Early Civilisations and Empires in Britain before the 12th Century

From the earliest days of human civilisation, the people of Britain have been shaped by the different empires and civilisations that have come and gone. From the Celts to the Romans, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings, the nations of Britain have been deeply influenced by the cultures that have left their mark. Today, we’ll explore Britain’s early civilisations and empires pre-12th century, looking at the origins and societal structure of each, as well as the impact they had on life and culture in Britain.

The Celts

The earliest known inhabitants of Britain were the Celts, an Iron Age people who lived in what is now England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. It is believed to have arrived in the British Isles around 1000 BCE, bringing with them a unique language and culture. The Celts were divided into tribal groups, each with its own societal structure and customs. They were largely an agricultural society, living in small settlements and relying on farming and livestock for their subsistence. In terms of culture, the Celts were known for their art, music, poetry and religious beliefs.

The Celts were eventually conquered by the Romans in the first century CE, bringing an end to the Celtic presence in Britain.

Roman Britain

In 43 CE, the Romans invaded Britain and began a period of conquest and occupation that would last for nearly four centuries. Under Roman rule, Britain was divided into provinces and governed by a centralised bureaucracy. The Romans brought with them a more advanced culture and technology, leading to advances in infrastructure, commerce and the arts. The Roman legacy can still be seen in Britain today, from roads and cities to language and law.

As the Roman Empire began to decline, so did its hold on Britain. By the 5th century CE, Roman Britain was in decline and the Romans had begun to withdraw.

Anglo-Saxon Britain

Following the withdrawal of the Romans, Britain was invaded by a new wave of settlers, the Anglo-Saxons. The Anglo-Saxons were a Germanic people who settled in Britain during the 5th and 6th centuries. They established a number of kingdoms, each with its own unique culture and customs. The Anglo-Saxons were known for their martial prowess and their craftsmanship in metalwork, jewellery and art. They also brought with them a new language, Old English, which would eventually evolve into modern English.

The Anglo-Saxons were eventually displaced by the Vikings, who invaded Britain in the 9th century CE.

Viking Britain

The Vikings were a Scandinavian people who were known for their seafaring skills and their raids on coastal towns. They first invaded Britain in the 8th century CE and eventually established settlements in the British Isles. The Vikings brought with them new technologies, such as the longboat, and their own unique culture, including art and mythology. They also left their mark on the language, with many modern English words being derived from Old Norse.

The Viking presence in Britain lasted until the 11th century, when they were eventually driven out by the Anglo-Saxons.

From the Celts to the Romans, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings, the nations of Britain have been shaped by the different empires and civilisations that have come and gone. Each one left its mark on the culture and history of Britain, from language and art to infrastructure and technology. Though their presence in Britain is now just a distant memory, the impact of these early civilisations and empires can still be seen in the modern world.

So, while the past may be gone, it is not forgotten. The impact of these early civilisations and empires in Britain before the 12th century will live on in the culture, history and language of Britain for generations to come.

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