This is the Seventh-part of our discussion of Britain in the so-called Age of Arthur: the 5th though the mid-6th Century A.D. It is a fascinating period, with the Classical civlization of Greece and Rome giving way to the Germanic “Dark Ages”. It was the sunset of Celtic-Roman culture in Britain; it was the Age of Arthur!
But who was Arthur?
Before we answer that question, it is necessary we understand the world in which he lived.
SHADOW IN THE EAST
Once we move past the events between 420-455 AD, we are forced, in many cases, into the realm of informed speculation. The campaigns of Ambrosius and the movements of the Anglo-Saxons are only given cursory treatment by the chroniclers of this era. None are contemporary. Gildas the Monk, who writes in the second quarter of the 6th century, is the nearest. He is terse in the extreme in describing events in the 5th century following the end of Vortigern’s reign.
That said, we can make educated guesses and, based on what both archeology and the sources provide, develop a working theory.
Between 465 and 475, Hengist and his Saxons burst out of their confinement on the Island of Thanet (see Part Five). Quickly, they overran much of Kent, likely as far as the Medway and perhaps to the Thames near Londinium. The majority of the British population had largely fled or died during the years of Saxon terror and occupation, and Saxon crofters had been quietly infiltrating into it for years. Now, Hengist formally retook possession of the lands once granted him by the late, unlamented Vortigern.
We don’t know how Ambrosius Aurelianus, leader of the Britons, responded. Kent was only one trouble spot. The Saxons were expanding all along the eastern coast of Britain. From the Isle of Wight to the mouth of the Humber, Anglo-Saxon incursions were a constant threat.
To check these, Ambrosius established garrisons in strategic towns and forts all along the new frontier with the Saxons. These “burhs” ran roughly across the center of the island along a rough north-south access: The eastern portion of the island was largely written off as “the Lost Lands of Logres”.
A shadow had fallen over the eastern part of the Island, as the barbarian power grew and spread….
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