Sunday, 14 October 2012

Notes on Britannia in the Roman Age

A few notes from Edge of Empire of interest to the situation in Britannia. See my review yesterday for more on the Low Countries.

Milestone commemorating the edge of the Roman Empire in Utrecht
Britannia was a grain exporting region, and also delivered to the garrisons on the lower Rhine. This testifies to the fertility of the land. After the Romans left, grain exports ceased, probably as much because of the lack of social organisation, as from the fall of population. 

I wonder whether and when the country became a grain exporting country again. As said, the loss of Britannia also effectively made the Rhine frontier undefendable. Even though grain might have been provided from further away, this would have been too expensive. 

Like Belgica, you could argue that considering its economic role and the relative peace, Britannia was part of the core of the Roman Empire rather than the outer ring. I would like to see whether Britannia was a net tax exporting region. This would give some indication whether it would be able to maintain the required defenses by itself (if politically united).

The North Sea in this period was more alive than I’d have thought. Considering that the large raids by Chauki pirates on the coast of Flanders in 47 and 172 AD were recorded, suggests that they were also active at other times. They probably also were part of the threat that led to the establishment of the Saxon Shore fortresses. Lendering and Bosman suggest that the Saxons took over the role of pirates. 

I'm now firmly in the camp that thinks that Saxon was a generic name for Germans from the continent in the 5th and 6th centuries..

Dutch 2010 edition
Also, with the establishment of Saxon settlements in Britannia, the North Sea effectively became an Saxon inland sea in the 5th and 6th centuries. This reminds me of discussions about the North Sea as an economic and cultural community in later periods, much like Braudel described for the Mediterranean. This means that the North Sea was a conduit of interaction (economic, cultural, social) rather than a barrier.


  1. The same thing was true of the Irish sea zone, uniting Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Man. In many ways, Britain was an Island divided not into North and South as it was by Hadrian's wall in the Roman era, but between East and West depending on which maritime trading routes were closest.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Hi Bruce,

    you´re absolutely right. Your comment reminded me of a map in Warfare in England by Hillaire Belloc. I will post it sometime soon, because it´s got an excellent introduction on the military geography of England.

  4. ps So as people don't get funny ideas about Bruce. The removed comment was totally harmless in nature, other than that it was a double post.


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