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The Romans and The Anglo-Saxons

PostPosted: Mon Aug 02, 2004 10:23 am
by Colin
First The Romans

In Britain before the Romans, the Celts had been around a long, long time - living in central and western Europe hundreds of years before Jesus Christ was born. From about 500 BC they spreed eastward into Switzerland and Hungary, and the west to France, Britain and Spain.

The Celts lived in tribes and all spoke a version of the same language similar to Welsh and the Gaelic languages of Scotland and Ireland. The Celts loved poetry, stories, music and songs - which they learned by heart. They also like feasting and drinking and fighting each other for fun, and they were also very fierce in real battles as the Romans found out.

Each Celt tribe had its own chief, either a king or queen, and within each tribe there several ''kins'', or large families. They lived in small settlements of a few houses. Most Celtic people were farmers who grew their own crops and raised a few animals. They built hill forts on the tops of hills so that all the surrounding countryside could be seen.

The Celts liked to trade and people from other countries often visited the Celts to buy jewellery and other metal items, as well as wool and corn. They worshipped nature and believed that spirits lived all around them in trees, streams, and wild animals. The oak tree and mistletoe were sacred to the Celts and their priests called Druids were just as important as the chief of the tribe. Druids also knew all the laws of the tribe and sometimes acted as a sort of judge.

The Romans originally came from the city of Rome in Italy and invaded lots of different countries including Britain. They were good at fighting and gradually their armies took over many places to form the Roman Empire. The Romans had a huge, well-organised army divided into centuries of 100 men with 6 centuries making a cohort and 10 cohorts making a legion.

The Romans invaded Britain because they wanted sliver, gold and tin from the mines. They also wanted to expand their empire, and to stop Celts helping other countries to fight against the Romans. They invaded Britain three times.

The Romans first invaded Britain in 55 BC, led by the general Julius Caesar. But the Celts were well prepared and the Romans were driven away. Caesar returned the next year with a much bigger army and beat the Celts this time. But the Romans didn't stay in Britain for long and sailed off home to Italy. The third Roman invasion was 90 years later in 43 AD when they easily defeated the Celts. This time they stayed, and eventullay took over large parts of Britain.

When the Romans invaded Britain, many Celts were angry and fought the Romans ferociously. When the Romans invaded Britain in 43 AD, the Catuvallauni tribe were among the first to see the danger. Their king's son Caratacus tried to stop the invasion. Their land was in the south of England and they knew it would be seized unless something was done.

Cartacus and his brother led a large army to try to stop the Romans from crossing the River Medway in Kent. However, the Romans were too strong and the Celts were defeated. Caratacus fled to south Wales. He knew that the Romans would be difficult to beat in a large battle, so he led small group of Welsh raiders aganist the Romans. When the Romans defeated him again he fled north and asked Cartimandua queen of the Brigantes tribe to give him shelter. Though Cartimandu' husband was friendly with the Romans, she handed Caratacus over to them and he was taken to Rome where he died their prisoner.

In 60 AD, Boudicca queen of the Iceni tribe of south-east England led another revolt against the Romans. Boudicca led a huge army of Celts against the Romans and captured the town of Colchester, killing many Celts who were friendly to the Romans. She marched on London and the people of London sent messages to General Paulinus asking for help. Paulinus led his army to meet the Celts halfway between Wales and London. The Celts had a much larger army, but the battle was fought in a narrow valley and the well-trained Romans won. 80,000 Celts died in the battle.

Boudicca vanished maybe having poisoned herself because she did not want to be captured by the Romans. The Romans moved in, taking control of her land snd stealing treasures.

The Romans never managed to conquer Scotland, but after crushing Boudicca and Catatacus, the Romans took control of the rest of England and Wales. In 87 AD the general Agricola reached the far north, but was forced to retreat. After this time, the Romans gave up trying to conquer the Scottish tribes. In 122 AD the Emperor Hadrain ordered the building of a wall across northern England to defend aganist attacks from Scotland.

Hardrain's wall took six years to complete, being 3 metres wide and 4 metres high and made of stone. It winds along cliff tops and high ridges for 73 miles, and along the wall the Romans built castles and forts for the soldiers to live in. Hadrian's wall was heavily guarded at all times and marked the northern edge of the mighty Romans Empire.

British Celts gradually changed their way of life to fit in with the Romans. They continued to farm the land and carried on trading, but their hill forts were destroyed and many Celts moved nearer the Romans towns. Many Celts and Romans married one another, so the tribes became much weaker and the Celts language began to die out as rich Celts began to speak Latin. However, in Scotland, Ireland and parts of Wales, the Celtic language and way of life carried on so that even today many enjoy Celtic art and music.

Roman soldiers built camps and forts at key places around Britain including York, Chester and Gloucester, as well as on Hadrian's wall. Settlements grew up alongside many forts and traders, merchants and soldiers' families lived in them. Roman towns were linked by roads, which they were very good at building. They built a system of straight roads to link their towns and forts so soldiers and messengers could travel quickly from place to place.

Romans towns were all built to the same pattern with roads crossing each other at right angles. Buildings, such as shops and houses, were built on the blocks of land between the roads. Public places such as baths, temples and a town hall (basilica) were built. The Romans mostly used local materials for building but special materials like marble might be brought in for special builidings, such as the basilica or a grand house.

Richer people lived in villas. Villas were usually built on one level like a bungalow. They had lots of rooms built around a courtyard. They were built of stone and had tiled roofs. They often had beautiful wall paintings, and the floors were sometimes decorated with mosaics - pictures or patterns made up from thousands of small tiles in different colours. Roman villas even had central heating, with a fire heating the air under the floor and in hollow spaces in the walls. This heating system called a hypocaust kept villas very warm.

In Roman towns, the public baths were a popular place to meet friends. The Romans also knew cleanliness was important. Entering a Roman baths you first undressed in a changing room and then entered a room heated with warm air. (A hypocaust heated all rooms and water.) Then you went to a hot room where you got clean by rubbing olive oil into your skin and scraping it off with a strigil. Finally, you had a dip in a cold pool.

Early Rome had no kings being a republic ruled by two men called consuls who ruled for one year only. A council of citizens called the Senate helped the consuls to govern, and later Roman people could elect two men to represent them in the Senate called Tribunes. As the Roman Empire grew, the rich got richer and the poor got poorer and there were riots and wars as rivals generals fought between themselves. Augustus (who was Julius Caesar's nephew) became the first emperor in 31 BC, and peace was restored. The emperors ruled like kings.

Roman Britain was ruled by a governor. He was in charge of the army, and also made sure that everyone obeyed Roman laws and paid their taxes. The Romans found lots of handy things in Britain for their Empire and they also brought lots of useful stuff to Britain. Goods sent from Britain included tin, lead, wool, grain, hides (animal skins), oysters and slaves. Goods brought into Britain included marble, glass, linen, olives, dried fruit and emeralds.

Second The Anglo-Saxons

The Anglo-Saxons were tribes that came to Britain from Germany and Denmark, at first as sea pirates in long narrow boats. On their raids, they saw lots of good land for farming in Britain. It was hard to grew food in their own lands so they started emigrating to Britain, bringing their families, around 408 AD. When the Romans left Britain it was easy for invaders and the Anglo-Saxons managed to conquer most of the south of Britain by 650 AD, and called it Engle Land which later became 'England'.

Most of the Anglo-Saxons started up their own farms in Britain. Women made clothes by spinning wool and weaving the threads. Craftmen made swords, tools, jewellery and pots. There were alo very good hunters, who trained hawks.

The Anglo-Saxons believed in lots of different gods and goddesses. Some of the days of the week are named after their gods Tiw, god of war Tuesday, Woden (sometimes called Odin), chief of the gods Wednesday, Thor, god of thunder Thursday and Frig (sometimes called Freya), goddess of growing Friday. They also believed in elves, goblins and dragons and were very superstitous. Later, they became Christians, but some carried on worshipping the pagan gods as well.

Anglo-Saxon houses were made from wood and had thatched roofs, with no chimney or windows and were lit by candles or lamps. There wasn't much furniture and families often ate and slept on the floor. Farmers shared their homes with chickens, pigs, oxen and dogs.

Villages or settlements were often very small with just a few cottages or huts. The village hall was a meeting place owned by the noble or chief where everyone gathered together each evening to eat and tell stories. Farmers spit up their fields into long strips, which they all shared, and each field was rested once evey three years to let in get its nutrients back.

When the Anglo-Saxons became Christians, they built lots of churches, at first from wood but later they used stone. Their wooden houses rotted away ages ago, but some pots have been found that help work out what these houses looked like. A few Anglo-Saxon stone churches are still standing today helping us understand how their buildings were made.

Monks produced books by hand and decorated them beautifully in bright colours, and some can still be read today. Ancient Anglo-Saxon manucripts have detalied pictures, stories and poems. Bede's book 'A history of the English church and people' tells us a lot about the early Anglo-Saxons. Monks also kept a record of all the important events in The Anglo-Saxons Chronicle.

Anglo-Saxon skeletons have been found buried with their clothes and jewellery, which give us lots of information. Remains of animals and crops tell us about the food they ate, and helmets, pots, tools and coins have also been found in the ground. In 1939, archaeologists started digging at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk and they discovered a ship grave of a rich and powerful Anglo-Saxon. They knew pagans were sometimes buried with their boats for the voyage to a new life.

The ship at Sutton Hoo had itself rotted away, but its outline was still in the sand and it was over 27 metres long. By excavating the site, archaeologists learned a lot about Anglo-Saxon ship burials. Inside the ship, they found many precious belongings including a sceptre (a big decorated stick) with a bronz stag decortion, a rusty iron sword in a wooden scabbaed (holder), a gold belt buckle and a lyre (a musical instruument like a harp).

Many of the precious objects were beautifully decorated, proving the Anglo-Saxons were skilled craftsmen. From the outline in the send, archeaologists know the shape and size of the ship and how it was built and powered, and the dates on coins found at Sutton Hoo helped archaeologists work out when the ship was buried. A body was not found though recent scientific tests on the soil proved that a body had once been there. As the grave was filled with treasures, it must have belonged to a rich and poweful person and some archaeologists think it may have been the grave of King Redwald, who died around 625 AD.

PostPosted: Sun Oct 03, 2004 10:35 am
by Clare
This on the Celts, Romans and Anglo-Saxons is very good Colin.

It always seems strange to me that history seems mostly about wars and battles, though much of what gets found from the past is sensitive arts and crafts !

Not much history about mums, dads and kids ? But Johns A Silkstone's excellent new poem post 'The Mother' may well have often applied as much in the past as to now ?