Mudcat Café message #131784 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #14974   Message #131784
Posted By: T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird)
04-Nov-99 - 03:25 PM
Thread Name: BS: St Patrick an Englishman ?
Subject: RE: BS: St Patrick an Englishman ?
LonesomeEJ mostly has the right of it. Administratively everyone south of the Wall of Antoninus Pius (which ran from Forth to Clyde) was a "Roman", and as far as the Britons' own opinion of themselves at the time can be determined, they (or at least the well-off among them) thought of themselves as Romans.

Hence the idea that Patrick had a "Roman father and a Celtic mother" is misleading. As far as we know, his father was just as British as his mother, and his mother was just as Roman as his father. Patrick's first language seems to have been British, not Latin, as you can tell from the "saliva" of his writing (Patrick's own word.) But he doesn't think himself on that account any less the son of his father the decurion. He only regrets that he doesn't write Latin well enough to express himself as clearly as he'd like.

A century after Patrick's time the Britons' opinion of themsleves seems to have shifted. At the very least, St. Gildas's polemical purpose was served by portraying the Britons (his own people) as barbarians whom even the mighty Romans (now described as foreigners from afar) had been unable to govern.

I would only gripe at one thing LonesomeEJ has written. The Roman troops weren't "withdrawn" from Britain to protect the Roman heartland. Around 407 A.D. the British legions proclaimed one of their commanders Emperor Constantine III of Rome, and launched an expedition to Gaul to head off a barbarian invasion before it could threaten Britain. Presumably the troops also intended to take control of the city of Rome. Britain's combat-ready troops weren't withdrawn to protect the heartland; they sallied forth to protect Britain. So far as I know, the expedition was overwhelmed in Gaul, whether by barbarians or by the Emperor Honorius's troops I don't know. There were still Roman troops in Britain, but they were far under strength.