the First Histories Paper



Hi All

This paper follows on from the First Castles Paper.

It was sparked be a conversation with Topaz in #lounge.

<gnoll> lets see, Scarborough, Conway, Eilean Donan, Skipton, Richmond
<gnoll> oh, gee
<gnoll> the more i look at this, the more i think i could/should do
        a section on Hadrian's Wall too
<Topaz> i fell off Hadrian's Wall :)
<gnoll> hehe
<Topaz> (un)fortunately a large bush of nettles broke my fall ;)
<gnoll> Gangis Topaz and his horde!
This paper combines details on Hadrian's Wall, a major historical site(s) that could be interesting/useful to model in Mason/Dural & a potted history of Great Britain between 55 BC & 1066 AD.

I think the History Timelines could be useful for ideas for Dural and to show the complexities in building an integrated history for multiple kingdoms.

Hope this is helpful!




Pre-Norman Britain

I see Pre-Norman British History as three distinct periods. Pre-History, Roman Times and the Dark Ages.

If anyone wants to write up Stonehenge, Avebury, stone circles in general, standing stones, cut chalk figures (the white horse), hill forts, forging iron etc; go for it!

Roman Britain

55 BC: Julius Caesar's first invasion of Britain.
54 BC: Julius Caesar's second invasion of Britain. British forces led,
       this time, by Cassivellaunus, effectively harass the invaders.
       A 'deal' with the Trinovantes (tribal enemies of Cassivellaunus)
       leads to desertion of other tribes, resulting finally in Roman 
       victory. Both exploratory expeditions never intended to bring 
       Britain in the Roman sphere. 
54 BC-43 AD: Roman influence increases, even though Roman troops are 
       absent. This is the result of trade & other interaction with 
       the Empire.
43 AD: Romans under Aulus Plautius, land in Kent for a full scale 
       invasion. In the south-east, Togodumnus & Caratacus cut off 
       tribute payments to Rome & whip up anti-Roman feelings. 
       Caratacus leads main British resistance to the invasion.
51 AD: Caratacus is captured & taken to Rome.
61 AD: Boudicca, queen of the Iceni, led uprising against the Roman 
       occupiers. Several Roman centres are sacked and citizens massacred.
       Boudicca is defeated and killed by the Roman governor, Suetonius 
       Paulinus. This uprising led to a Roman rethink on dealing with the 
       natives. The result was the development of a Romano-celtic culture.
63 AD: Joseph of Arimathea came to Glastonbury on the first Christian 
       mission to Britain.
circa 75-77 AD: The Roman conquest of Britain reached its full extent,
       as Wales is finally subdued. Julius Agricola is imperial governor 
       (to AD 84).
122 AD: Construction of Hadrian's Wall ordered along the northern frontier.
       Its purpose is to hinder incursions of aggressive northern tribes.
208 AD: Severus goes to Britain, to defend it & repair's Hadrian's Wall.
circa 270 AD: Beginning of 'Saxon Shore' fort system alone south & east
       coasts of Britain (highly uncertain dating).
306 AD: Constantine was proclaimed Emperor at York. He then leads troops 
       to Rome. Roman Guard's comments, overheard at the Flaminian Gate 
       (Porta del Populo), 
       'You Emperor! You and whos army, OH, I see you bort your own army!'.
311 AD: Persecution of Christians ends.
312 AD: Constantine defeats and kills Maxentius at Milvian Bridge.
324 AD: Constantine finally achieves control over an undivided Empire.
360's AD: Series of attacks on Roman Britain from the north by the Picts, 
       the Attacotti and the Irish (Scots tribe). This required the 
       intervention of Roman generals leading special legions.
369 AD: Roman general Theodosius drives the Picts & Scots out of Roman
383 AD: Magnus Maximus is proclaimed Emperor in Britain by the island's Roman
       garrison. With an army of volunteers, he quickly conquered Gaul, Spain
       and Italy.
388 AD: Maximun occupied Rome itself. Theodosius, the eastern Emperor, defeats
       and then beheads him in July 388. Many of the remnants of Maximus' 
       troops settle in Armorica. The net result to Britain was the loss of
       many valuable troops, the 'first migration'.
395 AD: Theodsius, the last Emperor to rule an undivided empire dies. One son 
       Arcadius becomes Emperor of the East. The younger son Homorius becomes
       Emperor of the West.
396 AD Roman general, Stilicho, acting regent in the Western Empire,
       reorganised Britain's defences after the Magnus Maximun episode.
       Begins to transfer military authority from Roman commanders to local 
       British chieftains.
397 AD: Stilicho comes to Britain and repels an attack by Picts, Irish & Saxons.
402 AD: Event in the Empire force Stilicho to recall one (the Sixth Victrix
       Legion) of the two British legions to assist with the defence of Italy
       against the Alaric & the Visigoths.
405 AD: The British troops were never returned to Britain as they had to stay
       in Italy to fight off another deep penetration by the barbarian
       chieftain Radagaisus.
406 AD: In early January, 406, a combined barbarian force (Suevi, Alans, Vandals
       & Burgundians) swept into central Gaul, severing contact between Rome and
       Britain. In autumn 406, the remaining Roman Legion in Britain mutinied.
       One Marcus was proclaimed emperor in Britain, but was immediately
407 AD: Gratian was elevated 'to the purple', but lasted four months. 
       Constantine III was hailed as the new emperor by the Roman garrison in
       Hail Kosh!!!
       He proceeded to do a Magnus Maximus, by withdrawing the remaining Roman
       legion, the Second Augusta, and crossed over into Gaul to rally support
       for his cause.
408 AD: With both Roman legions gone, Roman Britain endured attacks by Picts,
       Scots and Saxons.
409 AD: As the Romans languished, the Britons, under pressure, took matters
       into their own hands. They expelled weak Roman officials and start 
       fighting for themselves.   
410 AD: Britain gains independence from Rome. The Goths, under Alaric, 
       sack Rome.
476 AD: The Germanic kings force the last Roman Emperor of the West, 
       Romulus Augustulus, to abdicate.
       I see this event marking the end of the Rome Age and the start of 
       the Dark Ages. The Germanic Roman Emperors stop doing two basic things,
       raising the taxes (that were need to maintain the infrastructure) 
       and maintaining the infrastructure.

Hadrian's Wall

The wall extends across modern northern England, from Bowness on the Solway in the west to Wallsend on the Tyne in the east. It lies just north of an earlier military road (The Stanegate) and series of forts (including Vindolanda) that date to about 80 AD.

Hadrian came to the Imperial Throne in 117 AD. He decided the Empire was becoming overextended. That it needed securing, not expanding! This is a fundamental change in the nature & structure of the Empire! Up to this time, the main way to fund military retirement was by land grants in newly conquered lands. In 122 AD, during a visit to Britain, he order the building of the wall, seventy three miles (eighty Roman miles) long, along the northern escarpments of the valleys of the Tyne, Irthing and Eden.

The construction took six years, and the plans where altered many times. The building was done by three auxiliary legions, working from east to west. The amount of stone used is estimated at more than a million cubic metres.

The wall itself is eight to ten feet wide and fifteen feet high, with a six foot parapet. Topaz, would you confirm the fifteen feet bit please. ;) There are over eighty mile forts along the wall. Each had a kitchen & barracks for a small garrison. In between each mile fort were two observation towers, a third of a mile apart. There were seventeen larger forts holding 500 to 1000 troops, infantry, cavalry or both. These forts were built into the wall, with large northern gate, flanked by stone towers. To the south of the wall was a wide ditch or vallum, with six foot high earth banks. The vallum was probably built to guard against attack from rebel tribes 'behind' the wall. The most likely suspects include the Brigantes tribe.

The wall was manned till about 400AD.

The Romans also built the Antonine Wall between the firths of Clyde and Forth. It was built & maintained between 142 and 165AD.

Housesteads Fort/Vercovicium

The Roman name, Vercovicium comes from a Celtic phrase that translates to the "place of effective fighters". The fort had barracks that could accommodate an infantry regiment of around 800 men. It was built in 124AD. For most of its history, the fort was manned be auxiliary solders, who were recruited from the subject peoples of the Empire. Archaeological evidence points to Housesteads being garrisoned from troops from Tungria, which today is in southern Belgium & Holland. The evidence shows that Tungrian units were frequently based at Housesteads over a period of nearly three centuries.

The Walls & Gates

The walls of the fort were narrow, but backed by a rampart of earth or clay. The walls were built of sandstone blocks. The turrets on the walls rose to 30 feet. The main gate at Housesteads was the east gate (porta praetoria) from which the main street (Via Praetoria) led directly to the headquarters (principia).

The Headquarters

The entrance opened from the east onto an open court with a colonnade around the south, east and north sides. It had an assembly hall or basilica where orders were issued and there was a shrine to the imperial cult where statues of the Emperor were kept.

The Commandant's House

This is the house (Praetorium) of the praefectus. It had the design of a standard roman villa, a central court surrounded by colonnades. The family lived in the rooms on the north & west sides with the kitchen in the northeast corner.

The Hospital

The Roman name for a hospital is Valetudinarium. It also followed the colonnaded courtyard design. A long room on the north side of the courtyard is delivered to have been the surgery.


The granaries were built on the highest part of the fort, to keep the food inside dry. There was an open area to the west of the granaries to allow carts to unload and turn.


The barracks had a veranda onto the street. The barracks were each divided into ten units for the troops plus a larger apartment for the centurion. The barracks had low walls of sandstone, which supported timber frames with wattle and daub walls.

the Vicus

Vercovicium had a vicus (civilian settlement) along the approaches to its south gate. It grew in the 3rd cent, when the area north on the vallum stopped being a military zone. At this time it also became legal for Roman solders to marry. The vicus also included a tavern, just outside the gate. There were also shops, a bathhouse & houses.


Vindolanda is a fort with a 'vicus' or civilian settlement located 2 miles south of Hadrian's Wall.
circa 79 AD: first timber fort constructed, probably during Agricola's 
       attempt to complete the Roman conquest of northern Britain. 
       A series of modifications and replacement timber forts were made 
       over the next 50 years.
120 - 130 AD: Hadrian's Wall was constructed slightly north of the
       Stanegate Road. At this time, the useful timber was removed 
       from Vindolanda and the site was abandoned as the regiment which 
       had inhabited it (possibly the 1st cohort  of Tungrians) moved 
       approximately two miles north to a stone fortress at Hadrian's Wall
       called Housesteads.
163 AD: Vindolanda was re-occupied and a stone fort was constructed after
       Antoninus Pius' unsuccessful invasion of Scotland. Civilian 
       settlement begins alongside fort.
197 AD: Alterations to civilian settlement and addition of defenses.
245 - 270 AD: Fort and civilian settlement apparently abandoned.
270 AD: Construction of a new stone fort and re-occupation of civilian
circa 350 AD: Gradual abandonment of civilian settlement.
370 AD: Substantial repairs to the stone fort, only limited civilian
400 AD: Little serious military presence left at site, although limited 
       occupation of the fort and civilian settlement continues into 
       the fifth century.
Vindolanda underwent several phases of construction. Originally with a turf rampart, probably erected in the time of Agricola, by the late 80s AD it was a permanent turf and timber fort in the classic Roman playing-card shape, aligned east-west, with a stone headquarters building, an officer's house, and a small bathhouse situated down the slope on the eastern side. During the Hadrianic period (circa 120 AD and after), this whole fort was demolished and a new structure was built facing north-south.

the Emperor's bush camp

During the 1992 digging season at Chesterholm, remains were uncovered of a fifty yard square timber building of some fifty rooms which has been dated to the 120's AD. It is evident from both the floor plan and the recovered fragments of wall paintings that the building was a somewhat palatial residence, of an opulence not often seen in the north of the province. It has been suggested that this veritable palace in the wild lands of North Britain, located at the mid-way point of the Wall and only one mile south of its intended line, was built to accommodate the emperor and his imperial party during the visit to Britain in AD122. It was perhaps here that the fertile and active mind of the highly-intellectual emperor began first to visualise what was to become his lasting monument.

the Vicus

The civilian settlement at Chesterholm has been positively identified as a vicus - the lowest form of self-governing settlement recognised by Roman law - on an altar to the god Vulcan found 120 yards to the west of the fort. The settlement grew mainly along the north bank of the Doe Sike to either side of the roads issuing from the porta principia sinistra (west gate) of the Hadrianic fort. The vicus lies within the remains of the old rampart and incorporated a fine bathhouse and a mansio, a guesthouse with space for up to six residents travelling along the Stanegate on official business. All of this was enlarged and rebuilt in stone during the early 3rd century AD, and it is this ground plan that we see today. The famous Vindolanda tablets date to the pre-Hadrianic fort, though they are typical of Roman military life in any period. The shops and dwellings have narrow frontages ranged along the street and stretch back at right-angles from it for quite some distance; it is thought that the buildings within a Roman vicus were taxed according to the length of street they occupied, which is why they were built to such a long and narrow ground-plan.


A late addition to the court of the Commandant's House was a chapel to the new Christian faith. This shows the last stage of the religious evolution in roman society, from the ancient gods to the imperial cult to christianity.

Dark Ages Britain

the Angles, Saxons, Jutes & Scots

According to tradition transmitted by St Bede. The Celtic King Vortigern, a tribal king from Wales & southern England, first invites Angles and Saxons into Britain (in 449 AD), to help fight the Picts and Scots.

By the mid 450's, the war-leaders, Hengist & Horsa have had a falling out with Vortigern. An effective invasion had begun.

The Angles seem to have came from what is now Schleswig, late in the fifth cent. They settled in the north, east and south of modern England. Theses settlements formed the foundations for the later Kingdoms of East Anglia, Mercia and Northumbria.

The Saxons, who had been continental neighbors of the Angles, also settled in the late fifth cent, after earlier marauding in Roman times. The later kingdoms of Sussex, Wessex and Essex were based on their settlements. Ok, and if the London area is Middlesex, what happened to Norsex! ;)

The little known Jutes, who probably came from the area around the mouth of the Rhine, settled in Kent and the Isle of Wight in the mid fifth cent. The kingdom of Kent was an outgrowth of their settlement.

Irish 'Scots' arrived in western Scotland circa 500 AD.

The heptarchy (Greek for seven kingdoms) were East Anglia, Mercia, Northumbria, Sussex, Wessex, Essex and Kent. The actual geographical and political boundaries were neither fixed nor orderly. At one time (circa 600 AD) there appear to have been up to 12 independent states in England. The number of kingdoms, their boundaries and their political status shifted constantly throughout the period. For example, Kent at one time extended north to the River Humber, at other times it was a province of first Mercia and then Wessex.

The lands of Defnas (Devon) & Cerniu (Cornwall) were in the Kingdom of Dumnonia.

Initially Northumbria was the strongest kingdom. Its rival Mercia, over took it in the mid seventh cent, under the rule of Penda (Mercia). After Offa's (Mercia) death in 796, Wessex started to gain ascendancy over Mercia.

The Witan was a council of nobles and bishops that advised the Anglo-Saxon kings and approved the succession of a new king.

715, Wessex takes Defnas (Devon) & parts of modern Somerset from Dumnonia.

the Danes & Norse

793, first Viking raids (Lindisfarne and elsewhere).

Norse establish themselves in Dublin in 838.

In the north (844), Kenneth (I) MacAlpin, King of the Scots, becomes King of the Picts. The Scottish Kingdom is formed.

Alfred the Great was the first King of England. Crowned King of Wessex in 871 at the age of twenty two. This at a time of constant Viking attack! Norse on the Irish Sea coast, Danes on the North Sea coast.

In 874 the Danes invaded. The Danes drove Alfred into hiding during a surprise winter raid on Wessex in 878 AD. >From the Athelney Marches (Somerset), he recovered sufficient strength to defeat the Danes decisively at the Battle of Eddington (May 878 AD). As part of the peace treaty, the Danes withdrew from Wessex and Alfred recognised Danish control over East Anglia and eastern Mercia.

By 886 the Danes, by various treaties, had established the Danelaw, including Northumbria; areas around and including Lincoln, Nottingham, Derby, Leicester and Stamford; East Anglia; and the South East Midlands. The Norse Vikings also settled in the Danelaw around York (Jorvik). The Danes dispersed their army from Brodgnorth in 896. Alfred died in 900, having stopped the Danes from overrunning the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms.

The first half of the tenth cent. saw much action between the Kingdom of Wessex and the two Norse Vikings kingdoms (based in Dublin and York). Wessex slowly gain sway over the Danish centres south of the Humber. Wessex, the Norse and Anglo-Danes Vikings (of Northumbria) kept an eye of each other and rump Mercia got court in the middle all this.

920, AEthelstan (Wessex) takes the Kingdom of Cerniu (Cornwall, all the remained of old Dumnonia).

By 924, the King of Wessex was also the King of Mercia (in the same way that James VI of Scotland became James I of England, 1603).

In 937, the Dublin Norse, realised that Wessex (AEthelstan) was too powerful for any other island kingdom to attack single handed, allied with York, the Welsh, Strathclyde & Scotland. This climaxes at the Battle of Burnanburh, which the English won.

Between 940 & 942, the South East Midlands & Lincolnshire, changes hands, from Wessex to York and back Wessex! In 942 Wessex (Edmund) takes York itself! In 946, Eric Bloodaxe (former King of Norway) descended on Northumbria and maintained himself there until 954, when he is expelled and then fell in battle. Eadred (Wessex) extort recognition as King of All England from the Northumbrians.

The English Kings leave the laws and customs of the Danelaw in place. Many of these survived until after the Norman Conquest.

The period between 955 and 975 sees little Viking harassment.

979, the Vikings are back, but this time they don't bring combined raiding parties, they bring well trained and disciplined armies. Usually led by the Danish King.

the Normans

1002, AEthelred (the unred) marries Emma of Normandy, thus linking the English throne with Normandy! The scene setting for 1066 has begun!

Also in 1002, Sveyn of Denmark devastates England: AEthelred pays him 24,000 pound of silver to stop.

In 1007, AEthelred pays Sveyn another 36,000 pound of silver to stay stopped. I see a pattern here!

1012, AEthelred pays Sveyn another 48,000 pound of silver, the next year, Sveyn pushes AEthelred off the Throne.

Canute (son of Sveyn) became king of Denmark and England in 1016. Norway followed later. Thus the English throne is also linked to the Norwegian throne! England captivated this pagan king. He was baptised, builds things and generally promoted the faith. He even went to Rome on Pilgrimage in 1027. Canute married Emma of Normandy (AEthlered widow) for political reasons, peace with Normandy.

1018, Battle of Carham: King Malcolm defeats the Northumbrians, adding Lothian (Edinbugh) to Scotland. The modern borders start to emerge!

1034, Strathclyde annexed and becomes part of the Scottish Kingdom.

In 1036, Canute dies, the Danish Empire splits up. After much plotting, a regency, the murder of a half brother and revenge paybacks, England had two kings (Harold I & Harthacanute) before 1042. The death of Harthacanute ended Danish rule in England.

1040, Macbeth murders Duncan and takes the throne of Scotland (d 1057). Lady Gadiva, wife of the Earl of Mercia, rides naked through the street of Coventry as a protest against taxes. Why couldn't Shakespeare write about tax reform instead!

1042, the only surviving heir to the thrown is Edward. Edward is the son of AEthelred & Emma of Normandy. He grew up in the Norman Court, out of the reach of his step father Canute. Edward is styles 'the Confessor'. Its unclear if he was a deeply religious ruler, or a weak, but violent man who reputation for saintliness was overstated, possibly in the twelfth century.

The scene setting for the drama of 1066 accelerates!!!

There is much friction between Edward and Godwin, the Duke of Wessex. Edward appointed many Normans to key position, to counts Godwin's influence. Over time different sons are exiled. At one stage (1051) the Duke & all his sons are stripped in their title & exiled. Edward is later (1053) forced to reinstate the Duke & his sons.

1044, Harold Godwinson becomes Earl of East Anglia.

1053, Harold, on his fathers death, becomes Earl of Wessex. Edward appoints Harold as the new duke, he being the least objectionable of Godwin's sons. >From this time he is at Edward's right hand. Harold built a good & trusting relationship with Edward. He becomes Earl of Hereford in 1058.

1063, Harold, supported by his brother Tostig, Earl of Northumbria, leads a successful campaign against the Welsh. This confirms his reputation as an able general.

1064, Harold acted as an emissary from Edward to the court of William, Duke of Normandy. At this time he allegedly swore an oath of fealty to William, relinquishing any personal claim to the throne. Was this oath made lightly, or under duress?

1065, in the autumn, Tostig goes into exile in Norway. On Christmas day, Edward's new cathedral in the west of London is consecrated. Edward himself is too sick to attend. The new cathedral, Westminster has been used for the coronation by virtually all monarchs since William the Conqueror.

1066, well, get a cup of tea, this could take a while!

5 Jan, Edward dies. On his deathbed, the Edward the Confessor names Harold his successor, overlooking his grandson, the rightful heir, Edgar the AEtheling and ignores a promise he allegedly made to William of Normandy.

Harold wastes no time securing the Witan & ecclesiastical blessings on his claim and has himself crowned immediately.

Sept, Tostig has joined with Harald Hardrada, King of Norway. A combined force lands in Yorkshire. Until now Harold's attention had been focused on the south and the invasion he knows is coming from Normandy.

Harold had to break forces way from the south and march north to meet the new threat.

25 Sept, Harold defeats the forces of his traitorous brother & the King of Norway at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. The Vikings came in 360 longships and the survivors go home in 24!

27 Sept, the favourable wind the Normans have been waiting for came! They sail across the channel, landing at Pevensey on the 28th.

Harold soon hears the distressing news, he marches his forces south at top speed.

5 Oct, Harold's forces reach London. He stops here to rest weary troops and to gather reinforcements.

14 Oct, the Battle of Hastings took place outside the town, on strategic roads to London and Winchester, where the treasury was. With reinforcements still arriving, the English army was defeated. King Harold was killed and with him fell his brothers, the household guard & the flower of the English nobility. The King was dead, but that didn't mean the end of English fight. The rearguard action, called the Fight of the Fosse, took more Norman casualties then the main battle.

After Hastings, William advanced on London by a circular route, burning a path around the capital. The advance was meet by much resistance and draws William as far as Wallingford, well to the west. Here William found a defendable place to cross the Thames, before finally feeling safe enough to enter London. There is resistance in the capital too, many Londoners were killed.

The Witan had proclaimed the young Edgar AEtheling, last of the old Wessex royal line, king! Edgar remains the centre of English resistance to William, even after William's coronation. For example, monks at Peterborough would not elect one of their own to replace their deceased abbot, but sought out Edgar, the true king, to approve the appointment. William sent armed men to show his wroth. Fortunately William was also gold hungry and allowed himself to be bought off with a large fine. There was much armed resistance too. Harold's mother, Gytha encouraged the people of Devon to rise up and William had a major problem subduing them, especially retaking Exeter. Edgar with family & many important people fled to Scotland.

With London in William's hands, the Witan soon submits to crowning William.

Christmas day, William was coronated, and shortly after returns to Normandy taking the surviving English nobles (in his hands) with him.

I've left out much intrigue and the next 20 years are interesting, in the chinese sense of the word. Some of my First Castles Paper sites see much activity in this period, but this period is outside the scope of this paper.