Raised in the court of the Patrician Aëtius in Gaul, Ambrosius returned to his homeland to become the rex Romanorum of the Britains. He won some success in the wars against the Saxons, but saw slowly watched his dreams die as the hope of Rome’s return became more and more remote.
While growing up in the court of the Patrician Aëtius, Ambrosius Aurelianus became a good soldier. At the age of sixteen, he fought in the battle of the Campus Mauriacus, where Aëtius defeated Attila the Hun. He became friends with Aegidius. Ambrosius served Aegidius for several more years, helping him when he created his own kingdom in the face of Ricimer’s ambitions in Rome.
The remaining Imperialist Party in Britain wrote a letter to Aegidius, begging for help. Aegidius had little help to send, but he did allow Ambrosius to take some troops with him and return home. Ambrosius dreamed of following Aegidius’ example and becoming a rex Romanorum in Britain. He dreamed of these two Roman kingdoms holding the line against the barbarians, and one day even returning to a restored Roman Empire.
Ambrosius returned to Londinium to find Vortigernos waging war on Hengist in Kent. Vortigernos feared that Ambrosius would come and make war on him, but instead, he offered to help drive out Hengist. Ambrosius fought bravely, but Hengist had had a long time to entrench himself.
Within a few years, Vortigernos died of old age. With the old bishop’s death, the British kings turned to Ambrosius for leadership. Rather than High King, Ambrosius took the title rex Romanorum, and spoke of a British kingdom, but it remained largely a political fiction. The various civitates retained their self-rule. But with the Jutes in Ceint, and more Angles and Saxons attacking the coasts, the other British kings followed Ambrosius’ lead.
Ambrosius focused on fortifying the southern coast, which began to see more and more attacks from the Saxons. Despite the coastal attacks, Britain actually flourished throughout this time, under both Vortigernos and Ambrosius. Even before, Roman Britain had supplied most of the grain for the western empire, just as Egypt had for the east. The revolution removed most of the landed aristocracy. New people acquired wealth, but revolutionary sentiments made it dangerous to become too ostentatious. Wealthy families lived in relatively simple, elegant beauty. Like other parts of the empire, the end of imperial taxes and other burdens also freed up significant resources. That left an enormous amount of wealth unused. Britain prospered at a time when other parts of the empire could barely keep themselves together.
Meanwhile, other Saxon leaders besides Hengist and Horsa looked to Britain. The Angle foederati in the Iceni kingdom, who had lived there in peace for so long, rose up against the Britons. An Anglian warlord named Winta landed near Lindum Colonia and began rallying the Saxon foederati there, calling themselves the Lindisware, meaning “the folk of Lindum” in their language. In the south, Ælle’s Saxons began to carve a small kingdom for themselves out of the coast west of Ceint.
Ambrosius’s fortresses and new military units pinned the invaders to the shoreline, and prevented any deeper penetration into the island, while the island grew prosperous. His hopes to hold the island long enough for the empire to return, though, became more and more dim as disappointment after disappointment came from outside. Soon after he arrived in Britain, he heard that Aegidius had died from poisoning. By 470, Ambrosius had brought enough stability to Britain that he was able to lead an army to Gaul to help the Emperor Anthemius against King Euric and his Visigoths. He arrived before the imperial armies, and was defeated by Euric. In 476 came the devastating news that a barbarian had deposed the emperor in Rome, and now styled himself the King of Italy. In 486, the king of the Franks, a barbarian named Clovis, conquered Aegidius’ kingdom, and killed his son, Syagrius.
Now an old man, Ambrosius contemplates the ultimate failure of his reign. In Gaul, he heard chroniclers praise Aëtius as “the Last of the Romans,” but in Britain, they reserved that honor for Ambrosius. He succeeded in his task — he kept Britain safe — but the empire he held the island for seems further away now than the day he began.
|467||Vortigernos dies. Ambrosius Aurelianus becomes rex Romanorum of the Britains.|
|473||Hengist and Æsc launch raids across the island. Ambrosius responds with a containment strategy by creating a number of new units and stationing them along Ceint’s border.|
|477||Ælle establishes a beachhead at Cymenesora.|
|485||Ælle provokes a rebellion among the Saxons living in Icenia. He leads them to victory at Mearcrædesburna, but is driven out of Icenia by Saxons loyal to L. Adeodatus.|
|488||Hengist dies. His son Æsc becomes king of Ceint. ‘Enemies of God,’ ‘The Wild Man of the Elms.’|
|489||‘The Knight from Isurium,’ ‘The Shadows of Din Tagell.’|
|490||‘The Twin Giants,’ ‘Winta’s War.’|
|491||Ælle takes control of Anderitum, a coastal fortress that was once part of the Saxon Shore. He makes the fortress his new capital. Uther Pendragon dies of illness shortly after the battle. He is replaced as magister militum by his younger son, Aulus Hectorius. ‘The Witch of Noviomagus.’|
|493||Aulus Hectorius gathers his forces at Camulod and makes final preparations for his campaign to end the war against the Saxons.|