This corrective is true on the whole, but the ‘soundbite’ at the end is misleading. To say ‘they conquered, they exploited, and in the end they went away’ hardly does justice to 400 years of government, in which Britons were very much involved on a local level. It is a moot point how much the Romans found to exploit. Were Welsh gold and Somerset lead, and possibly British corn, enough to explain their four century province. And when they went away, was it because the land was exhausted of stuff to exploit, as the soundbite could lead one to think, or because affairs in Italy left them no option?
Incidentally, someone commented on this letter:
So that’s one legacy the British kept then.
Donal, Madrid, Spain
It is deeply ironic that this comment comes from Spain, of all places…
Sir, Your leading article on the Roman invasion (Oct 3) and its influence shows a strange view of the history of our island and its language.
When the Roman armies withdrew in the early 5th century, the influence of Latin declined, surviving mainly in monasteries. Our language, Germanic in origin, came with the subsequent waves of Saxon, Angle etc settlements, heralded by the semi-mythical figures of Hengist and Horsa. Yes, Latin words were adopted, but by far the greatest influence of a Latin-based language came later, with Norman French.
Of interest is perhaps not how much lasting influence the Romans left, but how
little. Their language was largely supplanted and I don’t imagine too many
“Dark Age” inhabitants of this island enjoyed the hot baths, central heating
and wine that you mention. Even the Roman state religion, Christianity, went
into decline and needed to be revived by St Augustine.
The Romans came, they saw, they conquered, they exploited — and then in the
end, they went away.
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