assignat honorum, Regnorum tractat numeros,
constringit in unum Sparsas Imperii vires, cuneosque recenset
Dispositos; quae Sarmaticis custodia ripis, Quae saevis
objecta Getis, quae Saxona frenat Vel Scotum legio; quantae
cinxere cohortes Oceanum, quanto pacatur milite Rhenus."[354]

["Each rank, each office in his lists he shows, Tells every
subject realm, together draws The Empire's scattered force,
recounts the hosts In order meet;--which Legion is on guard By
Danube's banks, which fronts the savage Goth, Which curbs the
Saxon, which the Scot; what bands Begird the Ocean, what keep
watch on Rhine."]

To us the 'Notitia' is only known by the 16th-century copies of a
10th-century MS. which has now disappeared.[355] But these were made
with exceptional care, and are as nearly as may be facsimiles of the
original, even preserving its illuminated illustrations, including the
distinctive insignia of every corps in the Roman Army.

C. 5.--The number of these corps had, we find, grown erormously since
the days of Hadrian, when, as Dion Cassius tells us, there were 19
"Civic Legions" (of which three were quartered in Britain). No fewer
than 132 are now enumerated, together with 108 auxiliary bodies. But
we may be sure that each of these "legions" was not the complete Army
Corps of old,[356] though possibly the 25 of the First Class, the
_Legiones Palatinae_, may have kept something of their ancient
effectiveness. Indeed it is not wholly improbable that these alone
represent the old "civil" army; the Second and Third Class
"legions," with their extraordinary names ("Comitatenses" and
"Pseudo-Comitatenses"), being indeed merely so called by "courtesy,"
or even "sham courtesy."

C. 6.--In Britain we find the two remaining legions of the
old garrison, the Second, now quartered not at Caerleon but at
Richborough, under the Count of the Saxon Shore, and the Sixth under
the "Duke of the Britains," holding the north (with its head-quarters
doubtless, as of yore, at York, though this is not mentioned). Along
with each legion are named ten "squads" [_numeri_], which may perhaps
represent the ten cohorts into which legions were of old divided. The
word cohort seems to have changed its meaning, and now to signify
an independent military unit under a "Tribune." Eighteen of these,
together with six squadrons [_alae_] of cavalry, each commanded by a
"Praefect," form the garrison of the Wall;--a separate organization,
though, like the rest of the northern forces, under the Duke of the
Britains. The ten squads belonging to the Sixth Legion (each under a
Prefect) are distributed in garrison throughout Yorkshire,
Lancashire, and Westmoreland. Those of the Second (each commanded by a
"Praepositus") are partly under the Count of the Saxon Shore, holding
the coast from the Wash to Arundel,[357] partly under the "Count of
Britain," who was probably the senior officer in the island[358]
and responsible for its defence in general. Besides these bodies of
infantry the British Army comprised eighteen cavalry units; three,
besides the six on the Wall, being in the north, three on the Saxon
Shore, and the remaining six under the immediate command of the Count
of Britain, to whose troops no special quarters are assigned. Not a
single station is mentioned beyond the Wall, which supports the theory
that the withdrawal of the Twentieth Legion had involved the practical
abandonment of Valentia.[359]

C. 7.--The two Counts and the Duke were the military leaders of
Britain. The chief civil officer was the "respectable" Vicar of the
Diocese of Britain, one of the six Vicars under the "illustrious"
Pro-consul of Africa. Under him were the Governors of the five
Provinces, two of these being "Consulars" of "Right Renowned" rank
[_clarissimi_,] the other three "Right Perfect" [_perfectissimi_]
"Presidents." The Vicar was assisted by a staff of Civil Servants,
nine heads of departments being enumerated. Their names, however, have
become so wholly obsolete as to tell us nothing of their respective

C. 8.--Whatever these may have been they did not include the financial
administration of the Diocese, the general management of which was in
the hands of two officers, the "Accountant of Britain" [_Rationalis
Summarum Britanniarum_] and the "Provost of the London Treasury"
[_Praepositus thesaurorum Augustensium_].[360] Both these were
subordinates of the "Count of the Sacred Largesses" [_Comes Sacrarum
Largitionum_], one of the greatest officers of State, corresponding to
our First Lord of the Treasury, whose name reminds us that all public
expenditure was supposed to be the personal benevolence of His Sacred
Majesty the Emperor, and all sources of public revenue his personal
property. The Emperor, however, had actually in every province domains
of his own, managed by the Count of the Privy Purse [_Comes Rei
Privatae_], whose subordinate in Britain was entitled the "Accountant
of the Privy Purse for Britain" [_Rationalis Rei Privatae per
Britanniam_]. Both these Counts were "Illustrious" [_illustres_];
that is, of the highest order of the Imperial peerage below the "Right
Noble" [_nobilissimi_] members of the Imperial Family.

C. 9.--Such and so complete was the system of civil and military
government in Roman Britain up to the very point of its sudden and
utter collapse. When the 'Notitia' was compiled, neither Celerinus, as
he wrote, nor the officials whose functions and ranks he noted, could
have dreamt that within ten short years the whole elaborate fabric
would, so far as Britain was concerned, be swept away utterly and for
ever. Yet so it was.

C. 10.--For what was left of the British Army now made a last effort
to save the West for Rome, and once more set up Imperial Pretenders
of its own.[361] The first two of these, Marcus and Gratian, were
speedily found unequal to the post, and paid the usual penalty of such
incompetence; but the third, a private soldier named Constantine, all
but succeeded in emulating the triumph of his great namesake. For four
years (407-411) he was able to hold not only Britain, but Gaul and
Spain also under his sceptre; and the wretched Honorius, the unworthy
son and successor of Theodosius, who was cowering amid the marshes of
Ravenna, and had murdered his champion Stilicho, was fain to recognize
the usurper as a legitimate Augustus. Only by treachery was he put
down at last, the traitor being the commander of his British forces,
Gerontius. Both names continued for many an age favourites in British
nomenclature, and both have been swept into the cycle of Arturian
romance, the latter as "Geraint."

C. 11.--Neither Gerontius nor his soldiers ever got back to their old
homes in Britain. What became of them we do not know. But Zosimus[362]
tells us that Honorius now sent a formal rescript to the British
cities abrogating the Lex Julia, which forbade civilians to carry
arms, and bidding them look to their own safety. For now the end had
really come, and the Eternal City itself had been sacked by barbarian
hands. Never before and never since does history record a sacked city
so mildly treated by the conquerors. Heretics as the Visi-goths
were, they never forgot that the vanquished Catholics were their
fellow-Christians, and, barbarians as they were, they left an example
of mercy in victory which puts to the blush much more recent Christian
and civilized warfare.

C. 12.--But, for all that, the moral effect of Alaric's capture of
Rome was portentous, and shook the very foundations of civilization
throughout the world. To Jerome, in his cell at Bethlehem, the tidings
came like the shock of an earthquake. Augustine, as he penned his 'De
Civitate Dei,' felt the old world ended indeed, and the Kingdom of
Heaven indeed at hand. And in Britain the whole elaborate system of
Imperial civil and military government seems to have crumbled to the
ground almost at once. It is noticeable that the rescript of Honorius
is addressed simply to "the cities" of Britain, the local municipal
officers of each several place. No higher authority remained. The
Vicar of Britain, with his staff, the Count and Duke of the
Britains with their soldiery, the Count of the Saxon Shore with his
coastguard,--all were gone. It is possible that, as the deserted
provincials learnt to combine for defence, the Dictators they chose
from time to time to lead the national forces may have derived some
of their authority from the remembrance of these old dignities. "The
dragon of the great Pendragonship,"[363] the tufa of Caswallon
(633), and the purple of Cunedda[364] may well have been derived (as
Professor Rhys suggests) from this source. But practically the history
of Roman Britain ends with a crash at the Fall of Rome.


Beginning of English Conquest--Vortigern--Jutes in Thanet--Battle of
Stamford--Massacre of Britons--Valentinian III.--Latest Roman coin
found in Britain--Progress of Conquest--The Cymry--Survival of
Romano-British titles--Arturian Romances--Procopius--Belisarius--Roman
claims revived by Charlemagne--The British Empire.

D. 1.--Little remains to be told, and that little rests upon no
contemporary authority known to us. In Gildas, the nearest, writing in
the next century, we find little more than a monotonous threnody over
the awful visitation of the English Conquest, the wholesale and utter
destruction of cities, the desecration of churches, the massacre of
clergy and people. Nennius (as, for the sake of convenience, modern
writers mostly agree to call the unknown author of the 'Historia
Britonum') gives us legends of British incompetence and Saxon
treachery which doubtless represent the substantial features of the
break-up, and preserve, quite possibly, even some of the details. Bede
and the 'Anglo-Saxon Chronicle' assign actual dates to the various
events, but we have no means of testing their accuracy.

D. 2.--Broadly we know that the unhappy civilians, who were not only
without military experience, but had up to this moment been actually
forbidden to carry arms, naturally proved unable to face the ferocious
enemies who swarmed in upon them. They could neither hold the Wall
against the Picts nor the coast against the Saxons. It may well be
true that they chose a _Dux Britannorum_,[365] and that his name may
have been something like Vortigern, and that he (when a final appeal
for Roman aid proved vain)[366] may have taken into his pay (as
Carausius did) the crews of certain pirate "keels" [_chiulae_],[367]
and settled them in Thanet. The very names of their English captains,
"Hengist and Horsa," may not be so mythical as critics commonly
assume.[368] And the tale of the victory at Stamford, when the
spears of the Scottish invaders were cut to pieces by the

Book of the day: