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Webb Carausius English Chroniclers


Thus far the classic writers go, and Bede, the earliest of the medieval Chroniclers, who deals with this period, does so almost in the words of Orosius Paulus, adding nothing either from tradition or imagination. Not so Geoffrey of Monmouth, writing in the early part of the twelfth century, and, as he alleges, translating a much earlier British work found in Armorica. In Bk. V. chap. ii., after describing the life and death of the Emperor Severus, he says, "Severus left two sons, Bassianus and Geta, whereof Geta had a Roman for his mother, and Bassianus a Briton." The Romans made Geta king, the Britons rejected him, and advanced Bassianus as being a countryman on his mothers side. This proved the occasion of a fight between the brothers, in which Geta was killed, and so Bassianus obtained the kingdom.

"At that time there was in Britain one Carausius, a young man of very mean birth, who having given proof of his bravery in many engagements, went to Rome and solicited the leave of the Senate to defend with a fleet the maritime coasts of Britain from the incursion of the Barbarians, which if they would grant him he promised to do more and greater things for the honour and service of the common wealth than if the kingdom of Britain were delivered up to them. The Senate, deluded by his specious promises, granted to him his request, and so, with his commission sealed, he returned to Britain. 

"Then, by wicked practices getting a fleet together, he enlisted into his service a body of the bravest youth, and put out to sea and sailed round the shores of the Kingdom, causing very great disturbance among the people. In the meantime he invaded the adjacent islands, where he destroyed all before him, countries, cities and towns, and plundered the inhabitants of all they had. By this conduct he encouraged to flock to him all manner of dissolute fellows with hopes of plunder, and in a very short time was attended with an army that no neighbouring prince was able to oppose. This made him swell with pride, and propose to the Britons that they should make him king, upon which consideration he promised to kill and banish the Romans and free the whole Island from the invasions of barbarous nations. Accordingly obtaining his request, he presently fell upon Bassianus and killed him, and then took upon him the government of the kingdom. For Bassianus was betrayed by the Picts, whom Fulgenius,1 his mothers brother, had brought with him into Britain, and who, being corrupted by the promises and presents of Carausius, instead of assisting Bassianus, deserted him in the very battle and fell upon his men, so that the rest were put into a consternation and, not knowing their friends from foes, quickly gave ground, and left the victory to Carausius. Then he, to reward the Picts for this success, gave to them a place of habitation in Albania, where they afterwards mixed with the Britons. When the news of these proceedings of Carausius arrived at Rome, the Senate deputed Allectus with three legions and a commission to kill the tyrant, and restore the kingdom of Britain to the Roman power. No sooner was he arrived than he fought with Carausius, killed him, and took upon himself the government. After which he miserably oppressed the Britons for having deserted the commonwealth and adhered to Carausius. But the Britons, not enduring this, advanced Asclepiodotus, Duke of Cornwall, to be their king, and then unanimously marched against Allectus and challenged him to a battle. He was then at London celebrating a feast to his tutelary gods, but being informed of the coming of Asclepiodotus, he quitted the sacrifice, and went out with all his forces to meet him, and engaged with him in a most sharp fight. But Asclepiodotus had the advantage, and dispersed and put to flight Allectus troops, and in pursuit killed many thousands, as also King Allectus himself. After this victory gained by him, Levius Gallus, the colleague of Allectus, assembled together the rest of the Romans, and shut the gates of the city, in the towers and fortifications of which he placed his men, thinking by this means either to make a stand against Asclepiodotus, or at least to avoid imminent death. But Asclepiodotus, seeing what was done, quickly laid siege to the city, and sent word to all the Dukes of Britain how he had killed Allectus with a great number of his men, and was besieging Gallus with the rest of the Romans in London, and therefore earnestly en treated them to hasten to his assistance, representing to them withal how easy it was to extirpate the whole race of the Romans out of Britain, provided they would all join their forces against the besieged. At this summons came the Dementians, Venedotians, Deirans, Albanians, and all others of the British Race. As soon as they appeared before the Duke he commanded vast numbers of engines to be made to beat down the walls of the city. Accordingly, everyone readily executed his orders with great bravery, and made a brisk assault upon the city, the walls of which were in a very short time battered down, and a passage made into it. After these preparations they began a bloody assault upon the Romans, who, seeing their fellow-soldiers fall before them without intermission, persuaded Gallus to offer a surrender, on the bare terms only of having quarter granted to them and leave to depart. For they were now all killed excepting one legion, which still held out. Gallus consented to the proposal, and accordingly surrendered himself and his men to Asclepiodotus, who was disposed to give them quarter; but he was prevented by a body of Venedotians, who rushed in upon them, and the same day cut off their heads upon a brook within the city, which from the name of the commander was afterwards called in the British tongue Nantgallim and 'in the Saxon Gallemborne [Walbrook]."

He goes on in the next chapter to describe how Asclepiodotus took the crown, and "governed in peace and justice ten years," during which commenced the persecution of Diocletian, "very much owing to Maximianus Herculeus, General of his Army, by whose command all the churches were pulled down." Then follows an account of an outbreak of the Britons under Coel, Duke of Colchester, who is said to have slain Asclepiodotus in a pitched battle, when the Senate sent Constantius "the senator," with whom Coel made peace. Coels death immediately followed, and then the Chronicler gives the crown to Constantius, who married Helena, daughter of Coel, who "surpassed all the ladies of the country in beauty as she did all others of the time in her skill in music and the liberal arts."

1. It would appear from Boethius that Fulgenius (or Findock) was a relation of Carausius, not of Bassianus.

Webb, P.H. The reign and coinage of Carausius. (London, 1908).

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