Tuesday, 25 August 2020

The 5th Century in Britannia (401 to 500 AD) part 1.The Rise of Vortigern.

Many historians past and present, have done an immense amount of work in an attempt to make sense of the limited and sometimes jumbled history of the 5th century in Britain. All the information that they have collected is valid up to the present and has been made available to the public over the years.

Thanks to the hard work of these authors, wargamers like myself can make choices as to which thread of history to follow. The following article is my own interpretation of events presented by the historians.

This is the point in the history of Late Roman Britain where the situation really started to change for the people. As if the raiding and constant warfare was,nt enough to cope with, the taxes levied on the population were getting worse!
( some things in history never change!).

Basically, each city or town within the Roman Empire had a council called the Curiales. Being wealthy they were personally responsible for all bills incurred by the City. From the 4th Century onward membership of a City Council became more financially ruinous.
As a result, many counsellors try to escape this situation by joining the Army, the Government, the Church or by gaining the position of Senator.

In the 5th Century the governing of towns and provinces gradually fell to individuals who had managed to engineer the situation to their advantage. These were Senators, Magnates, Military Officers, Bishops and Imperial Office holders. A character by the name of Vortigern became a member of this group.

In 401AD, Hadrians Wall lost its garrison troops as General Stilicho ordered all troops back to Gaul. Having already suffered large scale incursions, the Rhine frontier finally collapsed in the winter of 406AD.

When the river Rhine froze completely, this allowed thousands of tribespeople to cross into Gaul. The tribes that crossed the Rhine were Vandals, Alans, Seubi, Quadi,Bergundians, Alemanni and Saxons, adding to the Franks who had already been settled by the Romans in Gaul. The sea trade to Britannia dwindled almost to nothing.

By 407AD, the supply of money from Rome to Britannia had stopped. For the last time, the regular troops in the Province rose in revolt. The troops declared Constantine ( a Roman Prefect ) as Emperor. He became Constantine the 3rd.

Constantine gathered virtually all the remaining troops including the federated Cohorts and, using the remaining ships of the Navy, heads to Gesoriacum ( Boulogne).

Apart from the personal troops of the Magnates, there are no regular forces to go up against the raiding parties of Picts, Scotti, Franks and Frisians who are now raiding freely into the countryside. The Picts and Scotti are now starting to settle in areas of Northern Brittania just South of the Wall and in areas of North-Western Wales. One of the largest forts on the Wall ( Banna ) becomes the main fortress of a Scottish King.

By 409AD, all the Roman magistrates loyal to Constantine had been expelled by the local councillors of the town's and cities. Those that remained still regarded themselves as Roman and still follow the Christian religion. However the Province was slowly fragmenting into small Kingdoms. Local leaders and their people were abandoning the towns, villages and villas and moving to the hill forts their ancestors were driven from by Roman invasion.

Londinium still just about functions as an administrative hub. Those with power try to come to an agreement as to how to function but power politics are in play and self interest is to the fore. An embassy is sent to the Emperor Honorius for aid but he tells the Britons that they must look to their own defence.

On the continent in 410AD, Rome is sacked by Alaric and his Visigoths. Then in 411AD Constantine is captured and killed by the Emperor Honorius.

If you draw a line from the head of the the Severn Estuary diagonally North- East across Britannia to the head of the river Humber, the area South of that line was becoming know as Lloegyr ( pronounced Low-ee-jer).

This area plus that on the South coast of Wales around Glevum was still controlled by the Britons. The area North of this line was now controlled by the Picts and Scots.

By 418AD the British treasury was empty so any money in circulation was controlled by the new Nobility. Food barter becomes the main currency of the population. Some who had lost lands and their property have taken ships from Dumnonia (Devon and Cornwall combined) and headed for Amorica (Brittany).

By 425AD Vortigern re-enters the story. He was a Prefect of Gloui ( Gloucester) or Glevum. As part of his rise to power, he married Savira the daughter of a previous usurper, Magnus Maximus by his second marriage. Vortigern inherited extensive lands. They had one daughter, Scothnoe, and three sons; Vortimer, Catigern and Pascent.

Vortigern himself is of  Hibernian descent ( Goidelic). In 436AD, he seals a pact with the High King of Hibernia by marrying his daughter Scothnoe to the High King,s son Federmid. By now Vortigern is the most powerful Noble ( Equites= Knight ) of the round table council of Britain.His personal hearth guard is composed of Scotts-Irish and Pictish warriors.

 Although resented by the Romano-Christian members of the council Vortigerns position is unassailable, as the Imperial Court is no longer sending any Officials to Britannia.

The raiding by Scots and Pictish warbands has lessened into Romano-British territory but the raids by Frankish and Frisian Pirates continued.
By 432AD, on the Continent the Magister Militum Aetius ( pro: A-E-shush) is in contention with Boniface as to who becomes leader of the Western Roman Empire.

In Amorica ( Brittany) The local Roman magistrates were gradually being ejected by the dispossessed Nobility arriving from Britannia who felt let down by the Roman Senate. Amorica has also become home to Bandits, deserters and peasants made homeless by the barbarian invasions.

 Many soldiers from the failed coup attempts are also there. Amongst them are two surviving sons of Constantine 3rd; Ambrosius and Uthyr. The eldest son Constans was killed when his father was taken. The Amorican inhabitants have many tribal links to South Western Britain going back to Pre-Roman times.

By 437AD, Aetius is in control of the Western Empire. He is not very happy about Amorica becoming an independent state, so he, with his General Litorius decides to invade the territory to bring it under his control. Amorica is ideal defensive territory, being heavily wooded hill country.

Soon the campaign gets bogged down and Aetius already having problems elsewhere gives King Goer and his Alannic troops the task

It is now 440AD. Back in Britannia the Round Table is desperate to solve the problem of the seaborne raids and convince Vortigern to send an embassy to the Jutes of Northern Denmark.
( Jutes=Gutes; Latin=Geuisse=Gewissi). These troops had been to Britain before and were well known for their seafaring abilities.

By now Vortigern has complete power but in order to be seen " as a council member" he acceded to the request. The next year ( 441AD), The Jutish leader Hengist arrives with his brother Horsa along with three ships of men (240 warriors?). They land at the isle of Thanet and make camp there.
At the start, the presence of the Jutes with their ships reduces the raids but not enough to stop them completely.

Hengist convinces Vortigern and the Council that he needs more more men. In the Spring of 442 another 16 ships of Jutes arrive at Thanet (1,280 men). For the next ten years from 443AD until 453AD the Jutes effectively end the Pirate raids.

With the Gewissi now employed as a private army by the Noble round table, life takes on a relative calmness but as the year 454 dawned this was all about to change------.