Roman Britain to Anglo Saxon England

Were you lucky enough to have heard Bob Smisson on 12 November give his talk "Late Antique Somerset"? I regret I took no notes, but from memory this was the answer he gave to something that you may have wondered about yourself. How did Roman Britain metamorphosis into Anglo Saxon England?

Mr. Smisson presented maps of Somerset superimposed on each other of various facts, we know about this period. We know the sun almost vanished, so poor harvests. He deduced there was a meteor strike. The plague reached Somerset via trade up the Avon. Coinage was hoarded, which suggested a time of instability, as well as reduced population. The centre of Christianity, Rome, dictated that marriage between close relations should cease. So men could no longer marry their brothers' widows. This above all else broke up the tribal system, built on family loyalty. Kings and other rulers no longer ruled like warlords, relying on their tribal families.

Christian rulers established Ministers, set above churches, which were mainly in villages. These were headed often by relations of the rulers. Thus rulers were able to maintain order through the power of the church. With the tribal system weakening, a new type of society emerged based on a Christian King and the Church. When Roman armies let Somerset and in a century. 400-500 A.D. this area adopted an entirely new form of culture. Most of what we recognise as English Law, as distinct from Roman law, was established I found it of particular interest that the three tribal divisions of Somerset remain the divisions of today's administration. Reasonable as the divisions were drawn along rivers, or the tops of hills. Romans left us their roads, the routes often used today. At Gatcombe the route was used for a railway.

Roman Settlements were not all abandoned, but Saxon village's remains are to be found on top of the Romans. Scant as the printed evidence is, Mr Smisson found evidence in many different sources to map how Roman Somerset became Anglo Saxon.

Barbara Seaton