British Usurper A.
D. 286 - 293
During the late
Third Century, the Roman province of Britain became increasingly the
target of attacks by Saxon pirates and raiders. These fierce sea rovers
would come in their square-rigged long ships and strike coastal villages,
burning, raping, and carrying off anything valuable. The citizens of the
settled communities of Roman Britain lived in fear of these marauders who
seemingly struck from out of nowhere and then vanished into the North Sea
mists when they were finished with their foul deeds of slaughter and
destruction. These were the same Saxons who would invade the island and
make it their home some three centuries later and would in turn become
victims of these same kinds of swift raids at the hands of the Viking
Norsemen during the Ninth and Tenth Centuries.
In response to the
impassioned pleas of the beleaguered British citizens, the Roman
government improved the state of readiness amongst the British Fleet.
Carausius, a Menapian, was assigned the command of the British fleet and
the job of wiping out the pirates.
For a while, it
looked as if the problems with marauding bandits from the sea had been
solved. After some time, though, it seemed that Carausius' fleet was
catching up with the pirates only after they had attacked a town and were
escaping with the booty. Carausius captured the pirates and recovered the
stolen property, but it somehow never got back into the hands of its
rightful owners, even if they had survived the raid. Finally, Diocletian
summoned Carausius to explain the circumstances but rather than obey the
summons, Carausius chose to rebel instead. With his strong fleet to back
him up, Carausius was able to rule Britain unmolested for six years until
he was murdered by Allectus, one of his own lieutenants. To hide his
embarrassment at not being able to do anything about Carausius' rebellion,
Diocletian recognized him as Caesar. Carausius even controlled parts of
Gaul for a short period until the territories were retaken by Constantius
Chlorus. Carausius did make one contribution to geographic knowledge
despite his status as a renegade. He sailed the British Fleet all the way
around Britain. This circumnavigation of what had been thought before to
have been a peninsula demonstrated that Britain was in fact an island and
could not be attacked by land. This bit of knowledge was to play a great
part in the defense of Britain throughout the next seventeen centuries.