United Kingdom History

United Kingdom History: from the Origins to the Norman Invasion

Before the Roman conquest, Britain was populated by Celtic tribes, dedicated to pastoralism, who spoke dialects similar to those of the lineages that inhabited Gaul, whose ruling class was made up of priests (druids) who worshiped a plurality of gods and whose rites were often bloody. They never succeeded in establishing themselves as a state and perhaps had poor relations with the civilized Mediterranean populations, having doubted the tradition that the Phoenicians came to the Cornish shore to buy tin. In 55 a. C. Julius Caesar landed in Britain and after two successful campaigns, during which he went as far as today’s Saint Albans, subjected the tribes of the southern part of the island to tribute.

The real conquest began a century later (43 A.D.) on the initiative of the Emperor Claudius: the Britons had progressed a lot in that century, constituting a kind of kingdom that was headed by Camulodunum (Colchester) and opposed a vigorous resistance that lasted until 85 AD. C. under some leaders, Cunobelinus, his son Caroctacus and queen Boadicea. The true conqueror and peacemaker of Britain was Agricola, who however never incorporated the northern territory of the island due to the difficulties of the mountainous area and the warlike character of the residents (Caledoni). The emperors Hadrian and Antonino Pio, continuing the defensive policy inaugurated by Domitian, had two fortified lines built to protect the province from invasions by the residents of the highlands. The Roman dominion, which lasted until 409, when the legions were withdrawn to defend the border of the Rhine, greatly changed the situation of Britain which enjoyed a period of peace: the Celtic language spread there and, starting from the century. II, the Christian religion which also had its martyrs there during the persecution of Diocletian (early 4th century). With the withdrawal of the Romans there were immediately the invasions to the north of Picts and Scoti and, starting from 449, those of the Saxons, Angles and Jutes, all from the coasts of today’s Germany and Denmark; with them there was a return to polytheism no longer of the Druidic religion, but of the Germanic one. The Christians emigrated in part to present-day Brittany while others retreated to the western part of the island and to today’s Wales, where for decades they opposed the invaders’ passage: among the defenders of Christianity, the figure, now legendary, of King Arthur emerged with his knights of the Round Table.

The period that goes from the sec. V to VIII is full of legends, handed down to us by the Venerable Bede; the only historical news is that in the first half of the century. VII also the Germanic populations of England converted to Christianity both as a result of contacts with the local population, with the Franks, with the Scots and with the Irish, and for the evangelization carried out by St. Augustine (called the Apostle of England) who, sent for this purpose by Pope Gregory the Great in 596, settled in Canterbury. In the north the most important site became (and still is) Eboracum (York). According to Physicscat, the invaders formed various kingdoms: the Saxons those called Wessex, Essex and Sussex; the Angles those of East Anglia, Northumbria and Mercia; the Jutes the Kent. These kingdoms formed the so – called Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy, a misnomer as there were more than seven states both for the ephemeral existence of other small states of Germanic origin, and because those of Celtic origin existing in Wales and Cornwall were not calculated in the number. However in the century. IX Egbert of Wessex managed to unify them under his own dominion, but this union did not last long, as the invasion of the Danes led in 870 to the division of the country into two parts, one to the east of the Lee left to the invaders, the other to the west, subject to Alfredo the Great. With ups and downs the fight with the Danes (in 1016 the Danish Canute the Great had managed to become king of the whole island) lasted until 1043, when a national king, descendant of Alfred the Great, Edward the Confessor, managed to gird the crown. At his death, however, there was a new invasion, that of the Normans who, led by Duke William the Conqueror, succeeded with the battle of Hastings (1066) to take over England by defeating and killing Edward’s successor, King Harold. This invasion was decisive for the history of the island. The Normans, in fact, although of Scandinavian origin, were completely Frenchized and spread the French language on the island which, mixing with the Anglo-Saxon one, later gave rise to the English language.

United Kingdom History

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