After 410, the Roman culture did not end. It survived throughout the Anglo-Saxon period. After the alleged conquests of the year 43 AD the extent of the Roman legacy remained for much longer in Britain than previously thought (Wood, 1987, p. 251). It is stated that the Roman Empire ended in AD 410 when the legions withdrew, but this is actually insufficiently document by archaeological evidence. What is documented is that there were four provinces in the Late Roman Britain and the Roman Army was not organized by legions at this point. The “army” who did leave between 402 and 411 were a dangerous faction of Constantine. Historical texts by the Greek writer Zosimus state that the story of the Britons breaking away from the central Roman authority in the 5th century is not entirely accurate and that the Britons were still living under the rule of local kings at that time (Scavone, 1969, p. 24).
This breaking away that did take place did not remove all ties of the Roman culture from Britain. The official connection between troops and salaried officials was broken, and with that the issue of coinage. No new coins were imported which made it more difficult to pay for buildings made out of mosaics and stone, or to pay for luxury services. This also made it difficult for archeologists to date activities during the 5th and 6th centuries, during what many called the ‘Dark Ages’. Some documented evidence makes it clear that material considerations were not paramount to the identity, behavior, or thoughts of the Britons. St. Patrick write in the 5th century and never once mentioned coinage. Clearly this meant that without the coins life was still able to carry on. Two of the defining features of the Roman culture were the Latin language as well as Christianity and the medieval Latinist David Hewlett revised documents and inscriptions with the conclusion that the elite preserved the Latin language in its purest form.
St. Germanus of Auxerre write to the shine of Alban in 429 and in doing so hinted that the material culture did survive in the magistrates, documented by their splendid clothing (Thompson, 1984). And during this time, the British soldiers were documented as wearing bearskins for their military generals, something that Late Roman soldiers did as a designation as well (Henig, 2002).
There were some societies that maintained Celtic and Latin as their primary languages, as noted by the 6th century writer Gildas. Throughout Devon, Wales, Cornwall, and Scotland there are monumental inscriptions written in both Latin and Celtic, or in Latin with Celtic names. This syntax and play with words argues that the Roman educational methods were still in play at the time. Christianity was something that continued too. In the 5th century at Dorchester in Dorset there are post-Roman inscriptions which carry Christian symbols in them, without any clearly defined pagan symbols (Cullingford, 1980). The writer Gildas noted that paganism had been eradicated and that Christianity was successful because it provided reassurance that the world was still in order, whereas the secular authority had only indicated that the order of the world was weakening (Henig, 2002).
East and West
The clear survival of the Roman Culture throughout the western part of Britain and into the Celt church is documented well, with a society that spoke Latin and welcomed Christianity, but where the rules drank wine from pottery originating from the Mediterranean and paid for such valuables with exports like that of tin. Eastern Britain was considered a part of this period because The Briton and the Anglo-Saxon both claimed origins from the Old Testament. Gildas claimed that God chastised the Britons for sexual backsliding while Bede claimed that the English were new Israelites’ coming toward the new Promised Land. There were some elements of truth to their stories, as there are to nearly all stories, but most of the evidence from that time period states that the Anglo Saxon Brits were a mixed population of settlers and those who had always lived on those lands (‘Roman Dorchester”, 1970). This is evidenced by the Wessex king-lists which have the “west Saxons” from the middle Thames and Caradoc or Cerdic, the Celt. This mixture is also represented by animal ornament bracelets which have gold Hoxne treasures taken from Suffolk, as well as rings that have silver taken from Amesbury, Wiltshire, and even brooches which have silver taken from Sarre, Kent and all date to the end of the 4th and beginning of the 5th centuries. Pewter pendants which were inset with glass had very late Roman material comprising the jewelry, mainly taken from Ickham in Kent, things which pre-date the Kentish disk pendants and brooches found later (Kipfer, 2000, p. 23). The handing bowls are open escutcheons that had Celtic ornamental style but Roman styles too. This clear influence from the 6th and 7th centuries indicate that the Roman and Celtic cultures both survived well into the beginning of the medieval period.
In Almeria in Spain, this coastal southeastern province there was a Neolithic culture between the 5th and 4th centuries. The village of El Garvel was a standard hilltop agricultural community that had circular huts with storage pits, as well as baggy pottery and trapezoid flint arrowheads (Reynolds, 1995). The pottery from this area was pottery that boasted the western Neolithic tradition, something which was derived from North Africa (Kipfer, 2000, p. 15).
At the same time in the eastern and southern coastal regions existed the Iberians who were noted by Herodotus, the Greek historian, as having a linguistic and material connection different from the northern and western regions of Spain at the time. They had a common scrip that was derived from Phoenician and Greek, one which had 28 syllabic and alphabetic characters (Reichenberger, 1965). They had jewelry and statues, and the most famous of these was the Lady of the Elche. The origins are obscure but said to derive from North Africa. They were a separate group under the Roman occupation, and were in part fused with the Celts from the interior, which displaced some of their language with Latin (Kipfer, 2000, p. 248). A great deal of the area boasted Spanish Levant art which were a serious of rock shelters found throughout the Mediterranean region of Spain that had red and black paintings of scenery (Reynolds, 1995). These paintings offered clear depictions of everyday life, something that was not influenced by the Roman Britain of the time (Kipfer, 2000, p. 527).
Overall, the Roman culture survived throughout the Anglo-Saxon period. After the alleged conquests of the year 43 AD the extent of the Roman legacy remained for much longer in Britain than previously thought (Wood, 1987, p. 251). There were many regions in the southeast of Spain which were vastly different when compared to the Roman Britain of the same period. The key differences are found in the artwork, housing structures, and culture of the times, all of which suggested more of an influence from North Africa than from Rome.
- Cullingford, C. N. (1980). A history of Dorset. Phillimore & Co Ltd.
- Henig, M. (2002). Roman Britons after 410. British Archaeology, 68.
- Kipfer, B. A. (2000). Encyclopedic dictionary of archaeology. Springer Science & Business Media.
- Reynolds, P. (1995). Trade in the Western Mediterranean, AD 400-700: The ceramic evidence (Vol. 604). British Archaeological Reports Ltd.
- Reichenberger, A. G. (1965). Herodotus in Spain. Comments on a Neglected Essay (1949) by María Rosa Lida de Malkiel. Romance Philology, 19(2), 235-249.
- ‘Roman Dorchester (Durnovaria)’, in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Volume 2, South east (London, 1970), pp. 531-592 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/rchme/dorset/vol2/pp531-592 [accessed 1 November 2015].
- Scavone, D. C. (1969). Zosimus, Greek Historian of the Fall of the Roman Empire: An Appraisal of His Validity and Merits.
- Thompson, E. A. (1984). Saint Germanus of Auxerre and the end of Roman Britain. Boydell.
- Trend, J. B. (1944). The civilization of Spain. Oxford University Press.
- Wood, I. (1987). The fall of the Western Empire and the end of Roman Britain. Britannia, 18, 251-262.