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Post-Roman Britain

Southern Britain's Lost Kingdoms

by Peter Kessler, 1 April 1999. Updated 14 February 2007

Part 1: Introduction

The south and east of Britannia had long been the best of the island's Roman holdings.

The fourth century Roman civil divisions of Britain split the island into four regions south of Hadrian's Wall:

  • Britannia Secunda (north of the Humber, the later 'Kingdom of Northern Britain')
  • Britannia Prima (all of later Cornubia, Dumnonia, the mouth of the Severn, and Wales)
  • Flavia Caesariensis (from the Humber south to a central Midlands line from East Anglia to (roughly) Gloucester)
  • Maxima Caesariensis (all of the south-east from the western tip of Ynys Wieith, up to Gloucester (Caer Gloui) and along the central Midlands division).

In the south-east, post-Roman administration lasted the longest in a section of the country which was a prime target to Saxon and Angle raiders and invaders. This made the area more unstable than anywhere else at this time and reduced the chances of British kingdoms forming or lasting very long.

After Roman administration was expelled from Britain in AD 409, the Mediterranean way of life certainly didn't disappear from the country overnight. In the Romano-British towns of the north and the west, Magnus Maximus had already positioned many prominent generals in positions of power to guard the country's coast, and these men (or their immediate successors) had founded territories for themselves, based on the imperial model.

Such territories seem to have emerged in the south too, but because the Angle and Saxon invaders were already advancing west between circa AD 477 to 496 and again more strongly from 552, they were much more short-lived and details of their existence, let alone their rulers and borders, are far more scarce.

Map of Britain AD 450-600
This map of Britain concentrates on British territories and kingdoms which were established during the fourth and fifth centuries AD, as the Saxons and Angles began their settlement of the east coast (click or tap on map to view full sized)

A SEVEN PART FEATURE:
Part 1: Intro
Part 2: Cynwidion & Pengwern
Part 3: Gloui, Dumnonia, & Ceint
Part 4: Celemion & Colun
Part 5: Venta, Lerion, Lundein, Went
Part 6: Linnius, Rhegin, & Weith
Part 7: Lost Kings
 

 

     
Text copyright © P L Kessler, from various notes and sources. An original feature for the History Files.