The most likely source of this date in British historiography is Bede. Bede places the
end of Roman rule in the same year as the sack of Rome by Alaric, i.e. 410.
Rome fell to the Goths in the 1164
year after its foundation. At the same time
Roman rule came to an end in Britain, almost 470 years after the landing of
Gaius Julius Caesar.
As well as considering how the year 410 came to exist within the historiographical
understanding of Britain’s
place within Empire, we should also consider how Bede
discusses the event and how it sits within his text. Bede is known to use formulaic
language throughout his work.
It is interesting to note that Bede only uses the
formula that he uses for this event 5 times throughout the text (ex quo tempore), twice
to describe the loss of the British provinces.
How he uses this formula may have
important implications for understanding how the dating of 410 relates to other events
within the text.
In book 1, chapter 11 of the
Bede describes the loss of the
British provinces and the sack of Rome. He states:
Fracta est autem Roma a Gothis anno milesimo CLXIIII suae conditionis, ex
quo tempore Romani in Brittania regnare cessarunt, post annos ferme
CCCCLXX, ex quo Gaius Iulius Caesar eandem insulam adiit.
His description of the events of 410 begin with the sack of Rome by the Goths. Then
using the phrase
ex quo tempore
he begins the section where he describes the end of
Roman rule in Britain. This phrase clearly links the two events, this may not simply
be in terms of chronology but also in terms of causation. It may be that through the
ex quo tempore
Bede sought to judge the beginning of the chain of events that
began the end of Roman rule in Britain, rather than seeking to date the end of the
Perhaps, rather than translating the phrase, ‘at the same time,’ (as
Latham and Sherley-Price do) we ought to translate it to suggest it more as a result,
i.e. ‘from that time.’
This formula is again used in book 3, chapter 11:
ipsamque aquam, in qua lauerant ossa, in angulo sacrarii fuderunt. Ex quo
tempore factum est, ut ipsa terra, quae lauacrum uenerabile suscepit, ad
Beda, Leo Sherley-Price and R. E. Latham,
A History of the English Church and People
Penguin Classics, Repr (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1977), p. 50.; Bede HE Book 1 chapter 11
Alaric said it- find footnote
Book 1, chapter 11 and Book 5, chapter 24
Bede HE Book 1, Chapter 11