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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

The other on the Alemanni in their service


But

soon after him an epoch began in which the third great nationality, at first thought to be part of the Keltic race, then driven back or taken into service by the Romans, but always maintaining its peculiar original independence--the German, rose to supremacy in the West. In the fifth century it had become everywhere master in the militarily-organised Roman frontier districts: encouraged by the embarrassments of the authorities it advanced into the peaceful provinces.

It is of importance to remark what the fate of Britain was in these struggles.

From the Romanised territory an Augustus, called Constantine, set up by the revolted legions, invaded Gaul, not merely to check the inroads of the barbarians, but at the same time to possess himself of the Empire. He at one time held a great position, when the legions of Gaul and Aquitaine also took his side, and Spain saluted him Emperor. But the authority of Honorius the generally recognised Emperor could not be so easily set aside: discontented followers of the new Augustus again went over to the old one: before them and the barbarians combined Constantine fell, and soon after paid for his attempt with his life.

The result, then, was that Honorius restored his authority to a certain extent everywhere on the Continent, but not in Britain. To the towns which had taken up arms while Constantine was there he gave the right of self-defence--he

could do nothing for them. The Roman Empire was not exactly overthrown in Britain--it ceased to be.[3]

At this time, when the connexion between Rome and Roman Britain was broken off, the Germans possessed themselves of the latter country.

_The Anglo-Saxons and Christianity._

Germans had been long ago settled in this as in so many other provinces of the Western and Eastern Empires. Antoninus had brought over German tribes from the Danube, Probus others from the Rhineland. In the legions we find German cohorts, and very many others joined them as free allies. In the civil wars between the Emperors we hear of one side relying on the Franks, the other on the Alemanni in their service; Constantine the Great is called to be Caesar by help of the chiefs of the Alemanni. But besides this, German seafarers, who appeared under the name of Saxons, after they had learnt shipbuilding and navigation from the Romans, settled on the opposite coasts of Britain and Gaul, and gave their name to both. Not then for the first time, nor at the invitation of the Britons, as the Saga declares,[4] did the descendants of Wodan make their first trial of the sea in light vessels. Alternating between piracy and alliance--now with a usurper and now with the lawful Emperor, between independence and subjection, German seafarers had long ago filled all seas and coasts with the terror of their name. In the North too they are mentioned together with Scots and Attacotti. When now the Roman rule over the island and the surrounding seas came to an end, to whom could it pass? To the peaceful Provincials, if they could indeed gird on the sword, or to the old companions in arms of the Romans? There is no doubt that the same general impulse which urged on the German peoples, in the great revolution of affairs, into the Roman provinces, led the enterprising inhabitants of the German and Northern coasts, Frisians, Angles, and Jutes, as well as Saxons, into Britain. A fearful war broke out, in which it may be true to say the ruined towns became the sepulchres of their inhabitants, but no man found the quiet time necessary for depicting its details. After it had filled a century and a half with its horrors, and men again lifted up their eyes, they found the island divided between two great nationalities, which had separated themselves as opposing forces. The natives had as good as abandoned the civilisation they had learnt from Rome, and leant on their kinsfolk in North Gaul, and the Scots in Ireland and the Highlands; they occupied the west of the island. The Germans were settled in the east, in the greatest part of the south, and in the north, in most of the old Roman settlements,--but they were far from forming a united body. Not seven or eight merely, but a large number of little tribal kingdoms, occupied or fought for the ground.


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