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Happy 1600th Anniversary

January 2, 2010

Here at Downie Towers the first morning of the New Year was heralded by a long-overdue and strangely satisfying sort-out of the airing cupboard.

Fortunately,  greater things beckon. AD410*  was the year in which the Emperor Honorius allegedly told the Britons they would have to organise their own defences against invasion, because Rome had no troops to spare. I say ‘allegedly’ because there’s a suggestion that Honorius wasn’t writing to us but to somebody else. I don’t know how credible this is, so let’s not go there. For the purposes of this blog, Roman Britain came to an end 1600 years ago. Except…

It seems that very little in the ‘end of Roman Britain’ debate can be asserted without someone else arguing that you’ve misinterpreted the evidence. So there should be plenty of lively debate when the commemorations get going later this year. Here’s a link to the 410 website to find out about digs, events, exhibitions and opportunities for the rest of us to watch the experts disagreeing with each other.

One thing’s definite about Roman Britain, though. End it certainly did, inspiring an unknown Anglo-Saxon to write a wondrously glum poem now called ‘The Ruin’. I mean no disrespect to the Anglo-Saxons, who wrote some fabulous poetry, but it’s reassuring to know that even in the eighth century, things just weren’t what they used to be.

*readers who dislike ‘AD’ may substitute whatever term they wish

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2 comments

  1. Hello, again.

    I just love your last line, “….it’s reassuring to know that even in the eighth century, things just weren’t what they used to be.” Certainly pertinent to our last little discussion regarding the past v. the present. I remember reading about how in fifth century BC Athens there was the observation by the older generation that things just weren’t what they used to be and the younger generation was rushing head on to ruin. It seems that here in 2010 the lyrics to the age old song have hardly changed; “Ain’t it awful, it ain’t like it used to be”. Well, whether they were right about things in fifth century BC Athens or eighth century AD Anglo-Saxon Britain it must be that we have been on a downhill slide for a very long time. Or not.

    By the way, here in America the anniversary celebrations don’t go back quite so far as 1600 years. Last year in 2009, where I live, we celebrated the 150th anniversary (1859) of the territory of Oregon being granted statehood and entering the union. It would almost qualify as current events by your standards.

    The USA celebrates its birthday with music and fireworks every year on the fourth of July. I am unaware if Britain has a parallel for celebrating its birth on a specific day? So would you all be considering music and fireworks to celebrate the departure of the Romans?

    Phil Hall


    • Hi Phil,

      Oh no, 150 years definitely qualifies as old! Alas I’ve seen no mention of music and fireworks here but who knows what the planned re-enactment of a Pagan Germanic Burial Ceremony might involve?

      We don’t have a regular birth-of-Britain celebration (lost in the mists of time) but every 5 November we celebrate the failure of Guy Fawkes and his cronies to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. It’s a good excuse for fireworks and bonfires, although it doesn’t do to dwell on the tale of religious hatred, betrayal and torture that lies behind it. I see there’s a http://www.gunpowder-plot.org for those who want every last detail. Amazing. (Of course there are always some folk who are sorry he didn’t succeed.)

      Cheers,

      Ruth



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