Troy Lennon: The Hazards Of Sounding A Retreat

Roundup: Talking About History

This has been a year of significant withdrawals. Israel has finally pulled its last troops from the occupied Palestinian territory of the Gaza Strip. The Israelis had held the territory since occupying it in 1967.
The withdrawal of occupation troops does not always equate to a happy ending. It's hard to disagree that the presence of an occupation force in someone else's land is not the natural order of things but often when troops pull up stakes, they leave behind them a legacy of more chaos and disorder.
When the talons of ancient Rome stretched out across Europe, northern Africa and Asia Minor, they maintained a firm hold in the captured territory with garrison troops. Sometimes the troops were drawn from other areas of the empire, on other occasions from local co-operative peoples. Often the soldiers went native, marrying into the local population.

The Romans had invaded Britain in 55BC and had controlled the country on and off for hundreds of years. But in the fifth century AD, as Barbarian armies attacked the heartland of the empire and even threatened the city of Rome itself, the commanders began withdrawing troops from far-flung garrisons to return to defend Rome.

Some tribes were elated that they had ousted their Roman overlords but others were horrified at the prospect of being left without protection against their ever-hovering enemies, including the Picts, Saxons, Angles and Jutes.

Romanised Britons appealed to the emperor Honorius in 410 to provide them with troops. But there were no legions to spare, so the emperor authorised them to organise their own defence.

But by the middle of the fifth century the Romans were gone, leaving political disorder, economic disarray -- and the opportunity for outside forces to pounce.

Emerging local potentate King Vortigern made the mistake of trying to play the Germanic tribes off against each other by inviting some of them to settle in return for protection from marauders.

The misguided plan left the Saxons in charge of most of Britain. Out of this confusion, however, emerged a legend.

One theory of the origins of the legend of King Arthur is that he was a tribal leader, possibly part-Roman, who emerged at the Battle of Badon Hill, where the Saxons were defeated and the Britons unified. There are several sources mentioning Arthur arising in this period. The ninth-century Historia Brittonum, by the historian Nennius, mentions 12 battles fought by Arthur against the Saxons, culminating in a victory at "Mons Badonicus", or Badon Hill, about 495.

The idea that Arthur was a part-Roman soldier stationed in Britain at the time of Roman withdrawal became the basis for Arthur's most recent cinematic manifestation, starring Clive Owen.

But the successful defence of the Britons against outside occupation lasted only 50 or so years; the invaders returned by 550. Eventually a large part of Britain would be named after one of the invading peoples, the Angles, who gave their name to England.
ce the partition plan.

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