Britons & The Roman Invaders



Whereas pre-Roman social life in the west seems to have been dependent very particularly on the occurrence of a strong personality as leader, on the transmission of oral tradition, on rather rudimentary specialisation of crafts and trade (if we may judge from the feeble development of urban life), and on engineering still in a preliminary phase, Roman rule altered all this. It brought in on a larger scale the ideas of the city, of written tradition and institutional law of general application, of a standing army with hierarchical organisation, of road engineering based on systematic surveys, and of trade in greater bulk than had been previously thinkable with the limited communications of older times. It seems that indigenous peoples who were prepared to adopt Roman ways and language were soon treated as Romans, a feature that has to some extent characterised several of the peoples of Latin tradition in their contacts with some non-European in modern times. It was the pre-Christian Roman tradition to tolerate most religions that did not claim exclusive allegiance, and this helped the process of Romanisation.


A considerable element in Celtic languages that was cognate with Latin made the introduction of new words to a Celtic-speaking people easier and facilitated the melting of Celtic into Latin, at any rate among the peoples of the cities attracted by Roman culture. In addition to elements cognate with Latin, Welsh has direct borrowing such as `pont`, `ffenstr` and `colofn` (columna), features widely used by roman engineers and architects, and `llyfr` (liber) the book which brought the written word to a land which had imaginative sculptors but no pre-Roman, or inscriptions of the Roman Period in the Celtic languages. During and after the Roman occupation, Latin would be mainly an urban language. In the countryside and throughout highland and Atlantic Britain, Celtic tongues were used. Even the Romans retained some Celtic names, particularly for rivers. The town of Exeter was Isca Dumnoniorum and the legionary fortress of Caerleon, bordered by the Usk, was called Isca (water). A legionary who died there was commemorated by his wife Flavia Veldicca; her household is likely to have been bilingual. St. Patrick, writing in the mid-fifth century, apologises for the quality of his Latin, a foreign tongue which was not the language of his home near the western sea; his father was a member of a Romano-British town council. Celtic tongues survived in the post-Roman west, while in eastern Britain, after 450 A. D. large-scale Anglo-Saxon immigration brought in the English language and cut off the more densely settled parts of Britain, linguistically and culturally, from the Mediterranean world.


Roman power was old-established when, in one of its last drives to expand the Empire, it thrust into Britain. The productively of the lowlands occupied by Iron B peoples, and the mineral wealth of western Britain, were known to the Romans. Strabo wrote in 24 B. C. of “corn, cattle, gold, silver and iron, these are brought from Britain, also hides, slaves and clever hunting dogs.” Coins of the Trinovantes bore an ear of the corn yielded by their rich Essex lowlands. Surplus corn which had been exported by British tribes would henceforth fill Roman granaries and nourish the legions. Within fifty years of the Claudian invasion of 43 A. D. lowland Britain was taken over as the productive zone of civil occupation. Its frontier was roughly the line of the Severn and Trent, backed by the Jurassic scarp and the Fosse Way, a major strategic route. Beyond the two Midland rivers lay thinly peopled forested lowland and, west of it, highland which produced poor corn crops and was the home of turbulent pastoral peoples. The Midlands were later absorbed into the civil zone, but the uplands remained under military control. Much of highland Britain was contained rather than occupied, and Roman legionaries never ventured into parts of Atlantic Britain and the land north of the Highland Fault in Scotland. The minerals of western Britain were State property and their mining was directed by Roman military engineers.

Major roads were cut in Britain from what is now England as far as Exeter, Wales and Scotland up to the Antonine wall between Glasgow and Edinburgh or (Edwinburgh), these were essential through the Celtic territories and the fortresses and towns to which these roads led. South-east of the Fosse Way, which runs from Dorset to Lincoln major roads in the civil zone were linked by a mesh of minor roads. It was particularly intricate between London, St. Albans (Verulamium) and Cambridge. West of the Fosse Way, a few strategic roads ran through the forests, linking up military bases or towns occupied by the army veterans. These supply lines ran to troublesome highlands west and north of the Midlands.

During military occupation of western and northern Britain began with the subjection of the Brigantes whose large territory centred on the Pennines. The base for this operation was York (Eboracum), founded in 71 A. D. on the navigable Ouse. West-east roads, built on the York moraine, met there and linked York with the major north-south roads which were built to contain the Brigantes. South of York the Parisi were interested in trading down the Humber and appear to have co-operated when the continuation of Ermine Street, which ran up from Lincoln along the Wolds, was extended north of the Humber. The numerous Brigantine communities of the Pennine Hills and valleys were brought into subjection based on south-north roads on both sides of the hills. After their queen, Cartimandua, allied herself with the invaders, linking roads, like the rungs of a ladder, were laid out across the mountain spine.

In South Wales fierce resistance by the Silures prevented Roman penetration of their hilly terrain in 51-52 A. D. Their conquest, which was completed in 75 A. D. began with landings from the sea in south-east Wales, where relatively well-settled lowlands provided food supplies and riverside sites for forts. Caerleon, on the tidal Usk and Wye valleys and along the Glamorgan coastal lowland. Caerleon eventually covered forty-nine acres and it has been estimated that 6,000 troops were housed in sixty barrack buildings there. Carmarthen marked the westward limit of military occupation. The Demetae of the Pembrokeshire peninsula, like the Dumnonii of the peninsula across the Bristol Channel, appear to have shown no hostility to the Roman forces.

Road-andfort-buildings in South Wales aimed at containment of the hill areas from coastal plains and major valleys. After the Ordovices of North Wales were defeated by Agricola in 78 A. D., the network of roads and forts which enmeshed Wales was completed. Its major bases were at Caerleon and Chester, which were linked by a military road up the Welsh Marches, and the western points of the containing rectangle were at Carmarthen and Caernarvon (Segontium). The resistance of the Ordovices from their intricate mountain stronghold was broken by penetration up the Dee and Conway valleys and by encroachment from mountain forts like Pen-y-gwryd. Snowdonia bred fiercer warriors than the hills of north-east Wales where the Deceangli were already mining lead for the Romans by 74 A. D.

Agricola followed up his conquest of North Wales by the penetration of the Southern Uplands of Scotland. This involved the pacification of the Selgovae of the Tweed basin and of the Votadini of the eastern hills. Roads were built northwards from Carlisle and up the Annan valley to the Clyde, and north from the Tyneto Newstead on the Tweed and beyond it through Votadini territory to the Firth of Forth. The Romans thus reached the Clyde-Forth isthmus. There was a partial penetration of Galloway, but the main interest of this first reconnaissance lay beyond the Scottish Midlands. The formidable highland barrier which walled in the Pictish peoples was not surmounted in 84 A. D., or later, but a line of forts and signal stations was laid out along Strathmore that the highland warriors were provoked into the battle of Mons Graupius where they were slaughtered or made ineffective as a threat to lowland Scotland and to the Brythons farther south.

During the conquest and subsequent consolidation of the military zones of west and north Britain, the defence of native forts were slighted. Many of them continued to be used as undefended Celtic villages: the Votadini continued to live in Traprain Law fort. At Dinorben in North Wales huts were built on the levelled walls. The fort builders learnt new skills as labourers on Roman roads and forts, but their old skills were used to build hilltop villages like Tre`r Ceiri in the Llyn peninsula, where they also introduced ideas of fortification learnt from the Romans.

Disturbances in southern Scotland led in 122-8 A. D. to the building by Hadrian of the wall which still splendidly bears witness to his skill as a strategist. In its completed form its ran from the mouth of the Tyne to the lowest ford on the south shore of the Solway. The defensive line is continued southwards by a line of forts along the Solway shore of Cumberland. A great ditch fronts most of the wall, and from it mile-castles the defenders could sally forth and pin attackers against the wall. Supplies came through sixteen large forts on the south side of the wall. After the southern Uplands were reoccupied, a similar line, the Antonine Wall, was built across the Frith-Clyde isthmus. It was of turf, not stone, and more deeply ditched than Hadrain`s Wall. Closely spaced forts replaced mile-castles on it. But it could be outflanked by attacks across the Firth of Forth from Fife, and Strathmore had to be held to defend this land between the Tay and Forth estuaries. Hadrain`s Wall temporary became an almost deserted second line of defence until the Brigantian revolt of 155-8 A. D. brought a withdrawal to it. In the third century the Picts were still being contained north of the Antonine Wall and the Brythonic tribes of the Southern Uplands were controlled and protected by the Roman power. As in northern England and in Wales, they lived as pastoralists in undefended villages and scattered farms set amongst the pastures.

Towards the end of the third century sea-raiding by Saxon pirates from across the North Sea, caused the Romans to secure the coasts of both the lowland and Atlantic Zones. The forts of the Saxon shore, began between 287 and 296 A. D., ran from Norfolk to the Isle of Wight. In the west, forts were built at Cardiff, Holyhead and Lancaster, and signalling stations were set up on the Exmoor coast to watch for Irish pirates using the Bristol Channel. Signal stations were aligned along the Yorkshire coast, where Scarborough had one on its headland. Regular sea patrols were made along the coasts, though these did not prevent a joint attack by Saxons, Picts and Scots in 367 A. D., in which the Count of the Saxon shore was killed. Saxon raiding was followed by settlement in East Anglia and in the East Riding where, around 400 A. D., land appears to have been given to mercenaries from Schleswig Holstein and north-west Germany in exchange for military service.

Subject tribes remote from the centres of civil power were given more authority as treaty states at this time. The Votandini of the Lothians were among them. The Romans were manoeuvring tribal groups early in the fifth century, and the movement of Cunedda, a Votadini leader, with his followers from Manaw Gododdin, the area south of the Firth of Forth, to north-west Wales, may reflect a need to place a trusted ally there to oppose any invaders who might come from Ireland.

In the military zone of upland Britain the Romans imposed their power from forts. Great legionary fortresses like Caerleon attracted trade, and civil settlements which housed merchants, army veterans and camp followers grew up outside their walls. In the Lowland Zone, civil administration was carried out from towns. After pacification Celtic tribal aristocrats were persuaded to live in towns which were near or on the site of their former capitals. The military zone had few such vulnerable centres of Roman-British luxury. In Wales some Silures would have been tempted into Caerwent (Venta Silurum), near their hilltop stronghold at Llanmelin. Caerwent, a town of only forty-five acres, was the only civil settlement in Wales.

The Roman occupation forces, like the British in the Indian subcontinent, dealt with native princes and confirmed them in office when they were co-operative. The native princedoms became Roman cantons and the Celtic leaders kept order and collected taxes and produce in them. The old tribal capitals acted as administrative centres of the cantons. Dorchester, below Maiden Castle, administered a large canton which was the territory of the Durotriges. It had a second capital beyond the Dorset Heights at Ilchester. The territory of the Dobunni was governed from Cirencester, and that of the Coritani from Leicester, and in both these cantons colonies of war veterans were set up, at Gloucester and Lincoln respectively, to augment the Roman power.

Most Romano-British towns were ports or route centres for the Lowland Zone which provided their trade. Richborough, the scene of the first landing in 43 A. D., Dover, Pevensey, Chichester and Portchester were ports which sent British produce to Gaul and Rome and took in supplies and luxuries from Mediterranean lands. Most towns would take about twenty years to lay out. Their rectangular grid of streets would later be enclosed within a wall whose line would be adapted to each site. The towns focused on the forum, around which lay imposing buildings like senate house, theatre and temple. Town houses in gardens, and bath buildings, lay beyond them and there were often public water supply and sewage systems. In 50 A. D. the Roman town of Colchester, for veteran legionaries, but also for the Trinovantes, was started at Cunobelin`s capital of Camulodunum. Houseplots, and farmlands beyond the walls, were offered to settlers here and elsewhere. Camulodunum was sacked and burnt by Boudicca in 61 A. D. and though it was rebuilt, it was replaced as the administrative centre of Britain by Londinium. Although there had been no permanent pre-Roman settlement there , London grew rapidily. The Thames estuary and the Dover road linked London with the continental heart of the Empire. Firm gravel banks supported a bridge across the river, and tributaries flowing below low hills were incorporated into the defences. Roads radiated eventually to all parts of occupied Britain. The walls of London, built in the first half of the second century, enclosed 325 acres, and though much of the town was destroyed by the fire in Hadrian`s time, a large merchant and administrative community rebuilt it.

The initial impetus of town-building continued and many Romano-British towns were built or enlarged in the first half of the second century. Viroconium (Wroxeter) on the Severn, was built by the Cornovii and its city hall and market square were dedicated to Hadrian. It had town houses for leaders of the Cornovii, much as nearby Georgian Shrewsbury had second homes for Shropshire squires. Leicester was built and St. Albans rebuilt at this time. Leaders of the Catuvellauni who settled in the 200-acre town at St. Albans were protected by strong walls and ditches, and were well supplied from rows of shops. Silchester housed the leaders of the Atrebates and Exeter was the most south-westerly market and civil centre. The rebellion of the Iceni delayed economic progress in East Anglia, and Venta Icenorum (Caistor St. Edmunds near Norwich), like Caerwent, was only, was only a small town. Many provincial capitals, however ambitious their initial layout, eventually covered only about 100 acres and probably housed communities of about 2,500. St. Albans, and Cirencester, which replaced nearby Bagendon as the cantonal capital of the Dobunni, were twice this size. There were also about forty minor Romano-British roadside towns within the tribal territories and these towns may have averaged 1,000 inhabitants. London`s maximum population may have been 20,000.

In northern England Eboracum (York) was a trading fortress linked with the Humber ports by the Ouse, and with the Trent basin and the Fenland by a canal system. It dominated the rich Vale of York and outshone the Brigantine capital at Isurium Brigantium, now the town of Aldborough on the Ure. Luguvallium (Carlisle) rose to importance in relation to the wall and to the fertile Solway and Eden plains.

Legionaries from warmer and less humid lands must have found military service in highland Britain conducive to rheumatism. For curative and social purposes the towns of Aquae Sulis (Bath) and Aquae Arnemetiae (Buxton) were built around medicinal springs. The baths of Aquae Sulis were the largest in Western Europe and included three swimming baths flanked by the temple of the water goddess, Sul Minerva. This temple adorned in Roman style by sculptors from Chartres. British craftsmen also worked at Bath and commemorated their god Manwydd, possibly the father of Sul Minerva. The Romans baths at Buxton appears to have been less magnificent and probably adjoined St. Ann`s Well. Arnemetia, who presided over the Buxton springs, was also a Celtic goddess.

In the third century many towns declined, although decreasing trade often sustained them for another century and even after 410 A. D. when they were left to fend for themselves. Public buildings gradually went out of use as an increasingly unsettled countryside ceased to contribute to the towns. The fourth century was cool and wet and harvests were difficult. The towns had been imposed upon tribes to whom urban life was largely foreign and the laws and taxes promulgated from them were often bitterly opposed. Medieval towns imposed on pastoral Britain by Norman and Plantagenat rulers were similarly resented. When Roman power was threatened by barbarian invasions in continental Europe, Romano-British leaders began to protect their food supplies. The dykes around Silchester are thought to delimit the farmlands which then supplied the town.

Before 43 A. D., many of the scarplands, major valleys and coast plains of lowland Britain provided arable and pasture land for Iron Age farmers. Tribal leaders had larger farms and these men, and those who profited from the Roman occupation, built villas on their estates. Villas were farmsteads, and like all farms varied greatly in size. The dwelling house was flanked by barns, servant and slave quarters, and by customary functional features like threshing-floors, granaries and wells. Simple bath-houses are found in later villas and occasionally, as at Chedworth in the Cotswolds, farming was abandoned for manufacture. Local fuller`s earth and wool, and iron which probably came from the Forest of Dean, were used there for fulling cloth and making farm tools. The villas of Romano-British farmers are numerous along the Jurassic scarp and in the scarplands and valleys east of it. A few were built on the plains east of the Pennines and others in valleys along the Welsh Marches. About a dozen occur in south-east Wales and two have been found as far west as the Towy valley. Beyond the Towy a hybrid embanked farm with primitive baths, and a corn-drying kiln, has been found south of Carmarthen. This Cwn-brwyn farmer was perhaps the first Welshman to add a bathroom to his cottage. There are many villas on the good lands of Somerset, and at Magor a farmer of west Cornwall had a villa built in the second century. Far distant from any villa yet discovered, and built in an area of circular native farmsteads, its walls were made to meet at curious angles.

Food for the towns and Roman garrisons came partly from the villas and partly from ares of native farming which were not carved up into large estates. The Dorset chalklands, notably those of Cranborne Chase, and parts of Salisbury Plain continued to be farmed according to an Iron Age layout. Their houses, corn and storage pits were so often renewed over the centuries that these farms have been interpreted as villages. Storage pits in Cranborne Chase diminished during the Roman occupation and it has been suggested that the Belgae there had to yield three-fifths of their harvest to the Romans. This abnormal departure from the usual tithe would result from their hostility during the Roman conquest.

The rich silt and peat soils of the Fenland soon attracted the Romans who drained them into rivers and into a series of canals. The best-known canals were the Car Dykes. The Lincolnshire Car Dyke led northwards to Lincoln, from which it was later extended by the Fosse Dyke to the Trent. Corn from Fenland farms could be carried to northern garrisons along this canal system. It seems to have been initiated before 70 A. D. and rebel Iceni families, displaced from their Breckland and other Norfolk homes, were probably enlisted to work the reclaimed land. The pattern of farms and fields which they laid out was a Celtic one. The Roman overseers appear to have controlled only the canals, dykes and collection of tribute. After a period in which harvests were difficult, and attempts were made to dry the corn in kilns fired with coal from Yorkshire and Durham about 400 A. D. A minor rise in sea-levels caused the drained land to revert to fen.

In Atlantic and highland Britain native farmsteads were rebuilt or enlarged, but they differed little from those of the pre-Roman Iron Age. In the Land`s End peninsula houses like that at Chysauster were built with a series of rooms around a courtyard. Here and elsewhere, work and living rooms were differentiated, and there were also separate underground food stores or fogous. Some farmsteads included smithies where farm implements could be forged and repaired. Several Anglesey farms of the second to fourth centuries have smithies. Roman pottery in them suggests contacts with the garrison at Caernarvon. The thick-walled houses with their low roofs gave shelter from the high winds of Atlantic Britain and some were occupied throughout the centuries of occupation with little interference from Roman-British administrators.

Small cornplots and more extensive pastures sustained farming families in Cornwall, West Wales and in many of the valleys and on the hillsides of northern Britain. The better land of valleys like those of the Aire, Wharfe and Ure appears to have supported considerable Brigantian communities. As the climate deteriorated in the late Roman Period, cattle would become more important than corn in the farming economies of both highland and lowland Britain. On the Dorset downlands large enclosures bounded by dykes were laid out, and the sheep and cattle of these and other ranches, and British cloth and hides, were well known to the Roman world of the fourth century. Among the wool products were the Birrus Britannicum, a felted waterproof cloak, and the Tapete Britannicum, a plaid blanket. In the Highland Zone a hill village like Tre`r Ceiri, enclosed by a wall with a parapet walk in the Roman tradition, has yielded no querns, but Dinorben, which adjoins better land in Denbighshire, has produced ploughshares. Both settlements were occupied or re-occupied from the second century onwards. In northern England, and in the southern Uplands, farmsteads and paddocks can still be seen, notably in the Yorkshire Dales, along the Stainmore Gap and in the Eden basin. In Scotland pastoralists lived in isolated farms, in hamlets aligned along hillsides, and the Votadini built farmsteads downslope from their capital on Traprain Law.

The Romans took over the metal resources of Britain as State property and were interested particularly in iron and in galena, the sulphide of lead which contains silver. North-west Iberia supplied copper ore and in the early years of the occupation Roman mining prospectors were not interested in the copper deposits of Anglesey. The classical world produced its silver from lead, as the modern world still largely does, and British lead was worked in the Mendips from 49 A. D., in Flintshire from 74 A. D. and in the Yorkshire Dales from 81 A. D. Opencast workings were often used at first. Mining of Derbyshire, Shropshire, Cardiganshire and Glamorganshire lead ores followed. In many of these areas, small forts like Cae-gaer, in the valley south-east of Plynlimon, suggest military supervision of operations.

Copper for bronze manufacture was mined in Shropshire at Llanymynech, in Caernarvonshire on the Great Orme`s Head, and at Parys Mountain in the north of Anglesey. Caer Gybi fort (Holyhead) was built to secure Anglesey`s copper supplies from Irish raiders. Its walls were carried down to low-water mark, like those of a Rhine-bank fort, giving free access to its harbour on the open side for the crews of patrol boats. Cornish tin was most actively worked after the mid-third century and milestones found in the Land`s End peninsula suggest that a road from Exeter may then have existed down the spine of Devon and Cornwall. But Cornish tin is likely to have been carried mainly by sea, as in previous and later centuries. The Roman gold mine at Dolaucothi, between the forts at Llandovery and Llanio, can still be seen. Adits and opencast workings, and the remains of leets and spoil-heaps, lie in woodland by the Cothi river. It appears to have been the only Roman gold mine in Britain.

Less precious iron deposits in the Weald and Forest of Dean were taken over from Celtic tribesmen who had worked them. The Wealden ores were exported from Chichester and Pevensey. After the Silures were conquered, in 75 A. D., iron-working in the Forest of Dean concentrated on the deposits around Weston-under-Penyard (Ariconium) where it continued for at least three centuries. Northampton and Lincolnshire ironstones were worked in areas which are productive today, and what now! The coalfields of Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Durham yielded coal for corn drying, heating of forts on Hadrian`s wall, and smelting. Somerset cannel coal was burnt on the alters of Sul Minerva at Bath.

Clay was widely used for tile-,brick-, pipe-, and pottery-making and tileries like that at Holt in Denbighshire, producing for the legionary fortress at Chester, are well attested. The best-known potteries were those of Castor, where Ermine Street crosses the Nene at Water Newton, and the New Forest potteries which produced a wide range of household ware. Most legionary forts and Romano-British towns had their own potteries, and imported wine and olive oil came in amphorae which were copied in Britain. Pottery and glass circulated widely and reached remote parts of Atlantic and highland Britain. Kimmeridge shale from Dorset was carved into plaques and furniture, and Purbeck marble from the same area was quarried for ornamental use. Whitby jet was in demand, as it was in prehistoric and Victorian times. The Romans took over the saltpans worked by the Trinovantes in Essex, and brine-working was extended from this coast to that of the Channel. Droitwich and Middlewich had brine pits and clay-lined furnaces to evaporate the brine.

Both Romans and Britons had many religious cults. Official Roman religion centred on emperor worship, bound up with the security of the Roman State, and on many gods, such as Minerva and Jupiter, who were severally commemorated in Romano-British cities. Tribal gods like Brigantia were tolerated and many other gods were worshipped in northern Britain. The sculptors of communities in the Aire valley carved numerous portraits busts which were set up as household gods. The Celtic gods of regions with Celtic farming systems suggest that the veneer of Romanisation was a thin one in the hill country. At Lydney a temple adjoined by baths and guest-houses for pilgrims was set up in honour of the water god Nodens in the late fourth century- from the hill at Lydney the Severn bore can be seen surging up the narrow Severn estuary. This pilgrim centre lies inside an Iron B fort which was sporadically occupied by Romano-British iron miners, and it flourished long after the legions left Britain in 410 A. D., possibly because Irish raiders, who then lurked in the Bristol Channel, also honoured the Celtic god Nodens as their Nuada.

While official religious cults were observed in the legionary forts, more private religions flourished outside their walls. Mithraism, the cult brought by the army form Peria, had its temples on the fringes of Caernavon, at St. Albans, and at forts behind Hadrain`s Wall. The only civil shrine, possibly erected by merchants, was the Wallbrook temple of Mithras in London. Deliberate desecration of Mithraic shrines in the fourth century suggests that some army officers had become Christians.

Christianity became the official religion of the Empire in 325 A. D., but before this date there are many traditions of its introduction into Britain. Legend connects d.Glastonbury with Joseph of Arimathea: it was certainly inhabited in his time. Romano-British towns had bishops as heads of local clergy (epi-scopus means overseer) and some of them attended the Councils of Arles (314 A. D.), Nicaea (325 A. D.) and Ariminum (349 A. D.) Excavation has revealed a Christian church at Silchester, a doubtful one at Caerwent, and Christian wall paintings and mosaics in villas. But country folk must have continued to worship tribal gods, and the term pagani came to mean heathens rather than peasants.

Christainity was brought to the countryside by Celtic missionaries who used the Atlantic route. cultural and trading contacts, as well as piracy, were maintained along the old route throughout the Roman Period. Migrations from Wales to Brittany, and of the Deisi from Ireland to Pembrokeshire, followed the trade routes. St. Ninian, who studied under St. Martin of Tours, and dedicated several early Celtic churches to him, founded Candida Casa (Whithorn Priory) in Galloway in 397 A. D.) As a centre of learning it attracted Irish and Brythonic monks for at least a century after Ninian`s death. Another early missionary was St. Patrick, a Romano-Briton who studied at Lerins off the Mediterranean coast of France and under St. Germanus of Auxerre. He preached Christianity in Ireland in the mid-fifth century. Celtic Christianity flourished after Roman control ceased in Britain. When it was deemed necessary to suppress Pelagianism in Britain ( a creed which denied the total depravity of the new-born as a result of Adam`s sin), St. Germanus came from Auxerre in 429 to confer with British Christians at Verulamium. Dedications to St. Germanus in Cornwall, and in the Isle of Man, suggest that he too may have preached t centres along the Atlantic route. Celtic monasteries were widely dispersed in western Britain during the Anglo-Saxon occupation of the lowland zone.

Christianity was part of the legacy of ideas which the Romans left to the Celtic peoples. Their early writers recall the splendours of Roman material culture and look back to the Romans Period as a golden age. Both Geoffrey of Monmouth and, in 1188, Giraldus Cambrensis, refer to the golden roofs of the legionary fortress at Caerleon. One of the tales of the Mabinagion concerns Maxen Wledig, Magnus Maximus, who served as an officer in Britain and usurped the throne of the Western Empire. He is associated with the re-occupation of Caernarvon between 367 and 383, probably to safeguard coppe-working in Anglesey. In the Mabinogion he comes in a dream ship to Caernarvon and enters the Roman fort, finding gold walls and furnishings there. The rigours of a harsh administration would be largely forgotten and memories of an orderly and often peaceful existence as an outpost of the Roman Empire would become paramount as less disciplined raiders and settlers came into Britain over the North Sea.