The Romans settled Germanic peoples in Britain as foederati for centuries. They mixed with the local population and lived on the island for centuries. The Romans simply considered them Britons. Vortigernos, following the Roman example, hired a warband led by the brothers Hengist and Horsa as foederati to defend the island against Pictish raids. However, Vortigernos and the council reneged on their contract with the brothers once they’d defeated Drust, so the brothers rebelled to secure their payment. Their success in war — first against the Picts, and then against Vortigernos — earned the brothers the attention of many ealdormen. They began to spin a new story of Saxon ethnicity, not as loyal soldiers of Rome committed to defending Britain’s shores, but as a warrior aristocracy destined to take the place abdicated by Rome as the rulers of this island.
The Britons saw the revolt as a terrible betrayal, and the conflict grew wider. They grew suspicious of their long-standing Saxon neighbors, wondering when they, too, would turn against them. British priests spoke of the Saxons as the scourge of God, sent to punish them for their sins. Against such suspicion and mistrust, Hengist’s vision seemed all the more appealing to many Saxons, and as the rebellion grew, so did the Britons’ hatred of the Saxons. On the continent, outlaws, warlords and adventurers with little left for them at home came to Britain, hearing stories of the rebellion there — and sometimes, whispers of the vision Hengist and Horsa offered. Suspicious Britons and warlords from Germany press the Saxons on both sides, pulling them into a war that grows wider every day. Both sides propel them onward into total war, pushing towards an apocalyptic confrontation in which one ethnicity must annihilate the other completely. With so much suspicion and hatred after two generations of war, what other end could there possibly be?
Current Issue: Competing Visions
For generations, Saxons have defended Britain’s shores as foederati, given land (though usually the worst land), food and money in exchange for military service. They took wives, had children, and though they kept their language, laws, traditions, and religion, they nonetheless considered themselves Britons. The Romans, too, considered them Britons. But when Hengist and Horsa revolted against Vortigernos, they offered a new vision. They had already won a war against the powerful king of the Picts, and with each victory they won against Vortigernos, their legend grew. Many rumored that they had descended from the great god Wotan. They said that the Romans had recognized that the Britons could not defend their island; that’s why they’d invited the Saxons here to begin with. Now that the Romans had left, it was the Saxons, the defenders of Britain, who were their rightful heirs as the island’s rulers. They told the Saxons that their British neighbors would never accept them as their own. They could either rule as kings, or become slaves to the Britons. Not everyone was convinced by Hengist’s words, but as more warlords arrive from the continent to repeat that vision, and as the Britons become ever more suspicious of them, more and more Saxon thegns join the insurrection.
Face: Caratacus Strongarm