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Full Version: Battle of the Medway, did it happen?
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I came across this the other day, a statement that the Battle of the Medway was a "total invention" at 28 minutes in;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLpgVEfy4mQ

anyone want to support or counter this position? it's the first I've heard of it.
Any assertation within the book or the series 'Britain AD' is to be viewed with extreme scepticism. The whole premise of the book and the series seemed to be that if it couldn't be proved by archaeology then it didn't happen, regardless of any other evidence.

Of course, any new work needs a 'hook' and the more controversial said 'hook' is, the better (nobody gets a three book publishing deal and a TV series if all they're doing is agreeing with everyone else) but, in my opinion, Pryor had already decided on his conclusions before studying the evidence (on more than on occasion he simply refuses to accept evidence which contradicts his views).
The topography of Kent has changed remarkably since the Roman invasion. The part of Kent I live is called Thanet, containing the towns of Birchington-on-Sea, Westgate-on-Sea, Garlinge, Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate, it was an Island during the Roman occupation and remained so up to medieval times. A number of rivers no longer flow down their original courses. The Rother and Stour both changed course during the Great Storm 1703 and the people of Hythe woke up on the third day of that storm to find they no longer had a harbour. The sea has retreated from its original location so much on the south coast of Kent that its very hard to imagine that Portus Lemanis on the outskirts of Hythie was actually on the sea, its over a mile inland now.
I am sure heMedway must have changed course more than once over the centuries and it would be very difficult to pin down any battle site with any accuracy.
The programme is disingenuous in a number of ways, I think, and particularly regarding the invasion. It implies that Verica was still in power in AD43, and invited the Romans into his kingdom, where they were 'welcomed as liberators' (why, if Verica was still there?).

In fact, Cassius Dio (our sole source for the whole episode) is clear that Verica had been deposed, and had probably fled to the continent. So the invasion resembles any number of events in more recent times when a global power intervenes after a coup to restore its own favoured candidate. As we know to our cost, while certain inhabitants (the supporters of said candidate) may welcome the invasion, plenty of others will not - and since the coup was a success, the balance of power probably lies with the new regime!

Dio gives the sequence of events as an unopposed landing 'in three divisions' (so possibly three different landing sites?), followed by a battle with Caratacus and Togodumnus, followed by a contested river crossing. Only after this do the Romans arrive at the Thames, close to its mouth in marshy country. After they cross the Thames they advance on Colchester.

Although the river system of south-eastern Britain has surely changed in intervening millenia, it still appears that the Medway is the only river crossing that would fit the events as Dio describes them. If the river lay to the west, the Romans could have advanced beyond it and arrived at the Thames further west, meaning they would not have the marshes and estuary before them.

It's worth mentioning, of course, that Dio tells us nothing about the numbers in any battle, or the composition of the Roman force, except that it contained the Second legion and probably a Batavian detachment.
I seem to recall spotting a few BS assertions in the one episode
I watched. Forget what it was now, but this thread has reminded me
Of the series.....
I tend to take a sceptical view of Francis Pryor's wok. While I enjoyed Britain BC where Pryor is discussing prehistory, his own area of expertise, I found Britain AD much harder to take seriously. I haven't viewed the series, but I have read the book, and my own view is that Pryor is firmly in the archaeological camp. He almost totally dismisses the idea that Anglo-Saxons and Britons waged war with each other in the Dark Ages, while even going so far as to claim that the Romans built the Saxon Shore Forts as trading warehouses for the Saxons and not as defensive military sites. I think he is heavily influenced by Peter Brown's ideas about continuity between the Roman period and the early middle ages, which he mixes with Walter Goffart's ideas about peaceful integration of Germanic tribes into the Roman empire.

He totally dismisses the early medieval chronicles of the times, effectively calling the Venerable Bede, Gildas, and their ilk as liars and fantasists. He doesn't seem to pay any attention to continental accounts from the period which also discuss Britain. Instead he relies on archaeology, saying that there is continuity in farming techniques between the late Roman and early Dark Ages, therefore there was no great disruption in Britain with the collapse of Roman rule.

As for archaeological evidence of battles - these rarely survive, as most bodies as burned or buried elsewhere, while weapons, clothing and armour is stripped of dead warriors and sold off or destroyed. Prof. Barry Cunliffe mentions for instance that Caesar's invasions of Britain have left virtually no archaeological mark on the local countryside. In Pryor's eyes that would be considered proof that they never happened.
Quote:In Pryor's eyes that would be considered proof that they never happened.
Concerning this paragraph, there are SO MANY things that leave little archeological effect on the land, that it would be staggering to make a list of them, wouldn't it?

[For example, how much archeological evidence is there to prove the WW2 Battle of Midway really happened? Not handwritten eyewitness accounts, but ocean-floor archeology, as these paper and electronic records will probably all disappear over the next 1969 years.]
Quote:
Quote:In Pryor's eyes that would be considered proof that they never happened.
Concerning this paragraph, there are SO MANY things that leave little archeological effect on the land, that it would be staggering to make a list of them, wouldn't it?

[For example, how much archeological evidence is there to prove the WW2 Battle of Midway really happened? Not handwritten eyewitness accounts, but ocean-floor archeology, as these paper and electronic records will probably all disappear over the next 1969 years.]

I think there is a lot of evidence for Midway, I recently watched a documentary on the discovery channel where they sent a team down to investigate and found lots of wrecks. Bit off topic though so accept my apology.
Quote:Instead he relies on archaeology, saying that there is continuity in farming techniques between the late Roman and early Dark Ages, therefore there was no great disruption in Britain with the collapse of Roman rule.
While I have nothing positive to say about his dismissal of the sources, he made an interesting point about several continuating elements in agriculture - which is, I think?, his background. But perhaps that's something to discuss in another thread?

Having said that, I would not get all too exited about Gildas or bede, where accurate descriptions of 5th c. historical details are concerned. Bede had to rely on Gildas because he had nothing more than Anglo-Saxon legendary accounts. Gildas for his part was never interested in delivering any eye-witness acount in the first place, using all kinds of metaphors of a land in flames true to a style of writing much used throughout Late Antiquity. So Pryor did not do too much damage there, if you ask me.
You make a good point. After all Gildas was a Monk and preacher rather than a historian or chronicler, and his work is a criticism of the 'sins' of the Britons rather than a work to rival Tacitus. While I do think that Gildas's writing is over exaggerating the destruction and death of the time (and I do not believe that all the Britons were exterminated or driven into the West), I wouldn't go as far as to say that the interaction between the Britons and Saxons was entirely peaceful - which is not to mention the feuds between the British themselves.

My own view is that there was peaceful interaction between the two peoples, followed by wars and feuds at other times.
(and I do not believe that all the Britons were exterminated or driven into the West)

OK getting WAY off topic here, we now know the mass extermination myth is completely wrong. Below is a diagram of the distribution of Haplogroup R1b, the Y-DNA signature attributed to the "Brythons". Even the lower register of the Eastern Counties this frequency is in the 70% range of males descended from what we describe as Celts.

Some odd potential Roman left overs are being found in the form of Haplogroup A and E, but judging from the diagram most of the recruiting of Legions would have had a pretty high R1b register anyway.
[attachment=5330]R1b-DNA-Distribution.jpg[/attachment]

You can read more about the E left overs here;
http://www.jogg.info/32/bird.pdf

Back on topic, thanks for all the input, I'm concluding that the Pryor statement is an outlier and that probability of the Battle of Medway having happened is in the "very probable" camp. But his theory about the "British continuity" is very clearly borne out by the dna data.

Thank you all again