Sollers (sollersuk) wrote in arthurhistory,
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Just because I think it's a great book, it doesn't mean I agree with all of it

Mike Ashley's "Mammoth Book of King Arthur" is wonderful, but as I said, I do disagree with some of his interpretations.

Beef no. 1: The Provinces of Roman Britain

When I discuss roads, this map is truly wonderfulHowever, it is large and therefore needs a lot of scrolling around.

It is extremely relevant to a problem I have concerning the Provinces of Roman Britain. To start with, it sounds easy; at first, Britain was divided into Britannia Superior and Britannia Inferior - confusingly for us, the first was in the South and the second in the North. Then Britain was divided into four provinces: Maxima Caesariensis, Flavia Caesariensis, Britannia Prima and Britannia Secunda.

This is where it starts getting complicated. According to Ashley, Britannia Secunda extended northwards from a line going approximately from the Mersey to the Humber, which looks quite nice on the map, but there are problems that are very clear and immediate to anybody who, like me, lives on that line. The Pennines are not what I would call mountains; they are only treeless because, apparently, of over-enthusiastic burn offs in the Mesolithic, not because they are above the tree line. English winters are really no big deal; but nevertheless the Pennines very definitely split the North of England in two. It made a big difference to communications between Liverpool and Manchester in the West and Sheffield, Leeds, Huddersfield and York in the East when the Transpennine Motorway was built, because every year the other passes would be closed by snow. A couple of months ago I went by car from Manchester to Newcastle upon Tyne, and we could either go by the motorway, or some really nasty roads with hairpin bends, or we could do what we did - go up to Carlisle and take the road that runs just south of Hadrian’s Wall.

I’ve checked the map linked to above, and there were scarcely any roads between the two coasts. There is one fairly certain one from Manchester to York, looping up via Aldborough, and one running down from Carlisle via Penrith and Catterick, but as far as certain crossings go, that’s it. You’ll have trouble in a not very well pacified area if all you have is one road going across the south of the province and one running from south east to north west.

Most other writers split Britain down the Pennines, with the eastern part forming Britannia Secunda and Britainnia Prima initially running all the way up from Cornwall to Cumbria. This is clearly unworkable; indeed, even Ashley’s version of Britannia Prima (Devon and Cornwall plus Wales) creates problems: once again, road communications are bad - the only route that links them goes via Gloucester.

The final complication is that in the Notitia Dignitatum an extra province, Valentia, is listed. This was apparently created after land had been reconquered. Ashley hypothesises that it was the area between Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine Wall, but I don’t think there is any evidence of that area having Roman government at all, let alone someone of Consular rank. I think it more likely that it was part of one of the existing provinces that had been occupied and then retaken, which is a simpler understanding of the description. We do know that there was heavy Irish settlement, as well as raids, in Cumbria and Wales, to the extent that the Lleyn Peninsula is so named because it was settled from Leinster. There is a lot more myth than history in the story of Cunedda and his sons, but the activity of taking a troublemaker from one area and putting him to establish/keep the peace in another was standard operating procedure. In that case, as a number of writers from AHM Jones onwards have believed, Valentia would have consisted of Wales and Cumbria, with communication problems due to getting through the Welsh mountains (still a problem) but without the added difficulty of the Gloucester bottleneck. This shows the picture they suggest
and there is a full discussion
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Mike Ashley's "Mammoth Book of King Arthur" is wonderful, but as I said, I do disagree with some of his interpretations.

Beef no. 1: The Provinces of Roman Britain
<lj-cut>
When I discuss roads, <a href="<http://www.romans-in-britain.org.uk/map_romans_roads_in_britain.htm>">this map</a> is truly wonderfulHowever, it is large and therefore needs a lot of scrolling around.

It is extremely relevant to a problem I have concerning the Provinces of Roman Britain. To start with, it sounds easy; at first, Britain was divided into Britannia Superior and Britannia Inferior - confusingly for us, the first was in the South and the second in the North. Then Britain was divided into four provinces: Maxima Caesariensis, Flavia Caesariensis, Britannia Prima and Britannia Secunda.

This is where it starts getting complicated. According to Ashley, Britannia Secunda extended northwards from a line going approximately from the Mersey to the Humber, which looks quite nice on the map, but there are problems that are very clear and immediate to anybody who, like me, lives on that line. The Pennines are not what I would call mountains; they are only treeless because, apparently, of over-enthusiastic burn offs in the Mesolithic, not because they are above the tree line. English winters are really no big deal; but nevertheless the Pennines very definitely split the North of England in two. It made a big difference to communications between Liverpool and Manchester in the West and Sheffield, Leeds, Huddersfield and York in the East when the Transpennine Motorway was built, because every year the other passes would be closed by snow. A couple of months ago I went by car from Manchester to Newcastle upon Tyne, and we could either go by the motorway, or some really nasty roads with hairpin bends, or we could do what we did - go up to Carlisle and take the road that runs just south of Hadrian’s Wall.

I’ve checked the map linked to above, and there were scarcely any roads between the two coasts. There is one fairly certain one from Manchester to York, looping up via Aldborough, and one running down from Carlisle via Penrith and Catterick, but as far as certain crossings go, that’s it. You’ll have trouble in a not very well pacified area if all you have is one road going across the south of the province and one running from south east to north west.

Most other writers split Britain down the Pennines, with the eastern part forming Britannia Secunda and Britainnia Prima <I>initially</I> running all the way up from Cornwall to Cumbria. This is clearly unworkable; indeed, even Ashley’s version of Britannia Prima (Devon and Cornwall plus Wales) creates problems: once again, road communications are bad - the only route that links them goes via Gloucester.

The final complication is that in the Notitia Dignitatum an extra province, Valentia, is listed. This was apparently created after land had been reconquered. Ashley hypothesises that it was the area between Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine Wall, but I don’t think there is any evidence of that area having Roman government at all, let alone someone of Consular rank. I think it more likely that it was part of one of the existing provinces that had been occupied and then retaken, which is a simpler understanding of the description. We do know that there was heavy Irish settlement, as well as raids, in Cumbria and Wales, to the extent that the Lleyn Peninsula is so named because it was settled from Leinster. There is a lot more myth than history in the story of Cunedda and his sons, but the activity of taking a troublemaker from one area and putting him to establish/keep the peace in another was standard operating procedure. In that case, as a number of writers from AHM Jones onwards have believed, Valentia would have consisted of Wales and Cumbria, with communication problems due to getting through the Welsh mountains (still a problem) but without the added difficulty of the Gloucester bottleneck. <a href="<http://members.ozemail.com.au/~igmaier/map.htm">This</a> shows the picture they suggest
and there is a full discussion
<a href="<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentia_%28Roman_Britain%29>here</a>

This gets particularly interesting if you look at <a href="<http://www.earlybritishkingdoms.com/maps/600_kingdoms.html>this map</a>
from which it looks as though Deira and Bernicia (Deire and Bryneich) corresponded very closely, if taken with Elmet which was a British enclave, to Britannia Secunda. I’ll come back to the Arthurian implications of that in another post.</lj-cut>
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