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The Roman occupation of Britain and its influence on different spheres of life in Britain.

In the first century B.C. Gaul was conquered by the Romans. Having occupied Gaul Julius Caesar made two raids on Britain, in 55 and 54 B.C. The British Isles had long been known to the Romans as a source of valuable tin ore; Caesar attacked Britain for economic reasons – to obtain tin, pearls and corn, -and also for strategic reasons, since rebels and refugees from Gaul found support among their kinsmen, But these Caesar’s attacks failed. In A.D.43 Britain was again invaded by Roman legions under Emperor Claudius and Britain became part of the Roman Empire. Britain was totally conquered except for Scotland (and other parts beyond Hadrian’s Wall, a long stone wall built about 121 A.D. during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian to protect the province from the inroads of the Celtic Scots and non-Indo-European Picts, the Celtic tribes of Caledonia. The Romans subdued the Britions and colonized the country establishing a great number of military camps which eventually developed into English cities. Under the emperor Domitian, about 80 A.D. they reached the territory of the modern cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow. The Roman occupation of Britain lasted nearly 400 years; the province was carefully guarded: about 40,000 men were stationed there. Two fortified walls ran across the country, a network of paved Roman roads connected the towns and military camps. Scores of towns with a mixed population grew along the Roman roads – inhabited by Roman legionaries, civilians and by the native Celts; among the most important trading centres of Roman Britain was London. The Roman occupation came to an end in the early 5th c. In A.D. 410, the Roman troops were officially withdrawn to Rome by the emperor Constantine. This temporary withdrawal turned out to be final, because the Empire was breaking up due to internal and external causes, - particularly the attacks of barbarian tribes (including the Teutons) when Rome itself was threatened by an incursion of the Goths under king Alaric in this very year 410 the city of Rome was captured by the Goths. The other cause was the growth of independent kingdoms on former Roman territories. The expansion of Franks to Gaul in the 5th c. cut off Britain from the Roman world. The Britons had to rely on their own forces in the coming struggle with Germanic tribes.

Four centuries of Roman occupation had a profound effect on the country, had meant far- reaching Romanization, or Latinization, of life in Great Britain, including Christianization of its inhabitants and the establishment of Latin, besides Brittonic( a sub-branch of Common Celtic from which Welsh, Cornish and Breton are said to have been derived), as the language of administration and law as well as of the Church and at least the second language of the upper strata among the urban and rural population of Roman Britain. Romanization of distant Britain was more superficial than that of continental provinces (e.g. Gaul and Iberia, where the complete linguistic conquest resulted in the growth of new Romance languages, French and Spanish.

After the departure of the Roman legions the richest and most civilized part of the island, the south-east, was laid waste. Many towns were destroyed. Constant feuds among local landlords as well as the increased assaults of the Celts from the North and also the first Germanic raids from beyond the North Sea proved ruinous to the civilization of Roman Britain.

Since the Romans had left the British Isles some time before the invasion of the West Germanic tribes, there could never be any direct contacts between the new arrivals and the Romans on British soil. It follows that the elements of Roman culture and language which the new invaders learnt in Britain were passed on to them at second hand by the Romanised Celts. It must be recalled, however, that the West Germanic tribes had already come into contact with the Romans, and the Romanised population of continental provinces, prior to their migration to Britain: they had met Romans in combat, had gone to Rome as war prisoners, and slaves, had enlisted in the Roman troops, and had certainly traded with Roman, or Romanised Celtic merchants. Thus, in a number of various ways they had got acquainted with the Roman civilization and the Latin languages.



Lecture 4

Anglo-Saxon conquest of Britain and formation of English language. The migration of Angles, Saxons Jutes, Frisians on the British island and formation of Anglo-Saxon states. The Scandinavian conquest of Britain and its role in the history of the English language.

The 5th century A.D. was the beginning of the period of the migration of considerable numbers of Germanic tribesmen, the beginning of large scale invasion of Britain from the east and south by Germanic war-bands who, in course of time, established a number of Germanic kingdoms in various parts of the conquered country. The invaders from the 5th and the following centuries came from various West Germanic tribes referred to as Angles, Saxons, Frisians and Jutes. About the middle of the century these West Germanic tribes overran Britain and, for the most part colonized the island by the end of the century, though the invasion lasted in the 6th c. A.D. too.

The story of the invasion was told by Bede (673-735), a monastic scholar who wrote the first history of England, HISTORIA ECCLESIASTICA GENTIS ANGLORIUM.

According to Bede the invaders came to Britain in A.D. 449 under the leadership of two Germanic kings, Hengist and Horsa; they had been invited by a British king, Vortigern, as assistants and allies in a local war. The newcomers soon dispossessed their hosts, and other Germanic bands followed. The invaders came in multitude, in families and clans, to settle in the occupied territories; the conquest of Britain was not a migration of entire continental Germanic tribes but a process which involved numerous, and often probably, mixed bands of many continental tribes. The Britons fought against the conquerors for about a century and a half till about the year 600.

The conquerors settled in Britain in the following way:

The Angles occupied most of the territory north of the river the Thames up to the Firth of Forth in Scotland. The Saxons, the territory south of the Thames; the Jutes settled in Kent and in the Isle of Wight.

Since the settlement of the Anglo-Saxons in Britain their language ties with the continent were broken, and its further development went its own way. It is at this time, the 5th century A.D. that the history of the English language begins. Its original territory was England in the strict sense.

The direct evidence about the language of the early Germanic settlers in Britain is almost non-existent before 700 A.D. However, the great bulk of the writings that have survived from the Old English period do not go back further than the tenth and eleventh centuries. The England of the Old English period was not one kingdom. The country was divided into seven separate kingdoms; Kent, Essex(East Saxons, the capital - London), Sussex(South Saxons), Wessex(West Saxons), Mercia(Angles), Nortumbria (Angles) and East Anglia, but only three, namely Nortumbria, Mercia and Wessex, developed into powers of major importance, which exercised supremacy over all England. The conquest of Britain by Anglo-Saxons was completed by the end of the seventh century. Members of various Germanic tribes were brought into contact with Celtic –speaking Britons. The speech of the population, living in the country, was a hybrid Anglo-British intermixture. The Old English speech community was heterogeneous. The main point to note is that these kingdoms actually spoke different languages based on the grammars, vocabularies and pronunciations of the original Germanic languages of the different tribes. The people who came across the sea to conquer and settle in the country, brought their North-Sea Germanic tribal dialects along with them. These dialects formed a kind of ‘natural basis’ of the ‘insular dialects’. This partly explains the very great dialectal differences that exist in the relatively small geographic area represented by modern day England. In the ninth century Wessex, the strongest among seven kingdoms, won the victory in their struggle for supremacy. Winchester, the capital of Wessex, became the capital of England. In 871 the King of Wessex, King Alfred, became the major leader, the King, who ruled the whole country. West Saxon dialect, as a regional dialect, developed primarily in the South West of England, dominated at that period of the development of the English language. The spread of this standardized form of West Saxon, its knowledge and use in writing throughout England in the tenth and eleventh centuries was greatly facilitated by the political and cultural supremacy of Wessex during most of this period and the unification of England under a single crown. There are a lot of texts, records, written in West Saxon dialect found from that time.

A new language-contact situation arose when, in the last third of the ninth century, Viking war-bands from Denmark and Norway began the systematic occupation of English territory and the settlement of occupied areas in various parts of the country. This resulted in a Scandinavian-speaking community of some considerable size coming into existence in the period of Viking dominions. It was only in the battle at Edington (Wiltshire) in 878, when King Alfred won the Danes that prevented the Danes or Norsemen from becoming lords over all England and forced them to conclude a peace treaty. The Treaty of Wedmore practically meant the division of England into two parts. The Vikings promised to leave Wessex and to accept Christianity. The northern and eastern territories already belonged to the Danes. This area was called the Danelaw. The number of people of the Scandinavian stock who became permanent occupants of the conquered territory was considerable. Naturally, the massive settlement that the Scandinavians undertook led to the extensive use of the Norse tongue in the area of the Danelaw, and we can see evidence of it even today through its influences on the English language. Scandinavian vocabulary penetrated nearly every area of the English language. Most words of Scandinavian origin in English are concrete everyday words. A few examples are given here: nouns -bank, birth, booth, egg, gift, husband, law, leg, root, score, sister, skin, sky, skirt, trust, wing, window; adjectives - awkward, flat, happy, ill, loose, low, odd, sly, ugly, weak, wrong; verbs – to cast, clip, crawl, cut, die, drown, gasp, give, lift, nag, scare, sprint, take, want, the present plural of ‘to be’ are; pronouns both, same, they, them and their.

The facts that even the Norse pronoun ‘they’, ‘them’ and ‘their’ were accepted into English is remarkable; it is very unusual that grammatical items are borrowed. This suggests that there was extensive contact between the Anglo-Saxons and the Vikings and a gradual integration of the two groups. It can be difficult to recognize the Scandinavian words since the languages are so closely related. For example, the Old English word for ‘take’ was niman, but in late Old English tacan is found. The Old Norse word was taka, which shows that it must have been borrowed from the Scandinavians. In the same way, the word ‘law’ was originally oe but a later recording is lagu, which comes from the Old Norse. In fact, judging by the large number of Scandinavian words in the legal area, the Vikings had a considerable impact upon the law and order of the Anglo-Saxons. The Scandinavian peoples brought not only their laws and customs to the Danelaw, but their view on law and legal custom was to a great extent acknowledged by all of England.


Lecture 5

Date: 2015-01-02; view: 2623

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