Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian’s Wall “was a defensive fortification in the Roman province of Britannia, begun in 122 AD in the reign of the emperor Hadrian. It ran from the banks of the River Tyne near the North Sea to the Solway Firth on the Irish Sea, and was the northern limit of the Roman Empire.

It had a stone base and a stone wall. There were milecastles with two turrets in between. There was a fort about every five Roman miles. From north to south, the wall comprised a ditch, wall, military way and vallum, another ditch with adjoining mounds. It is thought that the milecastles were staffed with static garrisons, whereas the forts had fighting garrisons of infantry and cavalry. In addition to the wall’s defensive military role, its gates may have been used as customs posts.[1]

A significant portion of the wall still stands and can be followed on foot along the adjoining Hadrian’s Wall Path. It is the most popular tourist attraction in Northern England and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hadrian%27s_Wall

To visit the wall or for more information, maps, etc, see: http://hadrianswallcountry.co.uk/hadrians-wall/hadrian%E2%80%99s-wall-facts

Boudicca’s Revolt


The Romans conquered Britain over the course of one hundred and fifty years.  Julius Caesar was the first to attempt it.  He established a beachhead in the east, but never got further into the country despite multiple expeditions.

“His first expedition, however, was ill-conceived and too hastily organised. With just two legions, he failed to do much more than force his way ashore at Deal and win a token victory that impressed the senate in Rome more than it did the tribesmen of Britain. In 54 BC, he tried again, this time with five legions, and succeeded in re-establishing Commius on the Atrebatic throne. Yet he returned to Gaul disgruntled and empty-handed, complaining in a letter to Cicero that there was no silver or booty to be found in Britain after all.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/romans/questions_01.shtml


100 years later, in 43 AD, the Emperor Claudius determined to try again, and this time the Romans would not be dissuaded.  By 60 AD, after many years of upheaval, factional disputes and multiple emperors and governors, C. Suetonius Paullinus was chosen to lead the forces in Wales and put down the Druids on Anglesey.

“This island had become the last point of retreat for the rebels. Being surrounded by water, this was logical since the British forces could only retreat towards the sea. The Druids, seen as one of the strongest band of people in Britain, were also on the island. Angelsey was to be no pushover. It is written that it was defended by praying Druids, fierce warriors and wild women. The assault and taking of Angelsey was brutal, bloody and savage in the extreme.”  http://www.allempires.com/article/index.php?q=conquest_roman_britain

After the defeat of Anglesey and the destruction of the druids, Boudicca rose in rebellion.  The Roman legions were busy cleaning up the mess they had made there, so had left little protection in the east.

“Boudicca was married to Prasutagus, ruler of the Iceni people of East Anglia. When the Romans conquered southern England in AD 43, they allowed Prasutagus to continue to rule. However, when Prasutagus died the Romans decided to rule the Iceni directly and confiscated the property of the leading tribesmen. They are also said to have stripped and flogged Boudicca and raped her daughters. These actions exacerbated widespread resentment at Roman rule.

Boudicca’s warriors successfully defeated the Roman Ninth Legion and destroyed the capital of Roman Britain, then at Colchester. They went on to destroy London and Verulamium (St Albans). Thousands were killed. Finally, Boudicca was defeated by a Roman army led by Paulinus. Many Britons were killed and Boudicca is thought to have poisoned herself to avoid capture. The site of the battle, and of Boudicca’s death, are unknown.”  http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/boudicca.shtml

“The main Roman army was making its way back from Angelsey along the Watling Road. Suetonius knew he was heavily outnumbered, so he selected a place for the battle and waited for the Iceni to come to him. With dense woodland protecting his rear and a narrow defile in front, he was in a position where his troops (outnumbered by 10 to 1) had the advantage.

The Iceni, so confident of victory, charged down the defile falling over each other in the charge. The Romans stood firm. The Iceni charged again and again, but they were no match for the diciplined Romans, and in the end the Romans charged against the Iceni trapping them against the waggons that had followed the army. By the end of the day 80,000 Iceni lay dead.”  http://www.oldcity.org.uk/norwich/names/boudicca.php

The timeline for these events is here:  http://www.historyonthenet.com/Chronology/timelineroman.htm

and here:  http://localheroes.digitalbrain.com/localheroes/web/Final/boudica/03/

The ordnance survey has some excellent maps that are less accessible than they were (but I bought so as to have a paper copy).  You can see the roman roads and all the ruins in Wales through Getamap:  http://www.getamap.ordnancesurveyleisure.co.uk/

I use this all the time, not only for Roman ruins, but for all ancient artifacts on the landscape.

The Eagle (movie review)

At last!  At long last!  A movie set in Roman Britain that I really quite liked!

Though …  I just looked The Eagle up on the tomato-meter which gives this movie a 39.  Wow. I thought it was way better than that and here’s why:

1)  The book.  The Eagle of the Ninth is a wonderful book by Rosemary Sutcliffe.  It was one of my mother’s favorite books and she gave it to me to read in one of those old hardback editions with fraying edges.  A story of a son trying to redeem his family’s honor after his father led the Ninth Legion to their doom in Scotland.  Great stuff.  The movie follows the book plot better than you might expect.

2)  The beginning.  It drew me in.  I felt for this guy.  I wanted to find out what happened next.  Always good in story-telling if your readers can find their feet right off (see my review of Ironclad, where I didn’t:  http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/?p=3371).

3)  There was no fake romance in this movie.  In fact, I think the only women in this entire movie are a few bedraggled Picts.  But that was good because it was much better than having either screaming naked women fighting in battle (e.g. Keira Knightly) or blood-thirsty, all-knowing Pict women (e.g. Centurion).

4)  I couldn’t predict what was going to happen.  My husband had seen this movie, described it in vivid detail at midnight after staying up late to watch it, and I was still not sure how it was going to end.

5)  The relationship between the two main characters, Marcus and Esca.  Esca, in fact, was really great.  Marcus’ performance has been described as ‘wooden’, and maybe he wasn’t terrific, but he was stoically Roman, which is what I suspect he was aiming for.  He does strongly resemble a college quarterback.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing 🙂  Donald Sutherland also has a wonderful performance as Marcus’ uncle.

6)  Movies set in this time period are really hard to get right, but this movie didn’t blatantly alter history for its own purposes.  Rome conquered Britain.  Bad stuff happened.  It had consequences.  I still find it amazing that Romans really wore togas in the middle of a British winter, but at least Marcus wasn’t running around half-naked in the snow (e.g. Centurion).  Sandals strike me as really impractical fighting gear, but whatever . . . apparently the Romans wore them anyway.  The ‘seal people’ were rather Native American in their gear and cultural attributes, but I can go with that too.  From the director:  “They were a more indigenous folk than the Celts, who were from farther south … They were probably small and dark, like the Inuit, living off seals and dressed in sealskins. We are going to create a culture about which no one knows much, but which we will make as convincing as possible. We are basing it on clues gained from places like Skara Brae and the Tomb of the Eagles in Orkney, so that we will have them worshipping pagan symbols, like the seal and the eagle. The reason they have seized the emblem of the Roman eagle from the legion is because to them it [was] a sacred symbol.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Eagle_(2011_film)

This is a less violent movie than Kingdom of Heaven and Ironclad.  Hard to believe. Four stars.


The Evolution of Welsh

The first thing you learn in linguistics is that languages evolve.  The second is that they are arbitrary.   This does not mean language isn’t important, or that it isn’t integral to culture. (see this article on Quebec’s policing of language).  It does mean that there is nothing inherent in the word ‘spoon’ that denotes the rounded tool with which you cook or eat.

Medieval Welsh, or Middle Welsh, was the language spoken in the 12th to 14th centuries.  Like when a modern English-speaker attempts to read Chaucer in English, it is possible for a modern Welsh speaker to read middle Welsh, which is the language of much of the Welsh literature (Four Tales of the Mabinogi, for example) that we have, although the tales themselves are much older.  You can find out about learning it here:


The root of the changes between medieval and modern Welsh lie in what linguists call ‘mutations’, mostly in initial consonents.  This site (http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~klausner/MUT.html) can help with that.

Old Welsh, on the other hand, is different yet again and not readily intelligible to Welsh readers.  This language dates from around 800 AD to the 12th century.   It is important to point out, however, that it is very hard to know if the pronunciation of words changed as much as the writing changed.  We cannot hear people reading these ancient documents out loud.  They may have pronounced words similarly to modern Welsh, but simply spelled the words differently.

Primitive Welsh dates to 550 AD, and derives from what linguists call British, or Brythonic, one of the Celtic insular languges which also includes Breton and Cornish.


This language borrowed heavily from Latin, not surprising since Rome ruled Britain from 43 to 411 AD.   An easy example of this is the Latin word, ‘draco’, which becomes ‘draig’ in Welsh and ‘dragon’ in English.  Many of these words with Latin roots have to do with religion, again not surprising given the use of Latin in the Christian Church:  “Sacramentum” has become sacrafen; “episcopus”, esgob; “ecclesia”, eglwys; “altar”, allor; “Caresima”, Carawys; and so on.”


The language spoken by the earliest Britains can only be guessed at as some proto-Brythonic, pre-Celtic language.  The people of Britain, prior to the coming of the Romans, were not literate, so there is no record of them or their history, beyond the material remains uncovered by archaeologists.

Celebrating the New Year in medieval Wales

Celebrating the New Year dates back to Babylon, 4000 years ago.  The date was celebrated on March 23, which coincides with the Persian, Muslim, and Baha’i New Year at the Spring Solstice.

“The Romans continued to observe the new year on March 25, but their calendar was continually tampered with by various emperors so that the calendar soon became out of synchronization with the sun.

In order to set the calendar right, the Roman senate, in 153 BC, declared January 1 to be the beginning of the new year. But tampering continued until Julius Caesar, in 46 BC, established what was come to be known as the Julian Calendar. It again established January 1 as the new year. But in order to synchronize the calendar with the sun, Caesar had to let the previous year drag on for 445 days.

Although in the first centuries AD the Romans continued celebrating the new year, the early Catholic Church condemned the festivities as paganism. But as Christianity became more widespread, the early church began having its own religious observances concurrently with many of the pagan celebrations, and New Year’s Day was no different. New Years is still observed as the Feast of Christ’s Circumcision by some denominations.

During the Middle Ages, the Church remained opposed to celebrating New Years.” http://adoptionworld.org/kid/newyear.html

That doesn’t mean it wasn’t celebrated, however, particularly in Wales, where the Roman/pagan history was less overridden than in Saxon England.  In Wales, the New Year was celebrated on November first as Calan Gaeaf. There, it went hand in hand with Nos Galan Gaeaf, what eventually became our Halloween, time time when the veil between this world and the next one thinned. One aspect was a tradition of Mari Lwyd, the Grey Mare.  It is possibly derived from the worship of the Goddess, Rhiannon, “It is a form of visiting wassail, a luck-bringing ritual in which a the participants accompany a person disguised as a horse from house to house (including pubs) and sing at each door in the hope of gaining admittance and being rewarded with food and drink.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mari_Lwyd

“The Mari Lwyd was a horse’s skull covered with a white sheet and ribbons. It had false ears and eyes and was carried on a long pole.  Gangs of men and young boys would carry the Mari Lwyd from door to door. They had usually consumed copious amounts of alcohol and the procession would be accompanied by a growling cacophony of noise.

When a door was opened the householder would be assailed by poems and insults and to this they were expected to reply in like form. When the verbal battle had been won or lost the Mari Lwyd and her followers were invited inside for yet another drink …

Calennig is another Welsh custom that died out at the end of the 19th century. From dawn until dusk on 1 January small parties of boys would pass from house to house in the village or town, carrying twigs of evergreen plants and cups or jugs of water. They would use the twigs to splash water at people and, in return, would receive the calennig – small copper coins.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/waleshistory/2010/12/welsh_christmas_new_year_traditions.html

“The giving of gifts on New Year’s Day is an ancient custom. In Wales it took the form of collecting calennig (New Year’s Gift). Children would form groups and go from house to house, bearing good wishes for the health and prosperity of the family during the year to come. This was symbolised by the skewered apples, stuck with corn and sprigs of evergreen, which they carried in their hands. Verses were sung at the door of the house, and they would receive small gifts of food or money for their troubles.”  http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/en/faq/calennig/


Did Medieval People Bathe?

One of the most interesting scenes in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood (see my review:  http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/robin-hood-review-spoilers/) is when Robin first arrives at Marian’s house and she sends him to the bath room. It’s a room off the kitchen, devoted to bathing and laundry. I LOVED to see that scene because it was one of the few times that medieval bathing was openly acknowledged in film.

bath medieval“Contrary to popular legend, medieval man loved baths. People probably bathed more than they did in the 19th century, says the great medievalist Lynn Thorndike. Some castles had a special room beside the kitchen where the ladies might bathe sociably in parties. Hot water, sometimes with perfume or rose leaves, was brought to the lord in the bedchamber and poured into a tub shaped like a half-barrel and containing a stool, so that the occupant could sit and soak long. In the cities there were public baths, or “stews” for the populace.

Soap was probably invented in the Orient and brought to the West early in the Middle Ages. This was a soft soap without much detergent power. Generally it was made in the manorial workshops, of accumulated mutton fat, wood ash or potash, and natural soda. Laundresses might also use a solution of lye and fuller’s earth or white clay. They worked usually by streamside, rhythmically beating the material with wooden paddles. After the winter’s freeze they had a great spring washing of the accumulations. It was on such an occasion in the Merry Wives of Windsor that Falstaff hid in the laundry basket. Hard soaps appeared in the 12th century. They were luxury articles, made of olive oil, soda, and a little lime, often with aromatic herbs. They were manufactured in the olive-growing south, especially Spain; hence the modern Castile soap.”   http://www.godecookery.com/mtales/mtales08.htm

“Like the nonsensical idea that spices were used to disguise the taste of rotten meat, the idea that bathing was forbidden and/or wiped out between the fall of Rome and the Enlightenment has been touted by many gullible writers, including Smithsonian magazine. However, even the Smithsonian in the person of Jay Stuller has to admit that “Gregory the Great, the first monk to become pope, allowed Sunday baths and even commended them, so long as they didn’t become a ‘time-wasting luxury’ . . . medieval nobility routinely washed their hands before and after meals. Etiquette guides of the age insisted that teeth, face and hands be cleaned each morning. Shallow basins and water jugs for washing hair were found in most manor houses, as was the occasional communal tub…” http://www.gallowglass.org/jadwiga/herbs/baths.html

The above link extensively catalogs the use of baths through medieval Europe, as attested by people writing at the time.

“People of the Middle Ages are known to have bathed more often than any of their descendants up to the 19th century. It was common for hosts and guests to share the experience.

medieval footbath

Portable wooden tubs lined and padded with cloth and cushions are much associated with this period but it was not unknown for royal bathrooms to contain the type of bath we know today, cased in, set on a tiled floor and with bath mats surrounding it.

King John only bathed once every three weeks but he may have followed a similar regime to Edward IV whose household accounts show that his barbour was paid 2 loaves and a pitcher of wine every Saturday night ‘if it please the Kinge, to cleanse his head, legges or feet, and for his shaving…

One of the practises hitherto unknown that the Crusaders brought back with them from the Middle East concerned public bath houses. The Stews. Under Richard II there were 18 stews in the Southwark region of London alone. Young boys were often seen running through the streets shouting out that the water was now hot. The baths were open for business.” http://www.triviumpublishing.com/articles/smellofthemiddleages.html

The myth that medieval people didn’t bathe is traceable to later behavior and fears, and that the Church viewed it as an indulgance:  “Bathing may have actually become less common among the wealthy as the middle ages became the Renaissance, as people began to think that bathing might unbalance the humors and lead to illness. But certainly people like Isabella of Castile–who boasted that she had only ever bathed twice: on the day she was born and the day she married–were still in the minority.

The reason why Isabella’s boast has come down through history is because, at the time, it was just that–a boast–something which was out of the ordinary. Even if some people were cutting back on their bathing, it was very unusual that anyone would bathe that infrequently. Isabella boasted of this because she saw it as an act of piety. Bathing was an indulgence of the flesh; abstaining was a pious act–just like flogging yourself or wearing a hair shirt. Medieval people liked bathing; that’s why some of them stopped doing it in a fit of religiousness.”  http://keripeardon.wordpress.com/2012/06/14/bathing-in-the-middle-ages/

It was also associated with Jews and Muslims, so it’s possible that Isabella’s boast was a product of the Inquisition and the desire to distinguish herself from these religious groups.

Cunedda, founder of Gwynedd

The medieval Welsh kingdoms are marked with a cultural beginning, that of the coming of Cunedda.

“Historically, Cunedda became king of Gwynedd in North Wales during the first half of the 5th century A.D. and founded a dynastic clan from which Welsh nobility has claimed their ancestry for centuries afterward. Tradition holds that Cunedda originated from the territory of Manau Gododdin, the region around what is now modern Edinburgh in southeast Scotland, and later migrated to North Wales. This movement was apparently at the behest of a higher authority and designed to offer Cunedda land in return for ousting Irish raiders who had invaded and settled along the Welsh coastline in the late 4th century, near the end of the Roman occupation.”  http://www.bardsongpress.com/Celtic_Culture/In_Search_of_Cunedda.htm

The name of Gwynedd either derives from the Latin Venedotia, or more probably from Cunedda (=Weneda =Gwynedd). http://www.historyfiles.co.uk/KingListsBritain/CymruGwynedd.htm

Early British Kingdoms states:

Cunedda or Cunedag Wledig (the Imperator) was a northern British chieftain, a sub-King of Gododdin who ruled Manau Gododdin on the Firth of Forth around Clackmannan. Not much is known about his life in the North, though an ancient poem generally known as the Marwnad Cunedda records his wars against the kingdoms of  Coel Hen and his descendants, when “the forts will tremble…..in Caer Weir [supposedly Durham]and Caer Liwelydd [Carlisle]. Cunedda’s paternal ancestors bore Roman names for three generations, including Paternus of the Red Robe, a name which has brought suggestions that the family ruled North of Hadrian’s Wall in some sort of official Roman capacity. His maternal grandmother was supposedly the grandaughter of Conan Meriadoc, male heir of the legendary Welsh King, Eudaf Hen. He was therefore chosen by the northern Welsh to help them in their fight against the invading Irish. Nennius reports:

Maelgwn, the great king, was reigning among the Britons in the region of Gwynedd, for his ancester Cunedag, with his sons, whose number was eight, had come previously from the northern part, that is from the region which is called Manau Gododdin, one hundred and forty-six years before Maelgwn reigned. And with great slaughter they drove out from those regions the Scotti who never returned again to inhabit them.

These are the names of the sons of Cunedda, whose number was nine: Tybion, the first-born, who died in the region called Manau Gododdin and did not come hither with his father and his aforesaid brothers. Meirion, his son, divided the possessions among his [Tybion’s] brothers. 2. Ysfael, 3. Rhufon, 4. Dunod, 5. Ceredig, 6. Afloeg, 7. Einion Yrth, 8.Dogfael, 9. Edern. This is their boundary: from the river which is called Dyfrdwy [the Dee] , to another river, the Teifi; and they held very many districts in the western part of Britain.

Other sons, generally considered more legendary, may have included Gwron, Mael, Coel and Arwystl. Daughters were Tegeingl and Gwen, the wife of Amlawdd Wledig.”

There isn’t much else in the way of historical consensus about Cunedda, except that likely he was invited into North Wales because he had Welsh ancestry.  Not even the dates of his settlement are clear, though the BBC puts his birth at 386 AD:

“Cunedda ap Edern was born in about 386AD, and was a lord of the Celtic people who lived in Wales, South West England and the North of England, south of the Pictish area of Scotland.

A traditional account has his grandfather, Padarn Beisrudd as a Romano-British offical of high rank who was charged with fighting the Picts in Scotland. He may have been given, like other native frontier lords, a Roman rank. Cunedda is thought to have travelled to North Wales to defend the area against the Irish; an area which became Gwynedd.

The period was one of political chaos in Europe, as Rome was sacked by the Goths, and the previously mighty empire crumbled. Romano-British natives were left in something of a power vaccuum when the Roman state slipped out of Britain in 410AD.

Lords like Cunedda were left to keep something of a working state going, and he himself is thought to have been effective in repelling incursions into the area of which he had control. His family line, the royal family of Gwynedd, continued his military skills and set up a powerful kingdom within Wales.”

The following is a list and a link to a map of the inheritance of Cunedda’s sons.

c.445 – c.470 Einion Yrth (the Impetuous) Brother. Leaves Rhos to his youngest son, Owain Ddantgwyn.
c.445 Afloyg ap Cunedag King of Afflogion.
c.445 Dynod ap Cunedag King of Dunoding.
c.445 Edeyrn ap Cunedag King of Edeyrnion.
c.445 Rhwfon ap Cunedag King of Rhufoniog.
c.445 Osfael ap Cunedag King of Osmaeliog.
c.445 Dogfael ap Cunedag King of Dogfeilion.
c.445 Meirchion ap Typaun ap Cunedag King of Meirionydd.


This is a family tree of Wales and England, deriving from Cunedda:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kings_of_Wales_family_trees

The Fall of Rome

The coming of the ‘Dark Ages’ was predicated on the fall of Rome.  Rome had dominated Europe (and parts of Africa and Asia) for nearly 800 years when Alaric, a Visigoth, sacked it.  According to the excellent documentary, The Dark Ages (available on Netflix here), Alaric had served in the Imperial forces until passed over for a promotion, at which point, he took his cause directly to the City of Rome.  He and his men then camped outside the walls in 408 AD, cutting off all food and succor to the city, for two years, until in 410 the citizens opened the gates.  That Rome no longer had the military resources to relieve the city in all that time indicates the extent of its decline.

Read a great description of the 40-year lead-up to the sacking here:  http://www.mmdtkw.org/VAlaric.html

The story continues:  “Late in 407, Alaric again appears to have allied himself with Rome to participate in Stilicho’s projected expedition to the far borders of the Eastern Empire. Some modern historians interpret this as a Stilicho plan to get the Visigoths as far away as possible from northern Italy, but other events intervened. [Read about Stilicho here]

Everyone knew that “those horrible northern barbarians” had caused most of Rome’s troubles, and “anti-blond” racism and discrimination became rampant in the Western Empire. Wives and children of some Visigoth soldiers, officers, and noblemen, who until then had been faithful to Rome, were murdered in Italian-led pogroms. Visigoths fled en masse to Alaric’s protection, making Alaric’s forces all the stronger. Only Stilicho could save the day.

Stilicho, ever the realist, went to the Senate and asked for money to buy off Alaric. The Senate responded with anti-Visigoth polemics and personal attacks on Stilicho. Hadn’t he purposely allowed Alaric’s repeated escapes? And weren’t Stilicho and Alaric even now planning joint conquests in the east? Why was Stilicho trying to enrich Alaric? Wasn’t Stilicho half barbarian himself? (True.) Why should Rome pay tribute to blond, blue-eyed Barbarians — even if they had an overwhelmingly superior force?

And in Ravenna, Stilicho’s rivals in the Court of Honorius (now removed to the north) were busy convincing Honorius that Stilicho was plotting a coup that would put Stilicho’s own son, Eucherius, on the Imperial throne. Honorius, who had never been noted for his mental acuity, believed the story and signed a warrant for Stilicho’s arrest. It was served on Stilicho in a churchyard in Ravenna. With his troops far away and with popular sentiment turning against him, he took sanctuary in the church. He came out again after receiving assurances of a trial after which he would keep his head. But the local commander had lied and Stilicho was decapitated without trial on August 22, 408 AD.

So now we have a greatly expanded (and very angry) Visigoth army on the loose in Italy, and the only Roman general capable of opposing them is headless in Ravenna. The predictable result was that a few months later Alaric’s long siege of Rome began. The Senate now offered to buy off the Visigoths with gold, silver, and food, the last of which, of course, would have to be provided from outside Rome, probably by Honorius. Alaric withdrew for a while after receiving the Senate promises (and some gold and silver), but Honorius, well fed in Ravenna, was not susceptible to the pleas of the starving (some accounts say eventually cannibalistic) Romans. All deals fell through, and Alaric renewed the siege. Finally, on August 24, 410, someone opened the Salaria Gate (now the Pincian Gate at the end of Via Venetto), and Alaric’s Visigoths poured through.”  http://www.mmdtkw.org/VAlaric.html

The consequences for Britain were profound.  It is in 410 AD, in fact, that the Roman legions leave Britain undefended.  This is the entry for Gildas (a 6th century British cleric) and Zosimus (a Bytanzine historian from Constantinople, writing 491-518 AD):

410   Gildas

From Britain

    envoys set out with their complaints … to beg help from the Romans. … The Romans … informed our country that they could not go on being bothered with such troublesome expeditions … for the sake of wandering thieves who had no taste for war. Rather, the Britons should stand alone, get used to arms, fight bravely, and defend with all their powers their land, property, wives, children, and, more importantly, their life and liberty.  …  they should not hold out to them for the chaining hands that held no arms, but hands equipped with shields, swords and lances, ready for the kill. This was the Romans’ advice.


When Alaric (the leader of the Visigoths) neither gained peace on the terms he proposed nor received any hostages, he again attacked Rome … and finally captured it. … Honorius sent letters to the cities of Britain, urging them to fend for themselves.


The following years in Britain were marked by near constant warfare, plague, and a flight from the cities.

Killed by a ref . . . in ancient Rome

I had to repost (and link) to this story because of the number of times I’ve listened to my husband shout at the screen while watching soccer.

This is  part of an article about the discover and translation of a tombstone of a Roman gladiator who died in Amisus, on the south coast of the Black Sea in Turkey:

“The tombstone . . . shows an image of a gladiator holding what appear to be two swords, standing above his opponent who is signalling his surrender. The inscription says that the stone marks the spot where a man named Diodorus is buried.

“After breaking my opponent Demetrius I did not kill him immediately,” reads the epitaph. “Fate and the cunning treachery of the summa rudis killed me.”

The summa rudis is a referee, who may have had past experience as a gladiator  . . .

“Demetrius signals surrender, Diodorus doesn’t kill him; he backs off expecting that he’s going to win the fight. . .

The battle appears to be over. However the summa rudis — perhaps interpreting Demetrius’ fall as accidental, or perhaps with some ulterior motive — thought otherwise  . . .

“What the summa rudis has obviously done is stepped in, stopped the fight, allowed Demetrius to get back up again, take back his shield, take back his sword, and then resume the fight.”

This time Diodorus was in trouble, and either he died in the arena or Demetrius inflicted a wound that led to his death shortly thereafter.”

To read the rest of the post: http://news.yahoo.com/s/livescience/20110620/sc_livescience/romangladiatorsgravestonedescribesfatalfoul