From John Ray's shorter notes

June 06, 2020

They came, saw and lingered — the Romans never really left Britain

What  the lady below says is mostly correct but how does it jibe with the fact that DNA studies reveal virtually no Italic genes among the English?  The answer to that rides on your definition of who was a Roman.  And they very early on ceased to be restricted to inhabitants of central Italy. As we know from the New Testament, even Israelites could be Romans

And as we know from "De bello gallico", the Celtic inhabitants of Gaul rapidly fell under the Roman yoke.  And Rome took advantage  of Romanized subject populations to recruit Legions from them.  And because of Roman practicality, it was often  locally recruited troops who were used to defend the borders of the Roman world.  So there is little doubt that the Roman legions that invaded Britain would have been recruited from somewhere in Gaul. What point would have been served by bringing troops from Italy when other troops were much more  nearby?

So the Romans who invaded Britain would indeed have been led by Roman citizens and would have imposed Roman culture but they would have been Romanized Gauls -- Celts.  And we know from various sources that the Celts of Britain and the Celts of Gaul respected and sometimes shared the Druidic religions of Britain.  They were almost certainly two branches of a common ethnicity.

Knowing that the Germanic invaders of Britain  largely adapted to life in  Britain as they found it, we can understand that the Romanized Celts to a considerable extent absorbed the Germans, just as China once absorbed the Mongols.  So elements of Roman civilization did remain in the mixed Celtic/German population of Britain  long after the political authority of Rome was lost.

The English emerged not from the arrival of boatloads of fearsome Saxon invaders but in direct continuity from Roman Britons, an archaeologist claims.

Susan Oosthuizen, of the University of Cambridge, said that analysis of land use, burials, artefacts, texts and linguistics provided no support for the traditional view of a Germanic takeover following the withdrawal of Roman troops in 410 — or for the recent orthodoxy of an “elite replacement”, in which a small clique of incomers imposed its language and culture on a people.

She said that there was considerable evidence for continuity from the Roman period through the following centuries, with people in what’s now England using the same farms and common lands in the same ways as their Roman-citizen forebears and speaking the same languages.

In her book The Emergence of the English, which she discussed in an online lecture this week, Professor Oosthuizen argued that Gildas, a British monk writing around the 500s and often interpreted as describing an Anglo-Saxon invasion, paints a picture of relative stability, with enduring institutions on the Roman model. These included a functioning legal system, an ecclesiastical ­hierarchy and military structures organised on Roman lines.

Although Gildas describes a military threat from Saxons who had been recruited by British leaders as soldiers — following a standard Roman practice — she said that he portrayed Scots and Picts as a greater threat.

A Roman legacy was not only visible in the British kingdoms ­described by Gildas but also in later English-speaking kingdoms, where rulers continued to position themselves as heirs to Rome into the 8th century and beyond.

“The earliest Christian kings of Kent, Northumbria and Deira were buried in the ‘porticus’ of their principal minsters, emulating royal mausolea in Rome, and built churches whose design was based on Roman basilica used for civilian assembly, while the monumental architecture of early medieval palaces, too, may have been based on the forms and layouts of Roman villas,” she said.

Professor Oosthuizen ­acknowledged that significant changes occurred in the period, but said these were evolutions “from a traditional base” and sometimes part of long-term processes. For example, the decline of towns in Britain did not happen overnight after the breakdown of imperial rule but started in the 4th century, during the Roman period.

She said there were undoubted stylistic influences from across the North Sea from the 400s but this did not require there to have been any takeover.

Likewise she said the spread of the Germanic language Old ­English, which is often taken as evidence of conquest, could have been a gradual process, arising through trade or other circumstances that made it a useful lingua franca.


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