January 4th, 2012

The End Of Roman Britain

Something I've never really understood is the collapse of Roman Britain. We had 400 years of towns and roads and baths and then the troops were withdrawn and everything went to pot. I was reading an article last night about the archaeology of the Roman fort at Binchester in County Durham. It wasn't abandoned when the soldiers left. Instead the local tradesmen moved in and dug pits all over the place and spread offal around. When the fabric started to crumble they patched it up with wood. Had they forgotten how to build in stone or did they prefer not to?

I find it hard to imagine what that transition must have been like. Were people traumatised by the sudden collapse of their world or did they relapse into tribal ways the way one might slip into a stinky old dressing-gown at the end of the day? Did anyone struggle to maintain standards of governance and civilisation? The evidence suggests not.

I've read fiction about the last days of Empire and fiction about the so-called Dark Ages, but I've never read fiction that deals with the generation of the collapse- the people who lived in towns one year and in ruins the next. Does anyone know of any?