The Heroic Age

Issue 4

Winter 2001

What's in a name?

by Keith J Matthews

Bibliography and Notes


A version of this paper was delivered at the Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference at Leicester in 1997.

1. "Then Britain was stripped of all armour, military power, governors (even though inhuman), distinguished youth, which, having followed in the footsteps of the aforementioned tyrant (Magnus Maximus), never again returned home."

2. The ninth-century Historia Brittonum places this event as early as 428/9; Bede placed it in the first half of the 450s; the Anglo-Saxon chronicle settled on 449. Modern historiography has pushed the bounds even further: J N L Myers favoured a date in c 360 (1969: 71), while David Dumville (1984: 83) believes that Gildas intended a date in the 480s.

3. "Then, all of the advisors, together with the proud tyrant Vortigern, were blinded, devising such a guard (or, on the contrary, the means of destruction) for our homeland as to allow the most ferocious Saxons (of damned name, hateful to god and men) into the island like wolves into the fold in order to hold back the peoples of the north."

4. Paper presented to the Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference in 1996 (published as Matthews 1999).

5. "So they came from the three stronger tribes of the Germans, that is the Saxons, Angles and Jutes. From the Jutes originated the Cantwara and Wihtwara (that is, the people who hold the Isle of Wight) and that people who right up to the present day are called the nation of Jutes in the province of the West Saxons and are situated opposite the same Isle of Wight. From the Saxons (that is, from that region that is now known as the Old Saxons') came the East Saxons, South Saxons and West Saxons. In turn, from the Angles (that is from the country which is called Angulus, said to be between the provinces of the Jutes and Saxons, and which has remained deserted from that time up to the present day) the East Angles, the Middle Angles, the Mercians and all the progeny of the Northumbrians (that is those peoples who live to the north of the River Humber) and the rest of the English people are sprung."



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Burr, Vivien (1995) An introduction to social constructionism. London: Routledge.

Dark, Kenneth R (1994) Civitas to kingdom: British political continuity 300-800. Leicester: Leicester University Press.

Dumville, David 1977 "Sub-Roman Britain: history and legend." History 62: 173-92.

Dumville, David 1984 'The chronology of de Excidio Britanniae, Book I', pp. 61-84 in Gildas: New Approaches. (Studies in Celtic History 5). Lapidge, M & Dumville, D (eds) Woodbridge: Boydell Press.

Graves-Brown, Paul 1996 'All things bright and beautiful? Species, ethnicity and cultural dynamics.' Pp. 91-95 in Paul Graves-Brown, Sîan Jones & Clive Gamble eds. Cultural identity and archaeology: the construction of European communities. London: Routledge.

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Higham, Nicholas J (1992b) "Medieval 'overkingship' in Wales: the earliest evidence". Welsh History Review 16: 145-59.

Higham Nicholas J (1994) The English conquest: Gildas and Britain in the fifth century. Manchester & New York: Manchester University Press.

Hines, John (1996) "Britain after Rome: between multiculturalism and monoculturalism". Pp. 256-70 in Cultural identity and archaeology: the construction of European communities. Paul Graves-Brown, Sîan Jones & Clive Gamble eds. London: Routledge.

Hodges, Richard (1989) The Anglo-Saxon achievement: archaeology and the beginnings of English society. London: Duckworth

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James, Simon (1998) "Celts, politics and motivation in archaeology". Antiquity 72: 200-209

James, Simon 1999 The Atlantic Celts: ancient people or modern invention? London: British Museum Press.

Jones, Sîan (1997) The archaeology of ethnicity: constructing identities in the past and present. London: Routledge

Leeds, Edmund T (1913) The archaeology of the Anglo-Saxon settlements. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Matthews, Keith J (1999) "Britannus/Britto: Roman ethnographies, native identities, labels and folk devils". Pp. 14-32 in Theoretical Roman Archaeology and Architecture: the third conference proceedings. Alan Leslie (ed.) Glasgow: Cruithne Press.

Megaw, J Vincent S & Megaw, M Ruth (1996) "Ancient Celts and modern ethnicity". Antiquity 70: 175-81.

Megaw, J Vincent S & Megaw, M Ruth (1998) "The mechanism of (celtic) dreams? A partial response to our critics". Antiquity 72: 432-5.

Millett, Martin (1990) The Romanization of Britain: an essay in archaeological interpretation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Myers, J N L (1969) Anglo-Saxon pottery and the settlement of England. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Plummer, Charles ed. (1896) Venerabilis Baedae Historiam Ecclesiasticam gentis Anglorum, Historia Abbatum, Epistolam ad Ecgberctum una cum Historia Abbatum auctore anonymo. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Renfrew, A Colin (1996) "Prehistory and the identity of Europe, or don't let's be beastly to the Hungarians". Pp. 125-37 in . Cultural identity and archaeology: the construction of European communities. Paul Graves-Brown, Sîan Jones & Clive Gamble eds London: Routledge

Salway, Peter (1981) Roman Britain. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Stenton Frank M (1971) Anglo-Saxon England. Third edition. Oxford: Clarendon Press. (The Oxford History of England 2).

Winterbottom, Michael (1978) Gildas: the ruin of Britain and other works. Chichester: Phillimore (Arthurian Period Sources 7)

Wood, Ian (1984) "The end of Roman Britain: continental evidence and parallels". Pp. 1-25 in Gildas: new approaches. Lapidge, Michael & Dumville, David (eds) Woodbridge: Boydell.


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Copyright © Keith J. Matthews, 2001. All rights reserved.

This edition copyright © The Heroic Age, 2001. All rights reserved.