The Plunge into the Dark Ages

Under the Romans, Britons living to the South of Hadrian's Wall had enjoyed all the comforts that Roman civilization had to offer. Britons considered themselves full citizens of the Empire, and they practiced Christianity, the Empire's official religion. But after three centuries of peace, Britain fell prey to a series of attacks.

From across the North Sea, a tribe of Germanic invaders known as Saxons came in small boats, attacking the coastline. They had been like pirates before, attacking the occassional trade ship, but now they began coming ashore, and started making their way inland. Meanwhile, unsettled tribes from the region North of Hadrian's Wall began climbing over the Wall, and made their way past its defenses. From Ireland, a tribe of barbarians known as Scots came in small, lightweight boats made from animal hides stretched over wooden frames. They would later settle the region known today as "Scotland."

These three tribes would eventually come to dominate the whole of Britain. But in the fourth century, they were still new invaders wreaking havoc on the Britons who had lived in relative comfort and security for the past three centuries.

Beginning in 367, the three tribes pounced on Britain all at once. The result was devastating. Britain was cut off from Rome. Villas were left isolated from civilization, and many homes were destroyed.

Rome eventually recaptured Britain and drove the invaders offshore. But in 383, a commander named Magnus Clemens Maximus crowned himself emperor and brought all of the troops out of Britain to march on Rome. His forces enjoyed a short victory, but were eventually defeated, and Maximus killed. With no troops left in Britain, the Island was open to attack, and the invaders took the opportunity to pounce on Britain once more. The British people were devastated, and many of them were sold into slavery.

Left with no choice, the people of Britain sent envoys to Rome to ask for help. Rome dispatched a force which eventually drove out the invaders, but with most of her own soldiers gone, Britain was ill–equipped to defend herself. Once the soldiers departed again for Rome, the attackers returned and laid siege once more. After another rescue, the Empire stopped sending aide. Some Britons turned to guerrilla fighting, finding refuge in mountains or caves. Meanwhile, a famine spread, and many others starved to death.

Nineteen years later, frustrated with the Empire's inability to protect them, the British people crowned another emperor, named Constantine III. Constantine took what Roman troops were left in Britain, and marched on Rome. He temporarily captured Spain before being betrayed by one of his commanders. This left Britain even more open to attack.

Three years later, the regional councils declared their independence. In a letter to the Roman Emperor Honorius, they stated that they still considered themselves part of the Empire, but not as subjects. At this time, the Empire itself was in turmoil, suffering its own invasion from hordes of barbarians. Honorius' response to the Britons was that they were to take up arms and protect themselves.

It wasn't long before a fourth invader, a Germanic tribe known as the Angles, made its way ashore. This group of invaders would later come to dominate so much of the Island that their kingdom, Engla land, the Olde English words for "Land of the Angles," would span the southern portion of the British Isle. Through centuries of linguistic development, this kingdom would eventually come to be called "England."

As years of invasion continued, British culture fell deeper into chaos. Many towns were abandoned, and the regional councils deteriorated. Power fell to regional warlords. As the necessities of survival changed, knowledge of crafts died out with the craftsmen who had practiced them. Machines and buildings broke down, with no one left who knew how to repair them. Regional rulers took to setting up bases inside the remains of crumbling buildings, or old, abandoned forts. Coinage also dissapeared, and Britain fell into a bartering economy.