la culture " des gobelets " , des vases à bec .
map of the geographical extent .
la culture " des gobelets " , des vases à bec .
map of the geographical extent .
La Grande-Bretagne post-romaine
is a term derived from an archaeologists' label for the material culture of Britain in Late Antiquity. "Sub-Roman" was invented to describe the pottery in sites of the 5th century and the 6th century, initially with an inference of decay to locally-made wares from a higher standard under the Roman Empire.
It is now used to denote a period of history.
The period of Sub-Roman Britain traditionally covers the history of Britain from the end of Roman imperial rule, in the very early fifth century, to the arrival of Saint Augustine in AD 597. This period has attracted a great deal of academic and popular debate, in part due to the scarcity of the source material, and in part due to this period being the time in which later national identities have found their origins.
The term Late Antiquity, implying wider horizons, is finding more use in the academic community, especially when features common throughout the post-Roman West are examined, while a range of more dramatic names are given to the period in popular (and some academic) works: the Dark Ages, the Brythonic Age, the Age of Tyrants or the Age of Arthur.
There is very little written material available for this period. Only two contemporary British sources exist: the Confessio of Saint Patrick and Gildas' De Excidio Britanniae ("On The Ruin Of Britain").
Patrick's Confessio reveals aspects of life in Britain, from where he was kidnapped.
It is particularly useful in highlighting the state of Christianity at the time. Gildas' De Excidio Britanniae is a jeremiad; it is written as a polemic to warn contemporary rulers against sin, demonstrating through historical and biblical examples that bad rulers are always punished by God - in the case of Britain, through the destructive wrath of the Saxon invaders. The historical section of De Excidio is short, and the material in it is clearly selected with Gildas' purpose in mind. There are no absolute dates given, and some of the details, such as those regarding the Hadrian and Antonine Walls are clearly wrong. Nevertheless, Gildas does provide us with an insight into some of the kingdoms that existed when he was writing, and to how an educated monk perceived the situation that had developed between the Anglo-Saxons and the British.
There are more continental sources, though these are highly problematic. The most famous is the so-called Rescript of Honorius, in which the Western Emperor Honorius tells the British civitates to look to their own defence. The first reference to this rescript is written by the sixth-century Byzantine scholar Zosimus and is located randomly in the middle of a discussion of southern Italy; no further mention of Britain is made, which has led some, though not all, modern academics to suggest that the rescript does not apply to Britain at all, but to Bruttium in Italy. The Gallic Chronicle provides us with information about St Germanus and his visit(s) to Britain, though again this text has received considerable academic deconstruction. The work of Procopius, another sixth-century Byzantine writer, makes some references to Britain though the accuracy of these is uncertain.
There are numerous later written sources that claim to provide accurate accounts of the period. The first to attempt this was the monk Bede, writing in the early eighth century. He based his account of the Sub-Roman period in his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum heavily on Gildas, though he tried to provide dates for the events Gildas describes. Later sources, such as the history attributed to Nennius, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and the Annales Cambriae are all heavily shrouded in myth, and can only be used as evidence for this period with the greatest caution.
Archaeology provides us with further, though still sadly limited, evidence for this period. The study of burials and cremations, and the grave goods associated with these, has done much to further our understanding of cultural identities in the period.
Excavations of settlements have revealed how social structures might have been changing, and the extent to which life in Britain continued unaltered in certain aspects into the early medieval period.
Work on towns has been particularly important in this respect. Work on field systems and environmental archaeology has also highlighted the extent to which agricultural practice continued and changed over the period. Archaeology, however, has its limits, especially in dating. Although radio-carbon dating can provide a rough estimate, this is not accurate enough to associate archaeological finds with historical events. Dendrochronology is accurate enough to do this, though few suitable pieces of wood have been uncovered. Coins would normally prove the most useful tool for dating, though this is not the case for sub-Roman Britain as no newly-minted coins are believed to have entered circulation after the very early fifth century.
Linguistic and place-name evidence
Linguistics is a useful way of analysing the culture of a people, and to an extent political associations, in a period. Studies into Old English, P- and Q-Celtic and Latin have provided us with evidence for contact between the Britons, the Gaels, and the Anglo-Saxons, or suggest lack of contact. Similarly, studies of place-names give clues about the linguistic history of an area.
Recent work analysing the Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA of people now living in Britain and on the continent has provided some insight into how population movements might have occurred during the sub-Roman period. Some early evidence from UCL indicated that there may have indeed been large scale Anglo-Saxon migration to central and eastern England.
A more complete study from UCL has since indicated that there may have been substantially less Anglo-Saxon migration than previously thought, and also provides evidence that all areas of the British Isles have a pre-Anglo-Saxon genetic component.
It should be noted, however that two books, Blood of the Isles by Brian Sykes and Origins of Britons by Stephen Oppenheimer, both argue that according to genetic evidence (Y-chromosome and MtDNA), the contribution of Anglo-Saxons and other late invaders to the British gene pool was very limited, and that the majority of English people (about 2/3) and British people (about 3/4) descend from paleolithic settlers that migrated from the western european Ice Age refuge, indicating an ancient relationship among the populations of Atlantic Europe.
In addition to this there is some evidence that there may be a pre-Anglo-Saxon genetic relationship between the modern population of south eastern England and the people living on the opposing North Sea regions, indicating a pre-Roman Germanic influence in south east England.
The end of Roman Britain
A strong thread in the historiography of the end of Roman Britain is an attempt to place a firm date on it. Various dates have been advanced, from the end of coinage in 402, to Constantine III's rebellion in 407, to the rebellion mentioned by Zosimus in 409, and the Rescript of Honorius in 410.
Though much ink has been spilt over trying to place a date on when the flag went down and the troops went home, it is perhaps better not to think of this in terms of modern decolonisation.
Though the secular Empire had let go, sparse records from Gaul suggest that the Church continued some hold: "Mansuetus, bishop of the Britains" signed in at the Council of Tours (461) and Fastidius Britannorum episcopum was noted by Gennadius of Massilia. The dating of the end of Roman Britain is complex, and the exact process of it is probably unknowable.
There is some controversy as to just why Roman rule ended in Britain. The view first advocated by Mommsen was that Rome left Britain. This argument was substantiated over time, most recently by A.S. Esmonde-Cleary. According to this argument, internal turmoil in the empire and the need to withdraw troops to fight off barbarian armies led Rome to abandon Britain. It was the collapse of the imperial system that led to the end of imperial rule in Britain. However, Michael Jones has advanced an alternative thesis that argues that Rome did not leave Britain, but that Britain left Rome. He highlights the numerous usurpers who came from Britain in the late fourth and early fifth century, and that a supply of coinage to Britain had dried up by the early fifth century, meaning administrators and troops were not getting paid. All of this, he argues, led the British people to rebel against Rome. Both of these arguments are open to criticism, though as yet no further developments have been made in understanding why the end of Roman Britain occurred.
The Anglo-Saxon migration
The traditional view
It was long held that the Anglo-Saxons migrated to Britain in large numbers in the fifth and sixth centuries, substantially displacing the British people.
The Anglo-Saxon historian Frank Stenton, although making considerable allowance for British survival, essentially sums up this view, arguing "that the greater part of southern England was overrun in the first phase of the war". This interpretation was based on the written sources, particularly Gildas, but also the later sources, that cast the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons as a violent event. The place-name and linguistic evidence was also considered to support this interpretation, as very few British place-names survived in eastern Britain, and few British Celtic words entered the Old English language. This interpretation particularly appealed to earlier English historians, who wanted to further their view that England had developed differently to Europe with a limited monarchy and love of liberty. This, it was argued, came from the mass Anglo-Saxon invasions. Though few would now utilise this argument, the traditional view is still held by some historians, Lawrence James recently writing that England was 'submerged by an Anglo-Saxon current which swept away the Romano-British.'
The traditional view has now been deconstructed to a considerable extent.
At the centre of this is a re-estimation of the numbers of Anglo-Saxons arriving in Britain during this period. A lower figure is now generally accepted, making it highly unlikely that the existing British population was substantially displaced by the Anglo-Saxons. The place-name and linguistic evidence has been explained by saying that the Anglo-Saxons being politically and socially dominant in the south and east of Britain meant that their language and culture also became dominant. There is some archaeological evidence for Anglo-Saxons and Britons living on the same site. For example, in the cemetery at Wasperton, Warwickshire, it is possible to see one family adopting Anglo-Saxon culture over a long period.
New interpretations of genetic, archaeological, historical and linguistic evidence, advocated independently by both Stephen Oppenheimer and Bryan Sykes suggest that any significant migrations from what might be loosely called the Germanic regions of Europe would have occurred no later than the Neolithic. This would mean that the East/West cultural/ethnic split in Britain would predate the arrival of the Romans by thousands of years.
DNA sampling indicates than even in the east of England, where there is the best evidence for migration, no more that 10% of paternal lines can be designated as coming from the “Anglo-Saxon” migration event and that in the same English regions 69% of male lines are still of aboriginal British origin.
The fate of the Romano-Britons
Intrinsic to this period is the fate of the population of Britain under Roman rule. Some clearly adopted Anglo-Saxon culture and identified themselves as Anglo-Saxons. Others may have lived in separate communities under Anglo-Saxon rule. The laws of king Ethelbert of Kent, probably written in the early seventh century, make reference to a legal underclass known as laets who might represent British communities. There definitely is a British (wealh) underclass referred to in Ine of Wessex’s law code, written in the late seventh or early eighth centuries.
However, the violent nature of the period should not be overlooked, and it is likely that this period was a time of endemic tension, alluded to in all of the written sources. This may have led to the deaths of a substantial number of the British population. There are also references to plagues. The evidence from land use suggests a slight decline in production, which might be a sign of population decline.
It is clear that some British people migrated to the continent, which resulted in the region of Armorica in north-west Gaul becoming known as Brittany. There is also evidence of British migration to Gallaecia, in Hispania. The dating of these migrations is uncertain, but recent studies suggest that the migration from south-western Britain to Brittany began as early as AD 300 and was largely ended by 500. These settlers, unlikely to be refugees if the date was this early, made their presence felt in the naming of the westernmost, Atlantic-facing provinces of Armorica, Kerne/Cornouaille ("Kernow/Cornwall") and Domnonea ("Devon"). However, there is clear linguistic evidence for close contacts between the south-west of Britain and Brittany across the sub-Roman period.
In Galicia, in the northwest corner of the Iberian peninsula, another region of traditional Celtic culture, the Suevic Parochiale, drawn up about 580, includes a list of the principal churches of each diocese in the metropolitanate of Braga (the ecclesia Britonensis, now Bretoña), which was the seat of a bishop who ministered to the spiritual needs of the British immigrants to north-western Spain: in 572 its bishop, Mailoc, had a Celtic name.
In the west of Britain the period saw the creation of non-Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, which are first referred to in Gildas' De Excidio Britanniae. To an extent these kingdoms may have derived from Roman structures.
However, it is also clear that they drew on a strong influence from Ireland, which was never part of the Roman Empire. Archaeology has helped further our study of these kingdoms, notably at sites like Tintagel or the South Cadbury hill-fort.
Fifth and sixth century repairs along Hadrian's Wall have been uncovered, and at Whithorn in south-western Scotland (possibly the site of St Ninian's monastery). Chance discoveries have helped document the continuing urban occupation of some Roman towns such as Wroxeter and Caerwent. Continued urban use might be associated with an ecclesiastical structure.
The west of Britain in this period has attracted those who wish to place King Arthur as a historical figure. Though there is little contemporary written evidence for this, archaeological evidence does suggest a possibility that a Romano-British king might have wielded considerable power during the sub-Roman period, as demonstrated by the creation of sites such as Tintagel and earthworks such as the Wansdyke. It is unlikely that any firm evidence will be produced for this, however, and such interpretations may continue to attract the popular imagination and the scepticism of the majority of academics.
Dendrochronology reveals a particular climatic event in the year AD 540. Michael Jones suggests that declining agricultural production from land that was already fully exploited had considerable demographic consequences.
ETON COLLEGE CHAPEL