The Celts: A Very Short Introduction

By Barry Cunliffe | Go to book overview

Chapter 12
Threads of continuity:
the Celtic twilight

The fifth century saw Europe descend into turmoil as barbarians from beyond the frontiers poured into the Roman provinces, disrupting, and in some places totally destroying, the infrastructure of Empire. In Gaul, Franks and Burgundians from what is now north-western Germany moved in to settle in the north, while Visigoths took over the south-west. To add to the confusion, contingents of Alans, Vandals, and Suevi swept through the country en route to Iberia and North Africa. Even more frightening was the horde of Huns who penetrated into north-eastern Gaul before being driven off by those who had already staked their claim. In Britain boatloads of different groups from the coasts of the Low Countries and Jutland – generally referred to as Anglo-Saxons – landed in the south-east of the country and quickly spread through Wessex and into the Midlands. Some of the same groups explored the Gaulish side of the Channel, eventually establishing their settlements in what is now Lower Normandy.

The exact numbers involved are difficult to assess and it may be that they have been overestimated in the past, but the overall effect was to erase the overlay of Romanization in the newly settled areas and to replace it with a very different culture. In these shattering upheavals the last vestiges of Celticness disappeared from view. This does not mean that the indigenous population was wiped out or displaced but simply that the

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