Early inhabitants of Britain:
The Celts: A series of invasions began about the year 1000 B.C. And continued until the opening of the Christian era. The Celts invaded Britain and dominated the native peoples, merging with then but firmly establishing their own language and civilization. They brought to Britain a renewed interest in agriculture together with the age of iron. The last Celtic invaders were the tribes of the Belgae, who settled in south-eastern Britain. Their advanced agriculture, knowledge of arts and crafts, their military skill, their trade with the continent, their coinage and political organization under strong tribal chieftains made south-eastern Britain the best grain-producing portion of the island. The religion of the Belgae was dark and superstitious. They believed in spirits who lived in springs, rocks and sacred groves. There were priests known as Druids. They combined the functions of priests, teachers and magistrates or judges. In 55 B.C. Julius Caesar crossed the channel in the first Roman invasions of Britain. He obtained submission and a promise of tribute from the principal chieftains of south-eastern Britain. The Celts in Britain remained independent or almost another century. Roman Britain: almost a century after Caesar’s invasions, emperor Claudius dispatched a large army to make a conquest of Britain. The Romans controlled the lowland plain within five years and began at once to lay down the great military roads which radiated from London as a centre. It took the Romans longer to control the rest of the country, in particular the violent Celtic tribes in the mountainous areas. Although the Celts in Wales were eventually conquered, they were never romanized. A conquest in Scotland proved to be impossible, or at least not worth the cost. The Romans came to Britain to exploit the island, not to settle in the place of the inhabitants. Although Roman rule was efficient, it remained alien, and only temporary in its effects. The impact of Rome was far greater in the south. They encouraged urbanization. They began building four model Roman towns with public buildings, amphitheatres and baths and filled them with Roman citizens, largely retired soldiers. The governors then, encouraged Celtic princes and aristocrats to convert their tribal centers into cities, which never really flourished. Country life, on the other hand, grew in popularity since the wealthy class of Romano-Britons built houses in the country known as villas. The bulk of the population lived neither in towns nor in villas but in native villages, primitive collections of huts. They showed few indications of Romanization. During the first centuries of roman rule there was a marked increase in British commerce and industry. Romanization also introduced to Britain the atmosphere of the Mediterranean world with its Latin tongue and its new faith, Christianity. During the fourth century of Roman rule there were increasing signs that the Roman Empire was in decay and that the Roman position in Britain was in grave danger. Barbarian peoples were pressing in upon Rome. As the empire became paralyzed by political factionalism and weakened by barbarian attacks, Roman legions evacuated Britain to fight elsewhere and never returned. Finally, early in the fifth century, the Romans recalled the remaining soldiers and officials from Britain, leaving the British to defend themselves from the coming barbarians. What did the Romans leave that has had a lasting effect upon Britain? They left the roads which continued to be used for centuries and which marked out lines of communication that have not disappeared today. They left a tradition of urban life and recognition of the favorable position of London as a center for commerce and administration. They also left Christianity, which was strong enough to survive the Roman collapse. Besides this, the Romans left very little, which was almost completely destroyed by the new invaders. The...
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